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Talk amongst yourselves.

By Shawn Badgley, Fri., March 7, 2003

Dorothy Barnett, catalyst and chair of the creative writing department at Austin Community College, returned this week from the Associated Writing Programs conference in Baltimore with a feeling best described as bittersweet. "They're just in awe of what we do here," Barnett says of the writers, students, and educators she met with at AWP. By we, Barnett meant the ACC creative writing program, its 150 students, and its dozen faculty members, and by what, she meant its stellar prose, poetry, screenwriting, and playwriting classes, as well as The Rio Review, the literary journal that draws from those classes. She meant that students make it into graduate writing programs out of ACC, someone like Oscar Casares into the Iowa Workshop, for instance, and she also meant that students find jobs.

"Somebody else has to notice," she adds, hoping that that somebody is the ACC administration first and foremost, but also voters on May 3 who will decide the fate of the referendum to raise the ACC tax-rate cap incrementally (through 2005) from 5 to 9 cents per $100 assessed valuation -- potentially a total increase of about $30-40 for the average Austin homeowner -- and to issue $99 million in facilities bonds. If the referendum passes, ACC's creative writing department should continue to flourish. If it doesn't -- and many who know far more about this sort of thing than I do tell me that it will not, as a similar proposal didn't in 1999 -- then the department might very well be absorbed into the English department, if not eliminated altogether (along with -- in a worst-case scenario -- all "nonacademic" programs) as part of a massive and much-needed budget cut, one that could eclipse the 20-30% across-the-board cuts President Rick Fonté pitched on Tuesday...

Barry Hannah, whom we profiled recently upon his February visit to Southwest Texas State University (see "Southern Destroyer"), has accepted the school's invitation for the 2004-05 Mitte Chair in creative writing, held the past three years by Tim O'Brien and Ai... Michael Moorcock's "The Elric Saga," the fantasy series that began in 1972 with Elric of Melnibone, has been optioned by Universal Pictures and the Depth of Field production company, according to Variety. Depth of Field is the Weitz Brothers' baby, but they won't be writing or directing the planned adaptations. Moorcock's latest novel featuring Elric is The Skrayling Tree: The Albino in America, which was just released from Warner Books... Ung Lee, who as a Princeton senior submitted a thesis that included a short story called "Accidents," has been accused of plagiary by Austin writer and University of Texas MFA grad Seth Shafer. Actually, Shafer says that he was alerted to the possibility by the Daily Princetonian reporter who found the textual similarities and outright identical matches -- as well as the character replications -- between Shafer's "Main Strength" and Lee's story. In an interesting piece on The Morning News (www.themorningnews.org/archives/personalities/accidental_strength.shtml), which you should read, Shafer explains why he's more sad than mad... We've reviewed Olympia Vernon's Eden on this page because she'll be at BookPeople on Wednesday, March 12, at 7pm. But you should also know that Speed Levitch will be at the store earlier that day -- 2pm -- in support of his Speedology and, ostensibly, Rick Linklater's SXSW short, "Live From Shiva's Dancefloor."

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