Ann Arbor Book Festival-Writer’s Conference

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Ann Arbor Book Festival is pleased to bring another dynamic Writer’s Conference to the community. This will be a full-day experience where attendees can hone their skills in sessions led by a noted group of writers and instructors. These teachers have very impressive resumes and are excited to bring you their expertise and share their passion for writing.

The conference sessions will be held in Hatcher Graduate Library, on central campus.

Review the following information to make your selections for the individual sessions. When you are ready, click here to register and pay the registration fee. The $100 fee includes coffee, three small-group sessions, and lunch. After registering, you will receive an email listing your session assignments. Don’t forget to check out the Moonlight Book Crawl on Friday and Saturday nights, the Children’s fair from 2-4 on Saturday, the Author’s Forum conversation in Shapiro Lobby at 3:15 on Saturday, and the presentation by Newberry Award winner Christopher Paul Curtis from 4-5 on Saturday.

Alternatively, you may download a form, fill in all applicable information, and send the completed form along with a check (made out to Ann Arbor Book Festival) to:

AABF Writer’s Conference
1118 Granger Ave.
Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Location and Check-In

We will be in the Hatcher Graduate Library and Shapiro Undergraduate Library on Central Campus.Check-in will be in Hatcher Graduate Library. There will be volunteers to direct you once you enter the building; please look for signs for the Writer’s Conference.

Parking Close to Hatcher Graduate Library:

The City of Ann Arbor has numerous meters and parking structures for use. We recommend using the parking structure located on Maynard Street between East William and East Liberty (see the Central & South Campus map) or the William-Fourth or the Ann-Ashley Street structures.

Writer’s Conference Sessions

9:45 am – 10:00 am – Registration / Check-In

Please note: Check-In will take place in the Library Gallery, Room 100 of Hatcher Graduate Library. This is also where lunch with the Authors will occur.

10:00 am – 11:10 am – SESSION 1

A. Dazzling with Dialogue with Jeff Kass

Human beings have the ability to communicate orally in more complex ways than any other creature on our planet. It is what we do. We talk to each other. We lie and cajole and obfuscate and reflect and demand and joke. Writing great dialogue can make any good story even better. Writing poor dialogue can sink a good story and make a mediocre story dreadful. What makes dialogue work well? What can we pay attention to as writers if want the speech of our characters to sing, zing, fling, swing and ring true? In this workshop, we will explore tricks of the dialogue trade, look at examples of writers who craft terrific dialogue and write some of our own.

B. The Unlikely Political Heart with Shira Erlichman

Where one might expect rights and wrongs, a choosing-of-sides, or a firm position, we find instead in the work of Wislawa Szymborska and Aracelis Girmay an endless spaciousness, flexibility, and empathy. Their work begs the question: Can one gaze upon a political issue as they would a starfish—with scientific wonder? Are intimate details the true dwellings of the truths of the universe? If, as Szymborska writes, “My identifying features are rapture and despair”—can we own this paradox, and shine The unlikely political heart is the soft spot in any story that cannot easily be summed up in a headline; it is the truth of our oneness, the intimacy of our struggles, and the curiosity of this unique situation we call life

 C. Jazz Poetics with Jessica Care Moore

Poets write with an invisible soundtrack, sometimes leaving listeners or readers without the full musical reference of how the words or series of lines were written. What music gets you in a writing place? Where do your words, your stories belong? What do they sound like? How can sound be manipulated on the page, and in performance with music.

In this workshop we will pull from poets Jayne Cortez, Amiri Baraka and others who have balanced, and perfected the Jazz aesthetic within their poems. As a poet, I’ve experimented and been inspired by several genres of music, but “jazz” has become a true homecoming for my work.

We will find the jazz poem in you, even if you’ve never heard of John Coltrane.

11:20 am – 12:30 pm – SESSION 2

A. Developing Narratives for Young Adult Fiction with Merrie Haskell

In this workshop we will briefly discuss how the recent burst of commercial activity in children’s literature has created opportunities and blurred the lines between middle grade, teen and adult fiction, including the creation of the “new adult” subgenre. We will work through several exercises to aid in getting what’s in your head onto paper, as well as how to avoid the pitfalls of writing for kids.

B. Mining your Singular Heritage for Universal Elements with Kevin Coval

We all come from somewhere. The stories of our somewheres are unique. Beneath that uniqueness though, is the fundamental human experience. When we dig into the specifics of where we come from and what stories we know about our individual heritages, we encounter rich material we can use to reach readers from all backgrounds. As the essayist, poet and fiction writer Thomas Lynch says, we are different, but also the same. In this workshop, we will examine how excavating the stories in your own blood can lead to unlocking stories, poems, insights and moments capable of flowing deeply into the circulatory systems of your readers.

C. Why People Be Mad At Me Sometimes: The Epic Possibilities Of The Short Poem with Angel Nafis

This workshop will focus on the precise and sometimes transcendent epic magic that is the short poem using the work of Lucille Clifton as a lens and prompt.

12:30 pm – 1:45 pm – Lunch

The Practice of the Working Writer’s Life with Patricia Smith and Bruce DeSilva

Patricia Smith and Bruce DeSilva will talk about the daily practice of the writing life. Both writers, while working in literary fields all their lives, have experienced tremendous success in their middle years. What journeys did they take to reach the places of accomplishment where they are now? What challenges led them to their present triumphs? How do they now balance family, friends, teaching, touring and publicizing while continuing to write? It’s not easy to be a writer these days. Patricia Smith and Bruce DeSilva have managed to figure out how to do it. Listen to their tips of the trade and feel free to ask them questions about what it takes to make it in today’s hyper-competitive publishing world.

1:50 pm – 3:00 pm – SESSION 3

A. Writing with your Ears with Bruce DeSilva

People think they read with their eyes, but they really read with their ears. They hear the writer’s voice talking to them from the page. What that voice sounds like has everything to do with whether the reader will enjoy the work, keep reading it to the end, or ever want to read anything else by the writer. That’s why we need to write with our ears. This workshop will explore how you can develop your own appealing, signature storytelling voices.

B. Modest Means and Grand Ambitions with Scott Beal

Charles Simic observes that any given moment contains the whole world in it. In a classic essay Ezra Pound argues that by presenting “an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time,” a poetic image “gives that sense of sudden liberation; that sense of freedom from time limits and space limits; that sense of sudden growth. “ In this multi-genre workshop, we will practice transforming an everyday object or experience into a nexus from which to explore inward and outward through space and time, to create a large and liberating vision of the world through the most modest of lenses.

C. Why, Look at That Funny Little Kitten! And That One! with Patricia Smith

How many of us sit creatively stunned at our keyboards–updating our Facebook status, stalking Ebay auctions, guffawing at rollicking kittens, candy crushing, puzzling over the purpose of LinkedIn, checking sports scores, searching for a Words With Friends friend, drunkenly emailing high school crushes, editing our Facebook status, laughing at more kittens, deleting “Muskrat Love” from ITunes, checking everyone else’s Facebook status, bemoaning our measly number of “friends,” wondering whatever happened to MySpace–while waiting for poetic inspiration to strike, not like a bolt of lightning (because you would never use that cliche), but like a hammer filled with flowers? (Yep, that’s “hammer filled with flowers’ gem is copyrighted: © Patricia Smith, 2013.) In this workshop, we will realize that inspiration is something we can control and access at will, something that begins and ends with us. We’ll look at the surprising ordinary places where the ideas for extraordinary stories (not just poems!) come from. We’ll read, we’ll write, and when you leave, your noggin will be bulging with ideas. That may not be particularly attractive, but you’ll never giggle at computer kittens again!

Featured Writers

Jeff Kass

Jeff Kass teachers Creative Writing and English Literature at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor MI and is the Literary Arts Director at Ann Arbor’s Teen Center The Neutral Zone. He is the author of the award-winning poetry chapbook Invisible Staircase; the award-winning essay chapbook From the Front of the Room; the one-man performance poetry show Wrestle the Great Fear; co-author of the teaching guidebook Underneath: The Archaeological Approach to Teaching Creative Writing; and author of the short story collection Knuckleheads, which was awarded Independent Publisher’s Gold Medal as Best Short Fiction Collection of 2011.

Shira Erlichman

Shira Erlichman is a nationally acclaimed poet, musician, and artist. A Pushcart Prize nominee who has toured the country with some of the nation’s leading performers and writers, her prolific and unique style has brought her acclaim as “one of the most original and compelling voices in performance poetry.” Her poetry has been featured in NARAL’s National Pro-Choice campaign Free.Will.Power, as well as set to motion by the dancers of the Sound Dance Company. Her award-winning music has appeared in multiple independent films, NPR and national TV. She has shared stages with Ani Difranco, TuNe-YaRds, Coco Rosie, and Mirah. She has been independently recording and releasing her records for over 10 years. Born in Israel, raised in Massachusetts, she now lives in Brooklyn, NY in an indoor treehouse.

Jessica Care Moore

Jessica Care moore is an internationally renowned poet/ publisher/ activist/ rock star/ playwright and actor. She is a five-time Showtime at the Apollo winner; has featured on hip-hop mega-star, Nas’ “Nastradamus” album and was a returning star of Russell Simmon’s HBO Series, Def Poetry Jam.

After her legendary win on the Apollo stage, jessica Care moore was approached by several book publishing companies, but in 1997, she paved her own path and launched a publishing company of her own – Moore Black Press. Which has released her first book; The Words Don’t Fit In My Mouth, and several thousand copies. A few years later, she followed up with her second collection of poetry and essays, The Alphabet Verses The Ghetto.

Moore Black Press proudly published famed poets, Saul Williams and Shariff Simmons; Def Poetry Jam’s co-founder, Danny Simmons, NBA basket-ball player, Etan Thomas, activist and poet, Ras Baraka and former Essence Magazine editor and author, Asha Bandele.

Merrie Haskell

Merrie Haskell grew up half in North Carolina, half in Michigan. She wrote her first story at age seven, and she walked dogs after school to save for her first typewriter. She attended the University of Michigan, where she graduated from the Residential College with a degree in biological anthropology. She works in a library with over 7.5 million volumes. Her first book, the Middle Grade historical fantasy The Princess Curse, was a Junior Library Guild selection. Her second book is Handbook for Dragon Slayers. Her short fiction appears in Nature, Asimov’s, and various anthologies. Merrie lives in Saline, Michigan.

Kevin Coval

Kevin Coval is the author of four full-length poetry collections including the American Library Association Book-of-the-Year finalist Slingshots: A Hip-Hop Poetica, Everyday People and  L-vis Lives! Racemusic Poems, described as a “stunning, and very personal, piece of literary work that should be required reading in every high school in America” by Impose magazine. His most recent work is Schtick: Jewish Assimilation and Its Discontents, new from Haymarket Books in April 2013.

In his early twenties, Coval founded “Louder Than a Bomb: The Chicago Youth Poetry Festival,” now one of the largest youth gatherings on the planet, recently the subject of an award-winning documentary of the same name. Coval currently serves as Artistic Director of Young Chicago Authors, the non-profit home of Louder Than a Bomb, and numerous other youth writing and hip hop programs. He is a native of Chicago and teaches at the School of the Art Institute and is a frequent contributor to WBEZ: Chicago Public Radio. Coval can be reached at New poems and event notices can be found at via @kevincoval on twitter, and

Angel Nafis

Angel Nafis  is an Ann Arbor, Michigan native and Cave Canem Fellow. Her work has appeared in FOUND Magazine’s Requiem for a Paper Bag, DecibelsThe Rattling Wall, Union Station MagazineGirlSpeak Webzine, The Bear River Review, MUZZLE Magazineand Mosaic Magazine. In 2011 she represented the LouderArts poetry project at both the Women of the World Poetry Slam and the National Poetry Slam. She is an Urban Word NYC Mentor and the founder, curator, and host of the quarterly Greenlight Bookstore Poetry Salon reading series. She is the author of BlackGirl Mansion. She lives in Brooklyn.

Bruce DeSilva

Bruce DeSilva is the author of the hard-boiled Mulligan crime novels. The first, Rogue Island, won the Edgar and Macavity awards and was a finalist for the Anthony, Barry, and Shamus awards. The second, Cliff Walk, was published to rave notices including starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Booklist. The third, Providence Rag, will be released next March. Previously he worked as a journalist for 40 years, most recently as a senior editor and writing coach for The Associated Press. Stories he edited won virtually every major journalism prize including The Polk (twice), The Livingston (twice), the ASNE and the Batten Medal. He also edited two Pulitzer finalists and helped edit a Pulitzer winner. He reviews books for the AP and is a master’s thesis adviser at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Scott Beal

Scott Beal’s poems have appeared recently in Muzzle, Union Station, Poemeleon, and museum of americana. His poem “Things to Think About” won a Pushcart Prize in 2013. He serves as a writer-in-the-schools for Dzanc Books in Ann Arbor and teaches in the Sweetland Center for Writing at the University of Michigan, from which he earned his MFA in 1996. He co-authored Jangle the Threads with Rachel McKibbens and Aracelis Girmay (Red Beard Press, 2010) and Underneath: The Archaeological Approach to Creative Writing with Jeff Kass (Red Beard Press, 2011). His manuscript Wait ‘Til You Have Real Problems was a 2012 finalist for the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Poetry Prize from Pleiades Press and the ABZ Poetry Prize from ABZ Press.

Patricia Smith

National Book Award finalist Patricia Smith is an accomplished and sought-after instructor of poetry, performance and creative writing, Smith appears often at creative conferences and residencies, customizes workshops for all age groups and is available for intensive individual instruction. She is a Cave Canem faculty member, a professor of English at CUNY/College of Staten Island and a faculty member of the Sierra Nevada MFA program.