|The Schoolmaster (1662), Adriaen van Ostade.|
Held biannually, the three-day conference is sponsored by the English department at Calvin College. As you might expect from an English department, the writers invited lean toward the literary. Genre writers are underrepresented and even the ones invited have their genre credentials downplayed. For example, the bio for G. Willow Wilson printed in the conference program doesn't mention that her novel Alif the Unseen won a World Fantasy Award. However, writing is writing, regardless of what academics think, and you can learn something from anybody.
Gene Luen Yang, a graphic novelist, gave a fascinating lecture on art and selfishness, essentially why writers need to fit art into their busy lives. Wilson gave an interesting talk on the history and meaning of fantasy literature. (Christian Madera's post today on Mythic Scribes makes some similar points.) When I saw Frodo mentioned in the title of Wilson's talk “Frodo Lives! Speculative Fiction and Belief,” I knew I absolutely had to make the journey to that session. Tracy Groot, an author of historical fiction, gave a very informative presentation on doing historical research to inform your fiction. I always come away from the conference with some unexpected nuggets. Last time it was Amy Frykholm's Julian of Norwich: A Contemplative Biography, a study of a medieval anchoress. This time it was a reference to the Greek myth of Byblis in Sarah Ruden's talk “Rediscovering, Representing, and Re-Presenting the Bible: Finding a Place Between Sensationalism and Sentiment.” There's a lot of material from the Byblis story that I can use in a WIP.