My version of a TedTalk involves reading something I wrote! But if you’re interested in hearing about the professional changes that have taken place in the teaching of writing while I’ve been involved in the game, here’s a good chance. Plus, there’s a good story (true!) in there involving Tobias Wolff, a rickety printer, and the wisdom of Elmore Leonard.
I love Zeno’s Conscience (or the Confessions of Zeno, as I first read it) by Italo Svevo. I’m incredibly happy to be discussing it with a revitalized Stanford Book Salon. Alexa Fitzgerald, who is now running the program, is committed to great conversations–and she’s a former professional stand-up comedian. We’re in good hands!
If you’re not familiar with this classic, come read it with me! It’s truly a modernist masterpiece, but it’s also very approachable. You won’t need a handbook to understand it, unlike, say, Ulysses.
Speaking of Ulysses–this is a true story–Svevo once hired an English tutor from the Berlitz office in Trieste. That tutor was James Joyce.
I’m extremely happy to announce that return of the Orcas Island Lit Fest in 2019. The date are April 5-7. For those of you who know me, you know that this is a festival I hold close to my heart. I helped found it with my friend Jule Treneer, and we have a fantastic board of writers and island residents who make this happen. Last year’s event was beyond all expectations–so the bar is set pretty high for us this year. I believe we will hit it! Please come. We hope to maintain the intimacy of the festival even as we build it out–but there will never be a more intimate year than this coming year!
Here’s a pic from OILF 2018…the inimitable Victor LaValle.
Help me! I’m starting a literary festival!
And it’s going to be amazing. We already have an incredible line-up: Jami Attenberg, Adam Johnson, Gil King, Robin Sloan, Kim Fu, Victor Lavalle…to name a few! Orcas Island is basically the most beautiful place on the planet. The weekend of April 13-15, 2018. This is a ticketed event, so get yours early here.
For the full scoop, visit oilf.org
So my friend Jule and I–along with a crack team from Orcas Island–are starting a literary festival the weekend of April 14, 2018. I should say that’s the weekend it will be hosted. We’ve already started it!
It’s going to be interesting, intriguing, intellectually stimulating, and very, very beautiful. Get thee to a ferry and come!
Here’s the website: oilf.org.
Seriously, check out the website–Orcas is gorgeous.
A WRITERS ROUNDTABLE: Fiction in Conversation with Non-Fiction
What do Serious Writers Talk about When They are on the Town in
New Orleans? What else, Writing!
That’s the title. And it’s going to be great. Here’s the description…
Adam Johnson will lead a round table discussion with some of his famous writing pals, all Stanford University Wallace Stegner Fellows, all important prize winners and critically acclaimed literary celebrities. Johnson won the Pulitzer Prize for his incredibly insightful novel about North Korea, The Orphan Master’s Son, and the National Book Award for his collection, Fortune Smiles, six masterful stories in which Johnson delves deep into love and loss, natural disasters, the influence of technology, and how the political shapes the personal. Joining him will be Gilbert King, who won the Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction for Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys and the Dawn of a New America; Louisiana native Skip Horack, author of the highly acclaimed novel The Other Joseph, The Eden Hunter, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice; and a story collection, The Southern Cross, winner of the Bread Loaf Bakeless Fiction Prize; the winner of two major Hopwood awards and the Andrea Beauchamp Prize for short fiction; Scott Hutchins, whose novel A Working Theory of Love was a San Francisco Chronicle and Salon Best Book of 2012 and has been translated into nine languages; Eric Puchner, author of the collection Music Through the Floor, finalist for the California Book Award and the NYPL Young Lions of Fiction Award, and of the novel Model Home, finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Prize; Russ Franklin, Stegner, Capote, and Kingsbury Fellow, widely published poet and author of the novel, Cosmic Hotel, who teaches among other things, the literature of comic books and graphic novels; Stephen Elliott directed the movie About Cherry, is founder of The Rumpus, and author of seven books including The Adderall Diaries, described as “genius” by the San Francisco Chronicle and Vanity Fair and was the best book of the year in Time Out New York, a best of 2009 in Kirkus Reviews, and one of 50 notable books in the San Francisco Chronicle; and Eric Schwartzchild, author of the novels Responsible Men and The Family Diamond, described by the Chicago Tribune as “the sort of fiction writer whose prose is so lucid, psychology so convincing, characters and action so surprising and intriguing, you forget you’re reading….What he does most daringly is to reveal that tenderness, a trivialized emotion, is, in fact, a radical, life-altering force.”
A stellar group representing tons of literary wisdom they generously have offered to share with us. Each author will zero in on a particular aspect of writing that is of special significance in his work, whether fiction or non-fiction.
This story has always been close to my heart, and I’m so glad to see it in the Arkansas International, a truly fantastic new literary magazine.
Here’s the interview: https://www.arkint.org/scott-hutchins-qa
I’m “in conversation” with the fantastic Elizabeth Strout at the fantastic Kepler’s books. I look forward to asking her the difference between a novel and a story! This is a ticketed event, so make sure to buy in advance…
So glad to be giving my first reading in my home state (the Natural State). Nightbird Books is a champion bookstore, carrying on the proud tradition of independent bookselling in this beautiful town.
For more information:
I’ll be reading with a wonderful crew. The topic is “Fever.” I’ll hope not to have one!
From Fiction Writers Review: http://fictionwritersreview.com/interview/validation-is-the-curse-an-interview-with-christopher-hebert/
We’re back on!
May 6, 6-7:30pm
Science and art are often framed as opposites, if not enemies, but in this talk Bay Area author Scott Hutchins will discuss how Artificial Intelligence inspired, complicated, and deepened his breakout debut novel, A Working Theory of Love. Hutchins will read from his work, discuss chatbots, and delve into his comical experience as a judge for the world’s only annual Turing Test.
I apologize for the last minute notice!
And lived to tell the tale, encouraging you other property owners in the city. Here’s my profile of Catherine Lee and her innovative process.
In person, in New Orleans, at the Garden District Book Shop. Adam Johnson, Gilbert King, Eric Puchner, and me. Our ostensible topic is the use of research in fiction and nonfiction, but I welcome curve balls. Please come ask us a difficult question or three!
I love Booksmith, and I love Skip Horack’s new novel The Other Joseph. So I’m honored to be chatting with Skip on Thursday, April 16 at Booksmith. Come listen a dazzling writer! (Skip, I mean.)
Come be inspired in windswept Pebble Beach with me at the Catamaran Literary Conference. Catamaran is one of the most exciting additions to the Bay Area lit scene–a beautiful magazine full of terrific nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and art. I’ll be teaching the fiction workshop. The conference is held at the Robert Louis Stevenson school–very literary!–from August 12-16, 2015.
For general info and pictures: http://catamaranliteraryreader.com/conference-2015/
I’ll be being judgmental.
Here’s more info: http://www.literarydeathmatch.com/upcoming-events/december-5-at-elbo-room.html
As a writer, I’m also fascinated by the serial way in which this was published.
Anne & Mark’s Art Party is a huge, exciting art festival bootstrapped in the Peninsula by none other than Anne & Mark.
In addition to their visual and performance art, they’ve decided to have “spoken word” this year. “Spoken word” may inspire you with fear of open mics and chanting interior rhymes, but worry not. I will literally be speaking words (aka reading).
There will be music–and the great Matthew Siegel, Peter Kline, and Brittany Perham. Plus, it’s at 10 pm, which makes me feel cool.
For Spoken Word:
The Art Party general site:
I will be sitting in the front window of Mrs. Dalloway’s books in Berkeley, writing. For real.
For California Bookstore Day, Chris Baty (the genius behind NaNoWriMo) and I will be in conversation at Mrs. Dalloway’s books. When the discussion is over I will be escorted to the front window–hopefully spared the shock collar–to write for a little while. Since I will be showered, dressed somewhat nicely, not glowering into the distance, and hopefully not talking to myself, this will be more of a dramatic re-creation than a reflection of my true process. But I am actually going to be writing. Hope to see you there!
4:00 p.m. Chris Baty, author of No Plot? No Problem! and Ready, Set, Novel! A Writer’s Workbook, and founder of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), waxes eloquent on fiction writing, in conversation with Scott Hutchins, author of A Working Theory of Love.
5:00 p.m. Scott Hutchins writes live in our window! Observe the tricks of the trade in action!
P.S. I’m hoping the event will be a little like this:
Eine Vorläufige Theorie der Liebe, the German translation of A Working Theory of Love is out! It’s had some nice coverage in Der Spiegel and the Frankfurter Allgemiene Zeitung (FAZ to the cool kids). My favorite part is that the book comes with an orange bookmark sewn right into it.
Piper Verlag did such a wonderful job. Thanks to Thomas Tebbe and Eva Bonne!
Also, Richard Powers.
Stanford is debuting a joint major with Computer Science and English next year. Not a dual major or a double major, but a joint major which is more integrated. It’s a cool approach and I have a few thoughts about it (as does Richard Powers and Nick Jenkins). We are mostly correctly quoted in this interesting article in the Palo Alto Weekly….
I’ll be reading this Thursday at Adobe Books in San Francisco, from a short story that is a kind of prequel (unintentionally so) of A Working Theory of Love. The new Adobe is great! And Catamaran is a first-rate addition to the Bay Area (and American) literary life. Hope to see you there!
Catamaran Literary Reader
Rick May, the force behind Noe Valley Word Week, has asked me to participate in a Saint Patrick’s Day celebration of Irish writing. I’m usually terrified of walking the streets of SF on that night, but I’m making an exception in honor of the neighborhood.
Details below. It’s being held in the VERY welcome new addition to 24th Street–Folio Books.
Monday, March 17th
Irish Literature at Odd Mondays
3957 24th Street
With guidance from Odd Monday organizers Ramon Sender and Judith Levy-Sender come celebrate St. Paddy’s Day with Irish Literature read by local authors! We’ll raise a glass or pint as Noe neighbors read passages from their favorite Irish lit. A rollicking good time will be had by all!
Local authors read from Irish literature in the genre they write in:
- Novels: Scott Hutchins, author of A Working Theory of Love
- Nonfiction: Mary Jo Maconahay, Maya Roads
- Short Stories: Richard May, Ginger Snaps: Photos & Stories
- Poetry: Dan Richman, Farming in San Francisco
- Folktales: Michelle Cannon Diaz, Ben Not a Puppy
In addition, Wayne Goodman & Peggy Cling will read a scene from the 1963 Irish play The Year of the Hiker by John B. Keane
The readers’ books and the Irish books they read from available for sale and signing. Irish refreshments and homemade Irish soda bread will be available. Come celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with your neighbors. FREE.
If you like feasts and libraries (and writers) then come to Lafayette Library for the Authors Feast. It’s a fundraising dinner, and you need to buy tickets in advance. I did an event at this library last year, and it’s a beautiful space run by cool, engaged people. Here’s the list of writers attending, including some I’m hoping to carpool with:
- Marta Acosta
- Katrina Alcorn
- Molly Antopol
- Kim Bancroft
- Tom Barbash
- Chris Benton
- Joseph Di Prisco
- Lou Fancher
- Mary Ellen Hannibal
- Delphine Hirasuna
- Scott Hutchins
- Mollie Katzen
- Patricia Klaus & Shirley Streshinsky
- Joe Loya
- Wendy MacNaughton
- Joyce Maynard
- Erin Lindsay McCabe
- Marissa Moss
- Caroline Paul
- Linda Lee Peterson
- Yvonne Prinz
- Michelle Richmond
- Ellen Sussman
- Rob Yardumian
Here’s the description from the library website:
Mark your calendars and join us for a literary feast of the senses! Lafayette Library’s second annual Literary Feast is nearly upon us! Spend an intimate evening talking and listening to acclaimed authors from across the country. Taste and enjoy a sumptuous multi-course dinner prepared by local caterers, served within the library’s magical walls. Feel inspired by the opportunity to participate in a unique event that helps fuel our library’s creative programs each year. This hallmark event raises the funds needed to provide one-of-a-kind art, science and literary events to over 20,000 local residents of all ages.
Justin Tackett of the Stanford Report (and a doctoral candidate at Stanford) has written a thoughtful profile here of me as a teacher. He mentions one of my favorite classes of the past few years, Twitter Fiction/Future Forms.
In which I’ll speak of “My First Novel.” It’ll be like “My Friend Flicka,” but with more craft pointers. Plus, Amy Bloom.
Here’s the website.
And here’s the full schedule:
SATURDAY, APRIL 5TH
|10:00- 11:15am||Interview with Faith Middleton
Richard McCann and Michael Cunningham
|A: Small Press - Kelly Link||TBD|
|B: Crime Novel - Bob Bledsoe||TBD|
|A: Beyond Genre
Victor LaValle, Chip Delaney, Kit Reed, Scott O’Connor
|B: My First Novel
Scott Hutchins and Salvatore Scibona
SUNDAY, APRIL 6TH
|9:15-10am||The State of Publishing (1/2 hour speak and 15 min questions)
|10:15-11:00am||Great New Writers
Bob Bledsoe, Salvatore Scibona, and Scott Hutchins
This great reading series has been going on for ten years now–so long that I apparently have already read there. Ah, the forgetfulness of youth! The readings are held in Bernal Heights, the lovely little mountain town that finds itself in the middle of San Francisco. There’s a $5 cover, but I believe snacks and even some drinkable plonk is thrown in for that amount. Plus, literature!
A piece I contributed to NPR’s PG-13 Risky Reads features stepmothers, Salman Rushdie, and Satan.
Bonus feature! I got to swap tweets with Salman Rushdie, who was miffed about NPR misspelling his name. I’ll humbly point out that I got in the last pun.
Admittedly, the only word I understand in this interview/review with a Dutch AI specialist is “IKEA.” But Google translate uncovers this gem:
“The result is an unexpectedly exciting for me playful novel that evokes recognition with my profession, without falling into attempts to want to explain about technology that allows for example the Millennium series with gusts as clumsy business.”
A thought-provoking and enjoyable review from Jose Solís at PopMatters:
“Without much fuss Hutchins turns the computer into a metaphor for books, as well. Are these characters truly alive because we’re enjoying them so much? Is their humanity as important as ours? A Working Theory of Love makes for a delightful satire that asks profound questions without making it look like a great effort. Hutchins’ writing is so simple and straightforward that the book often reads like a good conversation. It’s not hard to figure out that by the time we get to the actual Turing contest at the end of the novel, we have been so won over by Dr. Bassett that we don’t care if scientists think it’s human or not.”
His summary of the work aspects of AWTOL is so good I think I might start using it myself!
Late Night Library, the terrific book podcast/event host/awesome reading advocate, is hosting me on October 24 in Portland. I’ll be reading with the poet Marcus Jackson (yes, they even read poetry–they’re the best.)
Here’s the pertinent info. Hope to see you there!
Two From Out of Town
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Hosted by Literary Arts
925 SW Washington Street
$5 Suggested Donation enters you into a raffle for some sweet prizes!
Feedbooks, a cool French book blog run by Bernard Strainchamps, has made word cloud art of A Working Theory of Love. Top words: ELLE, SAN FRANCISCO, and MOI. Pretty much sums up the novel!
For more: http://blog.feedbooks.com/fr/index.php/2013/10/14/elles/
I’ll be discussing A Working Theory of Love with any and all members of the Stanford Alumni Association in September and October. You don’t actually have to be a Stanford grad to join in, but you may end up getting mailings! The Book Salon is a venerable discussion, often of older works (Tolstoy, Austen, Fitzgerald), and I’m honored to be in such company!
For more information:
September 10, 2013–October 31, 2013
The Richmond District! It’s easy to get to–head toward Japan and stop before you get to the water. And don’t pretend you don’t travel to the avenues!
From the organizers:
I want to invite you all out to the latest installment of the Bazaar Writers Salon, a monthly literary series that takes place at Bazaar Cafe in San Francisco. Hope to see you there!
Bazaar Writers Salon
Readings by Keith Ekiss, Scott Hutchins, and Tracey Knapp
Hosted by Peter Kline
Sunday, September 1st, 6:00 p.m.
5927 California St., San Francisco
Keith Ekiss is a Jones Lecturer in Creative Writing at Stanford University and a former Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry. He’s author of Pima Road Notebook (New Issues Poetry & Prose, 2010) and translator of The Fire’s Journey (Tavern Books, 2013) by the Costa Rican poet Eunice Odio. He’s currently working on a book of poems set in San Francisco.
Scott Hutchins’s debut novel A Working Theory of Love has been heralded by the New York Times as “charming, warm-hearted, and thought-provoking,” and was a San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of 2012. His work has appeared in StoryQuarterly, Five Chapters, The Owls, The Rumpus, The New York Times, San Francisco Magazine and Esquire. He teaches at Stanford University.
Tracey Knapp lives in San Francisco, where she works in graphic design. Mark Strand and Claudia Emerson selected her poems for Best New Poets 2008 and 2010, and her chapbook manuscript, The Only One You’ll Ever, was accepted by Finishing Line Press. Other work has appeared or is forthcoming in Five Points, The National Poetry Review, Red Wheelbarrow Review, The New Ohio Review, The Minnesota Review, The Carolina Quarterly, Connotation Press and elsewhere. She is in the process of completing her first book of poems.
I’m very excited to head back to my old Texas stomping grounds this August 15th to read at the great Brazos Bookstore. I saw many great readings there–including one in which Richard Ford was rude to audience members. Exciting to be in the tradition!
Here’s the link:
So after long work, the website for A Working Theory of Love is live! Many thanks to Meadow for making it so cool. Please click around and enjoy the little features. It’s light on content right now, but if you look you can find a way to talk to Dr. Bassett. He’s very 1.0, but he’ll be evolving, as we all do!
There were too many good pictures…
Another event at the Farm! More info TBD…
A short background on the Book Salon program – in 2002, this online book group for Stanford alumniand friends was started by Diane Middlebrook, professor of English, emeritus, and each year, the program has grown in popularity. Currently, we have over 5,000 registered participants. Some alumni simply “lurk” to read other’s comments and others actively post thoughts and questions about the book.
You can find more about the Stanford Alumni Association’s Stanford Book Salon (including a list of this year’s books) here: http://alumni.stanford.edu/
Last year, the following faculty were hosts: Alice LaPlante (We showcased her book, Turn of Mind at Reunion Homecoming), Gabriella Safran, John Bender, Nancy Ruttenburg, Steven Carter, Helen Stacy, and Gavin Jones.
Reunion Homecoming on Sunday, October 20, 2013 at 1:00-2:30pm.
Stanford Continuing Studies Book Club
Stanford Continuing Studies is launching a cool new book club this fall, and they’ve generously invited me to be the first featured
guinea pig author. It’s a two-Saturday class taught by the inimitable Sara Houghteling, author of Pictures at an Exhibition. The full description is below…
The new Continuing Studies Book Club series will offer students an opportunity to discuss groundbreaking works, meet authors, and find fellow enthusiastic readers. This two-day workshop meets on consecutive Saturdays. a lecturer from our on-campus Creative Writing Program will guide students through a presentation and discussion of the book during the first class meeting, and the author will visit the class in the second week. We will do some creative writing of our own as well, but students with no writing experience are welcome.
Scott Hutchins’ A Working Theory of Love
The Fall 2013 Book Club selection is Scott Hutchins’ acclaimed debut novel, A Working Theory of Love, which The New York Times calls “clever, funny and very entertaining.” In it, Hutchins tells the story of Neill Bassett, who is haunted by a computer he is helping design to sound like his own late father. Bassett thinks he is in a race to develop consciousness in a computer—what he does not realize is that the real quest is much closer to his own heart. Throughout, Hutchins lovingly captures the zeitgeist of Silicon Valley, and calls on storied scientific and literary history as well—from the diaries of Samuel Pepys, to the fantasies of E.T.A. Hoffmann, to the Turing Test’s famous contest of man versus machine.
The workshop will begin with a lecture and discussion of A Working Theory of Love, in which we examine Hutchins’ writerly craft, his literary forebears and philosophical underpinnings. We will then focus on students’ own writing, experimenting with writing about place and the challenge of blending fiction with technology. The centerpiece of our second meeting will be an extensive question-and-answer session with Hutchins, who is currently a Jones Lecturer in the Department of English at Stanford and a former Stegner Fellow. Students will leave the course having had an in-depth literary and historical look at a very modern novel, a firsthand understanding of an important new author’s writing process, and with the beginnings of several writing projects of their own.
Sara Houghteling is the author of Pictures at an Exhibition, a New York Times Editors’ Choice, San Francisco Chronicle Best of 2009 Book, and a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award. She has received a Fulbright scholarship, a Camargo Fellowship, the Ribalow Prize, and the Wallant Award. Her writing has also appeared in The New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. Houghteling received an MFA from the University of Michigan.
Saturdays, September 21 and September 28
10:00 am – 2:00 pm
$165 Limit: 40
Special refund deadline: September 14
“Thirty Thousand Dollars” in Five Chapters
“More Noir than Chardonnay” in the “Townies” series for the New York Times
Michael Chabon profile in San Francisco Magazine
“Quiz Night” in Esquire
On the Easter Parade by Richard Yates in the Rumpus
On Tirza by Arnon Grunberg in New York Times Sunday Book Review
Interview with Steven Soderberg in the Rumpus
Interview with Eric Puchner in the Rumpus
Interview with Bill Ayers in the Rumpus
The Terrifying and Ill-planned Ascent of an Ecuadorian Volcano with my Teenage Brother (Budget Travel might have tweaked the title.)
Experimental Jazz Version of Thirty Thousand Dollars COMING SOON!
Interviews and Profiles of Scott
What makes a man? In this terrific debut novel, A Working Theory of Love, emotionally adrift divorcé Neill Bassett Jr. is trying to build the world’s first sentient computer program. After inputting 20 years of his late father’s diaries, he holds conversations with a pixelated personality that seems just like his dad—discussing his life, his childhood, and his current romantic woes. Throughout, Hutchins hits that sweet spot where humor and melancholy comfortably coexist.”
“The realistic manner in which Hutchins depicts the not-depressed, yet not-joyful way Neill goes through (a pretty interesting) life will strike a chord with many readers. But at the end of the day, it’s the slow revelation of Neill’s vibrantly beating heart (despite all his efforts to stay detached!) and his romantic, leap-of-faith-taking soul that will surprise, delight, and leave your own heart buoyant and brimming by the last page.”
“A deftly managed novel about the ways we move on and the ways we don’t, the stock we put in memory and language, and the incompetent ways that we strive to love each other. ”
—Christian Science Monitor
We Have added a few more dates to the new book tour! Here is the full list of cities and dates!
- Palo Alto: 4.3.13 @Tattered Cover, 6—8PM
- San Mateo: 4.16.13 @Red Apple Books, 4—6 PM
- San Bruno: 4.16.13 @Turntable Books, 7—9 PM
- Freemont: 4.19.13 @Barnes & Nobles (on Fairview Ave.), 4—6 PM
- Larkspur: 5.04.13 @Lion’s Den Books, 5—7:30 PM
- San Francisco: 5.18.13 @Aarvark Books, 4—6 PM
I’ll be keynote speaking at Noe Valley Word Week (aka giving a reading). There will still be wine!
Looks like a fun event. Come mingle, attend a reading, ask a question and buy a book.
Thanks to Phoenix Books for having the table!