It’s just a week away, folks. AWP’s 2012 conference in Chicago. By far, my favorite part of the conference is always the book fair. The panels and readings and off-site events in overly crowded (read: fire hazard, microbiologically menacing) venues are all well and good, but I love meeting other writers, picking up books that I’ve either been dying to read or that I’m hearing of for the first time, and getting a little star-struck and tittering like a little kid as some of my literary idols walk by.
I and the other editors of The Los Angeles Review will be holding court at Red Hen Press‘s booth in the book fair, and I’m already excited about meeting everyone who comes into Red Hen vortex. But I’m also looking forward to walking the book fair by myself. It’s a good chance to get my head out of our work at LAR and to see all the amazing stuff that’s going on in the small press world.
There’s one big problem with the book fair, though: the fact that you can walk up to a table you’re genuinely interested in, start looking at books, and be stared at so bleakly by a seated, wordless intern–one who’s either hung over or bound by a vow of silence–that you drop the book you had in hand and run for more promising territory. Maybe I watch too many horror films, but anybody sitting on a folding metal chair with a lowered head looks a little too much like the creepy girl from the movie The Ring.
But there are some very bright spots in the book fair–safe havens with friendly people, good books, and plenty of opportunities to have conversations with literary folk:
PANK. I have much love for PANK, who gave me my first publication. Even if I didn’t have eternal gratitude, I’d still recommend that you go by and visit the great group of editors. They’re lively, welcoming, and a general pleasure to meet and great. The new issue of the magazine looks amazing, as well.
Tin House. I’ll be honest: I usually don’t bother going by “big” booths. You know, Mc Sweeney’s, Milkweed, Tin House. You can’t always manage to squeeze in sideways between the writers teeming around their tables, and I’m not much of one for teeming. But last year, when the crowds had thinned near the end of the book fair, I was extremely impressed with the niceness of the Tin House crew (okay, the one guy at the booth when I came by) and walked away with a subscription.
Press 53. A great press, great people, and genuine enthusiasm for innovative, high-quality writing.
Dzanc Books. These people are amazing. With five imprints, two print journals and one online journal, and some truly innovative outreach programs, Dzanc is a press to watch (and, more importantly, to read).
Copper Nickel. Do yourself a favor and buy a copy of this journal. The folks at Copper Nickel put out a consistently impressive journal, and they’re a delightful crew of people.
The Rumpus. A word of caution: don’t go by this table unless you are prepared to buy and lug home a mug, okay? Because you will buy a mug. Oh yes you will.
Fifth Wednesday Journal. FIfth Wednesday doesn’t often travel to AWP, but this Illinois journal is a true labor of love. Vern Miller, the man behind the publication, is one of the nicest, most invested editors I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. Don’t miss the chance to meet him and pick up a copy of the journal.
Weave Magazine. An independent journal with a lot of heart, Weave is where it’s at for eclectic, diverse, quality writing. Independent publishing is a labor of love, and is evident on every page of this small, smart, energetic journal.