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RE: AWP NYC 08 recap, contin’d

It was a multimedia day, Thursday, loaded with surprises, frustrations, and shared discoveries.

Earlier, I had to deal with faulty wifi service at my off-site hotel. After correcting that, I sat on a workshop regarding the viability of short story collections and then jumped into the carnival of literature that is the Bookfair. All three stories of it.

One of my favorite things about the AWP conference is the Bookfair, which is sponsored by the amazing Council of Literary Magazines and Presses (the CLMP). I just can’t imagine the small press world functioning with any sort of organization or vision without the presence of the CLMP. Many many thanks to Jeffrey Lependorf, Jay Baron Nicorvo, Jamie Schwartz and Tasha Sorenson for working their hearts out for the cause.

My strategy for the Bookfair is to stroll the whole thing once, make the obvious contacts you look forward to making, and keep notes on what you see and find. Then you go with fresh eyes to revisit the Bookfair again, wearing different hats. For me, the hats were many: conference director, editor, writer, community organizer, small press member. This helped me to keep my focus, and it was extremely important to understand from the get-go that I would be making my rounds at least 2-3 times. Somehow, there’s less pressure in doing this, I suppose because I know I can go back. It takes more time to do this, and I missed a few interesting panel discussions because of it, but I find the Bookfair to be one of the best networking opportunities out there and always come away with a small treasury of leads, ideas, and contacts.

One such contact was with Tameme publisher and blogger CM Mayo. She and I have met at AWP conferences since 2004 and have watched each other develop our specific areas of expertise, taking them into new directions as the times and technologies change. This time, I was thrilled to share my Kindle experience with her, showing her all the various ways that the device is useful. We strategized about ways to make the Kindle yet another effective way to get literature into the hands of readers (or potential readers) (see photo; I’m on the right, CM’s on the left). It was an profitable meeting and we’re now blogging our hearts out about blogging, as you’ll see in previous entries on this blog and at hers.

Later that day, I trolled the floor of suites where we would be presenting our discussion on new media, looking in vain for a free wifi hookup. With every attempt, I met with the Hilton shield, which prevented access to their network without some sort of prearrangement or passcode. I paid a visit to the Business Services office, who referred me to the Hilton’s Communications Department. When they informed me that the service I wanted would cost $1000 a day, I laughed out loud! There must be some mistake…and I pleaded our case, that we were under the impression we would have free (or low-cost) wifi access for our multimedia discussion, in which we would need about 1.5 hours of access to be used almost entirely by 1 person in our panel of 6. To that, the Communications contact replied, “Oh, okay. For you, that would run $850.” Again with the burst of laughter from me, and a few choice replies that included the words “ludicrous,” “kidding,” and “absurd.”

I hung up and pursued the AWP help desk for further instructions. They hooked me up with the AV folks (thanks, Stacy L!) who then pored over our arrangements to determine that we had all the necessary media reserved (projector, for instance), but that we needed to check our contract with the panel organizer regarding the wife arrangement. Shortly thereafter, at a powwow with the panelists at organizer Carol Novack’s fab apartment, we looked over the contract to discover some vague language about the high expense of offering wifi and a disclaimer that we would need to pay for the service (without any rates or even a ballpark figure to give us an idea of the cost).

Now, I’m from Seattle, and we’re pretty wired here. I attend conferences and conventions in the area and have never had problems accessing wifi (I’m usually not staying at the hotels, so I have had, if only occasionally if at all, to cough up the $10-15 service fee). The notion that the Hilton is taking some sort of high-end financial hit by offering wifi service is simply an illusion, folks. They ask for this unnecessary markup on the service because huge corporations blow in and out all the time in downtown Manhattan. $1000 a day for wifi access is a drop in the bucket to them, so the Hilton asks for it because no one’s the wiser.

We worked out some plan B and C strategies Thursday night and I’ll give the big reveal on our final presentation in a separate entry here at Writer’s Rainbow (yep, that’s right, I’m going to keep you hanging).

Afterward, I had the pleasure of visiting the CLMP offices in the West Village last Thursday night, where they offered chocolate, pretzels and free-flowing prosecco (an Italian sweet champagne). There, I marveled at the multiple shelves of literary journals in their library. I had come in an entourage of trouble-making online editors (Jonathan Penton, Unlikely Stories; the aforementioned Carol Novack, Mad Hatter’s Review; Charles Ries, Word Riot; and Eric Melbye, Segue) and we lived up to our reputation by staking a claim on one empty shelf by positioning in its middle a small hand-made sign that read “online publishers.” It’s a shelf that will need dusting often, eh? When we pointed out our “statement” to Jay Nicorvo, he seemed to join in our group chuckle and even suggested that perhaps our claim would be left up for all of eternity, which pleased us immensely.

More to come…

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