An excerpt from “Is Social Rejection the Key to Creativity?” by Cody Delistraty:
Great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them. — Anaïs Nin
Jane says: Cheers to the differents!
“A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image.” ―Joan Didion
My best writer friend (BWF) is obsessed with California. We connected instantly. I, too, know the complicated pains and parental joy of deeply loving a place. Plus, when there wasn’t a lot of Hawaiian literature available, I read California writers because, often, it was the closest I could get: the similar flora and fauna; we stared at the same ocean.
It’s nice to have someone you can share your darkest secrets with. When I spoke myself bare to my BWF―”I have never read Joan Didion”―she gasped, like she was coming up for air after being caught in a riptide. Those wide eyes and an O for a mouth. I hid my face until she confessed, “Me too.”
She opened Slouching Towards Bethlehem first. Like an amazing BWF, she xeroxed copies of the Hawaii mentions, but I couldn’t wait for the snail mail and hurried to the library. I finished the book in two days. Reading Didion’s sentences felt like surfing, something bigger than me pushing me along, a clean, awe-filled ride.
Hooked, I read The Year of Magical Thinking, The White Album, Play It As It Lays, and Blue Nights. You can imagine my giddiness when I discovered the Joan Didion and Oahu connection―Oahu, where I live now, approximately twenty-three miles from my literary obsession’s stomping grounds. She traveled to the island enough that she contemplating buying a house. She traveled to the island enough that she regretted not buying a house. In Waikiki, every time I glimpsed the tip-top of that grand pink hotel tucked into the gaggle of shoreline buildings, I promised myself that I would visit.
I have been lucky to have met writers who are obsessed with place, to keep finding writers who are obsessed with place because I have this obsession, and I don’t see an end to it. Mark Twain understands:
No alien land in all the world has any deep strong charm for me but that one, no other land could so longingly and so beseechingly haunt me, sleeping and waking, through half a lifetime, as that one has done. Other things leave me, but it abides; other things change, but it remains the same. For me its balmy airs are always blowing, its summer seas flashing in the sun; the pulsing of its surfbeat is in my ears; I can see its garlanded crags, its leaping cascades, its plumy palms drowsing by the shore, its remote summits floating like islands above the cloud rack; I can feel the spirit of its woodland solitudes, I can hear the splash of its brooks; in my nostrils still lives the breath of flowers that perished twenty years ago.
Please return for the follow-up post, “Jane Searches for Joan Didion.”
An excerpt from “So You Didn’t Get to Go to AWP” by Allison Williams:
Imagine a kind-eyed flight attendant with a cart of assorted complimentary drinks. Have a ginger ale and feel virtuous. Find the poem you loved in the bathroom and read it again. Imagine the writer you love most in the world feeling that way about your work. Pass out from exhaustion. In two hours, wake up and write something right away, before you lose the magic.
Jane says: This is the best post I have read on AWP, and the writer didn’t even attend. Judging from the inventory, she has partaken in the madness many, many times. I wish I could be this witty.
Another year of AWP has drawn to a close, and countless editors, writers and journal staffers are heading back to their home institutions with swag bags, connections and newly autographed books.
Not everyone got to go to AWP, and I just want to say that’s OK. We’re all in this together. In case, like me, you were at home watching the literary world scroll by on social media, here’s what you can do to recreate the AWP experience:
First, stock up on wine. You’re going to need a lot of it. Start with half a plastic cup of unfortunately-sharp white as you pull from your shelves every literary journal, small-press book, and poetry collection you own. Arrange the books on your dining or coffee table in a pleasing display. Rearrange three times. Settle on the original arrangement–it should be about the work.
Find the last…
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“What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.” —Anne Lamott
I read the title fields of email after email, Get Festival Ready! with pictures of whimsical boho princesses and grass wild with weeds. But my body clock is concerned with only one event, and its attendees’s accessories consist of reading glasses, totes, cardigans and scarves, thick books and skinny jeans.
AWP makes some people anxious, but I love every crazy second of it: the flyer shooing, the kamikaze candy and pen grab, the random banana costume-clad dancer, the lightning gossip via live tweeting: OMG James Franco sighting at Sbarro! Michael Martone has THE best hair. Red, red wiiiiine at 1254! I like hiding my name tag so people wonder, for a moment, if I am a lit celeb. But most of all I like being incognito, starry-eyed, scribbling notes in the crowd, where I feel like a better person just for eavesdropping on the panel’s conversation. I love discovering a new-to-me author, the ticking seconds until I touch their book. I love collapsing against a wall to take inventory of my treasure.
For half a decade, I didn’t miss one: Manhattan, Chicago, Denver, Chicago again, Boston, then zilch. No longer a student, I couldn’t get the student rate or reimbursed for attending. A contractor in the corporate world, I have no vacation. Seattle was easy to miss: the crushing weight of student loan debt. Dorothy Parker got me when she said, “I hate almost all rich people, but I think I’d be darling at it.” Plus, the egos and politics. But mostly I felt guilty about not writing, being a nobody.
Maybe I’m feeling a smidge more confident in my nobodiness, or maybe I’m far enough removed from academia that I crave community because I’m suffering withdrawals like the bends. I started searching #AWP15 tweets weeks out. I’ve read the entire catalog. I’m a sadist; I like to know what I’m missing, and here are the top things I, Jane, will be lusting this week:
- 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm – AROHO Night of “Glittering, Vocal Expansiveness” featuring Janet Fitch, Susan Straight, Joy Castro, Aimee Liu, Sue William Silverman, Jill Bialosky, and more. Janet Fitch’s White Oleander was one of my “great literary awakenings.” Astrid’s odyssey spoke to a corner of my soul that is forever homeless. I have desperately wanted to hear her speak since. As Dorothy Allison so eloquently states, “Why am I a writer? Because I have a debt. Because a book saved my life.”
- 10:30 am to 11:45 am – Intersecting Cultures: The Joys & Challenges of Writing the Tribe featuring Daiva Markelis, Bayo Ojikutu, Achy Obejas, M. Evelina Galang and Helene Aylon. Being an insider of a subculture usually makes you an outsider of something larger. This tension is problematic and painful, and I want to sit in, ease the loneliness.
- 3:00 pm to 4:15 pm – The Art of the Encounter: Structuring Short Fiction featuring Arna Bontemps Hemenway, Caitlin Horrocks, Rebecca Makkai, Chinelo Okparanta and Molly Antopol. I need all of the help with short stories.
- 8:30 pm to 10:00 pm – Keynote Address by Karen Russell featuring Karen Russell because Karen Russell, duh.
- 3:00 pm to 4:15 pm – Neglected American Masters featuring James Allen Hall, Jericho Brown, Paisley Rekdal, Yona Harvey and Richard Siken. This is one of those events where I hope the panelists read their own work and, of course, the work of neglected American masters. “This poem by ______ inspired this piece by me” is how it pans out in my daydream.
- 10:30 am to 11:45 am – Sweeping the Steps of the Temple: On Writing a First Book featuring Arna Bontemps Hemenway, Jamie Quatro, Laura van den Berg, Julia Fierro and Nickolas Butler. Tell me everything you know about first manuscripts!
During downtime, I would wander the book fair. I love perusing and flipping through books and journals you can’t find in stores. I’m sure some booths are wondering where I have been for the last two years, and there some new things I want to hold in my hands: Arroyo Literary Review, Barrelhouse, Dancing Girl Press, Ecotone, Electric Literature, Fairy Tale Review, Journal of the Month, Midwestern Gothic, Manoa, One Story, (PANK), The Pinch, Poet’s & Writers, The Rumpus, Third Coast Magazine, and last but certainly not least, VIDA: Women in Literary Arts.
So if you’re going to Minneapolis, or if you know someone who is making the journey, these are not just suggestions, these are proclamations of love. Some are literary crushes I stalk every year in person—and on the internet always. Some are new loves who I want to listen to and let my curiosity peel back then catapult this fresh thing into full infatuation. Please haunt for me.