Tag Archives: mason

Fall for the Book….

Fall for the Book is not so much a writing conference but it is a kick-arse literary event hosted by George Mason University. It’s a chance to meet some amazing writers who will read from their works and talk about their writing journeys. And, by the by, it’s free. Yes, that’s fabulous!

fallforthebooklogo-2014

This year the festival will run September 11th thru 18th. Most of the events are held on George Mason’s campus, but pay careful attention to the schedule, some events are off-campus.

I really consider this more of a reader’s conference than a writer’s conference – but hey, if you are a writer, uhm, you should also be a reader.

The link to the festival’s website is here.

The schedule is here.

The list of presenters is here.

Two things you don’t want to miss:

  • Jodi Piccoult (the recipient of the Mason Award) will speak on Friday, September 12th.
  • Richard Russo (the recipient of the Fairfax Award) will speak on Wednesday, September 17th.

Just in case you aren’t really clear on what the Fall for the Book Festival is, here’s what they say (taken directly from their website):

What began as a two-day literary event in 1999, organized by George Mason University and the City of Fairfax, has expanded into a week-long, multiple-venue, regional festival that brings together people of all ages and interests, thanks to growing community interest and generous supporting partners.

Each year, the festival:

  • Advances children’s education by hosting specially tailored writing workshops or readings for students at the elementary, middle and high school levels and by publishing an annual anthology of student writing in partnership with the Northern Virginia Writing Project and Dominion.
  • Makes literature fun by showcasing literary events in an active, engaging atmosphere that includes skits, dance, storytelling and more, and by introducing young people to living authors whose work they’re reading in the classroom.
  • Connects readers and authors at all levels, offering book lovers the chance to meet and greet their favorite writers and hear behind-the-scenes stories of writing and publishing.
  • Builds community by connecting with senior centers, book clubs, special interest community groups, libraries, bookstores and many others.
  • Encourages cultural diversity by combining common points of cultural reference with forums for discussion of our shared stories.
  • Gives sponsors a chance to support regional programs, and attracts the broadest possible cross-section of families and individuals throughout the area.
  • Fall for the Book, an IRS-recognized non-profit corporation, is governed by a board of directors that meets throughout the year.

Events take place at George Mason University’s Fairfax Campus, the festival’s base, and at other locations throughout Northern Virginia, DC, and Maryland.

If you are new here, welcome. This post is one in a series of entries about my experiences at various writing conferences this year. You can read about Tin House’s Winter Workshop here and the Woodbridge Writers Retreat here.

 

Connecting with Authors….

by Ellen Weeren
@EllenWeeren/@AReasonToWrite

In just the past few days, I have spoken with 4 well known authors. Shaken their hands, asked them questions. Gotten super inspired. And I now have signed books from all of them. Yea!

And just how did I do that, you might wonder. (If you don’t wonder that, stop reading now. 😎  )

Well, I attended a panel discussion at Fall for the Book at George Mason. The discussion was focused on the definition of literary fiction v. genre fiction and if it’s even important to make the distinction between two any longer. The answer was basically that it’s nearly impossible to define literary fiction or appropriately capture its essence. Outstanding writing will be discussed without prompting from scholars and its words will be devoured – no matter what you call it.

My own definition/measuring stick will be that if a college professor picks up The Alligator Purse and discusses it in her classroom or if a book club can’t stop talking about it, then I will consider it Literary Fiction. (She says crossing fingers that one day that will happen.)

These three fantastico authors were at Fall for the Book…

Alma Katsu  – Alma inspired me because she was first published after the age of 50. There’s still hope for me! 😎 And her writing has gripped me – here is the start of her novel The Taker:

“Luke Findley’s breath hangs in the air, nearly a solid thing shaped like a frozen wasp’s nest, wrung of all its oxygen.”

That is some fabulous prose.

Louis Bayard is very simply a tremendous writer and a professor at George Washington Univ.

I also love the opening of The School of Night:

“Against all odds, against my own wishes, this is a love story. And, it began, of all places, at Alonzo Wax’s funeral.”

Now, I am curious as to what is going on.

and then there was Julianna Baggott. The movie rights to her latest novel Pure have already been purchased. She writes across genres and audiences. And, she speaks in poetry. The way she expressed her thoughts was beautiful. I can only imagine the prose in her stories will be scrumptious.

This is what Julianne said on her own blog about the panel discussion. She asked if it was worth her time – she sold fewer than ten books and her child was sick while she was gone. To that I say, “Thank you for coming. When you signed my book, you wrote Best of Luck With Your Writing, Imagine Wildly.” I don’t know if inspiring me was worth missing her sick child. But I was inspired and so were many others.

Mark Athitakis was also on the panel. He is a book critic and manages a guide to DC area readings. You can find that here. I hope one day that he will review my book.

Yes, you are right. That is only three authors. The fourth was one of my absolute faves – John Shors. He wrote the magical historical fiction about the Taj Mahal called  Beneath a Marble Sky. And, if you’ve been following for a while here, you might remember this review. His new book is called Temple of a Thousand Faces and you can preorder it here.

John was kind enough to call our writers group and share his insights on writing. Why did he do that? Because he is awesomesauce – that, and we asked him to.

It is amazing to me just how approachable some authors are. They share a unique understanding of how challenging this writing journey is. And they are eager to see other authors succeed. They want to encourage and enlighten them/us/me.

So, if you are thinking that you really missed out on some great opportunities – have no fear – American University is hosting a visiting writers series and you can get inspiration from some amazing authors. You’ll find the calendar here.

Not Even a Finalist. Hmpf………..

So George Mason University was hosting this contest about the best couple’s story – you know, a “how we met at Mason” extravaganza.

I entered my story with Number One Hubby. We didn’t even make the finals.

But, I have my own blog. So there. You can still be bored to tears with how we met!

Violence in Film – A Love Story

I just know it is going to happen. At our 50th wedding anniversary, my grand-daughter is going to lean down close to my chair right before we blow out the candles on our anniversary cheesecake and whisper excitedly, “How did you and Grandpa meet?”

And just as excitedly, I will lean in closer to her with my hand cupped gently around my mouth and giggle into her tiny tilted ear, “in a Violence in Film class at George Mason University way back in 1989”. She will surely take a step back and wonder if I am hitting early Alzheimers.

My husband and I will simply laugh. Because that is exactly how it all started. I was an English major taking a film class. I (obviously) didn’t pay much attention to the genre when I picked this class. I was just trying to get one more requirement in and in a course catalogue filled with poetry and short story writing and literature and transcendental meditation classes, who would be worried about a simple film class focusing on violence? Clearly, not me. A Violence in Film class is just about the last class I would ever sign up for. It is even lower on the list than Shark Training 101.

Unfortunately, it did not all happen on a dark and stormy night because that would have made a great introduction to the story. Alas, it was actually a bright and sunny day at the beginning of the Fall semester. He was already sitting down when I walked into class on that first day. He was scrunched down in the seat, feet in the aisle, ankles crossed, and his blue tattered hat was tilted to just enough to the right. And he was cute as heck. He was an accounting major taking an upper level English class as an elective. Because that makes perfect sense.

Then I saw her. The teacher. Cynthia Fuchs. In fatigues and, if I remember correctly, she donned a strawberry blond crew cut. She looked pretty serious. Then I saw the syllabus. Violence in Film. Hmmm. I immediately wondered how many classes I was allowed to attend before dropping the class without GPA consequences. I wanted to stay just long enough to meet that guy, but not one short take more because the movies listed were gruesome – Taxi, Robocop, Blue Velvet. I would not have paid $5 to watch those shows at the theater and then suddenly I was about to let my parents drop a load of tuition dollars on this class because there was a cute guy in the back row. Excellent.

Professor Fuchs started calling out attendance. I waited and watched to see when he would raise his hand. This was my chance to find out his name.

Robert.

Here.

Seriously? Is that Rob, Bob, Bert, Robert, Robbie, or perhaps Bobby? Or maybe he goes by his initials. You gotta be kidding me. This might take more than one or two classes to figure out, especially considering the fact that every other class was scheduled as a viewing class where we would sit in the dark, in silence and watch a movie. A violent movie.

What I came to find out not so much later was that the cute guy in the tilted hat with the official first name of “Robert” actually went by his middle name.

I figured I would at least go to the next class. We were watching a movie. So, I packed my popcorn and my cranberry juice and headed off to class. The seat next to Robert/Bobby/Rob a.k.a. Number One Hubby was open. I took it. Maybe I pushed another student out of the way to get there, maybe not. But I got the seat. The lights dimmed, the movie started, and I carefully put one piece of popcorn in my mouth at a time and let it melt, slowly and quietly.

Then I heard, “Pssst.”

Really, was he talking to me? The dropping of this class and the making of our first date just might happen sooner than later.

I put my hand to my chest and shrugged my shoulders as if to say, “who me”. I might have even flipped my hair. A little. Maybe. Just a little.

To which he replied, “Could you please keep it down? It’s hard to hear the movie.”

Oh dear heavens. That is when I learned that my future husband was not only handsome, but also a smart arse. And thus the crush began.

We starting skipping the classes in which films were being shown and, instead, hung out in the Ratt. I vaguely remember beers and pizza being involved. Then we would have to rent the movie and it made more sense to watch it together. We’d go to the discussion class together and have our own discussions afterward. He liked the movies. I hated the movies. It was a match made in movie heaven.

We even worked side by side on our final papers. We had to create our own violent movie scene. And to this day, Number One Hubby will swear he got a better grade in the class than I got. And sometimes, for the sake of marriage, we let the little tales go so that one day we will be able to tell a Violence in Film Love Story at our 50th wedding anniversary party.

It all came together when he proposed to me, wearing that same tattered blue hat tilted perfectly to the right, in the Blockbuster video parking lot. We were creating a new story – not for homework – but for a lifetime.