I found myself reading the Garbanzo Gazette, official organ of the Silver City Co-op, while enjoying a mushroom and feta quiche with sweet-potato crust. I learned that most coops struggle with the Diet Coke Dilemma: customers request that soda when faced with an array of cold-pressed, all natural, organic fruit juices. The co-ops that deign to sell Diet Coke quickly find it becomes their best-selling beverage and end up cutting back on their “healthy” juices. What’s a conscientious vendor to do?
That’s just one insight into small-town life. Another is being told there is a serious heroin problem here, but the streets are safe because the gangs only come out at night. That would explain why I heard gunshots at three this morning.
So far, I’ve become light-headed more than once from climbing stairs too fast, forgetting that I’m at 6,000 feet, gotten a bee-sting on my hand, and sunburn on my nose. I feel like I’m at summer camp. Maybe I should braid plastic strips into a lanyard.
Mostly because of the town’s charming ambience, the Southwestern Festival of the Written Word Book Fiesta (www.swwordfiesta.org) has been a hoot. I’ve sold a couple of my self-published books. I hate sitting behind the table, smiling like an idiot to walkers-by, so I have a tiny purple bucket with some dollars in it to make change and a sign saying “The Honor System.” That way I can attend lectures and readings. My table-mates were horrified. “It looks like a tip jar,” one said. “I’m not above that,” I replied. “What if somebody takes a book and doesn’t pay?” another said. “I only hope they enjoy it.” However, I admit that the only books I’ve sold have been in-person. People don’t buy the books because of the books. They buy the books because of me. The price I pay by sitting there is way higher than the price they pay.
I’ve enjoyed readings and talks by Lily Hoang (english.nmsu.edu/lily-hoang) who re-wrote the I Ching in her own poetically impressionistic way. Brilliant idea, nice writing. Orlando White is a Diné (Navajo) poet (OrlandoWhite.com) obsessed by the letters of the alphabet who writes odes to each one. Utterly fascinating stuff, and great reading. I went to a “panel” on mystery writing by authors Jonathan Miller (www.rattlesnakelaw.com) and Judith van Gieson (www.judithvangieson.com). I was surprised to hear van Gieson say of her latest publication, “Oh, no, it’s just a mystery, not a novel.” What?
Amazingly, few presenters have copies of their work for sale at the talks, and if they do, it’s one or two copies of only one title, often hardbound. What? There seem to be many hundreds of festival attendees, I’d guess around 500. Unclear on the concept, I’d say.
Tonight is the festival banquet (“Evening with the Writers: Meet, greet, and eat.”) Should be tasty. I bought a ticket more out of anthropological interest than anything else. I will sacrifice my chance to dine at a huge Mexican restaurant nearby with a prominent sign at the front door, “We support concealed carry,” which is a great relief, since I forgot to bring my holster.
Tomorrow morning I look forward to a session on “Electronic Literature,” the blending of computer-generated text messages with flash images and recorded spoken words. After that I look forward to driving home and getting back to work. This event has reminded me that I’m just as good a writer as anybody here, and so I need to do it.