2014 Summer Supper & Book Club: A Dispatch

This first dispatch from our Summer Supper & Book Club comes from Kangsen Feka Wakai, who is focusing on Writers in Schools-related projects during his summer internship with us. Stay tuned for more updates from the Book Club right here at the Writers in Schools blog!

 

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The 2014 Summer Supper & Book Club Is Here

Tuesday July 1st marked the beginning of this year’s Summer Supper & Book Club, an offshoot of PEN/Faulkner’s Writers in Schools program, which provides DC area high school kids with complimentary copies of contemporary literature and the perk of meeting the writers behind the works.

This summer’s first guest was Susan Richards Shreve, prolific novelist (and co-chair of PEN/Faulkner’s board of directors!).

Susan Richards ShreveShreve’s 2001 novel Plum & Jaggers was the summer book club’s first offering. The novel tells the story of a traumatized eldest child’s obsessive tendencies towards his three siblings in the aftermath of the train bombing that murdered their parents while the family was vacationing in Italy.

So, on that balmy Tuesday evening, between bites of cheese and peperoni pizza, our assembled DC high school students, copies of Plum & Jaggers nearby, sat around a rectangular table in a second floor room in DC’s Hill Center awaiting the writer’s arrival.

Described by author Stuart Dybek as,one of the more risky books I’ve read in a long time and certainly one of the best,” most of Plum & Jaggers takes place in DC, the city the writer calls home.

A fan of David Sedaris’s ability to morph pain into laughter, Shreve told the students how Plum and Jaggersone day while thinking about the comic, she realized she wasn’t scared to die because her children were all grown and could take care of themselves. She tried to imagine what would have become of their lives had she died abruptly while they were young, and the seeds of Plum & Jaggers were planted.

After reading from chapter six, a scene in which a bomb explodes in the Cleveland Park train stop, the students wondered if familiarity with the city was a factor in her decision to base most of the story in the city.

“DC is a contradiction of a place; people who don’t live here don’t think it’s a place and I like writing about the DC that people live.”

When asked by a book club member if it was her goal to make Sam, the oldest son and protagonist a tyrant, the writer, pointed out that even though the siblings were victims of Sam’s control, they still saw him as their leader.

She added that her affinity for Sam’s character might have its roots during her time in DC’s public schools when she was drawn to troubled kids not unlike Sam.

While most of the book club members seemed repulsed by Sam’s antics, Shreve revealed her sentiments about Sam, “I like Sam, but would I want him to be my elder brother? No!”

A new edition of Plum & Jaggers was recently reissued as part of the Nancy Pearl’s Book Lust Rediscoveries Series.

This week the Summer Supper and Book Club read Elliott Holt’s novel You Are One of Them. Next week students will read Danielle Evans’s collection Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self.

Stay tuned for more updates on the Writers in School program and the Summer Supper and Book Club!

Episode 19: Readings from the Summer Supper & Book Club

Summer Supper & Book Club

This summer, PEN/Faulkner’s Summer Supper & Book Club met weekly for seven weeks at Hill Center where we discussed books by area authors Susan Richards Shreve (Plum and Jaggers)Danielle Evans (Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self)David A. Taylor (Soul of a People: The WPA Writers’ Project Uncovers Depression America)Felicia Pride (Patterson Heights), Derrick Weston Brown (Wisdom Teeth), and David Ebenbach (Between Camelots). We had 15 students enrolled in the course, and each week they came prepared to dine and discuss the book of the week. The authors joined us to answer questions and grab a bite, and they were kind enough to let us record short readings of their work. Thus, Episode 19 is a variety pack that includes the participating authors except, unfortunately, David A. Taylor (we had recording difficulties on the day of his visit).

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Episode 15: Susan Richards Shreve & Nicole Idar

Susan Shreve and Nicole Idar

In Episode 15 of the PEN/Faulkner Podcast, we present a reading by Susan Richards Shreve, author and co-chairman of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation, and emerging writer Nicole Idar, a fiction writer who studied with Shreve during her time as an MFA student at George Mason University.

This event was the second-ever collaborative reading produced by PEN/Faulkner and Hill Center, and it took place on Sunday, March 3, 2013. The PEN/Faulkner / Hill Center Literary Reading Series features new and established authors alike, and the structure of this reading is a bit different. We asked the authors to introduce one another before each reads, and then they engage in conversation about their work before opening it up to audience questions.

The reading begins with opening remarks by Emma Snyder, Executive Director of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation. 

Susan Richards Shreve is the author of fourteen novels, most recently You Are the Love of My Life and A Student of Living Things. She has written twenty-eight books for children. Shreve is the founder of the Master of Fine Arts Degree at George Mason University where she is a Professor of English, and a former President and present Co-Chairman of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation. Among other honors and awards, she has been a Guggenheim Fellow, an NEA fellow, and a Jenny McKean Moore Fellow.

Nicole Idar grew up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Her stories have appeared in World Literature TodayRattapallax, and The New Ohio Review, where she was a finalist for the 2009 Fiction Prize. Her first published essay won a 2012 Bethesda Magazine award. She holds an MFA in Fiction from George Mason University and a bachelor’s degree in English from Harvard University. In the spring she was an Associate Artist at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in Florida, and this fall, with the support of the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, she will be in residence at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

Thanks to our friends at Hill Center for making this event possible, to Amazon.com for their support, and to Benedict Kupstas, who composed the music used in this episode.

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Hill Center / PEN/Faulkner Literary Reading Series: Susan Richards Shreve & Nicole Idar

Hill Center / PEN/Faulkner Literary Reading Series:
Susan Richards Shreve & Nicole Idar

Sunday, March 3, 2013
4 p.m. — 6 p.m.
Hill Center 

Susan Richards Shreve author photo

About the Series:

For years, the PEN/Faulkner Foundation has hosted an acclaimed reading series featuring nationally known authors at the Folger Shakespeare Library. With the launch of Hill Center/PEN/Faulkner Literary Reading Series last December, PEN/Faulkner expands and diversifies its literary programming by featuring established and emerging local authors at Hill Center.

Hill Center serves as a vibrant home for culture, education, and city life on Capitol Hill. Located at the rehabilitated Old Naval Hospital, the historic Civil War-era facility features an array of beautiful, light-filled rooms that retain historic detail with modern amenities, including high-tech audiovisual capabilities, accessibility, and environmentally-friendly construction. 

About the Authors:

Susan Richards Shreve is the author of fourteen novels, most recently You Are the Love of My Life and A Student of Living Things. She has written twenty-eight books for children. Shreve is the founder of the Master of Fine Arts Degree at George Mason University where she is a Professor of English, and a former President and present Co-Chairman of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation. Among other honors and awards, she has been a Guggenheim Fellow, an NEA fellow, and a Jenny McKean Moore Fellow.

Emerging writer Nicole Idar grew up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Her stories have appeared in World Literature Today, Rattapallax, and The New Ohio Review, where she was a finalist for the 2009 Fiction Prize. Her first published essay won a 2012 Bethesda Magazine award. She holds an MFA in Fiction from George Mason University and a bachelor’s degree in English from Harvard University. In the spring she was an Associate Artist at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in Florida, and this fall, with the support of the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, she will be in residence at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

Full Details:

Date:
Sunday, March 3rd
4 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Location: 
Benjamin Drummond Hall
Hill Center 
921 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20003

This event is free and open to the public, though attendees are encouraged to register here. Light refreshments will be served, and books will be available for purchase.