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Slow Down!

by Zhanna Vaynberg

Having grown up in a very loud and direct Russian family, there’s something about this straightforward type of behavior that I’m very drawn to. Because, to me, politeness seems to be more a defense mechanism than anything else. My fiancé (an Israeli, coincidentally enough) and I are always lamenting that Americans, unless you’ve known them for years, are not very forthcoming; it is often hard for us to talk to them about things heavier than TV shows we have in common, work, or the latest regional gossip. Sometimes it feels like Americans are so afraid of being disagreed with or disliked that topics of conversation have no choice but to stay trivial. And it’s not even the topics of conversation, really, but more the level of conversation. It’s like filling up on appetizers and never getting to the main course–a lot of speaking gets done, but by the time you get to something real (if you ever do), everyone is picking up the checks.

Seeing Writers at AWP

by A.L. Major

Though I’m a perfectly socially-adequate human being, who has little issue speaking to other people, the AWP conference still seemed to me the worst possible idea: thousands of otherwise isolated, oftentimes socially inept, or rather “quirky,” writers annually come together in a confined space to talk about the very thing that drives us into insanity. It’s an event that prompts in my mind, first and foremost, “Who came up with that idea?” and, more specifically, “Why?” I might have a very romantic idea of myself as a writer, but I see myself holed up in a tiny room, frustratingly pounding away at my keyboard, not procrastinating on Facebook and certainly not schmoozing and networking with other writers, professors, agents, editors. That’s the way it should be shouldn’t it?