The Gathering 2009 – There and Back Again: Time, Place, and Story

There and Back Again: Time, Place and Story


Rushdie_headshot_colour[1] (2)Indian-British novelist Salman Rushdie is often described as a writer of magical realism mixed with historical fiction. A dominant theme of his work is the story of the many connections, disruptions and migrations between the Eastern and Western world. Rushdie takes history as his subject and fictionalizes it, creating a new literary genre. He has received almost every major literary award in the course of his 30-year+ career.

“It seems to me, more and more, that the fictional project on which I’ve been involved ever since I began Midnight’s Children back in 1975 is one of self-definition. That novel, Shame, and The Satanic Verses strike me as an attempt to come to terms with the various component parts of myself – countries, memories, histories, families, gods. First the writer invents the books; then, perhaps, the books invent the writer.

But whenever I say anything about my work I want to contradict myself at once. To say that beyond self-exploration lies a sense of writing as sacrament, and maybe that’s closer to how I feel: that writing fills the hole left by the departure of God.”
(from the British Council Arts Group)

“Step Across This Line”
Salman Rushdie will take you on a provocative journey into the world of contemporary literature, politics, culture and philosophy. Rushdie offers a challenging and enlightening look at modern life. He will explore time and space and other themes that he has woven through his books: freedom of expression, current events at home and abroad, and the role of the artist in society. Rushdie will also discuss his approach to writing and key developments in his prose style and artistic sensibility.

Gregory MaguireGregory Maguire’s novels are frequently revisionist retellings of classic children’s stories. Perhaps his most well known novel is Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, which was made into a much-loved Broadway Musical. It was followed by Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, filmed by ABC/Disney, and most recently, A Lion Among Men. He also has written more than a dozen novels for children. He holds a PhD in English and American Literature from Tufts University. He lives in Massachusetts with his family.

“A writer tries not to steal ideas from other writers. However, it is the nature of ideas—I think—that they rarely appear full-blown, like the visitation of an angel or a muse or a fairy godmother, but they grow in good soil, like a pumpkin or a hollyhock.

I try to keep the soil of my mind moist and rich by feeding it with other people’s inventions (good books, movies, not so much with TV, except occasionally The Simpsons), and with a steady variety of different experiences. Trips to new places, meetings with friends old and new, times spent in memory. I use a journal to help me remember and record what I see and feel.”
(from Harpers Collins Publishers)

“Backyard Bablylon”
It may be said that from the nexus of time and place, story emerges. Perhaps it may also be said that through the primary focus of story, one can best apprehend the meaning of time and the significance of place. In “Backyard Babylon” Gregory Maguire will consider the effects of time and place upon our earliest concepts of story.

Loung_Ung[1] (3)Loung Ung is a Cambodian American author, human-rights activist, and the national spokesperson for the Campaign for a Landmine-Free World. After emigrating to the U.S., she wrote two books which related her life experiences from 1975-2003 in Cambodia. Her first memoir, First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers, details her family’s experiences in Cambodia from 1975 until 1980.

Published in 2000, it became a national bestseller, and in 2001 won the award for “Excellence in Adult Non-fiction Literature” from the Asian/Pacific American Librarians’ Association. It has subsequently been published in twelve countries in nine languages.

Ung wrote this memoir in the first person and, for the most part, in the present tense, describing the events and circumstances as if they were unfolding before the reader’s eyes: “I wanted [the readers] to be there.”

“From 1975 to 1979—through execution, starvation, disease, and forced labor—the Khmer Rouge systematically killed an estimated two million Cambodians, almost a fourth of the country’s population. This is a story of survival: my own and my family’s. Though these events constitute my own experience, my story mirrors that of millions of Cambodians.”

“Memoirs: Maps of the Human Heart”
Many before me have authored their lives, and left behind their truths in pages, letters, journals, poems, and books. Their words gave us their maps of the human heart—the biggest and most difficult map to read—and yet shared by everyone. In my journey of authoring my own life, I have sought wisdom from communities as large as my imagination, in languages that spoke directly to my heart; and given to me by souls whose life crosses all boundaries and time.

WillardPhoto-1 (2)Nancy Willard is a children’s author and poet, essayist and novelist. Willard has written twelve books of poetry, including Water Walker, which was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award, two novels, and several books of stories and essays.

She was educated at the University of Michigan and Stanford University. She has received numerous grants, including one from the National Endowment for the Arts, and awards, including a Newbery Medal for her children’s book, A Visit to William Blake’s Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers. She teaches in the English Department at Vassar College.

“The Secret Life of Doors”
Writing is a journey, during which the map you start out with changes. The story itself shows you the way.
“. . . . . . . . . . . the door is
necessary. She knows how the raw
space in a wall nearly burned or
newborn makes children pause and
step in. It leads somewhere.
They look out on another country.”

Steven ThomasDr. Steven L. Thomas is Associate Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities at Wilkes University, where he directs the University Chorus and Chamber Singers, and teaches courses in music theory and music history.  He also is Music Director of the Robert Dale Chorale, a professional chamber choir. He holds a music from Harvard University and a D.M.A. degree in choral conducting from Yale University.  He has studied conducting with Jameson Marvin, Beverly Taylor, Marguerite Brooks, and Murray Sidlin.  Dr. Thomas has prepared choruses for performances with a wide variety of ensembles and artists, including the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic, the Hartford Symphony, the Boston Camerata, and Dave Brubeck. Dr. Thomas is College and University Repertoire and Standards Chair of the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Choral Directors Association.

An exploration of how works of music, which transport the listener to an abstract world of well-ordered sound, can have such power over our experience of the real world.

Rebecca Marshall FerrisRebecca Marshall Ferris is a documentary filmmaker who has served as a cameraperson, editor, and producer on many non-fiction projects with subjects ranging from Depeche Mode to Al Franken. Rebecca has a long association with the renowned documentary film company, Pennebaker Hegedus Films, having served as associate producer on their films, Only The Strong Survive, Down From The Mountain and Elaine Stritch at Liberty, which won two primetime Emmy Awards and was broadcast on HBO. She most recently produced the film, Al Franken: God Spoke, which was released theatrically in 2006.
Her film Miller’s Tale about the actor, playwright, and Scranton native, Jason Miller will air nationally on PBS later this year. She and her husband currently reside in New Orleans.

Rebecca Marshall Ferris will screen her film, Miller’s Tale, a personal narrative about the life and legacy of actor and playwright Jason Miller. Best known for his role as Father Karras in The Exorcist, Miller was an award-winning playwright and actor who experienced a brief but brilliant period of national acclaim, then abandoned Hollywood to return to live and work in Scranton, Pennsylvania. In Miller’s Tale, filmmaker Rebecca Marshall Ferris explores the complex relationship between Miller and his hometown and the reasons for his return. Featuring a wide spectrum of people who knew Miller, from the most ordinary Scranton locals to the artists that worked with Miller, including Martin Sheen, Paul Sorvino, and William Friedkin, among others.

Unlike a traditional biography film, Miller’s Tale uses elements of cinema verité, travelogue, and first-person narration to reveal the story of this small-town boy who became a Hollywood icon.


Poetry – Karen Blomain

Playwriting – Jane Julius Honchell

Yoga – Carolyn Slagis

Haiku – Dr. David Elliott

Writing For Young Readers – Gail Carson Levine

Screenwriting – Rebecca Marshall Ferris

Memoir – Ibtisam Barakat

A Geology Walk – Dr. Robert Cook

In Search Of Edible Plants – Nathaniel Whitmore

Book Discussion – Jennifer Armstrong and Devaki Constantine

Reading List









Also Suggested

The Arrival – Shaun Tan

The Enchantress of Venice – Salman Rushdie

The Left-Handed Story: Writers and the Writing Life – Nancy Willard

A Lion among Men – Gregory Maguire

Wabi-Sabi -Mark Reibstein, illus by Ed Young