How to impress the literary elite:

July 13, 2011

Or, the unpublished writer’s guide to cocksucking.

In film school, everyone imagines walking down the aisle, unfolding a crumpled sheet of notebook paper in front of millions of people and reading an Oscar speech. If you meet someone who’s gone to film school and they deny doing this, (typical responses are: “Psh, are you kidding me? I want to make ART. Not some commercial capitalist bullshit!”) they’re liars. Practicing your Oscar speech is kind of like smoking dope; everyone does it at least once. (Film nerd or otherwise.)

One time, I met Tina Fey at a book signing. (“You want me to get that name for you? LOOKS LIKE YOU DROPPED IT.”) I only bring this up because I love getting homogenous groups together and watching people try to function in a group of themselves. Young, sassy, nerdy, buddy-holly girls in business casual are a scathing bunch. Watching them try and operate in a group where they can’t be superfluously dejected and sit on a lifeguarding chair of judgment chanting “Look at your life, LOOK AT YOUR CHOICES” is hilarious. These bitches are my people, AND I LOVE IT.

Every summer since Junior year of high school, I’ve had the pleasure of crashing the Tin House writer’s conference. Now, getting a bunch of writers together, (who are not all sassy, buddy-hollys) is extremely amusing. Last summer I got acquainted with a woman whom I affectionately refer to as ‘my best friend Sue.’ The first time we met, she had hot pink lipstick on her front tooth, and proceeded to tell me about some of her poems. We were sitting near each other at a reading; and the rest of the week I kept running into her accidentally, which was always met by an affable wave. We were aimlessly inseparable. (Let’s just say, our cycles had synched up by the end of the week. We were tight.) One summer I sat a few rows ahead of a serious type who looked like a young Carol Burnett. She had her floppy moleskin perched on her knee; and was hawkeyeing the competition, making sure to perfectly time a stifled guffaw at every opportune moment. My favorite people are the ones who hang on every word and relish in it like it’s a reworking of the gospel.

I have come to notice, in the time I’ve spent crashing conferences around the globe, that there are two kinds of aspiring authors. One, being the stereotypical wall-flower type, that sits and watches people keeping notes on their every breath so they can crucify it later for the sake of ‘literature.’ It is especially interesting to get an entire room of these people together because no one will ever say anything, and it’s fun to watch cutting glances be passed around like a peace pipe. These people usually carry moleskins, to evidence the pain in their souls; but also to have a place to write, lest you do something stupid and they need some source material. Carol Burnett was one of these.

The second type is much more infuriating. They are the collective boasters. The extroverts. The “I’m a writer nice to meet you, this is what my latest manuscript is about” people. In order to hide their inevitable insecurities, (they are writers afterall) they speak in unnecessarily loud tones, and use superfluously intelligent language when asking questions. “In that ~*~*~AMAZING~*~*~ piece that you just read from, wondering if you’d pontificated the allegorical undertones of your protagonist’s journey with regards to….” The introverts are either wishing they could be that forthright, or judging the extroverts and taking snide notes about them. Extroverts have probably also read every single Flannery O’Connor  story in existence, and likely will reference the minutiae in casual conversation. “Oh, I love in A Circle in the Fire when…” I guess this could be equated to: “SO, YOU’RE A FILM STUDENT. YOU’VE SEEN 8 1/2, RIGHT?” (For the record, yes, and it was awesome!!)

Getting the yin and yang of the writer’s circle together is a fascinating experience. There is one thing that both sides of the coin do very well, which is sucking cock. (I mean that in a nice way.) I have never witnessed so many disingenuous hearty chuckles. I have noticed that real writers don’t make a big scene about what they do. The best of the best are just writers. There’s no post-script, they don’t have to prove it to anyone that they’re writers, they just are. They put words on a page, and people pay them for it. At the conference, there are a lot of people that would kill to be in the shoes of a ‘just writer.’ Professionals together, talking about their craft is awesome. Watching a bunch of people vying for a tough spot in the glorious heavens known as “I’m published!!!1!” is interesting. People, who at their cores operate very differently, are all trying to accomplish the same goal. (And likely will throw the other posers under the bus when they get their opportunity at the big time.)

It’s probably like the film kids. “AND I’D LIKE TO THANK–” Every aspiring writer dreams of changing lives with their strung together sentences. (However delusional.) I’d be willing to bet that anyone who says otherwise is lying.


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