To anyone who hasn’t attended this conference before: if you decide to stop reading now so I don’t exhaust you with the summary of my last day—I’m exhausted enough, no use passing it on to anybody else—just know this conference is most definitely worth it. Not only am I glad I went, I would do it again. As in next year. Seriously: I liked it so much, I’m already thinking ahead to how I can go again.
My third and last day at the conference tired me out, though, to the point where I couldn’t even stay for a reading I’d planned to see, and when I got home I was even too tired to write this post.
My first panel of the day, called “Mystery at the Heart of Story” had me taking down feverish notes about invented rituals in stories, how the visible thing in a story can reveal the invisible thing (the mystery), how stories can come at their essential mysteries sideways, and stories as prose puzzles. At some point in there I got an idea for how to work through one of my especially stubborn stories and was sneaking notes on that in my own margins. This was a very, very good panel, and, as I remember, most of the panelists taught in the Warren Wilson MFA program. I get the sense that the students who go there are in a good spot.
All I will say about the next panel I went to is… not much. I don’t want to be mean. The Panel That Shall Not Be Named was so very bad that if I had been a prospective student for the program that had sponsored it and heard this from its instructors and students, I would have run away screaming. I’ll stop talking about it now.
Other panels were “Saying Goodbye to Sweet Valley High: The New Young Adult Literature”—and Margo Rabb’s presentation about how she thought she was writing a literary novel that happened to be told from a teenager’s perspective but that sold as YA was especially fascinating for me. (When she had originally told a fellow writer how it had sold, the response was “what a shame.”) And the panel “Memoir and Memory,” which, though I’m not a memoirist, gave me ideas. All you can ask from all of this is ideas.
I had planned to hear a reading at 4:30, but I was flat-out exhausted. We made one last pass through the bookfair, where we saw an old college acquaintance and had some awkward moments saying-and-not-saying what we’ve since done with our lives, picked up some books, and then we were on the subway home.
I think the conference would have been better had I had a hotel room so I could nap, or drop off heavy books, or just take a moment from the swirling crowds. Ideally the hotel room would be in the conference hotel itself, if that’s not too expensive.
Next year’s conference is in February 2009, in Chicago. I’d like to go. (Plus, I have an incredible friend there… maybe she’ll be around and maybe, just maybe, want to go with me?)