The last day of the AWP conference was another busy one. I started with a 9AM panel: "Telling Other People's Stories: Narrative Nonfiction, its Pleasures and Perils." Five non-fiction writers talked about their projects and the challenges of finding the right subject and then getting close enough, or too close, to investigate.
Next I went to "Private Practice: Managing the Novel from Symptoms Through Recovery" moderated by my friend Elizabeth Brundage and featuring novelists Jennifer Haigh, Michelle Richmond, Meg Waite Clayton, and Richard Bausch. I can't say I learned anything new, but there were some useful reminders about discipline and process, and it's always amusing to hear Bausch's stories, even the ones you've heard before.
I'd made arrangements to meet someone to talk about a panel proposal for next year, so I went back for a last pass through the bookfair. We met over lunch (expensive, bad food in the onsite cafe) and then at 3PM I went to my last panel: "What to say and when to say it: Disclosure of Information for Optimal Effect in Fiction." This was one of those panels where everyone reads a paper on the topic, and that worked well here. Robert Boswell talked about the difference between information in the surface narrative and withholding information in the underlying narrative, using as his example the story "Yurt" by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum (which I discussed when it came out in The New Yorker in 2008 here: Yurt). Lan Samantha Chang talked about The Great Gatsby (in which Gatsby's backstory is revealed in pieces throughout). C.J. Hribal and Peter Turchi also were on the panel.
After that we wrapped up the Press 53 table in the bookfair, got dinner (I also attended the reception for Image Magazine) and then went to the ballroom to hear Terry Tempest Williams and Rick Bass. Good stuff, but I had to call it a night in order to pack and make it to bed before my 2:45AM wake-up call, to make the early shuttle to the airport. (Too early, as it turned out, as United won't let you check in until 4:30, so we stood around for almost half an hour.)