February 16, 2009
They tell me you are wicked and I believe them
Five days in the City of the Big Shoulders were not enough.
I began Big Creative Writing conference with earnest intentions. I attended helpful conference sessions like "You Will Never Publish Your Book. Ever. So Don't Even Try" and "Even if Your Book Gets Published, No One Will Buy it." I listened while Witty Guy from Georgia read into a microphone snippets from rejection letters he'd gotten, enhanced with snarky comments that made me think he ought to give up on the novel and become a stand-up comedian. I heard some fantastic readings, some by friends and some by writers I have worshipped from afar. In a cavernous hotel room crowded with editors of small presses and piles of books, I talked with people whose names I know mostly from rejection slips. Of course, at least one editor now thinks I'm some kind of crazy stalker because I couldn't resist asking him to pose naked for my blog.
I tried not to do too much of the hero worshipping thing, but I'll admit that on the way to dinner one night, I carried the heavy bookbag of Feminist Poet for seven blocks, stammering and blushing as I tried to make conversation with her. Of course, my priority at the conference was spending time with old friends. I met up with a bunch of Friendly Green Folk, two of whom stripped naked for my camera. I had lunch with Chicago Friend, whom I hadn't seen in two years, and walked around the city with him while he pointed out landmarks and cool architecture.
I wandered through the Art Museum with Artist Friend, trying to catch up on our lives while simultaneously looking at so many amazing works of art that it was quite overwhelming. We ended up sitting on the carpeted floor in a dark alcove, talking quietly, while a performance poet got naked on the screen in front of us. I had a leisurely meal with Wild Hair and Peace-loving Feminist in a Greek Restaurant that Wild Hair used to come to when with his grandfather in the early 1960s. My favorite moment of that meal was when the little girl behind me accidentally knocked a plate onto the floor, where it broke with a loud crash. Everyone around her burst into applause, a response that startled her at first, but turned her look of guilt into happy laughter.
I had intended to get together with Cool Blogging Friends who live in Midwestern City With Such Great Restaurants, but my efforts were hampered by the exorbitant prices Fancy Conference Hotel was charging for internet access and by a conference that offered about a Dozen Exciting Opportunities in every time slot from 8 am until midnight. In what is possibly the lamest blogging move ever, I didn't even meet up with bloggers who were at the very same conference. The one blogger I did get to spend time with was Maine Blogger Who Coined the Term Canine Naturalist. That's because we were sharing a room. No, she didn't bring the dog.
Every night Maine Blogger would tell me hysterically funny stories about all the crazy people she'd met that day. Like a good blogger, she lapses into pseudonyms without even trying. The man who chatted with her on the airplane remained The Guy Who Sat Next to Me on the Plane for the entire conference: he'll have to publish a damned good book before he gets a new pseudonym. Because Maine Blogger is the editor of a journal, she had to spend much of the conference handcuffed to a table in the book exhibit, where she was able to observe the eccentric behavior of Hungover Writers Who Have Had Way Too Much Coffee and Not Enough Sleep. She herself is an efficient and organized person who made so many strange phone calls to the front desk ("Could you tell me how many bars there are in the building?" and "I have a complaint about the little black book by the phone.") that we are lucky we didn't get kicked out of our room. Athough, come to think of it, that would have made for a good story.
Posted by jo(e)