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“Breaking Genre: In the Context of Others.” One-day writers conference. Keynote: Thrity Umrigar: “The Lives of Others: The Novel as a Looking Glass.” Classes and intensive workshops with Mary Biddinger, Cinda Williams Chima, Joyce Dyer, Michael Grant Jaffe, Phil Metres, Lynn Powell, James Sheeler, S. Andrew Swann, Samuel Thomas. Registration through Eventbrite: For more information, email This event is co-sponsored by the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities.

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We’re very pleased that Paula McLain is going to be our keynote speaker in June. Here’s a description of her speech:

“Closer Than You Think: Thoughts on Genre Bending, Blending and Plain-Old Jumping Ship.” In her keynote address, Paula McLain will discuss her experience writing and publishing across genres, the unique challenges and pleasures of working within and without boundaries, and the remarkable things that can happen when you stop thinking you’re a poet, memoirist, or novelist, and start acting like a writer.

Here’s an excerpt from her New York Times best-selling novel The Paris Wife:

“One of the best things about Paris was coming back after we’d gone away. In 1923 we moved to Toronto for a year to have our son, Bumby, and when we returned, everything was the same but more somehow. It was filthy and gorgeous, full of rats and horse chestnut blossoms and poetry. . . . Pound helped us find an apartment on the second floor of a white stucco building on a tight curving street near the Luxembourg Gardens. . . . Inside, there was the steady report of Ernest’s Corona in the small room upstairs. He was working on stories–there were always stories or sketches to write–but also a new novel about the fiesta in Pamplona that he’d started in the summer.”

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It’s the last day of February and snow was sifting out of the sky as I drove to work. Not unusual in Cleveland. Fortunately, I have something pretty terrific to look forward to this summer. Three short months from now, on Saturday, June 1st, Breaking Genre: A Writers Conference will take place on the CWRU campus. I’m involved in much of the planning and practicalities. This week, I’ve been looking up quotes to put on our Facebook page to fan the interest of possible conferees. Dipping into the books of our presenters awakened me to their skill all over again. Here’s a sampling from the opening of Jim Sheeler’s Final Salute: A Story of Unfinished Lives:

“There were no footprints in the snow.

The thought struck the Marine major as he stared from his truck at the pristine white powder on the sidewalk of the dark neighborhood street in Wyoming. Soft flakes struck the warm windshield, then melted and dripped down the glass.

Every second the major waited was one more tick of his wristwatch that, for the family inside the house, everything remained the same. To the major, the small wooden home looked as if it could have been dropped from his own hometown in Oklahoma–a house his own mother might have lived in if she were still alive. Now he had to walk up to someone else’s mother, carrying the name of someone else’s son.”

Here’s the description of the presentation he’ll make at our conference:

“The Digital Time Capsule.” This presentation will explore how Sheeler and his students have blended emerging technology with traditional journalistic techniques to find new ways of capturing stories that otherwise might have remained hidden.