Writer’s block festival brings in novelist Lauren Groff

A jam-packed day awaits writers and readers Saturday at Tim Faulkner Gallery: It’s the sixth Writer’s Block Festival, which runs from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. The entire day can be enjoyed without dropping a dime, what with panel discussions from noted authors (Kirby Gann) and poets (B. Shatter) and publishing professionals. There will also be 20 vendors on site, including small presses, universities pitching creative-arts programs and food-truck fare.

Kimberly Crum of Louisville Literary Arts remembers earlier years when Writer’s Block was in multiple buildings. But in the Tim Faulkner, “When you put all the writers and all the readers under one roof, it feels exciting and energetic. People mingle and sit down and talk, and write.”

This year will include a new workshop (with no fee): spoken-word poetry, led by Lance Newman. Among the other two-hour workshops, the one led by Lan Samantha Chang (director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop) is sold out, but Crum recommends two others. Bethany Griffin is leading Young Adult Fiction. Crum noted, “She’s published a series of books inspired by Poe … She’s teaching a workshop on ‘Creating a World’.”

Julie Marie Wade is teaching the Creative Nonfiction workshop. “Her topic is writing a surreal memoir,” said Crum. “She’s a poet and a lyric essayist. Her memoir’s like a series of prose poetry. ”

Lauren Groff, whose third novel “Fates and Furies” was President Obama’s favorite book of 2015, will give the keynote address at 5 p.m. The author recently answered some email questions from LEO in anticipation of her appearance:

LEO: What do you believe that a one-day conference with short workshops, offers to beginning writers and inquisitive readers?

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Lauren Groff: I think the most invaluable thing that Writer’s Block or conferences like it offer to both writers and readers is a sense of community, a place where your tribe can gather, where avid readers can meet the writers they’ve read and newer writers can get insight or information in an informal, fun way.

Has your own reading changed in the years since you were first published? Are you reading more for research — or for personal pleasure? Have you moved toward more fiction/non-fiction/memoir/?

I read widely and wildly, and have actually relaxed a lot from reading primarily for research. I read because I have a sense that the book is going to feed something ineffable and mysterious in me, so I read a great deal of poetry and short stories and hybrid works of nonfiction. I read first for pleasure and then for research.

‘Fates and Furies’ received overwhelming acclaim for its alternating point of view. Did a particular work or author help you learn how to handle this challenging facet of novel-writing? Or do you feel primarily self-taught, with your novel benefiting from your working discipline?

I’m absolutely not self-taught! I borrowed the structure from Evan S. Connell, whose books ‘Mrs. Bridge’ and ‘Mr. Bridge’ are American classics, and from Jane Gardam, whose ‘Old Filth’ trilogy is almost perfect. That said, a book can only develop in its own right over a long span of time and close attention — so though those books were tremendously important to beginning [my] book, I relied on other work to carry me through the years and years of writing it took to finish the book.

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