The Pinch, SFB, Socializing with other writers

In the world of The Pinch, things are hopping lately. The writers series has kicked off at the University of Memphis (starting with Richard Tillinghast!). Our release party has been finalized. Contributors are starting to say they are coming (or making us all cry by saying that they aren’t).

Next step is to start gearing up for the Southern Festival of Books.

My first semester in grad school, I went to SFB  and had a blast. I drove to Nashville for the day (I got pulled over by a very pink-faced state trooper because I was trying to get there a little too fast, and really that was the only downside of the whole trip), volunteered for the Pinch booth hawking subscriptions and issues, stood next to authors at book signings and made sure people stayed orderly, attended some sessions where authors read from their books and answered questions, drove home, and stopped to eat at Loretta Lynn’s Country Kitchen on the way back.

The book world is really small. We writers are a very small exclusive group. Again why relationships are the key. You’re going to see writers, even ones you don’t like, who spit all over your face when they talk or have a strange odor, over and over again. You’ll hear about them through other people. They’ll show up at readings. They’ll be sitting at an AWP workshop near you. Even if you don’t like them, even if they have bad hygiene or need half their teeth pulled due to rotting, be polite. Writers hold grudges like elephants. We’re a rare breed of emotionally sensitive, but also terribly arrogant set of people. We both doubt and love ourselves. We also both doubt and love each other fiercely.

The Southern Festival of Books has some great authors this year: Robert Olen Butler (a favorite of mine), Bobbie Ann Mason, Gaylord Brewer (a poet from Nashville who The Pinch will publish in our Spring 2012 issue), Ann Patchett, George Singleton, and many other great poets, playwrights, novelists, essayists, and nonfiction writers.

Consider attending. Consider meeting some writers. Shaking their hands. Giving them your card, asking for theirs. Don’t be awkward about it (though it is sort of awkward and, sometimes, I do a terrible job at not being awkward. I may be the one that laughs a little too hard or asks if I can have your card at an inappropriate time. I’m still learning. Please be patient.).

Writers are a breed best approached at parties, after they have slogged down one or two free beers. They’re more congenial (or angry or weepy, depending on how much they have drunk and their drinking “type”), open, relaxed. I don’t drink myself and you may not either, and that’s okay. You’ll be frightening to approach always, but these other people, you should feel pretty okay about approaching. They’ve had their one or two or three, and you have your diet coke, plain, or with rum, and you can approach. Hopefully, it seems natural and fated for you two to meet and talk, here at this party, here leaning against this bar ledge. The writer or you may be married and the writer or you may be of the opposite sex. That’s okay too. At AWP and other writing events, married people flirt with other married people, but, as I’ve seen it, in a sort of affable, “I’ve got it, and you’ve still got it” sort of way, so they can both return home to their spouses for another year with their bad odor or bad teeth and feel like if they were a single writer, they could still get some other single writers. You may know that you’re the kind that’s prone to cheat and this time you may not want to. That’s okay too. Approach that writer of the opposite sex. Focus on his or her’s bad teeth, wrinkly cleavage, strangely colored gums; think about your reason for wanting to talk to that particular writer. Be kind. Mention your work. Think about your spouse at home with her round bottom or his full beard. Think about your babies. Give the writer a compliment. Mention your work. Think about your spouse. When the writer asks if you’d like to talk somewhere private, say, “No. I like it in here. Drinking around other writers nourishes my soul.” Move onto another writer.

Southern Festival of Books: Nashville: October 14th-16th

Be there! The Pinch will be and our staff is just awesome. If you’re there, come meet us. We’re lovable. We promise.

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