Imagine one of those ven diagrams: three intersecting circles where one circumscribes introverts, the second agoraphobics, and the third misanthropes. That little dot where the three intersect: that’s me. They could do a “Hoarders” episode on the way I covet private time; I loathe crowds of any kind (a crowd is any more than two other people who I don’t know within ten feet of my person); and as for the misanthropy part, well I don’t hate people nearly as much as some other writers I admire or your garden-variety politicians do, I just wish they’d go do all that rude obnoxious crap they do over there some place. Preferably next to you.
Jackson’s – AWP Board Meeting
With Roasted Corn and French Fries
The first time I was in the Lake Audubon Room I was a middle school teacher in St. Paul. I had a handful of published stories to my name and an unpublished novel that had yet to find a home. My travels I limited to summer writing retreats and trips to Missouri to visit family.
She wore her Illinois State Trooper uniform as if she couldn’t yet believe people thought it was a good idea for her to have one. Or maybe it was just the casualness of people of her generation—she was surely only recently out of the community college criminal justice program followed by a quick pass through the academy—or maybe she’d taken the military route to law enforcement. I’m thinking she was probably just uncomfortable to be seen in the ugly neutral tones of her trooper outfit.
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?)
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.
They have made him the spokesmodel. Stop by and see me in the booth.
(Visitors are advised to keep their hands out of the cage.)
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:
- It is not snowing (yet) in Back Bay
- 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)
- Suzanne, the postcards of the cover of A STAR IN THE FACE OF THE SKY are on the New River’s table
- 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.
What, David? Posting photos of generic conference rooms again?
Alas, me and this funky space have a long, checkered past. For a couple of years I more or less lived in this room.