So we went, I saw, and we came home again. Fourteen thousand people. I saw Marvin Bell entering the building as we drove past. I am mostly the invisible woman, too old to matter, but there were amazing people all around.
My choices of what to bring home were determined by money ($15) and covers. I am a genuinely shallow person who chooses books for their covers. Then I read the first page. Believer is stunning. Witness (a journal I have long admired) gave me a free issue because I rolled 9 three times in a row. Ruth Gundle (bless her!) handed me Judith Barrington’s newest. I could not resist buying Karen Joy Fowler’s new collection of short stories (charged it!) and then three volumes of poetry (Dan Kaplan’s cover was not great imo, but a peak inside revealed his write is). I could have spent a couple of days trolling literary journals. I had less than an hour.
I went to only one presentation (seriously, just one) and it was a perfect choice, even though I am not teaching anymore:
S157. The Most Versatile Essay: Flash Nonfiction in Any/Every Classroom. (Brian Benson, Allison K. Williams, Sayantani Dasgupta, Anna Vodicka, Celeste Chan) Even the most reluctant-to-write students take to flash essays. Drawn to their economy, they’re won over by the urgency and potency of the form. From the academy to the incarcerated, beginners to advanced, flash nonfiction is a boon to writers of all stripes, and a vital part of teaching in the technological age. Panelists will discuss the versatility of the form, successful teaching strategies, prompts, exercises, and go-to resources from a range of educational settings and pedagogical perspectives.
Panelists represented programs from all over the U.S. and the world. Hugo House in Seattle, The Attic in Portland, as well as academic and commercial backgrounds. Pages of notes! I received a wealth of excellent advice from five people who write nonfiction, are active members of writing communities, and shared years of specific, hands-on experience working with young adults and adults. Though I have taught for 40 years, I learned from each member of this panel and left feeling energized and excited by approaches that were entirely knew to me.
I hugged Allison, shook Dinty Moore’s hand, bought Karen Joy Fowler’s new book, two poetry books from Burnside Books, plus another book written by the person working that booth—gorgeous all! I rushed through the Book Fair. Presses I have submitted to, presses holding work, some who have sent me kind rejections, and others who sent me form rejections. It was pretty overwhelming.
And then I sat and talked to Molly Gloss and Bette Husted and when Karen Joy Fowler showed up, we all talked.
I had arranged to meet Gary outside at 2:30, and as I went down the stairs I could see him through the window. There he was on the sidewalk talking to Ruth Gundle while she waited for Judith Barrington to pick her up. Brilliance everywhere I looked.
Five hours of literary illuminaries.
Gary felt I should mention the $4.25 for a Pepsi. He’d waited in line for 10 minutes and felt disheartened by the price. He left his change as a tip, and it wasn’t cold, though the young man who handed it to him was touched to receive a tip.
I had told him I would not be buying lunch. That much I know about conventions. He is still ranting about that Pepsi, “my AWP experience.” He was a grocer for much of his adult life and knew what was paid for that Pepsi.
Bette or Molly told me I’d missed Nisi Shawl. I missed Debra Magpie Earling. There were many people I would have enjoyed shaking hands with. I took no photos, though I had my camera with me. I knit a couple of rows on a baby blanket. I limped.