March Whirlwind

Dogwood blossoms in my yard

I know, it’s mid-April, but I just realized that I failed to post anything about my exciting March after the report about my New York trip and the shows I saw, the museums I visited, the readings I heard, the food I ate, etc.

The week following my return from the Big Apple, I participated in the annual Virginia Festival of the Book, one of my favorite literary happenings each year. The festival began for me when I moderated a panel at Barnes & Noble on Wednesday afternoon.  (I’ve written earlier about the authors and books represented on the panel: The Magnetic Girl by Jessica Handler and Weather Woman by Cai Emmons.) The event was packed, the questions and answers after the panel were lively, and book sales were brisk. After the panel I hustled over to the New Dominion Bookshop for a fascinating talk by Jarrett Krosoczka, this year’s Carol Troxell Reader (so called because of a fund established in honor of New Dominion’s former owner). Krosoczka, a charming and practiced presenter, is a children’s author who recently published a graphic memoir for young adults and adults, Hey, Kiddo, about his difficult childhood and teen years. That was followed by a reception next door at Tilman’s a terrific little wine bar for the author and donors to the fund. After meeting a friend for a drink, at a dive bar (that might actually be its name, I’m not sure) I headed home, over the mountain, only to discover that the light rain in town was blinding snow on the mountain. I was happy to arrive at home.

The next day I was just an observer at the festival. I attended a poetry reading at New Dominion with two old friends (Leona Sevick and Rebecca Morgan Frank) and one new one (January Gill O’Neil). Then, back at Barnes & Noble, I heard two fiction writers read and speak: A.D. Hopkins and Elaine Neil Orr. Then I headed home so I could attend the Heifetz International Music Institute’s Spring Hootenanny, always a fun event that supports their scholarship fund.

On Friday I was slated to moderate another panel, which I thought was fascinating: The Book of H by Marina Perezagua, Thomas and Beal in the Midi by Christopher Tilghman, and The Emperor of Shoes by Spencer Wise. (Again, I wrote about each of those books in an earlier post.) It was fun to chat with the authors; I knew Chris Tilghman but I was meeting Spencer and Marina for the first time. The panel went well and afterward I rushed out of town because I was driving down to Winston-Salem, NC for another literary event.

High Road Festival

The High Road Festival of Poetry and Short Fiction is a new event hosted by Press 53 (combining its former Gathering of Poets and Gathering of Writers into a single festival). It kicked off on Friday night with readings at Bookmarks, a terrific bookstore in Winston-Salem, by poets Clint McCown and Sean Sexton. (Oddly, as I waited in the lobby of my hotel to head over to the reading, I ran into friends from home who were in town for a wedding.) Saturday was filled with workshops (I taught one on editing, twice) and masterclasses and concluded with another reading, this time with Sean Sexton and David Jauss. We celebrated at a local watering hole, even though some people still had the Sunday morning poetry roundtable to look forward to. With a busy week ahead of me, I skipped the Sunday morning program and hit the road early Sunday for the drive home.

TSOTV on the Braddock Avenue Books Table

Then came a crazy few days. Early on Wednesday, I flew to Portland, Oregon for the annual AWP Conference. (That’s the Association of Writers and Writing Programs.) It usually attracts 12-15,000 people and is always a madhouse. Happily, even with tight connections in Dulles and San Francisco, I arrived without a hitch. The tram system in Portland is great, so I got to my hotel easily, checked in, and made it back to the convention center with plenty of time to get the Press 53 Booth set up, along with another Press 53 author. (Perhaps foolishly, we volunteered to manage the booth when the publisher announced he would not be attending the conference this year.) That evening, after the booth was set up, I located my new publisher’s table and was thrilled to see my new book, The Shaman of Turtle Valley, prominently displayed among the other Braddock Avenue Books titles.

Press 53 Booth at AWP

For the next three days, I spent all my time in the book fair, either at the Press 53 booth or at the Braddock table or wandering the aisles of some 800 exhibitors. I didn’t attend a single panel. Honestly, not many of them appealed to me. The good thing about being largely stationary in a huge exhibition hall like that is that eventually everyone else is going to walk by, so it’s a great way to see old friends. But then there are parties in the evenings and I saw more old friends at those.

One nice thing about the book fair: at least once an hour someone came up to me to tell me how much they appreciate the Literary Magazine Rankings I do each year. Or when I’d introduce myself they’d get this glimmer of recognition in their eyes. “Hmm,” they’d say, “where do I know your name from?” I’m glad people use the rankings and I’m even happier they approached me to tell me that.

We packed everything up on Saturday evening and I had Sunday free before my red-eye flight home. (I hate taking the red-eye, but it went smoothly enough.) I walked around the city—the weather was fantastic—visited a coffee house, a donut shop (not Voodoo, because the line was too long), a seafood restaurant, and the iconic Powell’s Books (twice, because in the morning I learned there was a poetry reading there in the afternoon).

March was a whirlwind, and I’ve been catching my breath ever since.

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