Wednesday, March 20, 2013

In Print Festival of First Books

There’s a silence that comes with writing.  The problem is that so many of us spend so much time trying to find the perfect word, the word made from diamond and moonlight, and put it in its perfect place in its sentence.  But there isn’t that time in the world, so fast and so hungry, to find those perfect words, but we don’t know how not to.  And thus cobwebs form in our throats, little spiders hatched from disuse and imperfection.  So how then do writers tell the world that there is magic happening?
The writers, up close and personal,
so happy to talk to students.  Such
nice people.
With the printed word of course.  Writers will do anything for the sake of words already formed, words already put down.  Writers will walk through snow, into bars we’ve never entered and down streets we’ve never walked to hang posters all over, telling the world “Come, please, there’s magic here, syllables that cascade out of stardust and paint bliss across your ears!” 

This week was the 8th Annual InPrint Festival of 1st Books.   In acquiesce1  to a bit of mandate from Cathy Day I indulged my curiosity to see if our advertisements were worth it.  I went up to the throng of guests asking everyone “Hi!  Why are you here?”2  The first night was a thoroughly dissatisfying commiseration of “I’m here for class, I’m here for class, I’m here for Cathy Day’s 307, I’m here for my 104, I’m here because I need to graduate and this requires no commitment.”

A few though, like Brett, whose hair is still not grown back from when he cut it early this year, came because they “Just like these things” and by heaven it was a relief, he was the first who came just to come.  There were more like him, more literary citizens, quiet but present, fluttering like moths to the fires of their choosing.3   There were another smattering who came for The Broken Plate,4 which came wearing its new wine dark lipstick of a publication, skirt pulled back, ankle bare, and it was a buffer, a book-end, its table opposite the writers as if to say “This place between word and sound is for you, you have come into the garden.  Here you are safe."

"If you go on this...pilgrimage to Prairie Lights, they will
And the writers were magnificent.  That first night there was Elena Passarello, who made us laugh and smile as she transfixed us with a dead woman’s voice.  There was Marcus Wicker, whose poems had punch line titles and punch gut conclusions.  There was Eugene Cross, whose smile is a giddy puppy and whose writing is vivid and sharp and sad, maybe the saddest thing5 I’ve read in months. 

The audience raised spirits the second day.  While the first night was a “The Place was packed” sort of night, now on the second night it had dropped to just “A lot of people came.”6   BUT, the people who did come had less of this “I’m here for class,” more of this “I’m here for fun” OR “I’m here for Extra Credit” which is important because they still CHOSE to come, AND people who come for extra credit care enough about the thing for that credit.  They care, they just don’t know how to show it yet.  And then of course there were those who came because they wanted to support the poets, who’d been to every InPrint Festival since its inception, who praised the group’s dynamic and the advertisements that they’d seen, and I swelled with pride that someone, anyone, had noticed the work.

That happy moment when more people came back because they chose to.
The panel of the three writers who read the night before was joined by Sarah M Wells, an editor with a snappy personality who's somehow still alive despite doing everything in the world; writing, publishing, editing, mothering.  A human thunderstorm.  Their answers to questions showed me something vital: That Abyss between us and Published Writers is not so vast, is a matter of words.  They are not gods, or if they are, so too someday might we be.  Audience members praised their dynamic, the excitement and honesty of them, the way they made the room come alive.

Everyone wanted an autographed book and every author was so delighted to talk to people that we ran delightfully over time and had to be hurried out by the management. 
The conversation that had the most resonance to me was with Guy With Camera, who’d filmed the whole thing for a TCOM class.  I asked him, “What brings you here?” and he said that he was here for a class, “but I do some writing too”.  There was some defensiveness in it, but also some aspiration, some acknowledgement that here, in this room, books and writing are the hippest things imaginable.  It made me smile, let me clear my throat7 of the last of the cobwebs, let me rave and ramble about all this to my roommates when I got home, with no fear of imperfect words because there were enough of those today to last a lifetime.

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