The DePaul Summer Writing Conference was held this past summer from July 16-18, 2010. Trudie Gauerke shares her thoughts on the experience. Trudie is a second-year MAWP student and acquisitions editor at Publications International, Ltd. in Lincolnwood.
At the risk of sounding like a fifth-grade composition teacher, take a moment to think about how you spent your summer vacation. Did you dabble in writing specialties you might not otherwise fit in your Masters program, or meet with professors you might not have the opportunity to take a class from? Were you introduced to writers and editors from around the country that motivated you to advance your own creative projects? The Office of Continuing and Professional Education’s 2010 Summer Writing Conference was a great opportunity to do all of that, and with programs packed into a word-filled weekend (July 16-18), there were plenty of other days left for baking at the beach.
With over twenty-five different workshops, panels, and presentations, the conference covered topics like what literary journals want, writing for teens, and ethics in memoir writing. Among the highlights was critic, novelist, and poet Michael Antman’s talk on writing book reviews that keep the literary culture honest and the link between the state of reviewing and the state of books. He insightfully compared the so-called death of print at the hands of e-books to the freezing, canning, and technological processing innovations of the food industry. He warned that just as the current “slow food” movement promotes a return to the relaxing joy of cooking and savoring fresh food, so too could the publishing industry see a reversal in trends, moving away from digitalization.
Other panels had a more how-to approach, such as the sessions on how to read poetry aloud, run a creative-writing workshop, or start your own small press. The author, poet, and grant-writing guru, Alice George, spoke about how to get financial support for your work or procure residencies, those blessed retreats that give writers two coveted gifts: time to write and a room of one’s own.
For a peak at the conference, you can listen to the opening and closing talks held at the Harold Washington Library through DePaul’s partnership with Chicago Amplified. Writers House literary agent Michele Rubin opened with a frank address on the state of the publishing industry. She discussed the industry’s greatest challenge of creating new literary readers and the changing definition of what is literary vs. what is commercial, a change she attributes, in part, to the at times shallower source material of blogs. In contrast, the closing remarks from writer Janet Desaulniers focused on the positive effects for writers stemming from publishing industry changes. She argued that New York publishing will have killed itself entirely within five years due to the “cult of celebrity” they’ve created and their focus on empire building over quality literature. She sees this death as an opportunity for a literary rebirth open to the rest of the world outside New York. This opportunity is one to be seized in earnest, much like the conference itself, and the notion of reshaping the industry will likely be a key part of next summer’s conference as well.