My interview with Lawrence Schiller is included in The Believer's new book, Always Apprentices. Looking forward to reading everyone's work!
Q and A: The Art of the Interview 2/17/2013
Q and A: The Art of the Interview Presented by Yaddo and Oral History Summer School Saturday, March 30, 2pm Hudson Opera House with Jennifer Karady, Illya Szilak, Gary Wallace; moderated by Suzanne Snider
How does a successful interview between doctor and patient differ from that of a police officer and a suspect, or a journalist and source? We'll hear from four experts whose work relies on artful interviews, exploring how social and professional conventions determine the shape and content of our conversations. This program is presented in cooperation with the Corporation of Yaddo, with support from the Hudson River Bank and Trust Co. Foundation. Yaddo is the artists colony located in Saratoga Springs, New York. In 2012, the Foundation funded a residency at Yaddo for Suzanne Snider. Jennifer Karady has been working with American veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to create staged narrative photographs that both depict their individual stories and address their difficulties in adjusting to civilian life. The first half of “Soldier's Stories from Iraq and Afghanistan” debuted in a solo exhibition at SF Camerawork in San Francisco; the project was subsequently featured in The New York Times and on National Public Radio. Previous solo exhibitions include White Columns and The Print Center in Philadelphia. She made two photographs with veterans while at Yaddo during the summers of 2008 and 2009.
Dr. Illya Szilak, based in Hudson, practices internal medicine at Columbia Memorial Hospital and is an infectious disease specialist. She attended Cornell Weil University Medical College, with a residency at New York Hospital. Dr. Szilak also writes multimedia novels, including Reconstructing Mayakovsky, a jury pick for the Japan Media Arts Festival. Her latest book, Queerskins, is about a young gay physician who dies of AIDS at the beginning of the epidemic. A crowd sourced version will launch in summer 2013. She also blogs on electronic lit and art for the Huffington Post.
Lt. Gary R. Wallace began his work in law enforcement in 1972 as a military policeman and later a plain clothes investigator. In 2006, he retired from the Hudson (NY) Police Department after 27 years and works today as a Columbia County deputy sheriff in the security division and as bus driver for the Hudson City School District. “In the criminal justice profession, you see the cross-section of life,” he said. “At times you’re a priest, and other times you’re a psychiatrist. You could deliver a baby in the morning and be arresting a felon in the afternoon.” Prior to his work in Hudson, Wallace worked in the police forces of Philmont and Greenport.
Suzanne Snider is a writer whose work has been published in The Guardian, The Believer, The Washington Post, Legal Affairs, Guernica, and several artists' catalogues. She has worked as an oral historian and interviewer for numerous projects, companies, and archives including:HBO Productions, MoMA, Columbia University's Center for Oral History, the Newtown Creek Health and Harms Narrative Project, WGXC Community Radio, and the Prison Public Memory Project. In addition to Yaddo, Suzanne’s work has been supported through fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Radcliffe Institute, the Sloan Foundation, and the UCross Foundation Center. She teaches at the New School University, and is currently completing a book about a divided commune. She is the founder and director of Oral History Summer School.
This immersive summer workshop is a rigorous introduction to the field of Oral History, in the beautiful Hudson Valley.
Oral History Summer School was established in Hudson, New York in 2012
to train an international group of writers, social workers, radio
producers, artists, teachers, human rights workers, and undecided’s to
make use of Oral History in their documentary and artistic practices.
Beginning in 2013, additional, specialized workshops will be offered for
the continuing oral historian or those interested in advanced issues in
In 2011 and 2012, I conducted seven interviews for the Prison Public Memory Project and took portraits of the narrators. The first group of interviews was centered on the Hudson Corrections Facility, which was formerly the New York State Training School for Girls. The project has launched their site and blog.
On July 15, the Judd Foundation, in partnership with Oral History Summer School 2012, will present "Marfa Voices," a documentary rooted in oral histories about the life of Donald Judd. Filmmaker Rainer Judd will be present for Q and A after the film.
SS Was that your first improvisational performance?
YM Yes, it was. When I was 13, I went to the
Opera House Ballet School until I was 15, and then I discovered Jazz. I
went to the first Jazz dance class in Switzerland, in Zurich. The
teacher’s name was Daisy Stern and she was doing some strange technique.
Everyone wore boots with heels. It wasn’t Jazz Ballet; they called it
Jazz dance. It was Luigi technique.
SS Boots and heels?
YM Yes, but my calves were too fat so I never fit in any boots, so I was just like wearing some funny jazz dance shoes.
SS Were your parents supportive when you started getting serious?
YM They paid for the classes, but they didn’t
think I was going to pursue this, professionally. There was nobody we
knew . . . nobody in Switzerland could professionally pursue dance,
being a dancer.
SS What did your parents do?
YM My Dad was a CEO for a potato chips
company and my mother was a housewife and before that, she was a
secretary. Nobody was an artist. Nobody was a performer anywhere in
SS What were the challenges in reconstructing the piece?
YM I forgot the choreography. I had some
video shots that I watched over and over, about five minutes. I
interviewed everybody to see what they remembered, like DD [Dorvillier]
and Scotty [Heron], which was basically nothing. Audrey Kindred
remembered things. She had this great description of how she would lead
the audience into movement, in that one section which is definitely
improvised. I brought her in and she gave a speech to the whole 2011
cast of how to lead the audience.
SS What other fragments did people remember?
YM DD felt like she was doing coke when she
performed. She was so fantastic. She was incredible to work with,
incredible, but she also made out with people in the boxes, which I
never knew until later on. I met a person who said, “I was in this crazy
performance of yours and somebody just kissed me or made out with me in
a box.” I’m like, What?!
[click on the title, for the full piece]
Academic Leave 1/6/2012
I'm on academic leave for spring '12. Gone fishing/art-making! Happy New Year
My interview with Elana Dykewomon will appear on the Oakland Museum's blog, the Oakland Standard, sometime in the next two months. Dykewomon is the author of the incredible book, Riverfinger Women, and she talks about the book and her name in the interview.
I received a new media reporting commission from Triple Canopy to work on a project about disabilities/abilities.
Article, Bob's Red Mill 3/24/2011
In February, I interviewed Bob Moore, of Bob's Red Mill, for the Washington Post (out in April). We talked about everything from gluten-free oats grown in Saskatchewan to how/why he gave away his 70 million-dollar company to his employees, last year, on his 81st birthday.
This four-hour workshop will cover oral history methods and practice. We'll discuss the qualities that distinguish oral history from journalistic practice, with an eye (ear) toward the many places where oral history and radio can make good use of one another. We'll also delve into project design and ethics. This workshop is appropriate for anyone looking to begin an oral history project or to contribute content to WGXC--or for documentarians looking for a more collaborative practice.
This workshop will be led by Suzanne Snider, a writer and oral historian. Snider teaches courses on oral history, song hunting, and fieldwork at the New School University and nonfiction writing at New York University.
I'm excited to be part of WGXC's radio station barnraising this weekend, September 24-26. I'll be teaching an oral history workshop on Saturday morning. Click on the link for more information about the entire event.
June 13: Oral History Panel at Union Docs 4/18/2010
On June 13, join us at Union Docs for an Oral History Panel. I'll be moderating a panel of wonderful people:
Stacy Parker Aab (The Katrina Experience)
Michael Garofalo (Storycorps)
Agnes Umunna (Straight From the Heart, Liberia)
Rachael Weiss (Newtown Creek Community Health and Harms Narrative Project)
Oral History Round Table 3/11/2010
March 26 marks our first meeting. The Oral History Round Table will convene at Union Docs, 6:30 pm (we'll start the meeting at 7). Made up of artists, journalists, anthropologists, oral historians, and more, the Round Table will get together to share resources, workshop interviews, plan public events, and break into smaller study/special interest groups.
The Believer 3/7/2010
My interview with Lawrence Schiller will appear in the May issue of The Believer. Schiller shares the copyright with Norman Mailer for The Executioner's Song. What is not commonly known is that Schiller conceived of the book, did all the research, and then handed his notes to Mailer to write it.
NYU, Gallatin 3/7/2010
I'll be teaching a new course at NYU, this fall. An advanced writing course, the class will deal with stories that contain inherent contradictions. Details to be announced.
Thanks to an award from the Sloan Foundation (via the New School), I've been given the time and support to work with interactive designers at The New School to design a new media-rich course for Fall '10. The course will be a hybrid on-campus, on-site documentary/nonfiction course.
I'll be developing DOCUMENTARY PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICE: Place as Character
This course introduces students to documentary work (film, print, photography, audio) in which landscape figures as central character. Most of this work probes the particular question: how does a landscape shape its inhabitants and determine their futures, and how—conversely—do people shape their landscapes as towering monuments of hope and/or revisionist records of the past? As city-dwellers, we will work to define “landscape,” both natural and manmade. Our theoretical readings will explore the way we navigate and remember space and architecture. Using the work of Susan Stewart, Elyssa East, Matthew Buckingham, and Barbara Kopple, to name a few, we will look at landscape-as-launching pad for nonfiction narratives that are mysteries, elegies, or social commentary/exposé.
This February, Erin Edmison and I will continue to curate the weekly nonfiction series, TRUE STORY. We have nonfiction lit, documentary, oral history and animation cued up for your visit. [click on header, to join the Facebook group]
TRUE STORY: The KGB Nonfiction Reading Series is a weekly series and salon that celebrates nonfiction storytelling with readings, screenings, conversations, and occasional parlor games.
All readings begin at 7 PM on Tuesdays, with time for questions, conversation, and cocktails following the readings. Books by each evening's authors will be available the night of the reading, courtesy of MobileLibris.
KGB Nonfiction Curators:
ERIN EDMISON has worked in book publishing for over ten years as an editor, scout, and literary agent. She's currently the foreign rights director at The Karpfinger Agency.
SUZANNE SNIDER's print and audio work has been published in The Believer, The Guardian, Legal Affairs, and in collaboration with visual artists including Danica Phelps and Clare Rojas. She is the recipient of nonfiction fellowships at Yaddo, MacDowell, and UCross and teaches in the Media Studies/Film Department at the New School University. Currently, she is completing a book about a 106-year-old commune.
KGB Nonfiction Coordinator:
ANNA WAINWRIGHT is a Brooklyn-based writer and editor. She runs the website www.francetoday.com, is a contributing editor at the Brooklyn Rail, and blogs for the Huffington Post. She is currently at work on her first novel.
I'll be teaching a course called The New Documentarian at the New School, Spring'10. This course is open to degree students and the general public. Click on "Classes" (to the left) for a full description.