An Alias’ Utility

The secret’s out. My alias, “Frumpy Grandma,” is just that, a disguise for my actual identity, “Energized, Empowering Woman Writer.” Whereas I might be: known for mopping carpets and for diapering dolls’ bottoms; branded, especially by my daughters, for wearing shapeless clothing; and remembered for adding nothing more than grunts to my family’s discussions of politics, it is likewise the case that I have many informed opinions, most of which I am grateful to be able to broadcast through my prose.

It’s not so much that I shy from controversy as that I choose to bring my energy to places where my thoughts can count (that is, international blogs and columns, and books). To me, it makes no difference that select “friends” consider me fat or fatuous. What’s important is that I have homes for my positions.

Meanwhile, those “foes of Gotham,” those gossips, have discovered that beyond penning the kind of ideological stuff that gets reprinted, my derring-do has extended to thwarting additional malefic matters. Not only am I fortunate to be regularly published, but I am also, albeit somewhat surreptitiously, fortunate to regularly demonstrate critical and creative thinking. Unsated by decades of university teaching, I currently and boldly go forth with online lessons on developing cognitive skills and on applying those skills to fashioning texts (my drab, shabby couture, notwithstanding).

Most “disreputable” to those chinwags, I unhesitatingly make my provocative moves. Shamelessly, I ask for and receive remuneration for my words and for my instruction on others’ words. Though hearsay has pointed out those successes, I don’t advertise them. Those meddling citizens don’t need to know that my pin money as well as a chunk of my household budget, comes from such goings on.

By disappearing behind my “Frumpy Grandmother” persona, I sidestep strata climbing and am able to use my resources, to generate, and to help other writers generate, lots of pages.

AWP: Obliterator of Intentions

I went to AWP with the best intentions – I’d see every booth and table at the book fair, I’d attend every panel even tangentially related to my interests, I’d hunt down all the authors I like and make them sign stuff, I would hang out with friends I don’t get to see very often.

Well, I got to see most of the book fair, and I hung out with friends (both old and new), and I even saw a couple of panels, but let’s be honest – AWP is BIG. Like a lot of writers, I’m an introvert, but I’m also the head of a small press and someone who’s deeply interested in the intersection of writing and technology. How do you find others of your kind, network on behalf of your business, and let people know you support their work without making yourself crazy?

Here are a few of my own strategies:

  • Have enough business cards. You don’t have to spend a lot on them, because nowadays, people will only hang onto your business card long enough to get the information into their phones, but having them is key. And while you’re at it, have a pen handy so that when someone hands you theirs, you can jot down why you want to contact them later.
  • Liquor is a wonderful social lubricant. Have a drink with a new friend at the overpriced venue bar. Bring a flask and offer a drink to a nervous speaker. As long as you don’t overdo it, liquor can be a conversation starter, a way to bond with people, and take away just enough anxiety to allow for that first “hello.”
  • Say yes anytime someone asks if you want to do something. “Do you want to put this rubber mask on your head and pose next to a cardboard cutout of a mountie?” YES. “Do you want to try this tiny letterpress?” YES. “Do you want to explore this interesting landmark on the other side of town?” YES. Don’t let swag be the only thing you bring home from AWP – take some chances, do some goofy stuff, make some fun memories.
  • Compliment people. Tell the editors at your favorite publication that you like them. Congratulate all your author friends on their publications (which you should also buy and read). Let people know that you love their writing, the way they dress, the fact that they are alive in the world. Make AWP your chance to bond with your tribe.
  • Know the signs that mean you’ve had enough. I’m still bad at this one, but an inability to process what I’m seeing, a feeling of profound fatigue, irritability and apathy are all signs that I’m done. I need to head back to my hotel and have a little down time so that when I come back, I’m ready to embrace the Disneyland-scale crazy of AWP.

If you’re an introvert who went to Minneapolis this year, how did you handle it? What advice to you have for the first-timer? What essential do you recommend everyone bring?


Lise Quintana is the publisher behind Zoetic Press. She is a fiction writer, head of a publishing empire, and owner of a legendary collection of taxidermied houseplants. 



2015: Year of the Poet

One of the pre-AWP rituals is the viewing of the schedule, where you try to balance going to the enormous book fair with getting to see all your friends and literary heroes at their panels, readings, and events. As I perused this year’s offerings, looking (mostly in vain) for electronic literature-themed panels that are about more than just letting grade school students use computers, I noticed that there were an awful lot of poetry events. More than I’ve seen in previous years. Which meant that if 2014 was the Year of Craft and Letterpress Books, 2015 is the Year of the Poet.

About time, too. While I myself am a fiction writer, I know lots of poets, and what I know is that good poetry requires a level and type of discipline that longer forms don’t. I’ve written in other venues about my search for what I call the “pixel of narrative” – the smallest fragment of text that can contain narrative meaning. I don’t think that it can be the word, because nearly all words carry multiple meanings and so rely on other words for context. The miracle of poetry is the poet’s ability to exploit that multiplicity of meanings to convey layered, nuanced, surprising imagery with a very small number of words.

Are you a writer of both prose and poetry? How does the one discipline inform the other? What do you get from each one? Tell us!

lise-quintanaLise Quintana is the publisher behind Zoetic Press. She is a fiction writer, software mogul and the sort of person who can totally pull off pairing plaids with polka dots.