Conference Presentations

Male Creations and Their Female Creators

In late February, five women presented on this topic at the 2014 conference of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs. Following are the introduction to the panel and three of the presentations.

Introduction

Good morning. Thank you for joining us for the presentation “Male Creations and Their Female Creators.” My name is Pat Matsueda, and I am the managing editor of Manoa, the international literary journal published by the University of Hawai‘i Press. I will be serving as moderator and would like to introduce our presentation by reading from a friend’s essay:

The writer tells the story, creates the text, but the reader “makes” the story in his head. Both writer and reader dream the story in their respective minds…. In this analogy, story is neither a physical artifact nor something saved in a computer file, but a dynamic experience that takes place in the human mind.…

Texts are solid, but the stories we make from them do not hold still. Stories are not solid. A story is what the writer dreams in her mind’s eye when she writes. A story is also what the reader dreams in his own mind’s eye when he reads the writer’s words. Therefore, there is never just one story—because stories do not hold still, just as dreams do not. The text is solid, but the writer’s dream and the reader’s dream always differ.

Those passages are from “Welcome to the North Shore: A New Metaphor for the Art of Story-Making,” an essay by Steve Heller, past AWP president and the head of the creative writing program at the LA campus of Antioch.

While rereading the essay recently, I was struck by how closely it described something—in addition to writing—that is important to us: our relationships with fathers, friends, boyfriends, husbands, and other men in our lives. Out of what we see and hear—as well as what they share with us in intimate moments—we compose explanations of their behavior or character. In fact, we spend so much time and energy—and many words—recording what the males in our lives do, analyzing it, and reflecting on it that we may think our conception is the one, true representation of the relationship. Usually, something happens to prove us wrong. By accident or design, we discover something about our mates, fathers, friends, and suddenly what we thought we knew is thrown into question.

To stabilize, we often write—sometimes as observers or witnesses; other times as translators or interpreters. When we are able to render male characters accurately—when we are true to their motivation, behavior, and so forth—we can create a place where men and women can meet. Sometimes this is an electrifying place, sometimes a peaceful sanctuary, sometimes a negotiating room. Whatever it is, it is needed because men alone cannot explain, describe, or interpret themselves.

These are some of the ideas we’ll be talking about today. I will introduce each person, and she will read from her work and describe how male characters came to appear in her writing.

Naomi Long Eagleson

Adele Ne Jame

Pat Matsueda

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