Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Five Days in Beantown -- Day 2

The Beantown Blizzard we woke up to.
And then the snow fell. Well, it actually blew more than it fell. Sideways, like little ice swords into our eyes.

I shouldn't be surprised when I open the curtains, but I am just a tiny bit. I like snow, so it isn't a bad surprise. I have beautiful thoughts of running out into the brisk Boston air and building a snowman or making a snowangel. I start singing.

"Ohhhhhhhh . . . the weather outside is frightful," I begin.

"But the fire is so delightful," Lori answers sleepily, still cuddling the sundry pillows the Hilton provides for all manner of sleepers. Sweet people.

"No," I say. "It really is frightful. There's like three or four inches already. "Good thing we only have to cross the street to go to the AWP conference, huh? Lori? Lori?"

Lori has fallen asleep again.

Crossing the street from the Hilton to the Sheraton in the Beantown Blizzard is no fun. It is, in fact, treacherous. The zebra crossing from one hotel to the other is at the bottom of a hill so that water collects there. Since it rained the day before, there is quite a lot of water there, and now there is snow on top of the water. Everywhere you step, your shoe goes through snow . . . to ice . . . then water--much like that place in Antarctica where scientists think they're going to solve the mysteries of the planet. And they could just come to Boston, corner at 40 Dalton Street. Who knew?

Our journey from the Hilton to the Sheraton--about 50 meters--is very much like a slog to the South Pole. Iced-over sidewalks, 40-mph winds, traffic. OK, not so much like an Antarctic expedition, but you get the idea. Our faces get wet.

The Hynes Convention Center is an enormous complex that connects, by enclosed walkways, the Sheraton, the Marriot and the Westin hotels with a beautiful, luxurious shopping mall where you can buy Jimmy Choo shoes and get a facial with gold in the moisturizer (I walk by the Orogold shop six times and get six samples, enough to take to a gold trader I reckon); you just can't reach the Hilton without being pelted with razor-sharp snow whipping you at 40 mph. You could live in the mall, I guess, and some homeless people do find hidden corners to camp.

A Novelist's idea of String Theory
Our first panel of the day is "The Ten-Minute Play" and it is interesting to review the differences between sketches and plays: daisies vs. stairs of course and I hope this is clear. The same techniques apply to the differences between character sketches and flash fiction actually.

The second panel of the day is the most interesting: "Keeping Track of Your Book" which the organizers keep referring to as "Keeping Track of Your Novel".

We arrived early enough to find two seats together, put our things down to save the seats (much like the Germans do in the evenings to reserve a place at the pool the next morning) and trot off to find coffee. When we return, there are around 100 people crowded at the door, trying in vain to enter the tiny conference room. This is a theme of AWP: popular panels on craft = tiny rooms jammed with very lucky, early-bird participants; boring, academic panels = enormous rooms with lots of empty seats.

"We're already in there," I say, elbowing my way through the crowd. Writers are such softies. They all part and let us in. Can you imagine that? Writers. Sweet people.

The panel speakers in "Keeping Track of Your Book/Novel" actually have difficulty getting into the room themselves because of the crowd, and one panel speaker has planned to do a gimmicky yarn presentation, sort of like the Blue Man Group but without the blue make-up. She is planBless, so she goes ahead with her planned presentation. It's a miracle no one is hurt.

The purpose of the panel is to present various ways of outlining and planning. It is inspiring. The most inspiring and pragmatic advice comes from award-winning author Bich Minh Nguyen, who leaves 'TK' wherever she needs to revise for content or solve narrative problems. It's a system that works better for writers who find organizing with index cards and paper files unmanageable. Like me.

Great Group of Authors at the Keeping Track of Your Book/Novel Panel

At 2:00 p.m. in the Beantown Blizzard we head to an off-site reading sponsored by Sock Monkey Press. Great readings, average food. Mass Ave Taveren, though, is a good place for afternoon readings. It's quiet and big as opposed to Dillon's, which is small and plagued by the shouting of noisy, inconsiderate cooks.  

At 3:30 p.m.--in the Beantown Blizzard--we leave Mass Ave Tavern to attend what is supposed to be an open mic between 4:00 and 5:00 at the Queertopia reading at Club Cafè (see quote below). When we arrive, the bartender doesn't know anything about the reading, doesn't know he has cider on the menu, and doesn't speak English very well; so we do a bit of exploring, find the people setting up for the reading--about twenty feet from the bartender in another room--and order a cider, which we find on the menu despite the bartender swearing they don't have cider. The announcement for the reading in the AWP off-site events schedule:

Queertopia!
Location: Club Cafe (209 Columbus Ave.) Cost: Free. Join more than 30 LGBT writers, plus features by Bloom, Sibling Rivalry Press, Seven Kitchens Press, and the Milk and Honey anthology of Jewish Lesbian poets, as they perform cabaret style in the Moonshine Room. A full schedule, including an Open Mic from 4:00 - 5:00, is available on Facebook at Queertopia! (highlight added)

The organizers of Queertopia know nothing about an open mic between 4:00 and 5:00 despite the fact that it was advertised in the AWP off-site events as such (above). Oh well, right? What can you do? We stay because an online friend and publisher of Referential Magazine, who has published a couple of my stories, was reading at around 5:00 with the folks from Sibling Rivalry Press. It is great to finally meet Jessie Carty and share at taxi back in the Beantown Blizzard (the theme of this post, you might have gathered) to the convention center--so all is well, except that I would have enjoyed reading to this group. Maybe next time, unless they read this post and are pissed at me. Who could ever be pissed at me?

The Beantown Blizzard keeps us from seeing any of Boston on Thursday. We spend our time hanging around bars and checking our Facebook pages and Twitter feeds to see what other people at AWP are doing. One thing they aren't doing is checking their Facebook pages and Twitter feeds to see what I'm doing. Facebook status: I came 5000 miles to see you, and I'm not talking to this glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Hee hee. Not really.

We turn in early. Tomorrow will be another day, and I'll tell you all about it tomorrow. I get to hug a few writers.

I must be off,
Christopher