#AWP19 Featured Presenter Q&A with Joan Silber
AWP | February 2019
Event Title: The National Book Critics Circle Presents: Paul Beatty and Joan Silber
Description: Two National Book Critics Circle-honored novelists—Paul Beatty and Joan Silber—read from their work and talk with NBCC President Kate Tuttle about inspiration, research, awards (Beatty also won the Man Booker; Silber, the PEN/Faulkner), evolving forms, writing about race, the unique challenges of writing in these times, and the imaginative process that shapes their originality. Consider this a dual master class in the art of fiction.
Participants: Paul Beatty, Joan Silber
Location: Portland Ballroom 253-254, Oregon Convention Center, Level 2
Date & Time: Thursday, March 28, 4:30 p.m. – 5:45 p.m.
What are some of the conference events or bookfair exhibitors you look forward to seeing at AWP?
I’m very much looking forward to Colson Whitehead’s keynote address. I’m a big fan of The Underground Railroad, which I’ve taught, and would love to hear what he says now.
What book or books that you’ve read over the last year would you most highly recommend?
My two favorites of the past year are Rachel Kushner’s The Mars Room and Hernan Diaz’s In the Distance. These are both intense reads, beautifully written. I spent some years on the PEN Prison Writing Committee, reading manuscripts, and I was knocked out by Kushner’s accuracy and insight, the places she can take this novel. And Diaz is a total original, someone who writes about the true strangeness and violence of history with his own visionary emotional maturity.
Has public funding for the arts made a difference in your life and career as a writer?
Grants from the NEA and the NY Foundation on the Arts were hugely important to me as a younger writer. It’s not just the money, it’s the proof that you’re not crazy calling yourself a writer.
If you’ve been to Portland before, what places do you recommend that our attendees should visit?
The food trucks!
Joan Silber is the author of eight books of fiction. The most recent, Improvement, received the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award. Her previous book, Fools, was longlisted for the National Book Award and a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. Other works include The Size of the World, finalist for the Los Angeles Times Fiction Prize, and Ideas of Heaven, finalist for the National Book Award and the Story Prize. She teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and in the Warren Wilson College MFA program.
(Photo Credit: C Shari Diamond)