Post #89: AWP, by the Numbers


5-March-Boston-AWP-program-book-466x6001Two weekends ago I ventured to Boston for the AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) Conference. I’ve decided to break my experience down for you by the numbers.

Number of times my wife told me I’d regret not going to AWP before I finally decided to miss work even though I’d just had a vacation: Approx 8,000

Number of hours it took me to get to Boston in half way crappy weather: 4

Number of times my GPS was thwarted by the insane and downright cruel layout of Boston streets before it led me to the Hotel Buckminster: 2

Number of miles our hotel was situated from the Hynes Convention Center, where AWP took place: 1

Number of inches thick the AWP program guide is: 1.5

Number of writers and readers that attend AWP: 11,000

Number of literary conferences that are bigger than AWP: 0

Number of consecutive nights Alan Stewart Carl (with whom I bunked) and I stayed up way too late and drank way too much: (The best part of AWP, no doubt, was re-connecting with my great friend and former Bread Loaf roommate. We talked so much and spent so much time together that we both agreed it’s probably a good thing we don’t live in the same city)

Number of readings attended: 2 (I know that’s a really small number…not sure what’s up with that; I walked by a lot more that)

Number of cocktails consumed before it could reasonably be deemed happy hour on the East Coast: Um….

Number of events attended in a men’s clothing store/barber shop: 1

Number of inches of snow Boston received while I was there: 12-15

Number of times Alan Stewart Carl slipped so badly in the snow/ice (wearing treadless cowboy boots) that he literally become airborne: 1

Number of vegetables consumed while in Boston: Does the weird-o broccoli they put in food court Chinese count?

Number of ornery aging geniuses whose autograph I procured: 1 (Don Delillio, who did not seem all that pleased to be signing my just purchased copy of White Noise)

Number of books bought at the massive, totally overwhelming AWP book fair: 3 (White Noise by Don Delillio, Stone Arabia by Dana Spiotta, Sick of Nature by David Gessner)

Number of hours spent wandering said book fair in a flabbergasted daze: 4-6

Number of exhibitors represented at the book fair: 700 (hence the flabbergasted daze) 

Number of times I had to say “no, chicken gumbo,” to the soup guy at the Au Bon Pain at Hynes Convention Center before he gave me the right soup, which turned out to be the wrong soup: 3

Number of new insults coined: 1 (tell you later)

Number of drinks shared with my dear friend Kara Waite: lost track

Number of great conversations had with my dear friend Kara Waite: lost track

Number of times I said, “I know I keep talking about that David Foster Wallace biography, but…”: 87


Number of Bread Loaf attendees I recognized but didn’t talk to: 7-9

Number of times Alan Stewart Carl, who is from Texas, commented on how much the guys in Boston seemed like they were straight out of a Mark Wahlberg movie: 12

Number of famous authors not on panels they were supposed to be on because of shitty weather: 2 (that I know of). I had hoped to see/hear Cheryl Strayed and Amy Hempel in person, but both were delayed by weather. In both instances, I didn’t learn they weren’t on the panel until I was in the already jammed packed room. The panels turned out to be awesome anyway

Number of people who came up to me and said, “hey, aren’t you Benjamin Roesch? I love your work!”: (But I never gave up hope)

Number of world famous ballparks visible out my hotel window: 1


Post #75: C’mon!!

Shaking My Head

If you didn’t know, it’s Potentially Irrational Rant Day here at The Almost Right  Words in which I bitch about the following:

Earlier this year, I read, demolished is more like it, Cheryl Strayed’s wildly celebrated and wildly wonderful memoir Wild, about her solo trek up the Pacific Crest Trail. If you haven’t, read it. Immediately. If Oprah’s recommendation scared you away, take mine instead. It’s wow-tastic. But I’m not here to talk about Wild, the book, but Wild the book cover. It looks like this.


Stark and memorable, isn’t it? Love that close up of the mud caked boot. The clean all white background so the writing fires and pops. Today’s rant begins with a trip to Phoenix, my local book store here in Burlington, where, while browsing the new hardcover books, I saw Wild featured. I thought, golly gee, that’s weird, Wild came out months ago, what’s it doing among the new books? Except that further review proved it wasn’t Wild at all. It was Goldberg Variations, a new book by Susan Isaacs, whose cover looks like this.


Now, you’ll just have to take my expert word for it that the similarity, while certainly striking here, is only a pale imitation of how much of a knock-off cover this actually is and feels like when you hold the books side by side. This is mainly because in the Goldberg pic above you can’t see the book’s spine, which is the EXACT SAME lipstick red with white writing that you see on the profile view of Cheryl’s book above. So incensed was I that the other night, I made my wife, who’s also read Wild, go into the bookstore with me to see the evidence, at which point I corralled both books, held them up for her perusal and intoned, “disgusting, isn’t it? I mean, can you believe those corporate pricks would stoop so low as to try to create a subconscious link between an established bestseller (Wild) and a brand new book so as to inflate sales? I mean, this has got to be some kind of copyright violation, right?” I was loud. People were looking at me.

My wife noticed what I noticed, but her disgust, while apparent in the raise of her eyebrows and the slight curl of her lip, did not reach the fever pitch of my own. Okay, she barely seemed to care, and continued looking at something else.

But, c’mon! You’re with me, aren’t you. That’s bullshit! Am I right?



Post #44: Cheryl Strayed’s new memoir Wild

Book Reviews, Things You Should Be Reading

Cheryl Strayed’s new memoir Wild is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.  Engrossing.  Exciting.  Enriching.  Deeply emotional.  True in the best sense of the word.  There were passages in it of such honesty, of such naked emotional truth, that I shuddered as I read.  As such, I’ve been meaning to write a post to share with you just how excellent it is, how worthy of your valuable time.  But my good friend Alan Stewart Carl has just written a fantastic review of her book over at PANK, and he’s said it way better than I would have.  Enjoy.  And then get reading!