The Big Read Blog (Archive)

The National Book Festival is This Weekend!

picnic at the tidal basin 4.5.09 - 26 by flickr user laura padgett

For book lovers, the National Book Festival is like Christmas and the Fourth of July combined. With so many books to browse, authors to meet (more than 100), and new literature to discover, there are few literary events like it in the country. This year, the NEA's Poetry & Prose Pavilion will feature luminaries such as Dave Eggers, author and founder of McSweeney's; former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove; Garrison Keiller, host of A Prairie Home Companion; poet Linda Pastan; and this year's Poetry Out Loud champion, Youssef Biaz. And that?s not even the full line-up! As we get ready for the 11th annual festival, taking place on September 24 and 25 on the National Mall, we thought we'd take a look back at a few choice moments from last year's Poetry & Prose participants:

Orhan Pamuk:

Most of the people do not realize how much very simple craftsman[ship] goes into writing a novel. When the novel is good, when you enjoy it, and when you say, "Wow, he is a genius, this author," you don't realize also---and I as a reader sometimes even forget---how many times this author turns around sentences and builds up things, maneuvers. He spends a month actually not doing genius-like composition but turning things around, developing ideas.

Allegra Goodman:

When I was a really young writer, I used to read my work aloud to my parents and my sister, especially funny stuff which would [make] them laugh and that encouraged me the most. And I always felt the best thing for me would be when my mother was laughing so much that tears were streaming down her face and I thought, "Oh, I got something there."

Chang-rae Lee:

One of the questions I always get is about where stories come from for writers. People are always curious. Even people who know me well sometimes look at me and think, "Why did you write that book?" and "Where did that come from?" You know, "What's wrong with you?" Or "Why that obsession?" And there are lots of reasons. Sometimes it's stuff that I've been thinking about for a long time. Sometimes it's an accident. My second novel, I read an article in the newspaper about Korean comfort women and I decided, "Boy, I can't believe I don't know about this, so I'm going to look into it," and thus a novel came to be.

Elizabeth Alexander:

I'm not a poet who comes out of any one particular school or any one particular form. I like to think of the creative process that my mind is a rolodex and you just spin and spin and spin and spin and spin and have a lot of different options for ways, directions to go in, shapes with which to craft and sort of enclose the material of the poem itself.

 

Allegra Goodman, on early encouragement:

when I was a really young writer, I used to read my work aloud to my parents and my sister and especially funny stuff that--which would them laugh and that encouraged me the most. And I always felt the best thing for me would be when my mother was laughing so much that tears were streaming down her face and I thought, Oh, I got something there.

Chang-rae Lee
But one of the questions I always get is about, you know, where stories come from for writers. People are always curious. Even people who know me well, you know, sometimes look at me, and think, "Why did you write that book and where did that come from. You know, what's wrong with you?" Or, you know, what's--why that obsession. And there are lots of reasons. You know, sometimes, it's stuff that I've been thinking about for a long time. Sometimes it's an accident. You know, my second novel, I read an article in the newspaper about Korean comfort women and I decided, "Boy, I can't believe I don't know about this, so I'm gonna look into it," and thus a novel came to be.

Elizabeth Alexander:

I'm not a poet who comes out of any one particular school or any one particular form. I like to think of the creative process that my mind is a rolodex and you just spin, and spin, and spin, and spin, and spin and have a lot of different options for ways, directions to go in, shapes with which to craft and sort of enclose the material of the poem itself.

Since that part of craftsmanship part of writing is neglected, writers, yes, gain an aura of distinct personalities, but then most of the people do not realize how much very simple craftsman like label goes into writing a novel. When the novel is good, when you enjoy it, when you say, wow, he is a genius, this author, you don't realize also and I as a reader sometimes I'll even forget that how many times this author turns around sentences and builds up things, maneuvers, he spends a month actually not doing genius-like composition but turning things around, developing ideas.
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