Monday, January 03, 2005

AWP: Are Writers Popular?

At brunch with a non-writing friend, Wife & I waxed non-poetic about the fiction-writing business. Eventually, the topic turned to schmoozing. "You don't look like you'd be good at that," he said to me.

"Well, duh," I snarled back. That's why so many of us write fiction -- we grew up as outcasts and crawled into worlds of our own imagining. Prom queens and high school quarterbacks usually make lousy novelists and putrid poets.

Wife & friends will attend the AWP conference in Vancouver, in April. They're looking at it as a schmooze fest, for the most part. That's one thing they don't teach you in MFA programs or in "How to Write and Publish"-type books: like in every other business, contacts can make or break your career. Extremely talented writers can fail because they're on permanent nerd patrol or they just simply don't know how to make contacts; conversely, plenty of hacks have won fame & fortune due to their people skills.

Make nice with an established writer, sidle up to the right agent, wink and nod with an editor: these are the skills that can launch your career. For every person who gets published in The Paris Review or Harper's over the transom (and they are almost non-existent), a billion stories collect dust for want of a decent introduction.

Ever been to Central Park, seen the statues of the Bard, Schiller, Burns...and Fitz-Green Halleck? "[Halleck] definitely had powerful, wealthy and influential friends, which might shed some light on the obscure reasoning for his bronze immortality," according to the CentralPark 2000 database.

This is how the world works, and I shouldn't bitch. It's just easier to blame conspiracies for my failures.