"Writing is just an awful thing to do," says Lee Montgomery, only half kidding. She's senior editor at Tin House magazine, a quarterly that takes its name from its Northwest Portland office's siding (they also keep an office in New York). Since 1999, Tin House has defied convention by putting out an intelligent, readable and even visually appealing literary magazine with pieces ranging from essays by Nobel Prize winners to the fiction of local twentysomethings in a "New Voices" section.
So what's so awful about writing? It's a hard and lonesome profession, according to Montgomery, and even experienced writers find it difficult to estimate critical response. Which is why, in part, Tin House is launching a new, annual weeklong writing conference at Reed College. The conference will feature intensive writing workshops, expert panels and a series of readings whose top draws include Lorrie Moore, Rick Moody, Dorothy Allison, Denis Johnson and filmmaker Todd Haynes.
Despite the presence of so many established authors, the conference aims to keep an informal air, according to Montgomery. "I asked what the expectations were, and they said we're just invited to sit together and chat," says Oren Moverman, who will be interviewing Todd Haynes on stage. Moverman, who adapted Denis Johnson's Jesus' Son for the screen, will be sitting on a number of panels as well as teaching a workshop on screenwriting.
Now, what about the schmoozing? "The (Tin House) staff are pretty serious cocktail people," says novelist Peter Rock, a fiction-workshop leader and panelist. "They have their own martini--that speaks for itself."
Here's a partial list of readings:
7:30 pm Saturday, July 12: Anthony Swofford, author of Jarhead, will read. Interview with author Peter Rock follows.
8 pm Sunday, July 13: Screenwriter Oren Moverman interviews Todd Haynes, the critically acclaimed writer and director of Safe, Velvet Goldmine and Far from Heaven.
8 pm Monday, July 14: Poet, essayist and bestselling author of Bastard Out of Carolina, Dorothy Allison, will be interviewed by Tin House editor Rob Spillman.
8 pm Wednesday, July 16: Novelist Rick Moody (The Ice Storm, Purple America, Demonology and The Black Veil: A Memoir with Digressions) will be interviewed by Spillman.
8 pm Thursday, July 17: Lorrie Moore, author of several short-story collections, including Self-Help and Birds of America, and the novel Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?, will be interviewed by writer Elissa Schappell.
9:30 pm Thursday, July 17: Psycho Dreams, a staged reading of Denis Johnson's new play with Johnson and author Chris Offutt.
8 pm Friday, July 18: Johnson will be interviewed by Offutt.
Applications for fiction, poetry and screenwriting workshops are being accepted on a rolling deadline as long as space allows. All readings will be held at the Reed College Outdoor Amphitheater. The whole series is $75. Single tickets are $15, students $12.
Reed College, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd., 219- 0622. Saturday- Saturday, July 12-19.
For a complete listing of events and costs, see www.tinhouse.com/workshop/ .
The Tin House Martini is at www.tinhouse.com/Issues/Current_ Issue/martini.html .