A couple of weeks ago, I saw this article online, A 26-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Mid-August, 1977, and immediately remembered that author, J. Michael Fay, had talked about his time at the Bread Loaf Conference. When I asked, he told me he was there the year following and that he remembered his time fondly. So I asked if he would write about that time …
Bread Loaf 1978
by Michael Fay
I was thrilled to attend the prestigious Bread Loaf Writers’ Program in 1978 with financial support from Alberta Culture. There were 850 applicants that year and only 230 were accepted. The buzz in Vermont that summer was all about two key presenters, John Gardner and John Irving.
Gardner was a key theoretician in the literary community with his classic On Moral Fiction. Irving was on the verge of entering the super-star stratosphere with The World According to Garp. And for two weeks in the mountains of Vermont, those two icons seemed to have permanent circles of supporters surrounding them, day and night.
As presenters, they each soared in his own way: Gardner, the philosopher, and Irving, the raconteur.
It was all magic for me, thousands of miles away from my home in Camrose, Alberta, taking it all in with thirsty relish.
Gardner was all about the head, the structural issues that built strong stories and novels. Irving was all about the heart, the beating centre of a tale that enraptured the reader.
And there were more than these two and others who made formal presentations in the theatre.
Oh my! My fellow students and the carefully selected young writers, working as assistants and fellows, were on their way to successful careers. I only mention two; both had a profound impact on my writing.
Meredith Sue Willis was an amazing novelist who dug deep into the soil of Appalachia to weave tales of intensity and resonance. Richard Ford was a spare and cerebral stylist who examined American life with a probing scalpel.
And thirty-three years later I carry their words as inspiration as I settle in front of a blank white screen and dare to create people and places and events which lurk inside of me and clamor to come to life.
Here’s a photo of Michael taken around this time …
J. Michael Fay has published three long-form short stories under my IslandShorts imprint and I’m pleased to announce that his most recent publication, Passion, will be released very soon!