Day one has been and gone in Arkansas and it was, of course, a cracker. It's very, very hot (in the thirties) which is a welcome change from rainy Galway. The day started with conference director Maurice Lee's opening address in which he told us the Society for the Study of the Short Story, and this conference, are going to up their online presence with a brand new website, which can only be a good thing.
The conference anthology Bridges: A Global Anthology of Short Stories was a joy to see yesterday: it's big and packed full of stories from writers from all over the world. A snip at $20.
Jetlag had me out early in the gorgeously hot morning having a wee explore of North Little Rock. We are on the edge of the Argenta District, an arty neighbourhood of cafés and galleries. It's very pretty - in a colonial houses and flowering trees way - and every so often a yellow trolley car bowls through it. At lunchtime a bunch of us went to the Starving Artist Café on Main Street - a cheap place stuffed with local art and great food.
|Starving artists Mary Costello and Tania Hershman at the Starving Artist Café|
Irish writers Mary Costello and Jamie O'Connell gave wonderful readings yesterday from their respective new collections, The China Factory and Some Sort of Beauty. Mary always reads with a quiet dignity and her stories are shocking and powerful. It was my first time to hear Jamie read and he didn't disappoint - he read two diverse story extracts: one funny and raw in the voice of a child whose father beats him with the pipe of a Hoover; the other a meditation on art seen through the eyes of a collapsing young man in Manhattan. Sadly these readings clashed with those of English writer Tania Hershman and Australian Paddy O'Reilly, both of whom are excellent readers. But such is the nature of these large conferences - lots of simultaneous events.
In the evening we were brought to the Clinton Library for dinner and drinks (Bill is Little Rock's most famous son). The ex-President addressed us via a pre-recorded video which was really nice. 'Leave me a few good short stories,' he said. The Mayor of Little Rock told us that the city tries to create a 'folksy atmosphere'. He also said that they 'shine their apple a little bit brighter' because we are here which is very sweet. They are proud of their friendliness and, true enough, everywhere you go from cabs to cafés people are very welcoming.
OK, that's me for now. We had a late night - certain writers appear to have hollow legs :) Some more of us, not so much. We had great chats late into the night and it is always a comfort to hear other writers' tales of their experiences of publishing and lit fests all over the world. The writing world is truly vast and also truly tiny. We all eventually end up knowing each other :)