Friday, February 11, 2011

The Writer

Let us guess that whenever we read a sentence & like it, we unconsciously store it away in our model-chamber; & it goes, with the myriad of its fellows, to the building, brick by brick, of the eventual edifice which we call our style.
- Letter to George Bainton, 15 Oct 1888; (first printed in The Art of Authorship: Literary Reminiscences, Methods of Work, and Advice to Young Beginners, Personally Contributed by Leading Authors of the Day. Compiled and Edited by George Bainton. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1890, pp. 85-88.)

Last Thursday, your intrepid blogger boarded an Amtrak train from Hartford to Washington, DC, for an annual writers’ conference. I registered for the conference with the intention of gathering ideas for The Mark Twain House & Museum’s own burgeoning writing program, and gather ideas I did!

The AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) Conference is, I believe, the largest conference of its kind in the world. Each year a flurry of writers, editors, agents, literary magazines, small presses, big presses, MFA programs, and world-famous authors descend on a fantastic American city and swap knowledge. For example, I went to panels on The Future of Literary Criticism and How to Start a Successful Literary Center, and sat around at lunch tables with the director of a writing program in California as well as a poet who edits a great literary journal. Jhumpa Lahiri and Junot Diaz read from their latest works, and it took me four hours to properly peruse the new books fair. Through it all I rained down Mark Twain House brochures and spoke about our man Sam to all kinds of people who love writing.

It was, at moments, strange to be representing an author one hundred years dead at the same moment that a twenty-two-year-old writing hopeful tentatively picked up a pamphlet from another table. Not a single other writer’s house was there (although the website Writers’ Houses was, as well as the first stages of the American Writers Museum), and yet I felt that we were certainly a part of the action. Writers babbled about their love of Huck Finn and their passionate responses to the censorship controversy earlier this month. Small presses peppered me with questions about the autobiography.

One of our long-term goals here at the Twain House is to carry Twain’s legacy into the future by encouraging those around us to write as he did: write well, write often, write passionately. To that end we have begun offering writing workshops as well as an avalanche of speakers and lecturers that carry on Twain’s writing legacy today. We’ve started a separate blog, too, that you should follow just so you can check in with the work that’s being produced here. You can also sign up for a class yourself (spots still open!) and please stay tuned for announcements on writers’ getaway weekends and other unique programs.

We love Twain for his masterful use of words, and for his commitment to putting his thoughts down on paper. Feel connected to this great American author, this great humorist, this great cultural observer. Write something today.

-- Julia Pistell
Communications & Membership Associate

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