Festival features five authors from the Sunshine State

Published: Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 at 3:29 p.m.

For award-winning author Kevin Wilson, coming up with a good story idea is still the hardest part of writing.



If you go
What: 2012 Florida Writers Festival
When: Oct. 11-13
Where: Alachua County Library District Headquarters and Ustler Hall Atrium at the University of Florida
Admission: Free
Event Schedule
Lauren Groff reads fiction, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Alachua County Library District Headquarters,401 E University Ave.
Ben Lerner reads poetry and fiction, and Mary Gaitskill reads fiction, 8-10 p.m. Friday, Ustler Hall Atrium at UF. Reception follows.
Craft Talks: Mary Gaitskill, Ben Lerner, Karen Solie, and Kevin Wilson discuss the writing process, 1-3 p.m. Oct. 13, Ustler Hall Atrium at UF. Reception follows.
Karen Solie reads poetry, and Kevin Wilson reads fiction, 8-10 p.m. Oct. 13, Ustler Hall Atrium at UF. Reception follows.

Days go by as he contemplates possibilities and maps out likely story lines, said Wilson, who is the author of "The Family Fang" (Ecco, $23.99), which was listed among Time magazine's Top 10 Fiction Books of 2011.

But once he has a good idea, he's able to get a draft done in a few days, he said.

Wilson and four other Florida authors will discuss their perspectives on the writing process at the 2012 annual Florida Writers Festival on Oct. 11-13.

In addition to Wilson, the author lineup includes:

  • Lauren Groff, author of the story collection "Delicate Edible Birds" (2009), and the novels "The Monsters of Templeton" (2008) and "Arcadia" (2012)
  • Mary Gaitskill, author of the story collections "Don't Cry" (2009), "Because They Wanted To" (1997), and "Bad Behavior" (1988), and the novels "Veronica" (2005) and "Two Girls, Fat and Thin" (1991)
  • Ben Lerner, author of the novel "Leaving the Atocha Station" (2011) and the poetry collections "Mean Free Path" (2010), "Angle of Yaw" (2006), and "The Lichtenberg Figures" (2004)
  • Karen Solie, author of the poetry collections "Pigeon" (2009), "Modern and Normal" (2005), and "Short Haul Engine"(2001).

The free event is a chance for aspiring writers and people interested in writing to meet some of their favorite authors, said Becca Evanhoe, the assistant to the director of the University of Florida's MFA Program in Creative Writing.

"I think in bigger cities, like New York City, they do readings all the time, which is very exciting," Evanhoe said. "In Gainesville, we don't get the same frequency of authors."

The guest authors will read from their works of fiction and poetry over the three-day event. Wilson will read from a short story he has recently finished about a man and his girlfriend who have to take care of his sister's children while she is in prison, he said.

Groff will read from her most recent novel, "Arcadia," and from a short story she's working on.

The public will have the opportunity to ask the authors questions during the informal receptions scheduled after the Friday and Saturday events, Evanhoe said.

It also will be a chance for people to get books signed, since there will be no formal book signings at any of the events, Evanhoe said.

However, some of the authors' books will be sold at the events.

All of the authors, except for Groff, will share their thoughts on the writing process at "Craft Talks," scheduled for 1 p.m. Oct. 13 in the Ustler Hall Atrium at UF.

Wilson, who said he doesn't write every day or even every week, will share techniques for coming up with story ideas and getting stories started.

The advice Wilson said he gives aspiring writers is something they probably hear all the time: Read as much as possible.

"When all you have for a template for writing is your own work, it's not good enough," he said.

Wilson said he reads comics, new popular books, science fiction and fantasy.

"There are very few readings you could say are not worthwhile," he said.

Groff's advice to young writers is a little different. She tells them to write every day. Writing is a practice, she said. You have to do it a lot. And, she adds, take joy in writing.

The process of getting her first story published was long and hard. At first, Groff said she didn't get published because she didn't think her writing was good and didn't send her work to publishers. But even when she started sending her work out, it took her four years to get published.

"It's really frustrating, and I have so much empathy for young writers," Groff said. "You have to be emotional enough to write well but tough enough to be able to put your stories out there."

Students in the MFA program at UF choose the authors invited to the Florida Writers Festival, which was started in 1949. A typical reading draws about 150 people, Evanhoe said.

"Part of the reason to have this event is for MFA students to see them," Evanhoe said. "But it's also a gift to the community."

For Groff, events like this give her a chance to socialize and help get her through the solitary months of writing alone in her studio.

"If someone takes the time to read what you have written, that's such a gift," she said. "It's good to be able to thank them."

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