Keep it Clean.  I.E., Puns Welcome

Monthly Archives: March 2013

AWP: Yes, I’ve Recovered


I’ve taken a week off from blogging to recover from this big party in Boston. Facebook friends gave me entirely too much positive reinforcement for my “Live from the Convention Floor” snark. Totally makes a person want to step up his Twitter Feed!

Truth: I had a wonderful, if exhausting time. AWP is all about good friends and good food and being around thousands (and thousands and thousands) of people who love books and writing as much as you do.

  • It’s about a quick hug in the hallway for one of your first writing teachers in Minneapolis.
  • It’s about introducing yourself and a wonderful young poet/friend to Rita Dove, and having her say, “Don’t be shy, we’re all just writers here.”
  • It’s about giant lobster rolls. (At least in Boston it is.)
  • It’s about strolling down Boylston Street with a student, strategizing about her novel and also about which way to jump to avoid the pools of slush.

I don’t remember being snarky about any of that. And since I’ve already had my say about people who don’t understand how escalators and revolving doors work, I’ll savor the memories of all those books and all those people who love them.

(Seriously, it was coming to fisticuffs at the revolving door.) (Come on people: step in, push a little, step out: How hard is that?)

This is AWP

David Haynes, Heather Muller, and Jeanette Winterson, AWP 2013

David Haynes, Heather Muller, and Jeanette Winterson, AWP 2013

Iwas tempted to write a post comparing and contrasting some of the…problems of a large literary conference with a transcendent event that I attended on Friday afternoon. But that would violate the spirit that is Jeanette Winterson.

Ms. Winterson’s co-presenter was unable to get to Boston because of the weather, so Jeanette agreed to take the stage on her own. Shunning the podium, she stepped to the lip of the stage and passionately addressed the auditorium about the necessity of being good literary citizens. She was brilliant, reading from her amazing memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal, demonstrating through her warmth and wisdom that it is possible for any of us to be in the world in a generous way. Genuinely one of the finest presentations by an artist I have ever seen.

Post reading, Heather and I were to have dinner with Jeanette. We waited patiently as she greeted her readers, all of whom were as moved as we were. Forty-five minutes in, she sent a message to us: she’d be a while. She intended to speak with every member of that audience personally, to take the time to hear every voice, to pose for pictures, to offer what she could of her own time and energy.

“It will be a while,” she told us, “and I’m afraid I may be a little tired.”

There were still over 60 people in line.

We understood. So we took our picture with her—she pulling us in closer, to her and to each other.

This is the spirit of AWP.

At AWP, A Private Place Just for YOU!



New definition of insanity: thousands of writers in or on their way to or from a giant convention of writers, all connected to each other on social media, all online, all connected to thousands of other writers who aren’t at the conference, instantly reporting on what is or isn’t going at the big conference, instantly commenting on each other’s reports.  I think I just passed myself in the hallway, but I couldn’t tell because I was writing this.

If you can’t beat ‘em….

Wednesday’s midafternoon report:

  1. It is not snowing (yet) in Back Bay
  2. I have already had my week’s quota of food.  (And the other board members ate all the Doritos and so now I have to eat Cheetos for snack)
  3. Suzanne, the postcards of the cover of A STAR IN THE FACE OF THE SKY are on the New River’s table
  4. The convention center still has a phone bank.  (See above.)  Memo to all convention attendees: place your obnoxious cell phone calls here.

3:55 Update: It is snowing BUCKETS in Back Bay.

Kingsley Tufts and Kate Tufts Poetry Award Winners



Haven’t done this much on this blog, but I can’t resist.  I am so proud to call Marianne Boruch a friend.  We’ve worked together for most of the last two decades in the Warren Wilson MFA Program, and we’ve also been in residence together at the Ragdale Foundation’s artist retreat in Lake Forest, IL.  Marianne is an amazing poet, wonderful teacher, and just a great spirit to be around.  Today she was awarded the $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Award for her poetry collection The Book of Hours (2011, Copper Canyon Press).

Congratulations to her.  This is a much deserved prize.

The link below is to the Friends of Writers Blog that I  edit for the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.

Kingsley Tufts and Kate Tufts Poetry Award Winners.

Maybe Don’t Call Me

SMU Mustangs

The first time I saw the billboard hanging above Central Expressway touting SMU’s Creative Writing program I almost wrecked my car. This was a couple of years back, and it was the surprise of seeing both the boldness of the thing and also the fact that we already had more students than we could handle that set me to driving erratically. The last thing my program needed was mass media.

I circled around to take a closer look and I was massively relieved to see it was an advertisement for coursework in the continuing education program, unaffiliated with the English Department, so disconnected from my own work that I wouldn’t even have known whom to call to register a complaint about the potential confusion, even if it had it occurred to me to do so.

A colleague did suggest I raise a fuss about their using of our name. Here’s a wonderful blog post by Cathy Day that helps explain why I did not.

Having a non-degreed program with a BIG advertising budget on the same campus has almost entirely eliminated the sorts of calls that Cathy complains about in her post. Googling any combination of SMU and Creative Writing brings that other program right to the top of the list, and they must have worked out a deal with the switchboard to direct queries in their direction. I would like to thank them publicly for their great service to undergraduate teaching and learning.

Every now and then, a call does find its way to my desk, and I have the same problem with them that my friend who does counseling has with his clients: people want instant results. They want the five-item checklist that will solve their problems immediately and they want you to provide if for them now.

For free, of course.

And like my friend’s clients, some of these folks have genuine… “issues.” I spent most of the fall semester ignoring a voice mail from a troubled woman who wanted me (or someone) to ghost write or edit or type or… something… her manuscript. The call was as disturbed as she seemed herself to be, and my faulty memory is due to the fact that I couldn’t bear to listen to it more than once.  I let it expire.

Any guilt I might have felt about not calling her back—and, believe me, even the crazy ones set up their pitches to prey on your guilt—was mitigated by the fact that the very nature of her request demonstrated that she hadn’t even taken the time to research me—because if she had, she’d have known I was entirely the wrong person for the job.

The downside of all of this is that it makes me hesitate to pick up the phone myself and ask for…anything.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: