The Gathering 2010 – Chaos and Creativity

Chaos and Creativity: Where the Strange Crossroads Lie


Billy Collins (Credit Steven Kovich) (3)Billy Collins is an American phenomenon. No poet since Robert Frost has managed to combine high critical acclaim with such broad popular appeal. His work has appeared in a variety of periodicals including The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and The American Scholar. He is a Guggenheim fellow and a New York Public Library “Literary Lion.” He has published eight collections of poetry, including Questions About Angels, The Art of Drowning, Picnic, Lightning, Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes, Sailing Alone Around the Room: New & Selected Poems, Nine Horses, and The Trouble With Poetry and Other Poems. He was United States Poet Laureate 2001-2003. Billy Collins is a Distinguished Professor of English at Lehman College of the City University of New York.
A Reading with Commentary

Dava Sobel credit Richard Lewin (2)

Dava Sobel, a former New York Times science reporter, is the author of Longitude, Galileo’s Daughter and The Planets. In her thirty years as a science journalist she has written for many magazines, including Discover and The New Yorker, served as a contributing editor to Harvard Magazine and Omni, and co-authored five books, including Is Anyone Out There? with astronomer Frank Drake. She received the 2001 Individual Public Service Award from the National Science Board, the 2001 Bradford Washburn Award from the Boston Museum of Science, and the 2004 Harrison Medal from the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers, London. In 2008 the Astronomical Society of the Pacific gave her its Klumpke-Roberts Award for “increasing the public understanding and appreciation of astronomy.” Her current project is a stage play about sixteenth-century astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, And the Sun Stood Still. As a result of her latest book, The Planets, asteroid “30935 Davasobel” was named in her honor.

How the Planets Came to Earth
The planets have consorted with humans since ancient times, when they were viewed as gods. They worked their way into every language, via mythology and astrology, through music and poetry, by science fiction and the science of astronomy.  Today, the ongoing discoveries of outliers in our Solar System and “exoplanets” around distant stars forge a new way of thinking about other worlds.

Chris AbaniChris Abani may be the most courageous writer working right now,” says Dave Eggers. He was imprisoned as a teenager for his writings in his native Nigeria. Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Diaz calls Chris “a force of nature.” One of the best writers to emerge from Africa in half a century, Abani is the recipient of the PEN Freedom-to-Write Award and many other prizes. His bestselling novel, Graceland, about an Elvis impersonator in Lagos, won the Hemingway/PEN Prize. His other works of fiction include The Virgin of Flames, Becoming Abigail, and the award-winning Song For Night. Each of the three were were named a New York Times Editor’s Choice. Abani is currently a professor at the University of California, Riverside.

Stories of Struggle, Stories of Hope: Art, Politics and Human Rights
Chris Abani talks movingly on the need for storytelling — how our words make our world. What is the role of art and literature in serving a just cause? And what are their roles in defending human rights and championing democracy? Chris is also a renowned poet and a musician.

JenniferArmstrongJennifer Armstrong is the author of over 100 books for children and teens; a recurring theme in her work, both in fiction and nonfiction, is American history, a subject that never fails to inspire.  She has also had a lifelong interest in science, and is currently at work on a narrative nonfiction book about the dynamic nature of all things.  Her titles include Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World, The American Story, Photo by Brady: A Picture of the Civil War, and Magnus at the Fire.  She lives in Saratoga Springs, New York, with her daughter, Kalkidan.

Take a Walk on the Wild Side, or The Mad Genius Does the Laundry

Gail Carson Levine (photo by David Levine)Gail Carson Levine has written sixteen books for children. Her first, Ella Enchanted, won a Newbery honor in 1998 and was adapted into a motion picture in 2004. Fairest, set in the world of Ella Enchanted, retells Snow White through a fun-house mirror of beauty and self-esteem. Dave at Night is a historical novel that melds elements of the Harlem Renaissance with Jewish history in New York City. Betsy Who Cried Wolf, a picture book, sets the record straight on the original Aesop’s fable. Writing Magic, Levine’s only nonfiction work, written for children who like to write, offers dozens of writing exercises for kids. Levine’s newest novel, Ever, is a love story that takes place in a fantasy Mesopotamia and explores religious themes. Levine’s work has been published globally and has appeared several times on The New York Times and Publishers Weekly children’s bestseller lists.

Chaos and Consequences for Ever
As the flutter of a butterfly’s wing may transform weather forever, so the tiniest fictional event – the flare of an altar flame – can change the religion of an entire civilization, without the author’s awareness.  Taking Ever as an example, Gail will discuss how the universe becomes fiction’s ghost writer.

Georgia June GoldbergGeorgia June Goldberg, whose paintings have been selected by curators from MOMA, NY, and the Guggenheim for exhibition and publication, has received numerous awards and residencies. Her current installation art collaborates with nature. She shows nationally and teaches art and architecture at the College of Marin and California College of the Arts in the San Francisco Bay Area.

On Being a Tourist in the Universe
What if there is no difference between order and chaos? What if creativity is play, chance, getting out of the way so nature can act? What if we believe, like Picasso, that the artist gives up order for the liberty of individual expression? What if, as in the Bible, a formless, disordered state precedes creation? With examples from the visual arts. (Come with 3-D Binoculars!)

Book Discussion and Workshops

Book Discussion Panel –  Mary Garm (moderator), Adrienne Horger, Joanna Rudge Long, Norwood Long

Chaos, Pattern, and the Invented Page – Elise Blackwell

Sweet Disorder and Imagination: Creating and Sustaining a Writerly Life – Karen Blomain

Pulling Poetry from the Silence – Constance Garcia-Barrio and Elizabeth K. Gordon

Postcards with an Edge: Writing a Nonfiction Collage – Jane Honchell

This Much I don’t know for Sure: Unsettling Image and Line – J.C. Todd

Writing the Natural World – Nancy McKinley

The Poetry of Jazz, the Jazz of Poetry – Dr. David Elliott

Best Friends Forever, Discipline and Chaos – Gail Carson Levine

Wade in the Chaos – Nikki Moser

Experience Yoga Nidra – Carolyn Slagis

Two Times TOLS Top Ten: Getting Agents to Look at Your Manuscript – Joan Timberlake and George Oliver


Reading List

SailingAroundRoom Planets Shipwreck SongForNight Chaos Ever

Auxiliary List

Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe
The Invention of Everything Else – Samantha Hunt
The Age of Wonder – Richard Holme
The Time Machine – H.G. Welles