Monday, November 05, 2007

Maine Literary Festival and Me

I don't belong here. That was my primary thought on the first night of the Maine Literary Festival; and to tell you the truth, it was my primary thought throughout the entire weekend. I felt like an outcast with absolutely no peers. Most in attendance were wealthy and older, while those closer to my age were among the authors featured, and all of them were much more successful than I am.

The festival was held in Camden, Maine, which, if you’re not familiar with it, is a town with a slightly higher income per capita than the rest of the state. OK, greatly higher. To tell you the truth there aren't many true Mainers who live in Camden; few of us can afford it. Most residents are from away. This distinction has a few degrees of categorization: 1) Very nice, 2) Benign, but annoying, 3) Complete douche bag. Unfortunately for category 1 people, it is category 3 people who tend to stick in our minds and sully our attitudes; even though Cat 3's are usually the minority. What can I say? You throw a douche bag into the mix, the flavor changes. Anyway…

There were some interesting topics, especially the last day, which focused on the mystery genre. The mystery panel even touched upon the current debate started by Rickards on the status of the genre, thanks to yours truly who supplied the question. The general consensus was that the genre isn't in a rut and didn't need a shot in the arm. I disagree somewhat, not that I would have been able to express this opinion. Questions were written down on cards, which took away a lot of the spontaneity and intimacy of an intellectual exchange between panelists and audience members. And you had to be quick in writing down those questions because there were only so many minutes allotted for Q&A. I actually wrote the Rickards question before the panel started.

And that was my biggest pet peeve of the conference: the strict time schedule. The woman "in charge" was a tyrant with a stopwatch. The schedule was more important than content. She made sure every panel was done promptly as the itinerary dictated - to the minute. She was like some fascist's wet dream. You could actually see the power going to her head as she dictated the entire weekend. It was like watching that psychology experiment where they observed people who got off on shocking others, only without the electricity. However, if she could have found some frayed wires, I think most of us would have been fucked.

There were some interesting people there: Tess Gerritsen, Matthew Pearl, Sarah Langan, Kate Flora, Joe Hill, Owen King, etc. Most of whom I talked to, at least briefly. But to demonstrate what kind of a dork I am, I didn’t talk with Tess Gerritsen for two reasons: I know that Tess is not her real first name, it’s actually Terry (it’s kind of funny to listen while some people call her Tess and some people call her Terry), so I had this fear that if I called her Terry it would be too familiar and she would look at me like I was one of those deranged fans who’s about ten seconds away from handing her their pancreas in a jar. The second reason is I have met her a few times and talked with her, but I also know from her blog that she can’t remember faces and names (don’t ask me how I can remember that, I just do.), so I didn’t want to come up to her like she should recognize me, but I also didn’t want to come up to her like we’ve never met before and have her say, “Hey, you’re the guy with the pancreas.” So, like the incredible introvert that I am, I didn’t talk with her for two of the stupidest reasons imaginable. BTW - Tess is a Cat 1.


Christa M. Miller said...

Exactly my thought process, in most situations. Glad you were able to make it, even if you didn't quite fit in.

Steve Allan said...

Did you go? Were you there?

Christa M. Miller said...

Oh lord no! I wish! I would've given you a heads-up if I were going. Then we could have been paranoid, I mean introverted, together.

No, I just meant that I think like that in most social situations, regardless of who's who!

Patrick Shawn Bagley said...

I used to work in Camden, bowing and scraping to the Beautiful People. We lived over in Warren with the other icky peasants.