Monday, April 30, 2012

Moby Dickens' David Perez Wins Award!

Great news for David Perez of Moby Dickens, our favorite independent bookseller in Taos!

His "memoirito" about growing up in the South Bronx during the 1960's, called WOW!, was recognized in the Comedy Category at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. The book features illustrations by David's brother, the award-winning comic book artist George Perez.

You can buy the book at Moby Dickens bookstore in Taos, or online at Amazon here.

David will be leading a roundtable at this year's Conference: he'll present on "Bookstores, Independent and Otherwise: What Readers Need to Know" at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, July 17th.

Congratulations, David! 

Scholarship Deadline Extended!

The new deadline for scholarship applications at this summer's Taos Summer Writers' Conference has been extended until May 15th! (Postmark deadline.)

Please send scholarship submissions via snail mail to: Taos Conference, Department of English Language and Literature, MSC03 2170 - 1, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001.

Since we're extending the application deadline, we're also pushing back our decision date: we'll announce the recipients of this year's scholarships the week of June 4th.

You can find more information about all of the available scholarships and application guidelines at this link.

Good luck!

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Q and A With 2012 Taos Instructor, Spiritual Memoir Writer Sarah Sentilles!

We're super excited to welcome memoirist and scholar Sarah Sentilles to the Taos Conference this summer: she'll be teaching a Weeklong Workshop this year on Spiritual Memoir.

Sarah's dear friend Emily Rapp first told us about Sarah's work--and once we read her lovely (not to mention very funny) memoir Breaking Up With God, we knew we had to have her on board!

We asked Sarah some questions about her and writing, so you can get to know her and her work a bit better!

You can find out more about Sarah's class at this link.

“Spiritual memoir” seems like a big and amorphous category. How do you personally define the genre?

A: For me, writing and religion share common ground. I understand both practices as imaginative activities, as human beings responding to and making meaning out of the world as we experience it. My mentor, the theologian Gordon Kaufman, called theology a work of art that is to be lived in, and I think spiritual memoirs can be defined similarly. Spiritual memoirs reveal the human struggle to create meaning and connection, to know our place in the world, and to discover what might be required of us while we’re here. 

What do you think are the biggest challenges of writing a spiritual memoir?

Avoiding being cheesy or preachy or saccharine. Staying in the questions and not moving too quickly into answers. I was a judge for a “spiritual essay” contest last month, and the authors of many of the essays I read moved toward difficult questions, but then they moved quickly away from them, retreating into doctrine or pat answers or clichés like “things happen for a reason” or “God works in ways we don’t understand.” The best essays were written by authors willing to stay in a place of unknowing, in a place of mystery and possibility. I am much more interested in authors who are willing to admit the world doesn’t work like they thought it worked or their faith doesn’t fit like they thought it fit. Good spiritual writing requires courage, a willingness to walk into the fire instead of around it.

What brought you to your interests in spirituality and writing?

I was almost ordained as an Episcopal priest and now I call myself agnostic. I wrote Breaking Up with God to try to figure out what happened to my faith. I’ve studied religion for more than a decade. Even though I walked away from institutional religion, the language and stories and metaphors of my faith are still with me. I understand theology as a constructive activity—human beings making up stories about God. I am fascinated by how those stories work in the world, about what they make possible or impossible, about how they affect the earth and other living beings.

What were some of the books you looked to as inspiration in writing your spiritual memoir, Breaking Up with God?

I read as much as I could while I was writing. One of my friends who is a poet told me that to write well you have to read for twice as many hours a day as you write. I read and re-read Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” and Andre Dubus’s “A Father’s Story.” Some of my favorite memoirs during that time were Sarah Manguso’s The Two Kinds of Decay and Nick Flynn’s The Ticking Is the Bomb. I read more fiction than nonfiction. I read Nicole Kraus’s The History of Love three or four times, and I fell in love with Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin and Paul Harding’s Tinkers, though I’m a little afraid to mention that book because I know people either love it or hate it. I also read a lot of theology. I went back to my favorites—Gordon Kaufman, James Cone, Mary Daly. Their words are mind blowing. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

John Dufresne wins Guggenheim Award!

More exciting news for Taos faculty this week: fiction writer John Dufresne has won a 2012 Guggenheim Fellowship!

Pretty awesome. John's teaching a Master Class in the Novel at this year's Conference--it filled up almost immediately.

You can read John's bio at the Guggenheim website here.

Congratulations, John! Terrific news.

Publication News for Greg Martin and Mark Sundeen!

Two wonderful nonfiction articles are available this week from longtime Taos Instructors Greg Martin and Mark Sundeen.

Greg's got a new essay in the journal Witness. It's about a young girl in New Mexico named Brittany with a rare, musceloskeletal disorder who refused surgery that would sustain her life. The essay is called "Brittany's Choice"--you can read a PDF on Greg's website, or order the journal here.

 Meanwhile, Mark Sundeen--who still has some space available in his Travel Memoir class--has a new essay in the May issue of Outside Magazine. It's called "Why Noah Went to the Woods," and delves in to the (still unsolved) mystery of a Marine who disappeared in the remote Montana wildnerness after three tours in Iraq. Read it here. (And if you haven't picked up a copy of Mark's new book, The Man Who Quit Money, do that too! It's getting rave reviews!)

Both stories are extremely compelling, beautifully written examples of literary journalism.

Check em out! Congrats Greg and Mark! Can't wait to see you both in Taos.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Novel by Joseph Skibell Now An Opera!

 Former Taos Instructor Joseph Skibell's  first novel, "A Blessing On the Moon," is being performed as an Opera!

The novel, which came out in 1999, received tremendous acclaim: the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, it was named A Book of the Month Club selection and one of the year's best books by Publishers Weekly, Le Monde and Amazon.Com.

Now, the novel has inspired composer Andy Tierstein to turn the story into music. Pretty cool. You can find out more about the Opera, and listen to the music, at this link.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Greg Martin Master Class Full Up!

Just a heads up that the Master Class in Memoir with Greg Martin is now full!

And to let you know: changes to class registration won't be reflected on the website for the next ten days or so (Eva out of town!) but we'll make sure to post on the blog when classes get near or reach their cap.

There are still openings in the Poetry Master Class with Joy Harjo, and the Novel Master Class with Les Standiford!

You can register for those, and other workshops at the 2012 Conference, here.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Celebrate the 40th Anniversary of of "Bless Me, Ultima" With Marathon Reading on April 23rd!

Just in time for the film version of the novel to come out (it's supposed to this year!), we also get to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of Rudolfo Anaya's seminal novel, Bless Me, Ultima.

To mark the occasion, the University of New Mexico English department is sponsoring a Marathon Reading of the book on Monday, April 23rd! (Organized by our very own Taos Conference Organizer-In-Chief, Sharon Warner!)

The event will take begin at 8 a. m. in the Willard Reading Room of Zimmerman Library, on UNM's main Albuquerque Campus. Community members will take turns reading a few pages each, and Anaya himself will conclude the reading--at, we guess, about 5 p.m.--with the final page.

Afterwards, there will be a reception where the Southwest Research Center will display their collection of Anaya's papers.

Forty-eight folks will participate in reading the novel aloud, and each is asked to raise a minimum of $25.00 in pledges. All the money raised will go to endow the Rudolfo Anaya Scholarship Fund in the UNM English Department.

For more information (and to sign up to read!) email with your name, contact information and preferences for reading time.

And if you want to stop in and listen, come on by--there will even be door prizes! Spread the word!