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January Reading Showcases Faculty
Works-in-Progress

By Tyler Christensen and Jessamine Price

The MFA program kicked off the spring 2012 Visiting Writers Series on Jan. 25 with a poetry and prose reading that featured three American University faculty members sharing works in progress: poet David Keplinger and fiction writers Danielle Evans and Stephanie Grant. The evening event took place at Columbia Heights’ 826DC, a non-profit organization that offers writing tutoring and workshops to Washington, DC, students age 6-12. 

Keplinger, Evans and Grant are familiar faces in the MFA program, where they teach graduate workshops. CA took advantage of the occasion to ask them about their plans for 2012.

CA: What are your new year's resolutions for your writing?

David Keplinger: I've never made resolutions for my writing, but I suppose if I were to make one, it would be to write three pages in a notebook every day. For poets this generally takes about fifteen minutes (I don't mean they have to be good pages) and is an effective exercise for generating material. When I started doing this again in November, I remembered how it worked: it's not that your writing gets better, but that there's more of it from which to choose. When the candidate pool is bigger, the chances of discovering a good match, a good poem, increase dramatically.

Danielle Evans: I’m generally opposed to New Year’s resolutions. I’m more into the nostalgia and regret aspects of the holiday than the shimmery optimism of thinking about the future, but I am trying to become a writer who is as interested in discipline as magic, and am going to experiment with what happens when I write through the tricky parts even when the energy isn’t there. The worst that can happen is I’ll have to delete a lot.

Stephanie Grant: I made a discovery about my own writing process last semester. When I work I tend to tack back and forth between language as a driving force—language that from the force of its own exuberance moves the story forward—and structure as a driving force. By structure I guess I mean plot—or all that goes into plot—event, gesture, dialogue—elements that advance the story.

[My] resolution is to accept this process. I'm not just spinning my wheels (which is what the tacking back and forth can feel like)—I'm honoring the different elements of fiction—language and form—that are most important to me.

CA: What are you looking forward to in terms of writing in 2012?

Keplinger: In 2012 I'm looking forward to focusing on a new book. I recently had a manuscript contracted for publication in 2013, and until that book was accepted and put away, it was hard for me to think about anything else. Now I've got all these new poems coming through.

Evans: Finishing my novel and then having that fun moment with my next project where all of the possibilities feel open. I’m also doing a lot of travel this year, so I’m excited about getting to see new places or returning to places I’ve been before and seeing them from a new perspective.

Grant: In 2012, I'm looking forward to breaking out of old habits in my writing. I'm very much hoping to finish my book this summer—and of course nothing is more satisfying than completing a book. But I know I need to keep making changes in my writing—not to simply rest on what I (think I) know. But to step off into what I don't.


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