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Posts Tagged ‘keynote speaker’

Andrea Hairston, a professor at Smith College, will be the morning keynoter at tomorrow’s WriteAngles conference. She was interviewed by Jean Marie Ruiz.

When and how did you know that you were a writer?

When I was growing up in the 50’s I intended to be a theoretical physicist or a mathematician. But I come from a family of storytellers, big talkers, and tall tale tellers. Nobody in my family ever knew when to shut up. In college on the way to a physics major, I shifted to theatre and writing and directing plays. I love the theatre and the possibilities of live performance, yet there were always stories that I wanted to tell that called out for a different form. So in 1995, I decided to become a novelist.

How do you first conceive of your novels and plays? Do they start with an abstract idea, a character, a setting, a memory, a “what if?” question, or . . .?

I start with an idea or a question or characters talking to me. A poem.

What made you decide to write your first novel, MINDSCAPE?

Actually I wrote several novels before MINDSCAPE. In 1995, I decided to write science fiction and fantasy novels while a guest professor teaching African American Women’s Theatre at the Universität Hamburg. I wrote WILDERNESS, an unpublished novel, and then in 1999 I started MINDSCAPE, a story in the same world as WILDERNESS. I had been to conferences in Germany and the US where so many people were eulogizing Africa, proclaiming her demise, mourning the impossibility of any sort of African survival. Africa had to become European as quickly as possible – dump African languages, spiritual traditions, etc.

Also a mathematician said to me, “What difference does it really make that we losing indigenous languages in America? Sad, but what do they offer us? No future in those languages.”

I wanted to imagine something else.

The colonized enter science as refugees from their magical worlds – prisoners of superstition, hostages of the colonizer, slaves of the master narrative. Modernity and post-modernity, although products of colonialism, displace the colonized to the past, to history, to people who once were whole and have now been shattered by their backwardness, their poor competitive adaptation, their lack of science and democracy, their inept economics. The colonizers have consumed the colonized and define the future. So caught up in the past, still trying to survive history, how can the colonized imagine a future? How can a future be imagined that contains the remnants of their broken spirits? This is the kind of challenge I like as a writer.

How do science and art and imagination intersect in your work?

I am everything I am all at once. My writing reflects that.

What is your latest creative project?

THE MASTER OF POISONS – a novel which I just sold and should be coming out soon! Also, Episodes From the Continuing Drama of Cinnamon Jones: Scientist, Artiste, and Hoodoo Conjurer, a play. I’ll be presenting a reading of the play 7:30, November 30, at Smith College.

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lisaPapademetriouThis interview was conducted by Joan Axelrod-Contrada. Lisa will be our morning speaker and will conduct a workshop called Secrets of the Plot Goddess.

 

Why did you become a writer? When did the writing bug first bite you?

When I was in fifth grade, I had a sudden realization – the books I was reading were written by grown ups who wrote those novels, stories, and poems as their job. That was it. I knew that was what I wanted to do.

What is the most rewarding part of being a writer?

The most rewarding part of being a writer is those moments of flow – when you’re so absorbed in what you are doing that you lose yourself. Sometimes, when I look over what I have written, I don’t remember writing it, as if I have been channeling something beyond myself. That, to me, feels like a spiritual occurrence. It feels meaningful.

The most frustrating?

The only frustrating part is the publishing industry. I love my editors, my agent, the art directors, the marketers, my booking agent. All of the people I come into contact with in the industry are smart, talented, and passionate about books. But the business itself feels impenetrable and sometimes arbitrary.

Can you tell us about your latest release?

My next book (out in April 2017) is called APARTMENT 1986. It’s about a girl who – for various reasons having to do with family, friends, and school – decides to skip out on her fancy New York City private school for a week and, instead, visit the museums on the Upper East Side. She makes a friend and, as I like to say, shenanigans ensue. It’s very funny, but it also touches on some serious issues. But, mostly, it’s funny.

What inspired it?

I grew up in Houston, Texas, but when I was fourteen, my father got remarried and moved to the Upper East Side of New York City. He and my stepmother live a block from the Met. When I would come to visit as a teen, I always felt overwhelmed by the city and like a fish out of water. It’s a bit about that, and about other things that were happening in my family around that time. But it’s a novel – it’s not like my actual life at all.

You’re the morning speaker for WriteAngles. Can you tell us a little bit about what you’re planning?

Hah! This question sounds like I might be planning a laser light show or surprise guest appearance by Taylor Swift! (And maybe I am . . .)

My talk is called Creativity Takes Courage, and I’m planning to talk about rejection, failure, fear, and how to handle it. The good thing about that topic is that if I totally blow the speech, I can use all of the advice in my talk right away.

You’re also presenting a workshop called Secrets of the Plot Goddess — How Destiny Drives Your Story. Tell us about that.

This is a workshop I designed for people who are more comfortable thinking about characters than plots. It’s a framework for imagining the plot as if it is a character with a specific desire line, as if it is making choices and taking action along with the protagonist.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a new novel called THE DREAMWAY, which is about a girl whose brother is kidnapped by a Nightmare and taken into the underground subway system that powers our dreams. I’m also continuing to work on my grammar humor website, IvanaCorrectya.com, and on helping to develop and grow the low-residency Writing for Children and Young Adults Track of the MFA program at Sierra Nevada College, where I’m on faculty. Our next 10-day residency is in Jamaica in January, so anyone who is considering getting a Master’s degree should check it out!

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We are very happy to announce that Valerie Martin will be our after-lunch speaker. She is the author of nine novels, numerous short stories, and a biography of St. Francis of Assisi. With this giant leap forward we feel our program is shaping up beautifully and we hope to announce all the panels soon.

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At our big planning meeting last night — 16 writers in attendance! — we were pleased to learn that Andre Dubus has agreed to be our afternoon keynote speaker for this year’s conference. He is the author of three novels, including the acclaimed best-seller House of Sand and Fog.

Also, read about the Write Angles Conference in this month’s issue of Writers’ Digest. We’re included in a story about quality writers conferences that charge bargain rates. How can you beat that?

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