I had a great time at AWP this past week. There were so many people to see, meet, and say hello to that it’s really kind of an impossible mission to complete. Someone should make a video game out of it to inspire kids to become writers. It would be like: I have to make it to the Hobart table before they run out of magic juice (whiskey)…I have to make it to the Sun Magazine reading to see Cheryl Strayed and get 500 points…I have to find Lindsay Hunter and give her a high five…I have to avoid that dude with the long beard who keeps submitting manuscripts to me…I have to meet the guys from McSweeney’s and have a discussion about irony for 800 points and a bronze coin with Dave Eggers’s face on it…I have to try to remember who that guy is who wrote that poem I liked in that new lit journal…AAAAAARRRRRGGGH! I’ve been stabbed by Jamie Iredell!!
My favorite AWP recap intro ever.
Super excited that Tod Goldberg’s brilliant “When They Let Them Bleed,” from Hobart 13 is included in this year’s Best American Essays. Here’s a little behind-the-scenes on how the essay came to be, stolen from Tod’s Facebook:
So excited and thankful to be included this year in Best American Essays, which is out today. I am eternally grateful to Aaron Burch for emailing me in the summer of 2011 and asking me if I had anything to write about luck for the 13th issue of Hobart. Actually, what he said was, “Throughout thinking about the issue, I knew I wanted something about Vegas (how could it not? what else is Hobart meets “luck”?), though hopefully not the standard, trying to be cool but ultimately lame Vegas story. And I was trying to think if I knew anyone who a) had spent some good time there and/or went often, and b) was rad and a good writer, etc. And then I remembered you lived there for a while! What thinks you? You have any thoughts or ideas? You interested? You need some encouragement?”
And I said, “I’m writing a book that takes place in Las Vegas right now, so I’m all up on my Las Vegasness. And, actually, I have an essay I’ve been wanting to write about the death of Duk Koo Kim, who Ray Boom Boom Mancini killed in the ring at a fight in Las Vegas in 1982. It was the first time I ever saw a person die. A real person, that is, even if I only saw it on TV. It’s one of those things I think about on a somewhat regular basis. Anyway, it’s about the ultimate good and bad luck all in one place. Ray Mancini wins a fight and is fucked up forever. I happen, at 11, to watch the fight and am fucked up forever (or, well, you know, I’ll tie it in to being fucked up). And then Duk Koo Kim, he had really bad luck. He died that day. What do you think?”
Aaron thought yes, that sounded good. I thought it sounded good, too. And the truth is, I’d been trying to write the piece for about 15 years, had written the first paragraph of it a dozen times or more. Had spent a long afternoon with Rob Roberge one day a few years before trying to figure out what it all meant, what it was I was trying to get at. It took me a month or two to actually write the essay, but it really took me about 30 years of thinking about it and then the eventual death of my mother to get all into a place where it was something I could actually write.