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New York City
July 2001

Something for Everyone at MMC’s Writing Conference
by Sarah Elzas

Lewis Frumkes, director of the Marymount Manhattan College’s Writing Center, founded the annual Writers Conference nearly ten years ago in order to “restore Marymount as a premiere cultural institution.” And looking at this year’s group of authors and span of panel topics—broadly appealing Fiction and Literary Agents, to more specialized Children’s Market and Memoir—one can see that he has indeed been able to reach his goal.

Author Russell Banks addressed the issue of truth in fiction in his keynote speech. “I don’t do research,” he stated. He writes from his imagination and has only used information “by means of research” three times: when he visited Haiti for Continental Drift, when he talked to a lawyer for the Sweet Hereafter, and when he “became an anthropologist at the mall” to learn “modern teenage lexicon” for Rule of the Bone.

“As a fiction writer, one has no need to master a subject,” he said. Too much information would have turned his novels into case studies, not stories. “I don’t do research,” her reiterated, “I tell stories. They are real stories, and I make them up.”

It was this kind of personal insight on writing that drew hundreds of conference participants. Attendees came from all backgrounds to participate in panel discussions, talk with other people trying to become writers and network with some of the greatest writers, editors and agents around.

“It’s exciting to see authors whom you admire,” said Lynda Coupe, a scholarly writer in American studies at the CUNY grad school. She was attending the conference in order to learn more about her new interests in memoir and nature writing and was excited to see “the range of writers” in attendance.

Sheila Massay was attending in order to learn how to write about her extensive business experience. “I’m at a phase in my career where I don’t want to be working full time and I want to utilize the experience I already have,” she explained.

“It’s very different to be able to talk to people,” said Kristen Banister, an illustrator and writer, explaining the benefits of a conference setting. She was there with her friend Jessica Hogan, in order to gather information on how to promote herself.

Len Prazych has been attending the conference every year for the last five years. Coming from a nonfiction, commercial writing background, he aspires to write fiction and comes to meet individuals and professionals in the field. Lawrence Chizak was one such individual, a retired high school principal turned fiction writer who was particularly interested in the Memoir panel.

The Literary Agents Panel presented agents from print to online publishing who explained their role in the publishing process. “Your job is to find someone who works for you, and it’s not easy,” said Michael Carlisle, head of Michael Carlisle Literary Agency. “The first thing is to really believe that what you have is ready to publish,” he advised. Nan Talese, Senior Editor of her own imprint at Doubleday Publishing, agreed, giving her perspective on working with agents. “It is important to see how your book will distinguish itself in the field,” she said. For that reason, it is also important for an author to be widely read.

Kenzie Sugihara, president of Select Books, addressed the new field of online publishing. “It’s an undefined format,” he explained, and ownership rights are still debated in and out of the courtrooms. “As e-books evolve and become a major publishing format, things will change,” he said, questioning as well the ultimate editorial quality of books that can be so easily published.

From the Writing Over 40 panel for career-changing writers to The Love Market for those interested in writing romance novels, the Conference had something for everyone, sparking debate and creating networking possibilities all around. #

For information call 212-774-0780.


Education Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001. Tel: (212) 481-5519. Fax: (212) 481-3919. Email: ednews1@aol.com.
All material is copyrighted and may not be printed without express consent of the publisher. © 2001.