I’ll admit, I have a little love/hate thing going on with AWP. As a small press, it helps us a lot to attend. People begin to recognize the press’s name when they see it elsewhere, we get lots of eyeballs on our beautiful books, it gives our authors a chance to read in front of their fans, and I always enjoy seeing people and talking to customers at the book fair.
At the same time.
I’m just going to say it.
The place is crawling with writers. And, worse, AWP is particularly crawling with pretentious writers. It’s just shocking how important so many people think they are because they wrote a book. Or even worse, they are disgruntled because they’ve published a book and no one has treated them like they are important. The book hasn’t gotten them laid. Or they didn’t get whisked through the VIP line at check-in. Whatever they dreamed being a writer was, isn’t what it turned out to be. And thus, they pack up their little bag of delusions and bring them along to the conference, where they insist their genius be admired by all.
That part is rough. But what I like is, since we are a small press, the Powers That Be at AWP always stick us in some dingy corner. However, that also means we are stuck out of the way with all of the other small presses. Talking with them about the printers they use, how they find their writers, how they get books to new audiences, is fun and interesting. I learn a lot and it makes me believe that there are plenty of people who really love books and who think writing does something. (Maybe not get you laid, but something important.)
But the nicest part of the whole conference is when people stop by the table and tells us how good our books look. We work hard to publish not only good books, but books that look and feel good too. Reading a CWP book should be a pleasing experience on so many levels, for both the reader and the writer.
Because the truth is, writers don’t get enough love. But insisting people love you doesn’t really help. Remember when Ellen DeGeneres pointed out that no one ever has a “Hurray, You’re Gay” party when you come out. Well no one is ever going to have a “Hurray, You’re a Poet” party for you either. So you have to be capable of giving yourself your own little party.
But we at CWP try to help. We will publish the most beautiful version of your writing we can. We will thank and admire you for going to the trouble of creating something out of nothing. And we’ll set out a bowl of chocolates on our AWP table and answer all the questions you can think to ask. So come find us in whatever remote corner of the Book Expo we have been stuck in this year and we’ll celebrate you and us. It’ll be like our own little party. But leave the pretentions behind.
–Tanya Olson, VP (which doesn’t stand for Very Pretentious)