Thursday, August 25, 2011

Reflecting on Three Years at The Writer's Center

I'd planned on writing a post on my time here at TWC. It's now 5:30 on Wednesday afternoon and, as usual, I'm just getting around to writing the post. On any given day, in an organization that offers more than 300 workshops and 60 events a year, there's plenty of work to do. And that work takes time. So it seems fitting that I'm just now getting to this post. This blog, which I began on a hot June day of '08, has always been a labor of love for me. But it has also been, at least most of the time, something I did at the end of the day (which I hope explains some of the weird posts).

I have to admit that writing this short piece frightens me more than a little. I've spent my last three years here hiding myself, like the Wizard of Oz, behind the big curtain that is TWC. With the exception of my six-month stint as interim director, my job was never to be front and center, and I liked it that way. I could do my thing to help promote the organization--from FPP to TWC's Facebook page, from Twitter to whatever else I could think up to try to get TWC some free publicity. Now, writing this, I'm stepping away from the curtain.

When I became the publications & communications manager at TWC in April of '08, I was eager to take on the challenge. During my time here, I was lucky to have some incredible colleagues (in no particular order): Charles Jensen, Janel Carpenter (you were right about Facebook, Janel), Jason DeYoung, Becky Beauman, Caitlin Hill, Maureen Punte, Zachary Fernebok (who started out as one of my amazing interns), and Sunil Freeman. (This list does not include the excellent interns I've had here.) I learned quite a bit from each of them, and every single one of them has left a strong mark on TWC that will last for years to come. The new Director, Stewart Moss, has brought a new focus to TWC, and I believe that focus is one that could help make TWC viable for many years to come. I hope everyone reading this post gets behind him and TWC, and helps carry the organization safely into the future.

I've also met so many interesting writers and members (many of them became guests of this blog). Too many to count. Being involved with so many people who love writing and books made my job awesome. My gig here was, in many ways, the best possible job for a guy like me: a writer and translator. Seeing TWC events on YouTube, with special thanks to the incredible talents of Maureen Punte, and working with Janel Carpenter on TWC's podcast--these were realizations of goals I had when I started here.

But all things come to an end, and this post can never do any justice to the complex emotions I have at leaving this place. Right now, at 5:52, I'm goggly-eyed and exhausted (and I have to go home, spend some time with my wife and 8-month old son, and finally get busy on the second draft of my current translation project).

But it's time to move on. I was happy to fill in for Sunil during his recent absence to set up the next season of events for the first time. I'm very excited about what's coming up in the Winter/Spring season. They include, among other events: BookTalk 2: Double Indemnity with Art Taylor, Megan Abbott, Maureen Corrigan, Con Lehane, and Blake Robison of Round House Theatre; Laura Ellen Scott (Death Wishing) and Matthew Norman (Domestic Violets); Eric Dezenhall (The Devil Himself) & Eric Goodman (Tracks); a book review panel featuring Dennis Drabelle of the Washington Post, David Stewart of the Washington Independent Review of Books, and former City Paper arts editor Mark Athitakis; and many more.

There's a little for everyone, I hope, in the Winter/Spring event season. Over the course of the last three years, I've had the pleasure of working with a wide number of people. That list is surely long as well, and I can't name everyone, but I'd like to call out some here: Sandra Beasley, Chad Clark, and Matt Byars on Story/Stereo. I was happy to be involved with that event from the beginning, and as you can see from the list of EWFs, there's an impressive roster of winners. When Charlie initiated the Emerging Writer Fellowship program to tie in to that event, I thought it was a stroke of brilliance. Chad and Matt's total dedication to the event, and to supplying us with great musical acts, was simply mindblowing. More recently, working with novelist Susan Coll in a mutual attempt to and bring Politics & Prose, her new employer, into partnership with TWC was a highlight. Though I'm sad I won't be here when that partnership really gets going, I'm happy to know that it will get going. Forward momentum is a good thing. The local literature community will be richer for the partnership.

UPDATE: It's now 8:11 a.m. (I couldn't finish last night!) and I'm back. My son is sitting at my feet here in my office (and not exactly thrilled to be here, let me yell you). I've not written what I sent out to write, but I need to wrap this up. ASAP.

The Big Lesson I will take away from TWC is that a community dedicated to the literary arts is a truly amazing thing. Everyone involved can, and does, make a difference. By their presence alone. And though it's kind of sad to be moving on, I feel good knowing that I'll be just down the road, working for Collegiate Directions, Inc., an organization with a similarly incredible mission.


Serena said...

Kyle: It's been a pleasure getting to know you and I hope your replacement is just as dedicated. Congrats on the new position and don't be a stranger. Give that son of yours a hug for me.

Aubrey V. Lenahan said...

Great final post, Kyle. I have enjoyed reading the blog over the years and have, of course, loved the programming at TWC for all three years of my MFA experience.

Best of luck in your future writing and professional endeavors.


eDiplomacy said...

Kyle -- So glad I had the opportunity to share ideas and conversation with you this summer. Great good luck as you move into a fresh role. Peat O'Neil

Kyle Semmel said...

Thanks for your comments and good wishes! (And also to those of you who reached out to me via e-mail.) The blog will continue in some form, to be sure. Sunil and Zach and Maureen will all have a hand in it. I've got a good couple of weeks scheduled to post--and I'm especially looking forward to next week's post on the publishing industry!

Anonymous said...

Great post, Kyle. The Writer's Center has been lucky to have you on board (and is surely sorry to see you go). Best of luck with all your endeavors!