Famous authors share enthusiasm and inspiration ahead of conference
On writing short
Published: Jul 14, 2016 06:23 PM

This week, more than 200 writers from 30 countries descended on East China Normal University for the 14th International Conference on the Short Story in English.

This is the first time the biennial conference has set the venue in Asia since its founding in 1988. This year the conference theme is "Influence and Confluence in the Short Story: East and West."

A number of workshops are being held at ECNU, and the US Consulate General in Shanghai organized a short-story reading event Tuesday as a warm-up ahead of the official conference that began Wednesday and runs through Saturday.

The Global Times was among 200 foreign and Chinese literature enthusiasts who attended an evening short-story reading by five writers at Minsheng Art Museum, presided by conference director Maurice A. Lee, from the University of Central Arkansas.

Clark Blaise, Robert Olen Butler, Gish Jen, Bharati Mukherjee and Li Yiyun presented the audience with 15-minute readings of their work, which was followed by a half-hour interaction between writers and audience members.

(From left) Robert Olen Butler, Bharati Mukherjee, Li Yiyun, Gish Jen and Clark Blaise Photo: Feng Yu/GT

During the Q&A session, attendees asked "how do you put the main characters in the setting?" "is language a tool or weapon in literature?" and "have you ever regretted writing something?"

The writers talked about their experiences in handling the concerns, and said that short stories are the foundation of all other forms of literature. They agreed in that they are very careful in selecting each single word in writing.

One woman in the audience expressed her excitement about the reading, saying that she was so happy to see so many of her favorite writers gathered together.

One Chinese university English major told the Global Times that although English isn't her native language, the event offered a great opportunity for her to listen to the masters face-to-face.

The workshops Tuesday included "North American Style in Short Story Writing" by Blaise, "Creating Fictional Art" by Butler, "Where to Start, From ABC to DEF" by Jen, "Writing to the Story: From First Draft to Final Version" by Licia Canton, "Distinguishing Voice From Gaze in Your Short Stories: the Author-Narrator Two-Step" by Mukherjee and "Rx for a Story Worth Telling" by Li.