Attention, fans of memoir and music: There’s still time to get your tickets to Kinship: An Evening with Mary Karr and Rodney Crowell, coming up on February 6. It’s the annual fundraising party presented by The Porch Writer’s Collective, and we’re going. Join us?
Run by Nashville writers and dear friends-of-Parnassus Katie McDougall and Susannah Felts, The Porch has become a vital resource for emerging writers. We talked to Felts about their newest plans and why (and how!) they secured Karr and Crowell as this year’s performers.
The Porch has really grown over the past year. What are some of the developments you’re most excited about?
SF: I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished. We’ve significantly increased our class offerings from our first year in operation, and we launched a teen program, SLANT (Student Literary Artists of Nashville, TN) this year, which was a big step forward. We’re growing it slowly, and I’m very excited to see how it develops. We’ve executed many fun literary events, including bringing Literary Death Match to town for a second show. Thanks to Katie Foster, a Vanderbilt MFA candidate, we started a “Lit Mag League” just this month—a book club for literary magazines—and I’m excited to see that continue. It’s been a huge hit. (Mad props to Katie F., whose idea it was and who is hosting the meetings at her house.) Registrations continue to increase and we have a good number of return students. I always love seeing how many of our students are very new to Nashville. They’re the rule, not the exception.
So what will you be able to do with the funds raised from this event?
SF: It’ll keep us alive, plain and simple. We’re a very young organization, so the funding will help us continue down the path toward sustainability, growing our operations and programming budgets. I’d like to continue bringing in excellent writers from out of town to read and give workshops. We will be able to put time toward applying for grant funding. We also hope to keep growing SLANT.
Nice work snagging Mary Karr and Rodney Crowell as special guests. What’s the connection? Why those two together?
SF: We wanted to replicate what we created in year one: an event pairing a literary giant with a musical one. Story and song, in essence, which seems quintessentially Nashville. (Year one, we brought together National Book Award winner Tim O’Brien and bluegrass musician Tim O’Brien.) We batted around a few names, and when Rodney’s came up, I remembered that he’d worked before with — gulp — one of my very favorite writers, Mary Karr. The two had made a record together in 2012, Kin, with Karr writing the songs, Crowell producing, and a host of famous folks doing guest appearances on the album. How amazing could it be, we thought, if we could get Mary Karr?
To our delight, when we approached Crowell he was quick to suggest adding Karr to the bill. It felt like the biggest gift, but it also makes perfect sense considering the Kin album. That’s why “Kinship” seemed like a good name for the event. But we also like to think that story and song share much kinship, especially in Music City.
Karr’s latest book is The Art of Memoir — an art you feel passionately about, right?
SF: I’m enthralled by good memoirs, not least because I don’t think I have the life material to write one myself. There’s something utterly captivating about a well-told story that has the stamp of truth. I almost hate to say it, because I prize imaginative work equally, but — I just don’t think the allure of the nonfictional can be denied. I do write personal essays, and I love reading them; they can take so many forms and they spotlight voice so well. I really enjoy teaching creative nonfiction. Again, the story-voyeur in me is always hungry, and it’s humbling to help people explore their own stories, often for the first time — an invigorating act as well as a courageous, sometimes difficult one. I’m looking forward to teaching the “From Memory to Memoir” short workshop through the USN Evening Classes program on March 10.
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