Got an e-mail from a writer friend the other day asking if I was going to this year's AWP, which starts tomorrow. Um. Probably not.
I went to last year's AWP with a writer friend, and it was three days of fucking humiliation and hell, bunched up with the gaggle of grad students, MA rejects and newbie writers, the denizens destined to self-publish tomes about grandma's southern cooking and becoming a woman, by-the-book mysteries, or worse, poetry, following around soft-bodied, two-bit writers who've enjoyed a modicum of success, acting like rock stars. (I read that last bit in a review of the 2010 AWP--"where middling writers go to be treated like rock stars." I forget the author, though.)
Seriously, you should've seen the douches there, toting around stitched together chapbooks like they were Grammies, holding council in crappy little bar and grilles, commanding the room as the wide-eyed sat on the fringes, trying to be caught laughing at the right time.
And I am not excusing myself. I was shucking and jiving with the rest of them, cozying up to authors slightly higher up the food chain, hoping if I kissed enough ass and acted humble enough, I might be graced by the holy blurb. I didn't get any fucking blurbs (one poet, who shall remain nameless, and who probably is nameless after his fifteen minutes are just...about...up, acting appalled that I'd even ask, this after he heard me read and liked my work enough to suggest I submit my manuscript to a publisher friend of his a year earlier. "I'm very particular about blurbing," he said, though apparently less particular about making up gerunds). And when your heart isn't in it, when you only stick the tip of your nose up their asses, inhale merely as a gesture, you come across even worse, as a fraud, as though your lack of conviction undermines the entire process, and for this you are scorned.
After three days of overpriced cocktails, pretentious readings, which included some god-awful poetry (exception being Robert Hass, who was pretty fucking amazing), I felt like a used condom stuck to the dimpled ass of an aging whore.
So, no, I will not be going back to AWP anytime soon.
Which is a shame, since it is sort of like the trade meeting for my...craft. I saw a lot of friends there, other writers, some old professors, including two of my favorites from my favorite college, Central Connecticut State, where I earned my undergrad degree. Which is another truism of writing. CCSU was the highlight of my career, because it was so low on the chain. You had great writers teaching there, but better you had great teachers teaching there, working hard to get their names out but also content with their lots in life. (My biggest dream is to one day teach writing at that school alongside them. Great teachers. Better friends. I love them all.) But as you move up that chain, like moving up any chain, I suppose, through grad school and the professional ranks, the bigger named writers with bigger aspirations, it's pretty fucking cutthroat, cruel, self-absorbed (which, if you know writers, is already a problem). With each award, prize, nomination--with each modicum of success--the seeds of douchery planted deeper begin to sprout into full-blown douchedom. The scary part is, if I started getting these accolades, I'm not sure I'd be any different, my hubris validated. So basically I am aspiring to be a two-bit, stuck-up douche.
What is lost in all this, what seems to be forgotten, with conferences like AWP is that we are talking about...books. Which nobody really gives a shit about. Which in about five years will be all but obsolete. We're not talking Hollywood or going viral, mining wide audiences via digital mediums or "the next big thing." We're talking books. Readings. The only people who go to readings are other writers, who do so in hopes of someday being able to read. For other writers. These conferences are mutual admiration society's populated by fucktards, with the rest of us wee little orphans with our noses pressed against the glass. It's more depressing than watching hamsters fuck. There is no real prize. Just more furry little creatures scurrying about, unaware of their lack of importance.