A Report from Welcome Table’s Essay Symposium

April 29, 2010 § Leave a comment

Welcome Table Press, a nonprofit “dedicated to publishing and celebrating the essay in all its forms,” held its inaugural symposium, “In Praise of the Essay: Practice & Form,” in New York City this past weekend in collaboration with Fordham University’s English Department and Creative Writing Program. Ohio University MA candidate Amanda Dambrink was able to attend, and brought back this report:

Kim Dana Kupperman, founder of Welcome Table Press, and VP Penelope Schwartz Robinson put together an excellent program featuring some of the top practitioners and publishers of the essay around these days–like Robert Atwan, Vivian Gornick, Paul Lisicky, Lia Purpura, Mike Steinberg, Linda Underhill, Katie Dublinski, Brian Doyle, and Hattie Fletcher, to name a few. Those lucky enough to have been in attendance left with complimentary journals, copious notes, teaching handouts, numerous book recommendations, and valuable insights into the ins and outs of writing, teaching, and publishing this most protean of forms.

Robert Atwan, series editor of The Best American Essays, started the day off by discussing the relationship between truth and lies in nonfiction–especially autobiographical nonfiction–coming at last to their inseparability: “The compound seems inescapable: a piece of writing may be aesthetically true, yet verifiably false; just as it can be–as is so much contemporary memoir–verifiably true but aesthetically false.”

Several themes emerged throughout the symposium, including the need for  humility and sympathy in essays, the impact of technology on genre, and the endless potential essays have to do and be, well, whatever we want them to do and be. The bottom line: For those of us who teach, write, publish, or read essays, it would be wise to make attending the Welcome Table Press Symposium a priority next year.

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