The entire weekend of activities was fantastic, due in part to the natural beauty of the Adirondacks (the conference took place at the Minnowbrook Conference Center which is gorgeous) and to all of the interesting literary people from throughout New York state who attended.
“New Leaders in Literature” was the focus of this conference, and the keynote speaker was Victoria J. Saunders, a consultant who does a lot with organizational transitions.
Being relatively young at a brand-new organization, Executive Director transitions isn’t really something I spend a lot of time thinking about. That said, I was the victim of so-called “Founder Syndrome,” so all of these discussions were pretty intriguing.
I won’t bore you with all the details, but the there were a couple of things that stood out that I found quite interesting. First off, it seems that all transitions are rocky. No matter how well planned, organizations always seem to run into some trouble, such as hiring the wrong replacement Executive Director, aving board issues, etc. Obviously, for the betterment of nonprofit organizations, it’s of great importance to focus on these issues and to figure out how best to transition from one ED to the next. Otherwise you end up with Paris Review scenarios, with Brigid Hughes being replaced months after stepping in after George Plimpton’s passing.
But that situation is what resonated most for me . . . So many nonprofits focus on longevity, literary legacies, how to transition to a new director with the same vision and fire, etc., but what is often overlooked is the way that some nonprofits spawn new, culturally important organizations. . . . A sort of “external transitioning” for lack of a better term.
For instance, Seven Stories has been a breeding ground for developing great new organizations. Jill Schoolman was working at Seven Stories when she started Archipelago Books, Violaine Huisman was doing foreign rights when she started her own literary agency. And I believe that Franctious Press is being headed up by Seven Stories employee(s).
Dan Simon deserves a lot of praise for encouraging and cultivating a new generation of literary leaders, and I’m sure that when the time comes, Seven Stories will be able to continue. But that may not be true for all organizations, and although this is hard to accept, for some, maybe they don’t need to continue beyond their original founder/director. As long as new literary leaders are being developed, starting new presses/organizations/events/initiatives and passionately promoting literature, I think things will be OK.
What I took away from this weekend is that in addition to looking for an adequate replacement, directors of admirable nonprofit organizations should focus on inspiring individuals to start new things. In other words, it’s worthwhile to broaden one’s focus to doing things that are good for the field as a whole in addition to focusing on what’s good for “my organization.”
The last five days of the eleventh-century Icelandic politician, writer of sagas, and famous murder victim Snorri Sturleleson (the Norwegian spelling, Snorre, is preserved in the book) make up Thorvald Steen’s most recently translated historical fiction, The Little Horse. Murdered. . .
We all know Paris, or at least we think we know it. The Eiffel Tower. The Latin Quarter. The Champs-Élysées. The touristy stuff. In Dominique Fabre’s novel, Guys Like Me, we’re shown a different side of Paris: a gray, decaying. . .
One hundred pages into Birth of a Bridge, the prize-winning novel from French writer Maylis de Kerangal, the narrator describes how starting in November, birds come to nest in the wetlands of the fictional city of Coca, California, for three. . .
At 30, the Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli is already gathering her rosebuds. Faces in the Crowd, her poised debut novel, was published by Coffee House Press, along with her Brodsky-infused essay collection, Sidewalks. The essays stand as a theoretical map. . .
Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia (narrated by Julio Cortázar) is, not disappointingly, as wild a book as its title suggests. It is a half-novella half-graphic novel story about . . . what, exactly? A European tribunal, Latin. . .
Marie NDiaye has created a tiny, psychological masterpiece with her Self-Portrait in Green. In it she explores how our private fears and insecurities can distort what we believe to be real and can cause us to sabotage our intimate relationships.. . .
Reading a genre book—whether fantasy, science fiction, crime, thriller, etc.—which begins to seem excessively, stereotypically bad, I have to make sure to ask myself: is this parodying the flaws of the genre? Usually, this questioning takes its time coming. In. . .
The Sicilian Mafia has always been a rich subject for sensational crime fiction. The Godfather, Goodfellas, and The Sopranos worked the mob’s bloody corpses and family feuds to both entertainment and artistic value. Giuseppe di Piazza’s debut novel attempts this,. . .
Antoine Volodine’s vast project (40 plus novels) of what he calls the post-exotic remains mostly untranslated, so for many of us, understanding it remains touched with mystery, whispers from those “who know,” and guesswork. That’s not to say that, were. . .
It hasn’t quite neared the pitch of the waiting-in-line-at-midnight Harry Potter days, but in small bookstores and reading circles of New York City, an aura has attended the novelist Elena Ferrante and her works. One part curiosity (Who is she?),. . .