1. Readings don’t have to be boring. As a lifelong Good Student I will sit through even the driest reading, but many of my friends avoid them as a rule. “Audiobooks are for commuting,” is the general sentiment; i.e., “I will only submit to being read to when there is no place else to go.” The Literary Death Match would have pleased even the squirmiest of attendees: each combatant got 7 minutes to read, and the rest was pure game-show antics (see #2).
2. A little gimmick goes a long way. For the prize, the finalists hurled cupcakes at a Margaret Atwood poster (Why? Because, I suspect, it’s the most un-Authorlike thing one can imagine doing: violent, competitive physical slapstick underwritten by childish irreverence.) Great fun!
3. Know your venue. Round one contender Brian Francis read a sensitive, moving scene from his new novel Natural Order. But he was up against Nathaniel G. Moore’s sci-fi porn rant from the point of view of a horny woman in a fish-tank–specifically written for the occasion, of course. Playing it straight didn’t stand a chance. Francis might have researched the Death Match aesthetic and simply decided to forgo the showmanship in favor of exposure for his new work. But why sign up if you don’t really want to play?
4. Twitter friends really can become real friends. Okay, I learned this one second-hand (I was too shy to approach the one person I recognized from her Twitter feed–Julie Wilson, aka Book Madam–but then, she was one of the organizers of the Death Match, and therefore sort of a celebrity), by watching my writer-friend Jessica Westhead. She approached or was approached by several people she’d known previously only through mutual tweet-following. The face-to-face conversations were immediately warm and animated because of all the cyber-history. It was cool to witness social networking working like it’s supposed to work.
5. English professors rule! I already knew this, of course. But it was very satisfying to see yet more proof in the Death Match triumph of Holly Luhning, a fellow prof at my very own university. I cannot wait to read Holly’s novel Quiver, which sounds like it might just be a groovy fit for my Gothic Horror course in the fall.