Ever since the April 8-11 conference of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) came to town with 2,000 presenters and 13,000 participants (and $28 million injected into our local economy), something amazing has been happening.
Our legislative leaders — role models for both Minnesota children and our highly educated, dynamic, professional workforce — are no longer saying, "Him and me are getting along better these days." Parents, educators and managers everywhere are celebrating the change.
Ever since Barrie Jean Borich, author of "My Lesbian Husband," dropped this pearl, "Limited time is a great editor," in reference to a last-minute writing assignment, legal writers are expurgating all nonessential elements from their appellate briefs, to the relief of district court judges.
The energy unleashed by this magnificent conglomeration of talent and cultural insight is electrifying, from readings and talks by Amber Tamblyn, Roxanne Gay, Pablo Medina, Joy Harjo, Linda Hogan and hundreds of other writers, to a panel featuring Margaret Hasse, John Toren, Lori Sturdevant and Jim Gilbert, to Patricia Smith's wrenching, vividly realistic "The Five Stages of Drowning," a poem inspired by two black toddlers who were murdered by their fathers.
Of course Minneapolis, recently designated the nation's "most literate city" by Central Connecticut State University, had plenty to offer the out-of-town writers, from multiple panel discussions hosted by the Loft Literary Center to programs honoring Robert Bly and James Wright and readings and exhibits from its esteemed literary presses including Graywolf, Milkweed, Coffee House, Red Dragonfly, Holy Cow, Nodin, the U of M Press, as well Kerri Miller's Talking Volumes-style interview with Charles Baxter and Louise Erdrich.
As a result, writers from both near and far have stepped up their games.
Students from the Iron Range to Albert Lea, from elementary school students to Ph.D. candidates, are taking a second look at their vague and abstract language, heeding the words of poet and Biola University faculty member Amy Cannon, who said, "I ask my students to read Jane Kenyon when their fiction doesn't have enough concrete nouns in it."
Marketing personnel, in their never-ending quest to grab the attention of distracted customers, are pondering the paradoxical words of New England Review editor Carolyn Kuebler, who said in a panel discussion of what editors and publishers are looking for, "We love crafted and polished writing, and we love wild and unruly writing."
Understanding that Kuebler didn't mean "unruly" as in flagrant disregard for the rules of grammar, but "unruly" as in writing that is "wild and surprising," people are improving their grammar.
Even my 2-year-old granddaughter's fuzzy blue Cookie Monster has started saying, "I want a cookie" rather than "Me want a cookie."
I tell you, it's a revolution. There's hope for the future.
Stephen Wilbers offers training seminars in effective business writing. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is www.wilbers.com.