During AWP 2018 in Tampa, I attended a panel sponsored by Graywolf Press and featuring 3 prominent writers, only one of which I’d heard of. I took my comprehensive exams last Fall, so I’ve read A LOT of craft in the past year. So much so, that I am not sure I would have attended this particular session had I realized what it was, but I was distracted by the author name I did recognize: Edwidge Danticat. I have read multiple stories and a novel by her in the past year, and have fallen in love with her lyric prose and powerful portrayals of characters. I knew I wanted to hear her read, and I’m so glad I did, because not only was her reading lovely, this type of discussion of craft was exactly what I needed to get me out of my Comps list and back into the current conversation on writing and what literature can and should be.
Each of the writers (Edwidge Danticat, Maud Casey, and Christopher Castellani) read from a newly published book on craft from a series being published by Graywolf. The others spoke about the art of mystery and the art of perspective, and Danticat spoke about the art of death. They read from their books, and this was followed by a moderated conversation about craft and their experiences with writing.
The way they approached craft was refreshing, reflecting another author’s words (whom they quoted): “The best art is criticism, and the best criticism is art.” This feels like what these books do and like the type of criticism I want to read. Each of the writers mix their personal stories in with their discussion of craft topics and of books. Danticat says she thinks of criticism as “a conversation between passionate readers.” And that’s a conversation I’m so glad to be a part of. Other topics these authors covered were editing and revision and how writing is always an assertion of consciousness. This is what we are doing anytime we write: saying we’re here, we have a voice, and we want to use it.