Writer, editor, and all-around superhero August Tarrier will be teaching a 3-day short story workshop at the 2019 Philadelphia Writers’ Conference. Board member Uriah Young had a few questions for August about her work, her inspiration, and the 2019 conference.

Find out what August shared after the break!

What inspires you to write?
I’m inspired to write by my need for kinship and community, and by my need to become whole. As Alan Gurganus says, “Storytelling is inherently curative.”I also abide by the words of Sherwood Anderson: “The object of art is not to make salable pictures. It is to save yourself.”
I’m all about blasting through the outer crust down into the wondrous, the holy, the unseen.

What kinds of writing do you enjoy the most?

I love short stories—the way they’re concentrated, and the opportunity they offer to work at the cusp of the miraculous and the quotidian. I’m drawn to writing that straddles poetry and prose. Novels are more discursive, and they usually encompass the geographic, environmental or historical.  Because they present a world view, which often verges on the epic, I’m put off by novels that are pedestrian. Everything has its magic, and I contend that stories and novels need to make ruptures in the quotidian.

What classes do you teach at Villanova, and why did you decide to teach there?
I teach a lit-crit course in the English Department at Villanova on post-apocalyptic fiction and film. I’ll always be grateful to Villanova because it offered me an opportunity to begin teaching in prisons—work that has changed me profoundly.

What accomplishment in the writing field stands out to you the most?
I’ve won several national prizes for the short story, including the Zoetrope Prize for my short story “I Hold You Harmless.”

What are you looking forward to at the 2019 Phila. Writers’ Conference in June?
I’m looking forward to attending some workshops, and to teaching my workshop, “I Want to Know What Love Is,” which is intentionally generative, and that’s because one thing all first drafts require is aliveness. My aim is for us to explore our own ego attachment to being writers and to being “good”; I want us to imagine a world in which our efforting and striving could fall away, even just for the day or two that we’re in workshop, and in its place we call in a genuine love for our characters, in all their beauty and brokenness.  What if we fell in love with our characters? What if we infused them with our own longing and besottedness? I’m betting that that way of inhabiting our stories could allow us to pull away from the exposition and rationality and calculation that burdens our stories.

What current projects are you working on? Anything coming out in the near future you’d like to promote?
I’m working on a memoir, and I find that writing a memoir is a process of individuation, naming yourself to the world; for that reason, it’s slow-going for me, a real struggle. I wish it were easier. I have completed a short story manuscript, and am close to finishing a novel.  Also, I’m working on a book about mass incarceration, which argues that we need to look to lifers as Americans who can model restorative justice for the rest of us.

Want to attend August’s Short Story workshop?  Visit our registration site to find out more and register for the conference!

The 2019 Philadelphia Writers’ Conference will be held on June 7 – 9, 2019 at the Wyndham Hotel, 4th and Arch Street in Old City, Philadelphia.