Making Literature 2013: A Look Back

ML Conf

We heard a lot of words at Taylor’s fourth biennial Making Literature conference–three straight days worth of them, from keynote speakers, scholars, novelists, poets, editors, and students. It would be impossible to recall them all, even though we made some efforts at live tweeting them.

So I will begin with the words I heard when it was over, words I heard often: “I think this was the best one yet.”

Now let’s take a look back at some of the other words, images, ideas, and authors we heard.

1) Dr. Hal Bush of St. Louis University talked on Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink and Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, with reference to Thoreau’s Walden. The major themes that emerged were the writer’s habits of work, and the ways we can train our brains. It’s the work and persistence that count. Talent is overrated. (But this guy is not. )

Hal Bush

2) Bret Lott spoke in three sessions. His chapel talk focused on story, genre, and light. His Scripture reference was John 8:12: “I am the Light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

You can hear it again on Youtube:

Bret’s keynote focused on precision in writing. He read us a short story by Richard Brautigan and pointed out two sentences in the story that he felt had a certain kind of precision–not just because these lines get the details right and allow us to see the images clearly in our mind’s eye. Rather these sentences also cue us in to the emotional and even spiritual dimensions of the subjects.

The first sentence:
“My entrance into the thing came about this way: One day I was standing in front of my shack, eating an apple and staring at a black ragged toothache sky that was about to ram.”

The second:
“The novelist was in his late forties, tall, reddish, and looked as if life had given him an endless stream of two-timing girlfriends, five-day drunks and cars with bad transmissions.”

Great stuff.

Lastly, Bret read us the first chapter of his new novel, which continues the story of Huger and Unc from The Hunt Club and his most recent novel, Dead Low Tide.

3) Poet Susanna Childress thrilled us with her poetry reading. When she took the podium, the first thing she did was clear her throat, then sing a cappella, John Donne’s famous “Death, be not proud,” which she had set to music. Then she read from her first book Jagged with Love, her second collection Entering the House of Awe, and even tried out a few new and unpublished poems.

Susanna Childress

4) We enjoyed an excellent editorial panel on Saturday, with presentations and Q & A with Brad Fruhauff, editor of Relief Journal; Marci Rae Johnson of both The Cresset and WordFarm; and Beth Bevis of Victorian Studies.

The Cresset Vic StudiesReliefthousand vessels

(Also, poet Tania Runyan made a surprise visit to campus. She’ll be returning to Taylor to give a reading in April!)

The conference centered on student presentations, too numerous to mention. Having attended as many as I could, I can say without a doubt that they were excellent. We welcomed students from ten colleges and universities to present critical and creative work. Taylor English students also enjoyed strong representation in both categories.

It’s my hope that students made connections with one another, and that those connections become friendships based on making literature through scholarship and creative writing.

Of course, I also hope everyone plans to come back for Making Literature 2015. See you then.

To learn more about Taylor’s English Department, visit our website or blog. At the blog, you’ll find links to many resources in literature, creative writing, and art and faith.

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