And, lo, 5k grad students, professors, publishers, unaffiliated writers descended upon Atlanta in their t-shirts, black jeans, patched jackets, gypsy skirts, and all of the other accoutrements of the writer life in this the seventh year of the new millenium.
The symbiotic whirling, throbbing heart of this "Associated Writers Program Conference" is the book fair, with its hundreds of literary magazines, novels, poetry chapbooks, memoirs, how-to tomes, and the associated purveyors of same. In this case a hot, stuffy, throbbing heart that Ann and I plunged into with our Best American Fantasy postcards and guidelines print-out. After six hours, we staggered out again, having talked to a bewildering blur of men, women, and, in one case, a child of some kind. Some of them had immediately grasped the concept of the anthology. Others, due to a failure on our part or a subcultural divide on theirs, had not. Some saw it as an opportunity for their writers. Some acted like we were trying to steal their first-born. None of it was predictable. All of it was fun in a grimly fatiguing way. Imagine cold-calling over three hundred people and knowing if you spend more than 7 minutes with each one you will never, ever finish your task. Yes, it was like that. Whilst sweating!
Still, we accomplished what we set out to do: getting copies of journals to read this year and promises of being added to mailing lists for the rest. Along the way, we met the ever charming and just very wise Richard Nash from Soft Skull Press, Aaron, the laid-back and interesting editor of Hobart, a wandering Brian Evenson, Steve Erickson manning the Black Clock table--Steve Erickson! one of my literary heroes, author of Tours of the Black Clock and so many others; an actual conversation with the guy who blew my brains to bits in 1992 with Arc. D'X--Kelly and Gavin manning the Small Beer table, with the cool-looking interstitial anthology, the guys from Rawdog Screaming Press with their new genre-bending Text:UR anthology edited by Forrest Aguirre, Richard Peabody of Gargoyle Magazine, the folks from Southern Review (very, very nice people), Eric and Kelly from Rain Taxi, their usual learned and friendly selves, Rusty and Ken from Omnidawn, hawking their new books and lots of chocolate, and lots of others.
Especially interesting journals acquired included the aforementioned Hobart, Harpur Palate, Ecotone: Reimagining Place, Pleiades, /nor, Subtropics, and the Notre Dame Review.
We had no time to go to any panels, but I heard that the Fairy Tales and Contemporary Fiction panel with Judy Budnitz, Kathryn Davis, Rikki Ducornet, Kelly Link, Stacey Levine, and Kate Bernheimer went extremely well. I don't know whose bright idea it was to put so many talented writers on one panel, but I think it's in the national interest not to do it again, since if the roof had fallen in the loss would have been immeasurable.
The night before Omnidawn had taken Ann and me, Eric and Kelly from Rain Taxi, Christopher Rowe and Gwenda Bond, and others to dinner. It was nice to finally have a chance to talk to Rowe and Bond and everyone else. A great dinner, followed by checking out the free booze and the dance floor. Met Dan Wickett, two Seths, and a Jedediah Berry, among others. Then Kelly and Gavin and a few others and Gavin somehow managed to make me mimic his dancing. In other words, for a few seconds, I was dancing with Gavin Grant. And it was marvelous.
Update 9:30pm: Tried to go to the John Barth reading but at 9:15 (it started at 8:30), Michael Martone was still reading so we called it a night. I hope he hadn't been reading since 8:30...We did go to the Omnidawn party and heard some excellent poetry. In particular, In the Archives by Christopher Arigo. He had a good reading voice and some interesting stuff. But the star of the show was Donald Revell, with his new translation of Rimbaud's "A Season in Hell". He began at the podium by saying, "Rimbaud. This tall." (Holding out his hand at shoulder level.) "Sloppy. Your friend. He meant no harm." And then launched into one of the best readings I've heard. I thought he was as good as Seamus Heaney, another favorite when it comes to readings. I love poetry, but the readings often leave me cold.