The Association of Writers & Writing Programs (why isn’t it AWWP? we’ll never know) has been holding its Annual Conference & Bookfair for nearly fifty years now; it’s the largest such event in North America at this point. So what about the publishing industry did this year’s congregation in Boston teach us?
1. Apparently no one in publishing has anything against the idea of Boston in early March. Like an idiot I didn’t pack boots and stepped in a puddle of icy slush when a cabbie tried to drive off with my luggage still in his trunk. Even in cutting, blinding, incapacitating snow, people were leaving bars to find other, better bars. Which brings me to …
2. Writers can’t hold their booze nearly as well as they think they can. Just ask the woman who was meant to lead off a reading around 9 PM and was so drunk she read the same paragraph at least three times. On second thought, ask the organizer who tried to pull her offstage but was told “No, I’m not done.”
3. Wait a minute: if everyone at this thing is in an MFA program, or teaches at one, or is pitching one, or has already graduated from one, or is just determined to get the phrase “University of Tampa Low-Residency MFA Program” on the official event badge lanyards, then who exactly is being recruited? Security guards.
4. The catchall answer for any question ever asked of a panel is: “It depends.” Really, it works for everything. Try it! Either it comes across as very anguished and genuine, or glibly defeated and mildly funny. No one will ever challenge you for saying “context is everything.” Brilliant.
5. If you just look at a copy of a journal or a book and try to put it back, the people working that table will tell you it’s free. If you ask to buy a book or journal off the table, the people working there will say it’s not for sale—well, maybe come back tomorrow. At which point it will already be gone.
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