MIDDLEBURY, Vt.—-Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the oldest writers’ conference in the country, will meet from Wednesday, Aug. 11-Saturday, Aug. 21. Held every summer since 1926 on the College’s Bread Loaf campus in Ripton, the conference remains one of America’s most respected literary institutions. Two weeks of workshops, lectures, classes and readings present writers with rigorous practical and theoretical approaches to their craft, and offer a model of literary instruction. A dynamic setting, the mountain campus has attracted many renowned literary figures such as Robert Frost, Carson McCullers, John Irving, Terry Tempest Williams and Ted Conover.
“Bread Loaf is not a retreat—-not a place to work in solitude. Instead, it provides a voluble congress of diverse voices in which we test our own assumptions regarding literature and seek advice about our progress as writers,” said Michael Collier, author of four books of poems and director of the conference.
This year, 270 writers, students, faculty, literary agents and editors from all over the world will gather at the 79th session of the conference. The general public, too, is invited to attend a daily schedule of readings and lectures where faculty and guests gather in Bread Loaf’s Little Theatre to talk about writing or to read from their works.
The 2004 session of readings and lectures will open on Wednesday, Aug. 11, at 8:15 p.m. with a joint reading by Collier and author Julia Alvarez, to be followed on Friday, Aug. 13, at 9 a.m. by a lecture by Alvarez titled “Ten of My Writing Commandments.”
Collier, who authored “The Clasp and Other Poems,” “The Folded Heart,” “The Neighbor” and, most recently, “The Ledge,” which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, has received Guggenheim and Thomas Watson fellowships, two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, a “Discovery”/The Nation Award, the Alice Fay di Castagnola Award from the Poetry Society of America, and a Pushcart Prize. “A William Maxwell Portrait,” co-edited with Charles Baxter and Edward Hirsch, is forthcoming in 2004. Collier served as Poet Laureate of Maryland from 2001-2004 and is currently the co-director of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Maryland.
Alvarez is the author of several novels, including “How the García Girls Lost Their Accents” and “In the Time of the Butterflies,” as well as a book of essays and several poetry books. She has also written for children and young adults, most recently “Before We Were Free.” She is a writer-in-residence at Middlebury College, and, with her husband Bill Eichner, owns a sustainable farm/literacy project in her native Dominican Republic. Her most recent book, “The Woman I Kept to Myself,” is a collection of poems, and a new novel, “Finding Miracles,” is due out in the fall of 2004.
Other highlights include a lecture by Ted Conover, author of “Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing”—-which was the winner of the 2000 National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction—-on Saturday, Aug. 14, at 9 a.m. In addition to the lecture, titled “Borrowed vs. Stolen: Plagiarism and Prose, with a Firsthand Anecdote,” Conover will give a reading with Tracy K. Smith on Tuesday, Aug. 17, at 8:15 p.m. Conover’s “Newjack” was excerpted in the New Yorker and banned by the New York State Department of Correctional Services. Currently a Guggenheim Fellow, Conover is also the author of the nonfiction narratives “Rolling Nowhere: Riding the Rails with America’s Hoboes,” “Coyotes” and “Whiteout.” He contributes to The New York Times Magazine and many other publications. He lives in Riverdale, New York.
Tracy K. Smith’s book “The Body’s Question,” published in 2003, won the 2002 Cave Canem Poetry Prize.
On Wednesday, Aug. 18, at 4:15 p.m., Daniel Wallace, whose novel “Big Fish” was made into a major motion picture and whose screenplay “Timeless” is currently being produced by Shady Acres for Universal Pictures, will give a joint reading with author Sarah Manguso, to be followed by his lecture on Friday, Aug. 20, at 9 a.m., titled, “Scene to Screen: The Evolution of an Idea.” Wallace’s stories have been published in numerous magazines and anthologies, including the Yale Review, the Massachusetts Review, Shenandoah and Glimmer Train.
Manguso is the author of “The Captain Lands in Paradise,” and, with Jordan Davis, coeditor of the anthology “Free Radicals: American Poets Before Their First Books.” Her poems and prose have appeared in the Pushcart Prize, Best American Poetry, anthologies and in many journals.
Other notables at the 2004 conference include Robert Cohen and Jay Parini, who will present a joint reading at 8:15 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 14. Cohen, who will also give a lecture titled “Rants, or the Piano has been Drinking” on Wednesday, Aug. 18, at 9 a.m., is the author of three novels: “Inspired Sleep,” “The Here and Now” and “The Organ Builder,” as well as a collection of stories, “The Varieties of Romantic Experience.” A faculty member of the Middlebury College English Department whose work has appeared in Harper’s, the Paris Review, Atlantic Monthly, GQ, Antaeus and other magazines, Cohen has received numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Lila Wallace Writers’ Award, a Pushcart Prize and the Ribalow Prize.
Jay Parini, renowned poet, novelist, and biographer, is the D.E. Axinn Professor Creative Writing and Professor of English at Middlebury College. He has published six novels and four books of poetry, and his new and selected poems will appear in spring of 2005. His biography of William Faulkner will appear in November.
All events are subject to change, so members of the public should contact the Middlebury College Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference at 802-443-2700 to confirm days and times. For more information about the conference, check online at www.middlebury.edu/blwc.
To follow is a list of free conference events open to the public:
Middlebury College Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference 2004
All events will take place in the Little Theatre on the Bread Loaf campus in Ripton, Route 125 East. Events are subject to change. Please call to confirm days and times: 802-443-5286 until August 9; 802-443-2700 after August 9.
Wednesday, Aug. 11
8:15 p.m., Reading: Michael Collier and Julia Alvarez
Thursday, Aug. 12
9 a.m. Lecture: Alan Shapiro, “Why Write? A Modest Proposal”
4:15 p.m. Reading: Sue Halpern and Bill McKibben
8:15 p.m. Reading: Ron Carlson, Sarah Messer and Kristin Henderson
Friday, Aug. 13
9 a.m. Lecture: Julia Alvarez, “Ten of My Writing Commandments”
4:15 p.m. Reading: Cornelia Nixon and A. Van Jordan
8:15 p.m. Reading: Carl Phillips and Thomas Mallon
Saturday, Aug. 14
9 a.m. Lecture: Ted Conover, “Borrowed vs. Stolen: Plagiarism and Prose, with a Firsthand Anecdote”
4:15 p.m. Reading: Spencer Reece, Amy Benson and Peter Duval
8:15 p.m. Reading: Robert Cohen and Jay Parini
Sunday, Aug. 15
9 a.m. Lecture: Ron Carlson, “The Second Story”
4:15 p.m. Reading: Carol Anshaw and Sebastian Matthews
8:15 p.m. Reading: William Kittredge and Lewis Robinson
Monday, Aug. 16
4:15 p.m. Reading: Rachel Pastan, Lindsay Ahl and J. Mark Powell
8:15 p.m. Reading: Alan Shapiro and Murad Kalam
Tuesday, Aug. 17
9 a.m. Lecture: Dean Young, “Surrealism”
4:15 p.m. Reading: Felicia Luna Lemus, Peter Streckfus and Patrick Phillips
8:15 p.m. Reading: Ted Conover and Tracy K. Smith
Wednesday, Aug. 18
9 a.m. Lecture: Robert Cohen, “Rants, or The Piano has been Drinking”
4:15 p.m. Reading: Daniel Wallace and Sarah Manguso
8:15 p.m. Reading: Heather McHugh and Kathleen Lee
Thursday, Aug. 19
9 a.m. Lecture: Tony Hoagland, “Dialectical Tone”
4:15 p.m. Reading: Dean Young and Hannah Tinti
Friday, Aug. 20
9 a.m. Lecture: Daniel Wallace, “Scene to Screen: The Evolution of an Idea”
4:15 p.m. Reading: Maxine Clair and Patrick Donnelly
8:15 p.m. Reading: Ursula Hegi and Michael Lowenthal
Saturday, Aug. 21
4:15 p.m. Reading: Brigit Pegeen Kelly and Sheri Joseph
8:15 p.m. Reading: Tony Hoagland and Antonya Nelson