Creative Writing Program Celebration

Literary conference at the Weisman Art Museum

Micaela Resh

As the University of MinnesotaâÄôs creative writing program approaches its 20th anniversary, it will host a celebration on Friday at the Weisman Art Museum. The event plays a small part in the greater Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference. With about 12,000 attendees from around the world convening to converse about contemporary literature, itâÄôs the largest literary event in North America. A wordy weekend, noteworthy authors and readers alike are scheduled for presentations, panels and lectures from Wednesday through Saturday. On campus, University professors Charles Baxter and Patricia Hampl will speak and provide short readings from their recent works. English department faculty member Julie Schumacher will be the eventâÄôs emcee, and she said sheâÄôs looked forward to the conference coming to the Twin Cities for over a year. âÄúPeople in other parts of the country donâÄôt realize until they come here that weâÄôve got this incredibly vibrant arts and literary culture, and I wanted our top-ranked MFA program at the âÄòUâÄô to be showcased as a part of the conference,âÄù Schumacher said. Baxter, a fixture in the creative writing program since 2002, specializes in creative writing, modernism and contemporary fiction. From a long list of works, Baxter is most notable for his book âÄúThe Feast of Love,âÄù which was adapted into a movie in 2007. In February, Baxter published âÄúThereâÄôs Something I Want You to Do,âÄù a collection of 10 short stories that follow the lives of Minneapolis citizens who seek moral goodness yet are continuously defined by their shortcomings. âÄúI wanted to write a group of stories about moral qualities, but I leave that to the moralists and the preachers,âÄù Baxter said. Interconnectedness is the overarching theme weaving throughout the book. Each section is devoted to either a vice or virtue, with the 10 stories touching on lust, sloth, avarice, gluttony, vanity, bravery, loyalty, chastity, charity and forbearance. On the nonfiction side of things, Hampl will read from a book sheâÄôs currently working on, âÄúThe Art of the Wasted Day.âÄù âÄúIt involves some leisure and travel, and some daydreaming, I guess. A desire for laziness, I guess âÄî my husband says IâÄôm the least likely person to write about wasting time because IâÄôm a workaholic,âÄù she said. âÄúI think you write out of your weakness, not out of your strength.âÄù Hampl seems to be a busy person âÄî she just completed a residency at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington and will instruct a master class at Columbia University throughout April. Hampl had no trouble filling her schedule as a student at the University, either. She was an arts and entertainment editor for the Minnesota Daily and worked with Ivory Tower, a student literary publication. The professor and author will also participate in a few panels throughout the weekend. âÄúI love our MFA program; I think itâÄôs really wonderful. I donâÄôt mean that we are wonderful, but our students keep getting better and better and more accomplished,âÄù Hampl said. âÄúThey are really splendid students.âÄù