SARAH VEST – STAFF WRITER
Writers work in cycles of generating and revising, and both of these processes can stem from unusual places, according to Week Nine’s writers-in-residence. They will give readings of their work at 3:30 p.m. EDT Sunday on the CHQ Assembly Virtual Porch.
Martha Cooley is Week Nine’s prose writer-in-residence for the Chautauqua Writers’ Center. She is the author of three novels, Buy Me Love, The Archivist and Thirty-Three Swoons, and a memoir, Guesswork: A Reckoning With Loss. Her essays, short fiction and co-translations have appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, LitHub, A Public Space, AGNI, The Common, The Southampton Review and Consequence. She is a professor emerita at Adelphi University, where she has taught in the English department for 15 years. She also taught for 15 years in the Bennington Writing Seminars.
She will be reading from her most recent book, Buy Me Love, which she described as being about “the workings of chance and coincidence in our lives.” The story follows a woman who buys a lottery ticket on a whim and then inadvertently wins $100 million. However, Cooley made it clear that what she wanted to explore with the story was not how to spend $100 million.
“It’s about how that kind of unexpected change in fortune — not in only the money sense — has to be navigated and has to be dealt with,” Cooley said. “Chance, coincidence, good and bad luck. Those are the things that are central to the story, but also our relation to money and how it intersects with our needs for love.”
In addition to her reading, Cooley will be teaching a workshop over the course of Week Nine titled “Jumpstarting and Revising.” The workshop will focus on how and when an author should alter and edit their work. She will also be giving a Brown Bag talk on “Look Again: Some Thoughts on Revision” that will focus on similar themes at 12:15 p.m. EDT Friday on the Virtual Porch.
Sally Wen Mao is this week’s poet-in-residence and is the author of two poetry collections: Oculus — a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize — and Mad Honey Symposium. She is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize and a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship; she was recently a Cullman Fellow at the New York Public Library, a Jenny McKean Moore Writer in Washington at George Washington University and a Shearing Fellow at the Black Mountain Institute. Her poetry and prose have appeared in The Best American Poetry, The Paris Review, Poetry, Harper’s Bazaar, The Kenyon Review, Guernica and A Public Space. During the week she will be teaching a workshop class titled “Speculative Poetry.” The workshop will focus on how science fiction, mythology, fairy tales, utopias, dystopias, horror, fabulism and magic function within poetry, and if it is even possible to use these ideas in a genre that eludes narrative.
These are all themes that can be seen in her second poetry collection Oculus, where, according to her website, she explores exile not just as a matter of distance and displacement, but as a migration through time and a reckoning with technology. In this book Mao confronts the paradox surrounding seeing and being seen and how women of color are meant to endure representations of themselves in media that “seek to consume them.”
Mao will also give a Brown Bag at 12:15 p.m. EDT Tuesday on the Virtual Porch.