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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

Midwinter — The Janus-faced Conference

"Authors," I was told when I first began working in publishing, "never go to Midwinter." The midwinter ALA conference is known as the working meeting — no glitz, no glamor, no celebrations and parties. In fact there was a certain monastic tone — a sense that important work was going on behind closed doors, and so every else should stay busy, silent, and distant. That important work, of course, is deciding on the prizes that are announced in a morning press conference on the Monday of Midwinter. That looming date is another reason authors were not to go — best to be vague, blury, on when the awards are announced. That way you don’t watch the clock and worry. But at the conference, everyone is intensely aware of Monday morning. Every publisher gives the committees their room numbers and hotels. Then a group gathers in plenty of time, has coffee, and waits by the phone. This is torture for the publishers, but would be even worse for authors. So best to stay home.
      This year, though, I am going. Midwinter is in Boston, too close to resist the weekend of the 16th and 17th. And I am seeing the conference as facing forward, not back. I am there to hear about, and talk about, books yet to come out in 2010 — of course I’ll hear buzz, listen to rumors, and wonder what will be announced Monday. But I won’t suffer the author tortures because I didn’t have a book out last year. I neither fear the taint of impropriety (that monastic sense is also the idea that judges should be sequestered and not pressured by, say, meeting an author whose work they are judging) nor anticipation anxiety. I get to come to listen, talk, look — like a diver in one of those old bathescapes — surrounded in a body suit, in the ocean but not really part of it. 
    If any of you are coming, I hope to meet you, I’ll be around over the weekend — and safely back home, to hear the announcements along with everyone else Monday morning.


  1. Peni Griffin says:

    I always go to Midwinter when it’s in town (San Antonio) and always have plenty of authorial friends to meet and organize and act as native guide to. One year I even made a downtown map and put together a handout of all the hotels and what ghosts haunted them. I buy a dealer’s room pass if I don’t have a publisher to pay me in, scmooze the booths, look at what’s out, vacuum up any freebies that are going around, tell people how to find the good food, and translate the billboard Spanish. Ditto TLA and any other industry cons that make it to my convention center. If you’re close enough to not spend money on a hotel, it’s always worth it.

    On the other hand, I have never been to a Midsummer because they’re never in town. It seems every bit as insane to schedule Midwinter in Boston as it would to schedule Midsummer in San Antonio, but that’s not my call to make. Anyway, have fun and take a backpack for the freebie literature. I have a friend who strained a ligament hauling tote bags.

  2. Last time I went to a conf in San Antonio I found one Mexican place I loved, and back there again and again — it got out of hand by the end.