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The Writing Life

Special Writing Life Presentation: Marcia Butler’s The Creative Imperative, with Caroline Leavitt, Leland Cheuk, Mark Wisniewski, and Tim Page

- Fully Registered

Sunday, June 9, 2019 - 2:00 PM | Members' Room | open to the public | $20 per person | registration required

In early summer of 2017, musician and author Marcia Butler approached the 86th Street Second Avenue subway, and stopped short when she passed a trash can at the street corner. It was filed to the brim and sitting right on top was a beat-up copy of Robert Ardrey’s The Territorial Imperative. It was covered with filth, so she left it there. But when she then descended into the subway station and marveled at Chuck Close’s tile portraits, something unconscious clicked.

The result is her new documentary, The Creative Imperative. Twenty-one musicians, dancers, actors, writers, and artists, are asked three intriguing questions. With the questions serving as catalysts, they speak about being an artist in the world and their relationship with the creative process. Through their stories, the creative imperative is revealed, leaving the viewer with a unique window into the lives of those who are truly compelled to make their art.

Butler says, “Creating is a human impulse, and reflects an inner experience. And with this act comes an implicit moral generosity, because the things we create are not really ours. These things, whether music, art, dance, books or theatre, are meant as gifts to be received by the world. When borne out – as a life-long mission – this is The Creative Imperative."

In this one-time-only event, Marcia Butler will screen her hour-long film The Creative Imperative, then further explore its questions in a panel discussion with four remarkable authors.

Marcia Butler has had a number of creative careers: professional musician, interior designer, documentary filmmaker, and author. As an oboist, the New York Times has hailed her as a "first rate artist." Her interior design projects have been published in numerous shelter magazines and range up and down the East coast, from NYC to Boston, to Miami. Ms. Butler’s nationally acclaimed memoir, The Skin Above My Knee, was one of the Washington Post's "top ten noteworthy moments in classical music in 2017.” She was a 2015 recipient of a Writer-in-Residence through Aspen Words and the Catto Shaw Foundation. She was a writing fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and a writer in residence at The Betsy Hotel. Her debut novel, Pickle's Progress, is being released by Central Avenue Publishing in April.

Caroline Leavitt is the New York Times bestselling author of Cruel Beautiful World, Is This Tomorrow, and Pictures of You, and the award-winning author of eight other novels. Pictures of You was on many Best of 2011 lists, including the San Francisco Chronicle’s, the Providence Journal’s, Bookmarks Magazine’s, and Kirkus Reviews’. She teaches writing at UCLA and Stanford online and also works as a book critic for People, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Boston Globe.

A MacDowell Colony fellow, Leland Cheuk authored The Misadventures of Sulliver Pong, a novel, and Letters from Dinosaurs, stories. His work has been covered in VICE, The Millions, and The Rumpus, and appears or is forthcoming in Salon, Catapult, Kenyon Review, and elsewhere.

Mark Wisniewski's novel Watch Me Go received praise from Publishers Weekly and the Huffington Post. His books also include the novels Show Up, Look Good and Confessions of a Polish Used Car Salesman, as well as the collection of short stories All Weekend with the Lights On and the book of narrative poems One of Us One Night. His fiction has appeared in magazines such as the Southern Review, the Yale Review, and Boulevard, and has been anthologized in Pushcart Prize and Best American Short Stories collections. He's been awarded two University of California Regents' Fellowships in Fiction, an Isherwood Fellowship in Fiction, and first place in competitions for the Kay Cattarula Award for Best Short Story, the Gival Press Short Story Award, and the Tobias Wolff Award.

Tim Page is a writer, editor, music critic, producer, and professor. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 1997 for his writings about music for the Washington Post. He is the author or editor of more than 20 books, including The Glenn Gould Reader, Dawn Powell: A Biography and Parallel Play, a memoir. He is currently Professor of Music and Journalism at the University of Southern California.

The Writing Life events in 2019 are generously underwritten by Jenny Lawrence.