Number 13: Unbraiding the Short Story

By Sabrina Völz

Regard­less of the field, con­fer­ences come in all shapes and sizes. Some are for­got­ten quick­ly while oth­ers become engraved in one’s mem­o­ry. The lat­ter expe­ri­ences are some­times few and far between. The bien­ni­al Inter­na­tion­al Short Sto­ry Con­fer­ence in Eng­lish – which brings togeth­er schol­ars, writ­ers, and those in the pub­lish­ing indus­try – might just fit the bill. This year’s con­fer­ence was lucky num­ber 13 and took place in Vien­na from July 16–19.  It was a place to dis­cov­er young, tal­ent­ed voic­es, inter­act with estab­lished authors, and hear schol­ar­ly papers from col­leagues all over the globe. I espe­cial­ly appre­ci­at­ed the anthol­o­gy, Unbrad­ing the short sto­ry, which allowed con­fer­ence par­tic­i­pants to famil­iar­ize them­selves with 69 sto­ries by writ­ers-in-res­i­dence (ISBN: 13: 978–1497593992). This helped immensly with the selec­tion of pan­els. Apart from lis­ten­ing to pan­el dis­cus­sions, doing inter­views, and par­tic­i­pat­ing in cre­ative writ­ing work­shops with authors, for me, it was again a place to renew my first love: the short story.

The first inter­na­tion­al short sto­ry con­fer­ence I attend­ed was back in 2004. Apart from some thought-pro­vok­ing schol­ar­ship, I fond­ly remem­ber sit­ting in a room with a less­er known ‘new south­ern’ author at that time – Z.Z. Pack­er. After hear­ing the first few words of “Every Tongue Shall Con­fess,” I knew she would be a force to be reck­oned with. At € 300, the con­fer­ence is some­what pricey but where else can one meet Mar­garet Atwood, San­dra Cis­neros, and Bharati Mukher­jee all in the same place? Their read­ings were cer­tain­ly the high­lights of the 2010 con­fer­ence in Toronto.

After past jour­neys to Spain and Cana­da, this year’s con­fer­ence was clos­er to home. As a card-car­ry­ing repeat offend­er, I hope to meet you at the next con­fer­ence in Shang­hai, Chi­na. High­lights of the Vien­na con­fer­ence were the pan­el on Nobel Prize win­ner, Alice Munro, as well as the the final read­ing giv­en by the quin­tes­sen­tial quar­tet of empow­er­ing women writ­ers: Bharati Mukher­jee, Claire Lar­rière, Vel­ma Pol­lard, and San­dra Cis­neros.  And, in the end, we topped it all off with a slice of Sacher­torte.

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