Booktopia

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I took my empty book bag to the writing conference that was here in Seattle recently, and I wandered through the book fair and scooped up free tortilla chips at the receptions and waved at my friends across the crowded aisles, and by the time I came home, that bag was so heavy my shoulder hurt.

It all started at registration, where I tried to look like it meant nothing to me that Joy Harjo was a few people ahead. I chatted with a man named Ken, and later I ran into him, sitting in the Gival Press booth, and then we crossed paths on the sidewalk, and what was there to do the next time I saw him but buy Poetic Voices Without Borders? Guess who’s in it? Joy Harjo.

Richard Blanco (poet of Obama’s second inauguration) made me think of Arline, who loves Miami, so I asked him to sign Looking for the Gulf Motel to her.

Tom Spanbauer, that beautiful genius, has a new book out from Hawthorne Books. I took his “Dangerous Writing” class many years ago. I wish I could go back in time and watch him walk into that kindergarten classroom again. (We all got grown-up chairs, but the bathroom sinks were three feet off the ground.) Hawthorne had I Loved You More at their table.

Wednesday night, Arline came down and we celebrated Latino/a writers with Donna Miscolta and Alma García and new friends Ruben Quesada and Brian Kornell.

We were all three degrees of separation by then, and Ruben, it turned out, had organized Queertopia, a reading (12 readers! 120 minutes!) at the Barnes and Noble, which is where Arline and I spent Thursday night. There, I bought Kazim Ali’s Bright Felon, Eduardo C. Corral’s Slow Lightning, and Roxane Gay’s Ayiti. Why those? Because I already had Deborah Miranda’s Bad Indians and Barrie Jean Borich’s Body Geographic. And because, while the authors were signing my books, I could stand really close to them without seeming creepy.

Did I mention lunch with Jennifer Munro, who talked me up to an editor at a really cool press? What kind of writer does that? We’re supposed to be stingy and self-absorbed.

One day – Friday? – I chatted with a professor and graduate student at Ooligan Press. From them I bought Oregon Stories and The Portland Red Guide, by Michael Munk. Next time Arline and I go to Portland, we can check out where radical Marie D. Equi lived in the late 1920s and early 1930s with her lover, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn.

I wasn’t the only one exhausted and overstimulated by the last day, but I managed to make it one more time through the book fair, where I picked up an anthology of craft essays and Frank Bidart’s latest, Metaphysical Dog. Many years ago, when Northwest Bookfest was down on the waterfront, I sat on a folding chair in a drafty pier warehouse and listened to Bidart read. Another beautiful genius.

After lunch at Le Pichet, I carted my books home on the bus. And now, dear Reader, I am reading them.

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About allisongreenwriter

Author of The Ghosts Who Travel with Me, a memoir, and Half-Moon Scar, a novel.
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