Waiting for the big Jennifer Egan/Joshua Ferris/Rick Moody/Benjamin Percy reading to begin in the cavernous Marriott Ballroom, I found myself sitting next to a couple of poets currently doing their MFAs at a really awesome school. The girl poet was blonde and thin and wearing a black leather jacket, her nose and ears de rigueur-ly studded. The boy poet’s hair was variegated—patches were brown and patches were purple, with no telling what its natural color once was. Thinking about it now, it strikes me that maybe patches were bright orange. But that can’t be true—can it?—orange hair having gone out of style maybe decades ago?
I asked if they knew a fiction writer who had graduated from their program within the past couple of years and is now achieving some success.
“Yeah,” the girl poet said. “We know him.”
The boy poet snorted. “He writes every day.”
I started to say that it didn’t surprise me: a good work ethic probably being a pre-req for the kind of success that the fiction writer was enjoying, but the boy poet corrected me—he didn’t mean it as a compliment.
“Writing every day means thin writing,” he said. “If writing is to be true and deep, meaningful or good, you need to let things percolate in your head longer. He just dashes off and writes and writes and…”
The boy poet rattled off disparagements, the girl poet nodding along. I couldn’t believe it. What he was saying ran against the advice most people give about constructing a daily writing regimen. Yet the more he talked, the more I sensed jealousy creeping into his reasoning. The two poets had yet to achieve the recognition that their fiction alum is starting to get. Rather than be generous, they chose to denigrate his writing practices. Which is pretty ugly, if you ask me.
I’ll write more about AWP over the next few days, but I do want to say that this isolated example was an anomaly—I had a great time, and the people I met were otherwise uniformly generous and friendly.