In my first 3 hours at the AWP conference, I discovered 8 writers that I (and by extension, you) need to read.
First I went to a session on "Short Story into Novel." There I encountered these six people (books, and bitly-ed amazon listings included):
Alan Heathcock – VOLT - (In his words, 2 failed novels became the bulk of this collection. He is a funny self-deprecating guy in a porkpie hat. I have the impression his stories are bigger than that.)
Heidi Durrow – The Girl Who Fell from the Sky - (Girl was rejected 48 times before it landed a publisher, and now is on the bestseller list. Of particular interest to me: it has “three beginnings” because of multiple perspectives, which is something I am struggling with in my BiP, too.)
Alexi Zentner – Touch - (Zentner has such lovely sensitivity to language just when speaking off the top of his head, I expect his prose to be luminous ... and his book has monsters … Tops the must list for me.)
Tea Obreht – The Tiger's Wife - (This one has gigantic big buzz … she's been on a couple best young writer lists and gots the big name blurbs. Croation magical realism?)
Marie Mockett – Picking Bones from Ash - (“I just wanted to write a ghost story.” But it turned into something more complicate. I can relate.)
Eugenia Kim – The Calligrapher's Daughter - (well-regarded debut novel by a woman too old to be on any "best under" young-writer lists, always encouraging, plus it sounds like a really interesting historical fiction about early 20th century Korea.)
Then I went to a Words and Music session (WAMFest from Farleigh Dickinson U.)
Went for Rosanne Cash, came away with a major love for John Wesley Harding – my new hero. (Cash was out sick, btw, and Kristin Hersh was detained by weather or some such … it was plenty OK, Harding (who writes as Wesley Stace, which I gather is his given name) and young, strange Josh Ritter were both fascinating … their music and their words.)
Check out Harding/Stace at http://wesleystace.com/
His new book, about a Victorian composer whose life perhaps parallels the folk ballads he is collecting, is Charles Jessold, Considered as a Murderer. I found it so inspiring to hear Harding talk about the ballad tradition, because I have almost unconsciously brought so much of that into the BiP. I also want to study him more to consider the questions of how to render the experience of music in words.
Josh Ritter, an Oberlin grad and folkie singer-songwriter has released 6 albums (including last year's So Runs the World Away), and has a book coming out this summer. He read from the book, Bright's Passage – his first public reading ever, it seems – and it was mesmerizing. His music was good, too, if a little self-conscious about its dark humor.
More bookish AWP lists and random impressions coming, you know, soonish.