Help Set the Welcome Table

February 11, 2013 § 2 Comments

YouBeing an independent publisher is tough going these days, but being an independent publisher focusing on the personal essay tradition can be an even bigger challenge. Those of us who love the form love it madly, but in truth, we may be a small number   Welcome Table Press is trying to thrive despite these odds, and to that end they have launched an IndieGoGo campaign. You can read all about it, see the video, and contribute to the cause here.

Meanwhile, here’s a summary of their plans:

All contributions collected from this Indiegogo campaign will be directed toward the continued printing and distribution of our first two print books, YOU. AN ANTHOLOGY OF ESSAYS DEVOTED TO THE SECOND PERSON, edited by Kim Dana Kupperman, with Heather G. Simons & James M. Chesbro, and ESSAYING THE ESSAY, edited by David Lazar.

YOU. AN ANTHOLOGY is a first-of-its-kind collection, featuring essays that explore failure, planetary movement, and love, among a variety of topics. The up close and personal candor of these autobiographical, lyric, personal, and segmented narratives is tempered by the distance, intimacy, humor, and unsentimental tenderness that the second-person point of view affords both writer and reader.

ESSAYING THE ESSAY is a must-have compendium of essays on the essay, showcasing diverse meditations on the form by a wide range of writers throughout history, including Michel de Montaigne, Samuel Johnson, Virginia Woolf, Cynthia Ozick, Phillip Lopate, Robert Atwan, Lia Purpura, and John D’Agata.

Your support will help build our self-sufficiency (pre-press, printing, and advertising are expensive; the larger the print run, the lower the cost per title; distributing books costs money too).

A Report from WTP’s “In Praise of the Essay: Practice & Form”

October 19, 2011 § 6 Comments

A guest post from essayist Amanda Dambrink:

This past weekend I spent the better part of two days traveling so I could spend a few hours reveling in essays at the Welcome Table Press Symposium in west Manhattan, one thousand miles from my apartment in west Madison. And after a long week of meetings and training at a new corporate job I felt almost giddy sitting in that sunlit room full of essayists as Phillip Lopate began to read aloud, “There’s something about autumn that makes me want to rearrange my bookshelves…”

Those of us who were able to attend last year’s inaugural Symposium knew to expect a day packed with high-quality presentations, panels, and readings by some of the most dedicated writers, teachers, and publishers of the essay, and this year’s event did not disappoint. Following Phillip Lopate’s honoree address, presenters like Barbara Hurd and Robin Hemley challenged us to, among other things, write essays that “startle us into discovery,” embrace the potential for rigorous research to inform our writing, and rethink the way we incorporate visual art into essays and vice versa.

In a presentation on teaching the essay, panelists including Richard Hoffman, Robert Root, and other great teachers asked us to reconsider the role of the workshop leader and discussed how to facilitate better writing by encouraging essayists to study their long literary heritage, to always be suspicious of certainty, and to remain, as journalist Donald Murray has said, “forever astonished at the obvious.”

Fantastic readings by Amy Leach, E. J. Levy, Shelley Salamensky, Ryan Van Meter, and Jerald Walker were followed by a helpful Q&A panel on the state of the essay in the publishing marketplace. Representatives from top-notch publishers of the essay like Fourth Genre, River Teeth, and Creative Nonfiction passed on practical advice and insights about where and how to go about finding homes for the essays we write.

By the end of the day I had accumulated a long list of essays to read, met many new essayists whose work I look forward to following in the future, and purchased enough books that I could rationalize rearranging my bookshelves when I got home. Thanks to Kim Dana Kupperman and the rest of the Board of Directors and volunteers at Welcome Table Press who organized this wonderful event! I know there are a lot of us essayists looking forward to the next Symposium.

Upcoming Event: In Praise of the Essay/Practice & Form

September 11, 2011 § 4 Comments

James M. Chesbro, editorial assistant at Welcome Table Press, guest-blogs about the upcoming one-day symposium In Praise of the Essay: Practice & Form:

During my first semester as an adjunct professor, before I introduced the subject of personal essay to a group of Literature and Composition students, I reread Innovations in Teaching the Essay, a collection of panel discussions given last year at a one-day symposium called In Praise of the Essay: Practice & Form. The symposium, launched in 2010 by Welcome Table Press, a nonprofit dedicated to celebrating and publishing the essay, is a meeting place for writers to celebrate and discuss a genre that, as a creative form, often takes a back seat to fiction and poetry. The talks given that afternoon and memorialized on the Welcome Table Press website provided me with the insight and wisdom I needed to walk into the classroom feeling confident that I could teach my students how to understand the essay in a new and exciting way.

Last year’s symposium didn’t only help me understand the myriad ways one can teach the essay. It also helped me recognize exactly what it means to be an essayist these days, when the line between fact and fiction is sometimes blurred. Robert Atwan, series editor of The Best American Essays and keynote speaker at the 2010 symposium, argued that E. B. White was more literary writer than newspaper reporter. “In today’s fact-checking environment,” he said, “it’s easy to forget that the personal essay is a literary form, not a signed affidavit.” Jerald Walker, author of Street Shadows: A Memoir of Race, Rebellion, and Redemption, backed up that point when he admitted that he was “haunted by a recurrent dream in which an exhaustive investigation uncovers that [he is] not a forty-six-year-old black male who was raised in Chicago’s inner-city, but rather an eighty-three-year-old white woman from Hot Springs, Montana.” And so, he continued, these are hostile times for writers of literary nonfiction, and I would have to agree. Which is precisely why essayists need both Welcome Table Press and this symposium, where we can share, discuss, ask questions, and learn from some of the best in the business.

This year’s symposium will be held on Saturday, October 15, at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus. Phillip Lopate, who is considered by many one of the most important essayists of our time, will be in attendance as honoree. Robin Hemley, Barbara Hurd, Helen Benedict, Joshua Wolf Shenk, and Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr (creators of Idiots’ Books) will discuss practice, form, and other matters of craft. And once again, a panel on innovations in teaching the essay will take place, this time with Richard Hoffman, Patrick Madden, Suzanne Menghraj, Robert Root, Suzanne Strempek Shea, and Dustin Beall Smith. A Q&A with editors from The Best American Essays, Creative Nonfiction, Defunct, Fourth Genre, Graywolf Press, The Pedestrian, River Teeth, and Sarabande Books will finish the day.

Consider joining us at Fordham University, in New York City, on October 15, 2011. In these hostile times, a little praise for the essay is in order.

 Click here to download the registration form.

 Click here to download all of the panel discussions from the inaugural symposium, for free.

James M. Chesbro is editorial assistant at Welcome Table Press. His essays appear in Connecticut Review and The Upper East Side Magazine. He is an MFA candidate at Fairfield University.

 

People Are Reading Essays All the Time

August 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

Excellent look at Kim Dana Kupperman’s career as writer and editor (Gettysburg Review and Welcome Table Press) over at the NY Times Papercuts, including this quote:

People are reading essays all the time. They are sometimes called other things, including the generic “creative nonfiction,” “literary journalism,” articles, blogs. … I’d say that the public is hungry — and always has been hungry — for the essay. One goal of Welcome Table Press is to reach out to people who aren’t necessarily circulating in the world of arts and letters and urge them to think beyond the five-paragraph essay that most folks think of when they hear the word “essay.” To remember, for example, that our country is founded on an essay (called a “pamphlet” in those days) and that all social justice movements have been guided by the works of essayists (think of Thoreau, Mary Wollstonecraft, Ida B. Wells, Frederick Douglass).

But read the entire article, we suggest.  She’s talented, brilliant, indefatigable, and a valuable advocate for the form.  Plus, we are proud that the title essay of Kupperman’s excellent new book — I Just Lately Started Buying Wings — was first published in Brevity 21.

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.

“In Praise of the Essay: Practice & Form,” Saturday, April 24th, NYC

March 11, 2010 § Leave a comment

From our friends at Welcome Table Press:

It’s not too late to register for “In Praise of the Essay: Practice & Form,” the first annual Welcome Table Press symposium.

The day-long event will be held on Saturday, April 24th, at Fordham University’s Lincoln Center campus in Manhattan, and will feature presentations by Robert Atwan, Brian Doyle, Vivian Gornick, Lia Purpura, and Emily Grosholz. The symposium will also include two panel discussions, one on teaching (with Paul Lisicky, Mimi Schwartz, Michael Steinberg, Elizabeth Stone, and Linda Underhill) and one on publishing, with representatives from Best American Essays, Creative Nonfiction, Essay Press, Fourth Genre, Graywolf Press, the New York Review of Books, Portland Magazine, the Sun, and others.

Come and join us for this exciting event, which also includes an afternoon tea and book signings.

For more information and a downloadable registration form/schedule, follow this link: http://www.welcometablepress.org/Upcoming_Events_UA7Z.html

Proceeds from registration fees will benefit Welcome Table Press, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit press dedicated to publishing and celebrating the essay.

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