AWP: SATURDAY AFTERNOON-EVENING
After lunch, we attended a panel called Building with Words: Fiction as Architecture featuring Rikki Ducornet, Lance Olsen, Steve Tomasula, and Christopher Grimes. I thought all of the presentations were good, but Tomasula’s linking of fictional structures to the structures and representations of modern life was particularly illuminating. Rikki’s depiction of a trilobite as a structure pertaining both to fiction and architecture was nothing short of brilliant.
The only disappointment was that the A Public Space people have already left by the time we got to their table. We had wanted to tell them how much we loved their magazine. It’s definitely something you should check out if you haven’t seen it before.
Another press we should mention is associated with Bath Spa Writing Center in England. They had a booth and just a lovely selection of student-created books and anthologies, including Out of the Box!, which is extremely creative. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an image of it online to share.
Then it was time to say goodbye to a few people, including Omnidawn and Eric and Kelly from Rain Taxi. If you’re not familiar with Rain Taxi, you should be. It’s one of the best source for reviews of any kind of fiction, graphic novels, poetry, etc. The next issue (spring 2007) includes an interview with me and it’s as good a time as any to subscribe. It’s a very worthwhile enterprise and one that needs your support.
By then, we were toast. The claustrophobic, low-ceilinged, hot, sweaty book room had more or less defeated us. Besides, the best part was over. Highlights of the conference for me had been seeing old friends but also getting to meet two of my literary heroes, Steve Erickson and Rikki Ducornet. It had also been cool to finally meet people like Dan Wickett and to put a face to the name and literary journals of so many editors. And to get a sense that we might’ve made some impression re Best American Fantasy.
On the surreal side, we’d seen and heard about some pretty weird things. One morning in line at the complimentary breakfast, I’d seen a woman connected to the conference shove her hand like a shovel into a bowl of strawberries and drop them on her plate, eschewing the spoon, leaving those of behind her aghast. I’d seen another conference attendee steal another attendee’s newspaper. A third had gotten pissed at a security guard just doing his job checking IDs at the hospitality suite. Honestly, I’ve never seen so much of this going on at one con. There was something in the group dynamic that had too many people in too small a space for too long a time, I think.
And I’d heard the strange tale of Y, who shared a table with us one morning. Y had been woken at 4 or 5 in the morning by the sounds of two post doc poets from a large midwestern university screaming at each other--some disagreement about Rilke. Apparently it was hard to tell what their arguments were, but they kept shouting them anyway and getting in each others faces. Right outside Y’s door. As Y called security, the two began pissing on Y’s door. The next day, one was booted out of the conference and both were booted out of the hotel. But Y said the oddest thing was when security came and seemed blase about it: “But you’re not in any danger,” the guy said. What would it take?
In the evening, our old friends Dan Read and Gayle Devereux picked us up for dinner, drinks, and a night of improv at Jack Pie. Dan’s friend Jim is part of the improv group, and in another case of “it’s a small world,” Jim’s brother-in-law is Robert Olen Butler, who is part of the creative writing faculty in Tallahassee where we live.
The improv was excellent, but made even funnier by the fact they asked for suggestions to riff off of from the audience. The first time, they asked us and all four of us shouted out “Why Should I Cut Your Throat When I Can Just Ask You For the Money.” It’s something a drug addict asked Dan, Ann, and me back in 1990 in Atlanta late one night when we were looking for a place to eat (it eventually became the title of my nonfiction book)--a real bonding experience. So you can imagine our delight at them picking up on this and running with it. For the second suggestion, Dan shouted out “crustaceans” before I could finish saying “giant squid.” Let me just say “crustaceans” led to much more hilarity than “giant squid” could have.
Afterwards, we had a chance to talk to Jim for awhile. As part of his improv spirit, he told us he’d decided to pretend to be a writer when he visited with Butler at the conference. “Most of them are pretending,” Ann said, in a good-spirited way but which still had us roaring. So Jim chose the name “Glass” after a Brady Bunch character and off he’d gone pretending to be a writer. “What kind of writing do you do?” he’d asked one woman, who said, “Drama.” When she asked him, he said “Historical fiction.” “Oh, that’s cool. Did you go to the historical fiction panel?” “Yes,” he said, “wasn’t it great!” “Yes,” she said. And so on and so forth, never realizing she was talking to a mimic. Because, honestly, it’s not so hard to pretend to be a writer. All it takes is that most writerly quality of being willing to lie convincingly.