Lit Fest 2021 Preview: Q&A with Visiting Author T Kira Madden

Editor's Note: In advance of the March 13 deadline to apply for Lit Fest Advanced Workshops, we've asked the 2021 Visiting Authors for a preview of their workshop style, what they're reading, and more.

What books/movies/tv shows have fired you up lately?

I'm still thinking about Miranda July's new film Kajillionaire, which I found so profoundly moving. Recently I've watched Promising Young Woman, and Black Bear; I'm about to revisit Euphoria; I've spent a lot of pandemic time with the work of Céline Sciamma (Portrait of a Lady on Fire was the last film I saw in theaters!), Andrea Arnold, and Asghar Farhadi. I'm also writing a book about teen television, so I've been taking notes this year: Friday Night Lights, One Tree Hill, Riverdale, The OC, Pretty Little Liars, it goes on. What a horrifying yet satisfying journey. 

In terms of reading, I'm so excited about the stories in Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel Moniz, and I was completely throttled by forthcoming memoir Negative Space by Lilly Dancyger and new memoir Pedro's Theory by Marcos Gonsalez. I'm rereading We the Animals (Justin Torres) and In the Dream House (Carmen Maria Machado) with my students at Sarah Lawrence, as well as Vivian Gornick, Jenny Boully, and Kier-La Janisse. I'm thrilled about Melissa Febos's forthcoming Girlhood, Krys Malcolm Belc's The Natural Mother of the Child, and Alex McElroy's The Atmospherians. I've also just received a galley of Ishiguro's new Klara and the Sun which I'm saving as a reading reward if I finish my current draft. I'm also flying through some thrillers, trying to learn all I can from them. If you have thriller recommendations, please tell me. 

What are you working/currently trying to work on these days?

I'm writing two novels, two very different monsters, one the TV satire, one horror. I think the pairing is my brain's way of protecting itself from slipping too deeply into the darker of the two. I'm also adapting my first book, Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls, for film. Screenwriting has been such a joy, and the ability to revisit the book's content with a more visual, colorful interpretation has been, dare I say, healing. 

How would you describe your workshop style?

I always want to center the writer in a workshop conversation, rather than metaphorically "booth" the writer into silence. I also always want to challenge our ideas of what a "workshop" should look like. What do terms like "intended audience" mean? How do we, as participants, decenter our own concerns and instead identify the wants and goals of the writer? I ask every writer to open their own workshop with pointed questions so we can spend our time with what matters to their work and to their progress. I also like to move away from terms like "plot" and "likeability" and ask, instead, where the surprises might be in a piece, where it changes terms, and how vulnerable our narrator is compared to the other characters on stage. I'm interested in ethics, style, possibilities and windows. The conversation between an essay's form and content. Narrative sincerity. I've found that to be more helpful than a list of what to "fix." 

T Kira Madden is teaching Advanced Weeklong Nonfiction Workshop: The Self, The Selves. Learn more here. Apply via Submittable.