2014  Ann Arbor Book Festival: Writer’s Conference, June 21

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.

Date: Saturday, June 21, 2014
Time: 9:30am-3:30pm
Location: Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library Gallery
Registration: required. Registration now closed
Check-in: begins at 9:30 AM with coffee and pastries at North entrance of the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library (off the Diag). Please note that this is before the library officially opens, so only the North entrance will be open. There is no need to print your Eventbrite ticket. We will have a check-in sheet with all registered attendees at the front desk.
Lunch: (for those who registered for the whole day, including lunch) Lunch will be catered by Seva’s Restaurant in Ann Arbor, and vegetarian options will be available.

Keynote Luncheon Address by Mardi Jo Link

Mardi Jo Link is the author of Bootstrapper, a memoir of her family and their rural home in northern Michigan, which won the 2013 Bookseller’s Choice Award from the Great Lakes Booksellers Association and has been optioned for film by Academy Award-winning actress, Rachel Weisz. When Mardi finds herself a newly single mother after twenty years of marriage, she makes a seemingly impossible resolution: to stay in her century-old farmhouse and continue raising her three boys on well-water, chopping wood, and dirt. Armed with an unflagging sense of humor and relentless optimism that would put Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm to shame, Link and her resolute accomplices struggle through one long hard year of blizzards, foxes, bargain cooking, rampaging poultry, and a zucchini-growing contest to keep the life they love. “A heroic-comic saga of single motherhood and pure stubbornness.” -Garrion Keillor. 

A former reporter, Mardi has also written two true crime books, Isadore’s Secret and When Evil Came to Good Hart, both chronicling historic but unsolved Michigan crimes. She is a two-time recipient of the Michigan Notable Book Award, a Pushcart nominee, and a past Creative Nonfiction Scholar for Antioch Writers Workshop. She studied journalism at Michigan State University and creative writing at Queens University of Charlotte.

In the early 1990s, Mardi helped found ForeWord Reviews, a trade book review journal that gives critical attention to books published by independent publishers. Her personal essays have been published in Bear River Review, Bellingham Review, Detroit Free Press, Dunes Review, Publishers Weekly, Terrain, and Traverse. In 2012 she won Creative Nonfiction’s “Anger and Revenge” essay contest. She’s currently working on a book about women’s friendship and lives with her husband and son on The Big Valley, the home featured in her memoir.

Registration & Check-In : 9:30-10:00am

Register today!

Check-in location at the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library Gallery.

Scott Beal : 10am-11:10am

Workshop Topic: Brain Spelunking

Over a hundred years ago, Sigmund Freud pointed out that our brains are not as smart and orderly as we like to think.  Instead, there’s a ton of weird stuff swirling below the surface — which we see shades of in our dreams about dinosaur dentists and flying bananas.  The crazy ideas we see in our dreams are always inside us, but they mostly hide during the daytime.  In this workshop, we will try to trick that stuff into coming out when we’re awake — to dive below the surface and craft surprising poems out of the sparkling nuggets.

Scott Beal’s poems have recently appeared in Rattle, Prairie Schooner, Sonora Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, and other journals. He won a Pushcart Prize for 2014. His first book of poems, Wait ‘Til You Have Real Problems, will be published by Dzanc Books in Fall 2014. He serves as writer-in-the-schools for Dzanc Books in Ann Arbor and teaches in the Sweetland Center for Writing at the University of Michigan.

Jeanne Sirotkin : 10am-11:10am

Workshop Topic: Story Swap

This is what writing is about:  getting into the skin of another individual and taking a walk, opening one’s mouth and another’s words flow out.  Some tactics, including theater skills, enable us to do this better.   Those individuals wishing to write memoir will discover the trick of a mirror – someone else reflecting your story back to you.  How to listen to your own story. The workshop will culminate in a short exchange, a writing of someone else’s story.

Jeanne Sirotkin’s most recent release:  2013 publication of a collection of short stories “Wrestling the Bear” awarded the SFA prize in fiction from Stephen F. Austin State University, Texas.Founder, Creative Writing Program at the Roeper School. Former San Francisco poet, former editor San Francisco Galley magazine, Poet as Teacher program, and performance poet. She is mainly a fiction writer now with stories in various literary magazines such as Cimarron Review, Chattahoochee Review and others.  Currently working on her second novel in Traverse City where she lives with her husband and poodle, Gracie.

Carlina Duan : 10am-11:10am

Workshop Topic: Shift the Gears: Code-Switching & Creative Nonfiction 

How does language impact and embody the one’s sense of belonging and exile? How does code-switching mirror, if at all, one’s memory & movement through a foreign space? In writing, we often shift gears, changing focus in voice, format, and tone — turning the familiar into the funky as a type of experimentation. In a way, this shift bears similarity to “code-switching,” the linguistic phenomena where speakers shift between two or more languages in a single conversation. When taken on a more metaphorical level, code-switching can also represent a change in tone, identity, or, even more imaginatively, the senses, the time, the setting. In this creative nonfiction workshop, we will focus on the metaphorical idea of “code-switching”as a lens to read and uproot identities within our own literary work. We will pay particular attention to the ways in which our identities shift, twist, and swell in relation to other environments, communities, and spaces in time. We’ll also work on creative prompts that challenge us to “code-switch” between senses, times, and voices.

Carlina Duan is a poet and journalist from Ann Arbor. She is currently a senior studying Creative Writing and English at the University of Michigan, where she has won multiple Hopwood awards and writing prizes, and is the editor of The Statement, a weekly news publication by The Michigan Daily. She is the co-author of the poetry collection Electric Bite Women (2013) with poet Haley Patail. Her work has been featured on national digital platforms such as Angry Asian Man and the Badass Lady Creatives. She is one of the founding editors of Ann Arbor’s Red Beard Press, a youth-driven publishing company, and has been published in literary collections including Uncommon Core and Creative Composition. Carlina was a member of the 2011 Ann Arbor Youth Slam Team as well as the 2013 University of Michigan Slam Team, and she currently assistant coaches for the 2014 Ann Arbor Youth Slam team.

Kevin Coval : 11:20am-12:30pm

Workshop Topic: Odes and Appreciations

Sometimes contemporary poetry can feel like it’s all angst and not enough celebration. In this workshop, we’ll go back to the classic notion of poem as a means to offer praise and tribute, and work on how to write odes that celebrate without falling into the trap of cheesy-melty gush.

Kevin Coval is the poet the Chicago Tribune called “the voice of the new Chicago” and who the Boston Globe says is “the city’s unofficial poet laureate.” Author of Schtick, L-vis Lives!: Racemusic Poems, Everyday People, Slingshots: A Hip-Hop Poetica, and More Shit Chief Keef Don’t Like, Coval is the founder of Louder Than A Bomb: The Chicago Youth Poetry Festival and Artistic Director of Young Chicago Authors, LTAB’s non-profit home. Coval teaches hip-hop aesthetics at The University of Illinois-Chicago, is a 4x HBO Def Poet, and has written for a wide variety of publications including CNN.com, The Chicago Tribune, Huffington Post, National Public Radio’s Chicago affiliate WBEZ, The Spoken Word Revolution Redux (Source), Handbook of Public Pedagogy (Routledge), 101 Changemakers: Rebels and Radicals Who Changed U.S. History (Haymarket) & It Was Written: Reading Nas’s Illmatic, ed. by Michael Eric Dyson (Basic).  Coval won a New Voices/New Visions award from the Kennedy Center for a play co-authored with Idris Goodwin about graffiti writers called, This is Modern Art, that will premiere in the winter of 2015 at Steppenwolf Theater and is currently editing an anthology, The Breakbeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop (Haymarket) due out February 2015. @kevincoval on all social media especially instagram. See also www.newschoolpoetics.com and www.facebook.com/kevincoval.

Dorene O’Brien : 11:20am-12:30pm

Workshop Topic: Microfiction/Macro Income!

Microfiction, the haiku of the prose world, is one of the most popular contemporary writing forms with major literary magazines requesting submissions and sponsoring high paying contests. Known for its brevity and elegance, microfiction has become a popular calming antidote for our hectic lifestyles. A microfiction story can be read during in-between times: while waiting for a bus, riding an elevator or taking a coffee break, hence its title “smoke long” in China for stories that can be read in the time it takes to finish a cigarette. In this workshop we will learn the art of literary brevity through reading some masterful examples of the form and writing microfiction stories of 50-300 words for publication or as launching pads for larger works. In addition, we will discuss potential venues for workshop creations.

Dorene O’Brien is a Detroit writer whose work has earned the Red Rock Review’s Mark Twain Award for Short Fiction, the New Millennium Writings Fiction Award, the Chicago Tribune Nelson Algren Award and the international Bridport Prize. She was also awarded a creative writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and her stories have been published in special Kindle editions. O’Brien’s fiction and poetry have appeared in the Connecticut Review, the Chicago Tribune, The Best of Carve Magazine, Short Story Review, Passages North, the Baltimore Review, The Republic of Letters, the Montreal Review, Detroit Noir and others. Her short story collection, Voices of the Lost and Found, won the National Best Book Award in short fiction. Visit her web site at www.doreneobrien.com

D.E. Johnson : 11:20am-12:30pm

Workshop Topic: Point of View – Who’s telling this story?

One of the most important choices you make with a story or novel is point of view. Will you use 1st person or 3rd (or, God forbid, 2nd)? One point of view character or more? Will it be omniscient, limited, or some combination? How will you get yourself into the head of those characters? Your story is asking for the point of view that will most effectively tell it, in a way that will fully immerse your reader. Learn the who, what, how, and why of “POV” in this fast-paced, fun workshop. Come ready to write!

After spending his childhood in Kalamazoo, Michigan, D.E. (Dan) Johnson graduated from Central Michigan University and owned a business in Grand Rapids, Michigan for many years. He is married, has three daughters, and once again lives near Kalamazoo. He’s currently working on the second sequel to The Detroit Electric Scheme.

Keynote Lunch with Mardi Jo Link : 12:30pm-1:45pm

See Mardi Jo Link ‘s bio above.

Mardi Jo Link : 1:50pm-3:00pm

Workshop Topic: The Truth of Your Life
We are in the golden age of real. Everyone has a story to tell, and you don’t have to be a celebrity or a daredevil to live an interesting, book-worthy life. Actually, wisdom and grace is more likely to be found in the truth of the ordinary. So the task is, how do we write the truth of our lives in such a way that people we’ve never met will want to read about us? As writers delving into our own lives, if we’re looking for readers we need to do more than just be interesting to ourselves. We need to write about our experiences in a way that transforms them from memory into story. Through the fictional staples of character development and scene setting, with a balance of action and reflection, your life can indeed enthrall readers. Through the specific, your true story can become universal.

Shira Erlichman : 1:50pm – 3:00pm

Workshop Topic: In the Spirit of the Divine Rascals

Mystical visionaries such as Hafiz and Rumi, whose poetry overflow with sensuality, playfulness, and an outlandish ecstasy, reveal a God of infinite love – not a God that would control us, cut us down, or paralyze us with guilt. They believed in Laughter, Encouragement, Foolishness and Total Risk. From this spirit will sprout our workshop. Guided by Hafiz we will leap toward true liberation found in the intimacy of ordinary moments: putting pen to page, studying a stranger’s wrinkles, and listening to the subway screech to a halt. In the words of Hafiz “Now is the season to know / That everything you do / Is sacred.”

Shira Erlichman is a nationally acclaimed poet, musician, & artist. A Pushcart Prize nominee who has toured the country with some of the nation’s leading performers & writers, her prolific & unique style has brought her acclaim as “one of the most original & 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 & national TV. She has shared stages with TuNe-YaRds, Coco Rosie, Andrea Gibson & Mirah. Her work can be found in Buzzfeed, MUZZLE, the Massachusetts Review, Union Station, The Bakery, & The Reader, among others. Born in Israel, raised in Massachusetts, she now lives in Brooklyn, NY where she teaches poetry & writes music.

Craig Bernier : 1:50-3:00pm

More Real Realism: Taking Your Description Beyond Just Descriptions

Even some experienced writers still believe that creativity is fixed and determined, like having blue eyes or red hair; however, creativity is better thought of as a skill set. It’s more like carpentry or cooking than it is a genetic trait. It has facets, dimensions, and angles which can be unearthed, matured, and polished. In this lecture-based workshop, we’ll use short story excerpts and a few exercises to identify and strengthen a key area of our creative writing skill set: the “creative description.” Some call it the “look away,” others says it’s a “narrative aside,” it has more than a few names, but when it’s successfully executed it lures your reader into thinking they’re reading something beyond just a facsimile of reality. To nail it is rare, like being shot from a cannon onto the high-wire, but this workshop will help identify areas for practice (with safety nets below). We’ll also discuss the need for an observation journal, the backbone of attentiveness and often the key to this skill set. Writers of all experience levels can benefit from this workshop, but novice fiction writers will find it particularly helpful. Though we’ll primarily discuss realism in fiction, poets and nonfiction writers are encouraged to attend as the skill crosses over. With continuing practice (after the workshop), you should witness your larger creative voice emerging into something distinct and apparent.

Craig Bernier was an Instructor of Writing at Duquesne University from 2008-2013. He was a Jacob K. Javits Fellow at the University of Pittsburgh from 2002-2005 where he earned his MFA. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in numerous national journals and literary magazines, and his recent collection of short stories Your Life Idyllic won the St. Lawrence Book Award.