#AWP18 Featured Presenter Q&A with Lauren Groff
AWP | January 2018
Event Title: Nathan Englander and Lauren Groff: A Reading and Conversation, Sponsored by Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau
Description: Masters of contemporary fiction Nathan Englander and Lauren Groff will read and discuss their craft. Pulitzer Prize–finalist and Pen/Faulkner Award–winner Nathan Englander is the author of Dinner at the Center of the Earth, What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, and For the Relief of Unbearable Urges. National Book Award–finalist Lauren Groff is the author of Fates and Furies, Arcadia, and Delicate Edible Birds. Her forthcoming book, Florida, is named after her adopted home state.
Participants: Lauren Groff and Nathan Englander
Location: Ballroom C, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor
Date & Time: Friday, March 9, 3:00–4:15 p.m.
Q: What book or books that you’ve read over the last year would you most highly recommend?
A: I loved so many books, but the ones that came to mind were Elif Batuman’s The Idiot and Gabe Harbash’s Stephen Florida.
Q: What are a writer’s main responsibilities in this particular cultural moment?
A: A writer’s responsibility is mostly the responsibility of being a good citizen: to be informed, to speak out against injustice, to vote, to pay taxes, to try to leave the world much better than we came into it. There one additional responsibility, which is to write like hell and insist upon the necessity of art in a good life.
Q: Has public funding for the arts made a difference in your life and career as a writer?
A: Arts funding has been utterly essential for me. The kids’ shows on PBS and the public library down the street, both of which are paid for by taxpayers and grants, were the only things around that could satisfy my itch for culture and reading in my tiny hometown. Arts funding is sometimes visible—as in the NEA grants—but most often it is so subtle we can take it for granted.
Q: When AWP was found in 1967, there were a dozen creative writing programs, now there are approximately 1,800 undergraduate and graduate programs. What do you think has changed for readers and writers since creative writing became ascendant as an academic discipline?
A: Readers and writers are probably less steeped in the classical canon, but, as a result, they’re probably far more open-minded and prone to interesting experimentation than they were when writing programs began. I think the short story has undergone a radical renaissance because of the pervasiveness of writing programs, and I personally find it the most interesting and all-embracing of prose forms.
Q: If you could run into any author, contemporary or historical, at #AWP18, who would it be and what would you talk about?
A: I’d love to run into George Eliot but I’d be too star-struck to speak. I’d just scurry along in her shadow, holding her umbrella or hat.
Q: If you’ve been to Tampa before, what places do you recommend that our attendees should visit?
A: I am in love with the bookstore/restaurant called Oxford Exchange. Everything sold there is a beautiful, shiny, not-quite attainable dream, and they host a brilliant writers’ lecture series. I would clone and plant an Oxford Exchange in every town in America if I could.
Lauren Groff is the bestselling author of The Monsters of Templeton, Arcadia, and Fates and Furies, a New York Times–bestselling novel, finalist for the National Book Award and Amazon’s #1 Best Book of the Year. Ron Charles of The Washington Post called it “a clear-the-ground triumph.” Her work has been featured in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Atlantic, and The Best American Short Stories, and she is recipient of the PEN/O. Henry Award and the Pushcart Prize. Lauren’s reflections on her writing craft and the inspiration behind her work captivates audiences. Her upcoming short story collection, Florida, will be published in June 2018.
(Photo Credit: Megan Brown)