[This past week, after many years of planning and many posts in this space, I helped host the 2016 Northeast MLA convention in Hartford. It was an amazing four days, and I could write much more than a week of recap posts—so here I’ll focus specifically on the new initiatives I brought to the convention. If you were part of NeMLA 2016 in any way, please share your own recaps and responses in comments!]
On takeaways from three impressive creative writers featured at the conference.
1) Our opening night creative reader, Monique Truong, is one of the most acclaimed novelists of the last couple decades, and it showed in her mesmerizing presentation. She linked her two novels, The Book of Salt (2003) and Bitter in the Mouth (2010), to two autobiographical essays to consider themes of food and hunger, memory and identity. I was particularly struck in Monique’s presentation by the way that a great writer can use words to both captivate and challenge, to comfort and discombobulate, often at one and the same time. I can’t imagine a better writer and voice to have kicked off our 2016 conference.
2) Just before the membership brunch that concludes the conference, we featured another extremely talented contemporary writer, Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel. Melissa is a Mohegan and her Native American heritage and community inform every book and work of hers; but she is also a master of multiple fictional genres, from young adult lit to mysteries and thrillers. Her reading from her newest book, Wabanki Blues (2015), demonstrated how much she’s continuing to work with and combine these different genres and themes, producing a writer who is unique and vital and one whom I was very happy to feature at the conference.
3) In between those opening and closing creative readings, we featured a number of other writers: acclaime novelist Carole Maso at our debut Meet the Author event; a number of NeMLA creative writers at our innovative Flash Readings; and more. I was unfortunately otherwise occupied with President-ing during most of those readings, and likewise was unable to attend the Friday reading by one other creative writer I invited: Leanne Hinkle, who has published under the names Leanne Tyler and Lexi Witcher. But since Leanne was kind enough to take part in our Thursday public school visits, I had the chance to spend a good deal of time with her—and found her to be thoroughly collegial and friendly, ready to share her writing and her voice with both students and NeMLA attendees. Another great addition to a particularly creative conference!
Next recap tomorrow,
PS. Thoughts on this post? Other NeMLA follow ups you’d share? I’d really love to hear them (and feel free to email them to me if you prefer)!
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