Street Talk

Sal Pane

Salvatore Pane’s novel, Last Call in the City of Bridges, has just been released by Braddock Avenue Books. Winner of the 2010 Turow-Kinder Award, Sal has published in many venues, including American Short Fiction, The Rumpus, BOMB Magazine, and Hobart. He is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Indianapolis and can be reached at

Seventeen Highlights from AWP 2013 in no Particular Order


1. Sure, it was nice seeing Jeff Condran and Robert Peluso at the Pour House for drinks. And yes, I was very excited to purchase Aubrey Hirsch’s very beautiful debut collection Why We Never Talk About Sugar. But truly, the highlight of the conference was setting up my laptop at the BAB table with a Nintendo Entertainment System emulator and challenging all comers to games of Kung Fu. It turns out that Joyce Carol Oates is totally boss at Bump N’Jump.

2. Matthew Salesses brought a Virtual Boy to the hotel bar, and even though it’s not a two player system, he kept crying and telling anyone who walked by that he was a better Virtual Boy player than Philip Roth. Really weird.

3. My flight was delayed, and my girlfriend Theresa and I had to ride standby from Chicago to Boston. While waiting to board, we spotted Charles Baxter (or a lookalike as convincing as the one xTx sends every year), and I proceeded to lose it. After the flight, I stood in the terminal and checked my Twitter feed because I’m a narcissist and saw that someone who knew my work tweeted how excited they were because they happened to be on the same flight as Sal Pane (THAT’S ME!). It wasn’t Charles Baxter who sent that tweet, but maybe it was Charles Baxter who sent that tweet.

4. Aubrey Hirsch stuck an ad for her book on her baby!

5. I tried to get a “FUCK KEVIN GARNETT!” chant started in the book fair. It didn’t work, but then Deandre Jordan showed up and dunked right over Don DeLillo’s face. (

6. I saw Don DeLillo read his work in person. Amazing.

7. During a Magic Helicopter reading, I found out that Amar’e Stoudemire was out for the remainder of the regular season, so I went into a back room and wept softly into my overpriced Sam Adams Red Brick, which is apparently some type of magical Sam Adams beer you can only get in Boston.

8. Right in the middle of the amazing presidential reading put together by Amber Sparks, her husband Chris Backley sidled up to me and whispered, “There’s a comic book adaptation of Superman IV, and I own it.”

9. I often feel like my life as an indie writer (I’M SO SORRY, EVERYBODY!) and my life as a tortured New York Knicks fan are very far apart indeed. I’ve written extensively about the Knicks before, and if you follow me on Twitter, I’m really sorry for boring you with my incessant livetweeting of Knicks games (BLAME NBA LEAGUE PASS). So I was downright amazed to discover a collection of essays titled We’ll Always Have Linsanity: Strange Takes from the Strangest Season in Knicks History at the Small Press Distribution table. I purchased it without even scanning the back cover. The front had one of my all-time favorite pictures of Jeremy Lin—from that delirious second game after his emergence from the bench when he stuck out his blue tongue—and an illustration of a naked butt that JR Smith tweeted shortly after his return from China (long story). About a half hour later, I stumbled onto 99 Press’ table. They’d put out the book, and the incredibly gracious editor told me it was filled with the work of various Knick bloggers. I was stunned. The table of contents pretty much included everybody I followed on Twitter and retweeted constantly. I stammered and coughed and told this poor man all about my utter hatred of Reggie Miller and how I now lived in Indianapolis and Carmelo Anthony had really grown on me and did he remember LJ’s four point play and, man, what if Patrick Ewing made that layup during the final game of the Eastern Semis against the Pacers back in 1995? I read the book in a single sitting on the plane home and adored everything about it. That this book exists in the AWP universe is endlessly reassuring to me.

10. There’s this restaurant called The Salty Pig that I went to with Theresa and all my college friends, and I ate this totally amazing charred octopus.

11. At the book fair, I had a “GQ-off” with Colin Rafferty.

10. Theresa, xTx, and I were completely captivated by this cocktail table game at the hotel bar. It looked like chess, but all you could do was flick the pieces at each other really hard. We also played this weird Tetris-clone and talked about Attack of the Clones tie-in toys.

11. There was this amazing moment at AWP sort of like when the protagonist walks down the stairs in She’s All That where Brian Oliu appeared, and I spent an inappropriate amount of time petting his velour track suit.

12. I did a panel called “Landing the Tenure Track Job without a Book: What to Expect on the Job Market” and managed to completely shoehorn in a reference to Battletoads during an AWP panel for the second year in a row.

13. I peed next to Greg Sherl and yelled, “Peeing with Greg Sherl!” and the guy next to me gave me a look like the Grey Poupon bro. The same thing happened with a similar outcome with Teddy Wayne later that evening.

14. I learned more about FUSE, the Forum for Undergraduate Student Editors, an amazing network of lit journals that I’m hoping to plug my school’s (the University of Indianapolis) lit mag into.

15. I met the writer Corey Zeller, but I thought he said Cody Zeller, the name of a famous college basketball player, and I said, “No way, dude. That’s not your name.” Then Ashley Ford assured me it was, and I felt bad, and I asked if Corey’s book was about basketball. It wasn’t. It was about some terrible thing that happened in his life. Corey Zeller, I’m really sorry. Also, I was drunk.

16. Theresa bought a book at Hobart, and I got a shot. I bought a subscription from Hobart, and I got a shot.

17. But always, the best part of AWP is hanging out with all the writers whose work I’ve admired all year long. I drank and talked with a bunch of old friends and many new ones, and it’s always just so nice to be around people who care so deeply about words. There are so many people crapping on AWP, and although it has its share of problems, to me, it feels a lot like summer camp. It’s intense, and it’s crazy, and there are times when you want more than anything for it to just be over. Then it is, and you miss it when it’s gone.