Friday, May 2, 2008

Final Musings

Thoughts from the Muse that won't go away.

1. Sitting in the little break room reserved for panelists, I overheard one legendary editor describe what she considers to be a fair offer for a work of debut fiction to two agents who sat utterly still, they were listening so hard. And she went on to describe exactly what she thinks of certain types of sales pitches from agents. I'm pretty sure that neither a fire alarm, nor a live sex act could have distracted anyone in the room from her comments.

2. Memories of Michael Thomas' discussion about emotional resonance just won't go away. At one point, he turned on some James Brown and asked, "OK, what's going on here?" We looked blankly back at him. "Come on. What's the defining characteristic of funk?" he asked. Silence. "Should I turn it up?" he asked. We looked at our shoes. He shook his head. At that point I wanted to raise my hand and say, "Um, I'm from Nebraska." You know, by way of explanation.

3. One of the discussions I attended at the Muse was fairly dull. It happens. An academic sat at the front of the room and droned on about an old research project from graduate school that accidentally became a book. Luckily, Grub Street puts a little surprise in everyone's name tag. It's true. The name tags hang from a lanyard and tucked behind the name in each plastic pocket is a copy of the poem, The Lanyard, by former US poet Billy Collins. The poem appears in his collection, The Trouble with Poetry and Other Poems. I had started to read it earlier, this poem about a boy who weaves a
lanyard for his mother, and knew right away that it was just sentimental enough to make me cry. So, I opened it up and read it during this dull little speech. Had myself a little cry to pass the time.

4. On that subject of poetry, Chris Castellani read a poem by Grace Paley from her last collection, called Fidelity, at lunch the first day. I think it's called Sisters. The first line is "My friends are dying," and it's wonderful. 

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