Wednesday, June 8, 2011

For writers, a chance to shine

Author Anthony Doerr to read and teach fiction workshop

Express Staff Writer

Acclaimed author Anthony Doerr will lead a workshop for writers June 13-17 at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts in Hailey. Courtesy photo

Award-winning Idaho author Anthony Doerr will be in the Wood River Valley next week to lead a fiction writers workshop and give a free public reading at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts.

Doerr, who lives in Boise, has just completed a three-year term as Idaho's Writer in Residence. His newest book, "Memory Wall," is composed of four short stories and two novellas, and has won the 2010 Story Prize and the 2011 Pacific Northwest Book Award. It was named a Notable Book of 2010 by The New York Times and a Top 12 Book of 2010 by the Bos-ton Globe. Individual stories in "Memory Wall" have won a Pushcart Prize, an O. Henry Prize and a Na-tional Magazine Award for fiction.

Dave Eggers, author of "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" and "What is the What," said that "Doerr has set a new standard, I think, for what a story can do." That's high praise from an author who has set his own new standards for what stories can do.

The 2010 Story Prize came with $20,000 for Doerr and these words about his work from the judges: "It is the shimmering space between the two planes of real-ity and memory that Doerr captures with immense sensitivity. He is adept at evoking a variety of places and different times in history, conjuring sharp settings in which the fragility of his characters is played out. The diversity of backgrounds underscores his poetic skill at illustrating his themes of emotional distancing and the resilience of hope. While he displays a rare imagination in the handling of his subjects, he main-tains a beautiful and quiet grace in his precise, spare style, providing a harmonious resonance to all of the stories."

This will be the second time that Doerr has led The Center's writers workshop.

"This class is a unique opportunity for writers to improve their writing in a small-group setting without having to leave the valley," said Britt Udesen, The Cen-ter's director of education and humanities. "All of our teachers have experience at the top workshops in the country, which are usually twice as expensive as ours with twice as many students, and are as good at teach-ing as they are at writing."

She said part of Doerr's teaching will include show-ing students how to sever the cables of habitual ways of reading, writing and thinking, keeping in mind the Chinese proverb, "Habits are cobwebs at first, cables at last."

"Break the 'Pre' off the Dictable: A Workshop for Fiction Writers" will meet Monday, June 13, through Friday, June 17, from 9 a.m. to noon at The Center in Hailey, 314 S. Second Ave. It will cost $300 for Sun Val-ley Center for the Arts members and $350 for nonmem-bers.

Doerr will present a free public reading from his work on Tuesday, June 14, at 6:30 p.m. at The Center, 191 Fifth St. in Ketchum. On Friday, June 17, at 6:30 p.m. at the Center's classroom in Hailey, students will read from the pieces they have worked on during the week. The readings are open to the public.

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