Push to Publish Series- Meet the Expert- Kevin McIlvoy

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Today’s Push to Publish Expert is none other than this year’s keynote speaker, Kevin McIlvoy. McIlvoy will also be doing a Writer’s Master Class the day before Push to Publish (October 12) called : THE STANCE OF WONDER IN FIRST-PERSON NARRATION (cost is $75 and includes lunch).
*Email christine@philadelphiastories.org for an application. Space is limited!

In this interview, I ask about craft issues as well as what we can look forward to at the Push to Publish event and his master class.

Wittle:   What authors (and/or) books do you feel have inspired your writing and you to become an author?

McIIvoy: I have always found it energizing to reread the work of Willa Cather, Katherine Anne Porter, Tillie Olsen, Grace Paley, Angela Carter, and Clarice Lispector. I also often reread the poetry of Stanley Kunitz, John Berryman, and Hayden Carruth. The works of all these writers present narrative voices that uniquely reflect the estranging and engaging music of a person made vulnerable by the dark and luminous beauty always arising and dissolving in this world.

Wittle: How important is it to your writing process to have outside readers to your drafts?

McIlvoy: I bring very early drafts and very late drafts of my work to outside readers in order to be challenged to revise boldly. As I compose and as I revise I do not picture large groups of readers finding certainty in the ideas that I have constructed. I picture a solitary reader inhabiting the story before her/him. I picture that reader carried far inward and far outward by the story to a condition of uncertainty in the experiences I have created.

Wittle: You will be teaching a master class on October 12 at Rosemont College on the topic of “first person narration.” Why did you choose that topic? What are the biggest challenges of writing in first person?

McIlvoy: In this master class I will ask that we discuss the challenges of realizing the full potential in first person narration. From the first moment that a narrator uses the word “I,” the reader feels that the terms of engagement will be unstable. The writer who prefers for the story to be under her/his control will always find authentic first person narrative challenging. It is a tremendously liberating form of narrative – and many writers struggle with the radical freedoms it presents.

Wittle: You wrote four novels and a short story collection. Do you prefer writing in long or short form? Which do you find more challenging and why?

McIlvoy: The novel presents opportunities to expansively dramatize our ways of becoming and ways of being. The short story is made for dramatizing our ways of being and the subordinate dramas of our ways of becoming. I feel strongly that works of large scale do not present more transformative beauty than works of small scale.  I’m a flower gardener as a hobby; I have a great love of the smallest balloon flower and a love just as great for the dinner-plate dahlia.

Wittle: You will be giving the keynote speech at the Push to Publish conference on October 13. Can you give us a sneak peek at what you will be talking about, and why you think your topic is important to today’s authors looking to get published?

McIlvoy: I will be talking about how writers train their ears to welcome in the full chord of life’s gifts. I will be addressing the yearning of the reader to recover innocent wonder through hearing that chord.

Wittle: What was the best advice a writer or professor gave you about writing or narration?

McIlvoy: In one way or another, my best teachers have always asked me to place more value on wisdom than on knowledge, that is, on feeling what I know than on merely knowing.

For more information on the Push to Publish Event go to: http://www.philadelphiastories.org/push-publish-2012-strategies-and-techniques-get-your-work-print-and-online

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