Summer Words: ‘Sundance of literary publishing’
What do miniature schnauzers, Andy Warhol and the Hotel Jerome have in common?No, it’s not a joke.The answer is literary: Alison Pace. Pace was a student at the 2003 Aspen Summer Words Literary Festival (at the Jerome) where she workshopped a chapter of her novel – a section about neurotic, over-indulged mini-schnauzers – and then later published that novel under the title “If Andy Warhol had a Girlfriend.”This year, Pace is returning to Aspen, her status at the festival upgraded from writing student to published speaker.Today is the day it all kicks off, as the 29th Annual Aspen Summer Words Literary Festival opens the doors of the Hotel Jerome to writers and readers alike. The event includes an array of author readings and talks, panel discussions, professional consultations, writing workshops, and social gatherings. The festival features 19 award-winning and best-selling authors and 10 top agents and editors; it boasts 13 literary events and five VIP parties.”Aspen Summer Words is the Sundance Film Festival of literary publishing,” said Pam Houston, author of “Cowboys Are My Weakness.” If Pace is any indication of the energy level of the festival, it should be expeditious.”I love to hear writers read their work,” she said over the phone in that mile-a-minute way only a New Yorker can. “Being a writer, so much of it is on your own. I always say, ‘You’re on your own with all of your imaginary friends.’ So it’s really educational and interesting and inspiring to learn how other writers do it … and that was the great thing about the festival two years ago – just meeting all these people who were trying to do the same thing that I was trying to do.”Pace first heard about Aspen Summer Words in 2003 from a friend who was planning to attend. After perusing a brochure, she decided it was an opportunity not to be missed and applied to be in the advanced fiction-writing workshop with author Pam Houston. “I went, I guess, more just for the festival part than for meeting with agents,” said Pace, who already had an agent before taking the course. “I used a chapter of my book that we talked about in workshop, which was really helpful because it was a chapter I wasn’t sure about and I sort of wound up reworking my book for it. It was great to have that encouragement from Pam.”Pace will give a panel discussion titled “Finding New Voices” along with Josh Kendell, an editor at Picador and contributing editor at The Paris Review, and other special guests at 3:30 p.m. Monday. The discussion will be moderated by Ken Sherman, president of Ken Sherman & Associates, a literary agency representing film, television and book writers.”From what I understand they have a few different authors all sort of at different stages of their career,” Pace said. “I think everyone’s going to talk about their journey to getting published and I guess their journey since being published.”Pace’s own journey includes a degree in art history from American University in Washington, D.C., and a graduate certificate in American art from Sotheby’s Institute in New York. She wrote “If Andy Warhol had a Girlfriend” while working for Sotheby’s as a fine-art researcher. Her art expertise finds its way into the novel in comedic depictions of the international art world and a flood of Warhol quotes, which appear at the beginning of each chapter. The success of the book, as well as the sale of her book-in-progress, “Pug Hill,” has allowed Pace to maintain writing as her full-time job.”So right now I’m just crossing my fingers that I get to keep doing this. I feel very lucky all the time, and I remind myself when I’m struggling with chapters,” she said.Other panel discussions this week will include such topics as “Don’t Judge a Book by Its Movie” (2 p.m. Tuesday), with Joyce Maynard of The New York Times and NPR, and Emmy-nominated screenwriter John Romano; “Making Your Mark in Magazines” (3:30 p.m. Wednesday) with Executive Editor for Writer’s Digest Jane Friedman and Playboy Editor Tim Mohr; and “Self-Portrait of The Artist: Memoir” (3:30 p.m. Thursday) with Irish authors Nuala O’Faolain, Hugo Hamilton and Jamie O’Neil.This year the festival theme is “World of Words: Ireland!” Other highlights include a gala dinner with Frank McCourt (Pulitzer Prize winning author of “Angela’s Ashes”); a reading and film screening of Colum McCann’s Academy Award-nominated film “Everything in This Country Must”; “Women on Words,” a discussion with readings by three of Ireland’s leading female writers; and “Irish Author Salon,” an evening of stories with the entire ensemble of the Aspen Summer Words 2005 Irish cast.Festival registration begins today at 4 p.m. Appointments can be made to meet one-on-one with literary agents. Following will be an opening reception at 5 p.m. At 6 p.m. the Aspen Prize for Literature – a $10,000 prize – will be awarded to fiction author Edna O’Brien and poet Paul Muldoon.So those who scurry down to the Jerome to revel in the literary networking and swim in the Irish Sea of words should keep in mind the advice of Warhol, quoted in Pace’s book: “No matter how good you are, if you’re not promoted right you won’t be remembered.” A full festival pass is $200; individual tickets are $15-$20; both options are available at the Wheeler Box Office (920-5770). More information is available from the Aspen Writers’ Foundation at 925-3122 and http://www.aspenwriters.org.Catherine Foulkrod’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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