Tweed holds a stink, and other lessons from AWP

Richard Russo, Jennifer Haigh, AWP, Boston.

The best picture I got? A blurry shot of Richard Russo, pouring water for Jennifer Haigh.

I spent Wednesday through Sunday at a writing conference in Boston, and I have what you could probably call an AWP hangover. I am moving around my office slowly, shifting piles of literary journals from place to place, drinking a lot of water and trying hard not to take a nap on the keyboard.

Because I spent three days frantically tweeting the conference, I was planning to write a big post about AWP and the helpful writing things I learned there, but I can’t even. What I can do is give you this list, however, of the things I learned this weekend that may or may not be helpful:

  1. Tweed holds a stink. Launder that vintage jacket, gentlemen. It’s not going to get any less nasty without the help of a dry cleaner.
  2. Take some time to learn how the camera in your new device works before stepping into any convention center. People like photos that aren’t blurry.
  3. Socially awkward writers like to make observations about how socially awkward other writers are. But not in person; on the internet.
  4. Speaking of which, the easiest way to make friends at AWP is via Twitter.
  5. Also, Twitter was the easiest way for me to take notes. (I can read my tweets, which is more than I can say for the notes in my notebook.)
  6. Someone needs to make writer paper dolls, featuring buns, turtlenecks, peaked caps, pencil skirts, Neil Gaiman hair and tweed with cartoon stink lines coming off of it.
  7. If you leave postcards, journals or any other promo materials on a cafe table at AWP, a janitor will come by five minutes later and very politely tip your stuff into the trash.
  8. Ben Percy’s description of literary fiction as a genre* should be inscribed on something in stone.
  9. If you hear Ben Percy’s voice, you’ll understand that everything he says sounds as if it actually is inscribed in stone.
  10. I came out of AWP with a lot of brand new heroes (Jennifer Haigh, Michelle Legro, Sarah Einstein) but Julianna Baggott is my spirit animal. And not just because she led a raid on the men’s bathroom.
  11. OMG. You need a Tumblr.
  12. Take #11 with a grain of salt; someone from Tumblr was on the panel that told me that.
  13. Very few people at AWP want to hear you read from your book. They are much more worried about their own books.
  14. The bigger the author, the more people want to unburden themselves emotionally during those last five minutes of Q&A.
  15. Wine+book fair = event planner genius.
  16. Getting trapped in a panel > getting locked out of one.

*Ben Percy’s definition of literary fiction went something like this: “You may as well call literary fiction its own genre in which a bunch of pretty sentences drink tea and look out a window at boiling clouds until someone has an epiphany.” That’s not it exactly. I hurt myself laughing and couldn’t get the whole quote.

Fung-What? My favorite bus service is shut down.

fung wah, beware the hawk

By wonder_j  via Wikimedia Commons

As the author of a novella that features their services, I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least post briefly that the Fung-Wah has been ordered to take its fleet off the road. By the feds. Which might not be a bad plot element for a third novella.

According to my old employer The Boston Herald (actually, one of my former fellow editorial assistants penned the piece), the very last Fung-Wah bus left South Station last night.

Fung-Wah was told to take its buses off the roads Monday, but the company chartered other buses so that it could keep shuttling passengers between the Chinatowns of Boston and New York.

Which means that there were unmarked Fung-Wahs on the road, which made me wary of every bus I passed on my way to and from work yesterday. (Usually I’m all “Ooh, a charter bus! I bet there’s a touring rock star in there.” Last night I gave them all a wide berth.) But there was no need for worry. The MBTA shut the Fung-Wah party down last night.

(UPDATE: I’m told by someone who knows that it was actually MDOT that shut down the party.)

I’ve got mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I’m a little bummed. I used the Fung-Wah in Beware the Hawk because I felt that generations of readers from the Northeast would get the joke. On the other hand it’s nice not to worry when a Fung-Wah passes me a little too closely and a little too quickly on the highway.

Scavenger Hunt, Day Three: Chinatown

Yesterday, we talked about the Fung-Wah, and I was sent this fabulous account of a scary 2006 bus trip by Ally.

That was yesterday. Today I want you to go down to Chinatown.

You don’t have to go literally, but for day three of the scavenger hunt, send me a photo of Chinatown.

A lot of the action in Beware the Hawk happens in Boston’s Chinatown, where one of the protagonist’s co-workers spends all of his free time. For the purposes of this game, any Chinatown will do, but points if it’s Boston’s Chinatown and double points if you can photograph an establishment called Snowflower, the Chinatown Gate or the weird nasty stuff in the gutter, all of which are mentioned in the book.

So head downtown, grab some lo mein and snap away. Just beware the Fung-Wah.

Also, check out the ladies with hair of many colors who sent in pics on Saturday.