It’s been a while since I’ve posted on this blog, and there isn’t really a particular reason why I have or have not. I haven’t willfully ignored putting new posts up, thinking about all the wonderful things I should be writing about and then hiding them from the public. Nor have I completely forgotten about the blog. When this site was designed, having a blog was something I wanted, and from time to time, the thought has entered my mind that I should write about a particular noteworthy item. Anyway, last month passed without any new posts, and while I’m almost a hundred percent positive it won’t happen, I was thinking that this would be a good time to focus on posting something new to the blog every weekday, if not every day, during the month of April. You can see why I don’t like making public pronouncements like that: this is the second week of April, not the first and, nope, nothing went up last week. I’m not a great self-promoter. But I’ve recently completed a Big Project, and now that I’m mulling what to work on next (there are snippets of things, here and there, some closer to complete than others, that are sitting on my hard drive, waiting for my attention to return to them) I thought this would be a good time to hit a smattering of things. This past weekend, I went to the 2014 Mission Creek Festival. This is a yearly festival in Iowa City that has a mixture of concerts, literary readings, film screenings, public lectures, food and culture events, and a technology conference.
At the invitation of Aaron Burch of Hobart, I went to be one of the many readers in the Lit Crawl (a series of readings during Friday night) and to represent The Missouri Review at the Saturday book fair. For me, the major highlight was hanging out with Phong Nguyen, an author of two story collections, and a guy who is quickly becoming a good friend and one of my favorite people in publishing. Like me, he was promoting a book you should read and representing a magazine you should read. We ate all our meals together, drank some beers, read at the same venue, and shared a table at the book fair. When the reading ended (it was at 5 pm) several people left to make the 6 pm reading at another venue, and we sat down with three people I didn’t really know: Liz Wykcoff, Craig Eley, and Kelly Luce. It sounds a bit corny, but getting to spend an hour getting to know people who care about the same things you do really is nice, and I’m hoping that I’ll know those three for many years to come.
One of the main smart things about Mission Creek is that all the events are only five minutes away. This is key when you’re walking around Iowa in April, which is pretty balmy compared to the winter months in Iowa, but a bit grim nonetheless. I’d been to Iowa City once before, but never really got to kick around town and get to a range of clubs and bars and restaurants. I met Tom Williams, and we got nerdy about our Ohio roots, and Susan Lanier, who I discovered far too late (thanks, Twitter!) is a huge baseball fan. Had I know that, I would have stayed up until the wee small hours talking about pitching rotations.
Instead, I took it (semi-) easy on myself so that I was ready for the book fair. This was held at The Mill from 11 to 6, at which time there was a reading by Rachel Kushner and Jen Percy (pretty great festival, yeah?). The only other book conference I’ve gone to with any regularity is the AWP Conference, and their book fair is a massive event, with ten thousand plus attendees, many of whom are writers. But in Iowa City, mostly, I was talking to readers. And, since Iowa City is such an educated and well-read public, they already knew about and read The Missouri Review. So, usually, I’m talking to a person at the table about getting work in the magazine; instead, I was talking about why you should read the magazine. It was a shift, and certainly not an impossible one, but I just wasn’t initially prepared for it. I also made it over to the Poetry Foundation table, and chatted with Holly Amos, an associate editor with the magazine. She’s new to the position, though not the foundation, and so we talked a little shop about what’s next for our magazine, how we’re going to get there, and so forth. Another one of those good people I was happy to meet this past weekend.
I’m definitely planning on going back to Mission Creek. Being around small presses and book publishers who are passionate, flexible, and innovative is exciting to me. It’s a terrific festival, and one that, if you can, is worth going to next year.
Follow Michael on Twitter: @mpnye