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WhatWorld

Rules for Living (while at conventions and elsewhere)

The Guy Next to the McSweeney's Table at AWP
I have two rules for going to conventions: The first is Never Stay For The Q&A at Panel Discussions. If it's been a good panel, you'll want some time to think about w hat was said, and the questions will take you away from the points made by the presenters --to the concerns of audience members, who frequently have completely different agendas. Also, at least 75% of the questions will annoy you because they are stupid questions or else statements of opinion that the questioner seeks an audience to hear (Eileen Gunn assures me this is not the case at WisCon). There's also the practical matter of using the facilities before the next panel in time to get to the next panel before all seats are taken.

The second rule is Talk to The Guy Staffing the Table Next to the McSweeney's Table. This rule can be amended to include Talk to The Writer Sitting Beside Ursula K. Le Guin At A Signing or even, Talk to the Person Who Will Be Listed on Programs and Reviews as "and Others". A magazine or journal needs to sell itself and so they might mention (or reviewers might mention) they've included work by writers you've heard of, like Rick Moody, Kellie Wells, Kevin Brockmeier, Rikki Ducornet, Joe Meno, and Others.

Molly Gloss once reassured me that, "We've all been and others in our careers" and that made me feel way better. Talk to Molly Gloss when you get the chance. Or talk to the and others.

The AWP book fair is fantastic but there are some tables that are mobbed, and the McSweeney's table is one you can't get close to. I asked the guy at the table by the McSweeney's table how it felt to be the guy next to the mcsweenie and he said it was boring but okay. I was the guy next to the mcsweenie (generic term for someone or something more eminent and famous than you) at a book fair several years ago. A line of mcsweenie fans formed and blocked my table and prevented the possibility that anyone would see me or my work. People leaned on my table and set their water bottles on my books. One picked up a copy of my novel to use as a writing surface for the check she was going to write for some mcsweenie merch. Nobody waiting for their mcsweenie talked to me. Being invisible makes me sad.

I have since realized that recognizing the guy sitting next to the mcsweenie makes sense and is fun. That guy (generic guy) is frequently as interesting and worthy of speaking to as the more famous guy, plus that guy may have time to talk to you. You will make contacts and discover new authors and new magazines and learn about people and have meaningful encounters. Do this, and you will have a good time and better convention.
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