AWP: The Morning After

March 11, 2013 § Leave a comment

AWP Swag 001

I didn’t bring a camera or laptop with me to AWP, nor did I have a smartphone or other means for live-blogging or tweeting the event. This was probably a good thing. Enough time is spent consulting maps, keeping track of your wallet (location and contents), and trying to figure out if or why a face looks familiar to worry about keeping score for those at home.

With the threat of snow making for treacherous motor travel through central Massachusetts, we arrived in Boston a day earlier than we had planned, the fine folks at Marriott Copley only more than happy to charge us the extortion rate for the extra night.

I started with the book fair on Thursday. My plan was to seek out those markets where I had published work, or perhaps had work rejected but with whom I had enlightening correspondence, or some other connection, and work from there. Panels would be less of a priority; I had a few circled on my program, but most of them, as usual, were tied to academia or were on some esoteric subject that wasn’t going to do much for me.

My first stop was the Barrelhouse table, where I got to meet both Mike Ingram of the BookFight! podcast and Dave Housley, who will be running the workshop I’m in later this month. I spun the wheel and won myself a copy of Issue 8 to go along with my purchase of Bring the Noise: The Best Pop Culture Essays from Barrelhouse.

It was great to meet up with folks who had either published me, or had nice things to say about my work that was either rejected or withdrawn, or who simply had let me into their worlds via social media. The fear of not belonging is wiped away when a stranger looks down at your badge and recognizes your name, and even better when they remember something you wrote.

I attended an interesting panel on the novella, featuring five writers who have recently each published one: K.E. Semmel, Owen King, Edan Lepucki, Derek Palacio (pinch-hitting for Daniel Torday), and Andrew Ervin.

As someone who has been trying to place a 9,100-word story that was once, before some merciless editing, a 11,200-word story, I have wondered if a market would ever emerge for stories in that “dead zone” between short stories and novels, taking too much page space in a print journal, not profitable enough for standalone production, and past the attention plateau that seems to plague Internet writing. The consensus seems to be that tablets have helped to bridge the divide—Ploughshares’ new Pshares Solos project is one attempt at this—as well as a recent wave of houses putting out standalone chapbook-size novellas such as Melville House, Nouvella,  Dzanc, MudLuscious, and Coffee House Press.

A sliver of issue still remains: most publishers don’t want to commit to a novella that’s not at least 10,000 words (even Duotrope uses the term “novelette” for works of such length), but I didn’t want to bring this up for fear it would seem a) pedantic and b) like I was just trolling for markets for my story.

Later, I attended a panel that doubled as a reading, featuring the authors of three debut fiction collections: Eugene Cross, Andrew Scott, and Jared Yates Sexton. There was a fun and energetic Q & A session at the end in which the writers discussed the process of going from writing short stories to making the decision to put a collection together, and resisting the temptation to make narrative decisions that would force a unity to the collection (something all three said they tried to avoid), rather than let the stories stand on their individual merits. I picked up Cross’s book from the Dzanc Books table, as well as Sexton’s from Atticus Books, from where I also purchased Jürgen Fauth’s Kino , J. M. Tohine’s The Great Lenore and Steven Gillis’s The Law of Strings.

Snow and slush made the idea of venturing too far off-site unappealing, so I kept my options limited to events within walking distance of the hotel and convention center. Other people seemed to have the same idea. The much-hyped Not Reading @ AWP bash put on by Barrelhouse, Hobart, and PANK on the top floor of Lir was sardine-packed, and it was much more difficult to start conversations when folks had ditched their ID badges. I drank some very good Balvenie scotch and not enough water, as evidenced by my Friday morning hangover.

A Friday panel on writers who grew up in Massachusetts tried to work in the notion of a “rage”—an unapologetic approach that Massholes demonstrate in their driving habits, and consequently, their writing. I’m not sure the readers on the panel really followed up well on that theme. One panelist had been a student of Anne Sexton the same year the poet committed suicide, and it’s hard to follow up something like that with observations on turnpikes, candlepin bowling, and the list of ways Western Massachusetts differs from Eastern Mass. (as I was tempted to bring up from the audience).

I got bonus whiskey shots from the devils at Hobart and Juked. I ran into Fictionaut friends Meg Tuite and Robert Vaughan at the Tusculum Review/Connotation Press table and tried (unsuccessfully) to help them fix the telescoping handle on their suitcase.

Friday, I attended the AWP Heat reading at Dillon’s Bar, featuring not only the aforementioned Tuite and Vaughan but a diverse group of talents including Ben Tanzer, Alex Pruteanu, and Julia Fierro. Then it was off to the Plough and Stars, over the river in Cambridge, for the Don’t Forget to Eat poetry reading presented by The Baffler and Make: A Chicago Literary Magazine, where we met up with some longtime real-life friends (Eastern AND Western Mass.) to hear our friend Christopher Janke read. Then a fantastic dinner at Russell House Tavern in Harvard Square.

On Saturday we checked out and enjoyed a delicious brunch with our friends A., J., & L. in Medford.

I arrived home safely, and a lot less lighter in the wallet, having secured the following loot (more or less L-R, top-bottom):

  • Noö Journal #14 (pronounced “noo”)
  • The Great Lenore, J. M. Tohline (Atticus Books)
  • Fires of Our Choosing, Eugene Cross (Dzanc Books)
  • Kino, Jürgen Fauth (Atticus Books)
  • Here Is How It Happens, Spencer Dew (Ampersand Books)
  • American Short Fiction #35.3, Spring 2011
  • Missouri Review #14.51, Fall 2012
  • Lake Effect #17
  • Juked #10
  • Hobart #13
  • Evansville Review #22
  • Ampersand Review #2
  • Barrelhouse #8
  • Fast Machine, Elizabeth Ellen (Short Flight/Long Drive Books)
  • Willow Springs #70
  • Pank #8
  • The Law of Strings, Steven Gillis (Atticus Books)
  • An End to All Things, Jared Yates Sexton (Atticus Books)
  • Look! Look! Feathers, Mike Young (Word Riot Press)
  • Bring the Noise: The Best Pop Culture Essays From Barrelhouse (Barrelhouse Books)
  • Parcel, Spring 2012 (somewhere in there)
  • Microtones, Robert Vaughan
  • Participants, Andrew Keating (Thumbnail Press; not shown)

And now I am exhausted. In the best way possible.


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