This weekend, the enormous the Oregon Convention Center hosted the literary set at the Wordstock 2010 book fair. Wordstock played out over three rock-star sized stages for readings, a Powell’s book spread for signings, and throngs of booths and tables, with occupants hawking literary journals, wildlife, children’s and cook books, MFA programs and gadgets to alleviate writer’s block (apparently a wooden block with letters carved into it will do the trick—for $17), literacy, libraries, and bibliophilia of all sorts.

I looked around the high-ceilinged room and panicked, realizing that I’d forgotten to finish my novel.

Like most other Wordstalkers, I was just another aspirant to the writing life. We were on our search to see what kind of magic successful authors employ to make a book with one’s name on it appear on enough bookstore shelves to enable the struggling writer quit his or her day job and introduce oneself as “an author,” and to see what real authors looked, acted and sounded like when reading their own work. There were also nuts-and-bolts panels on artist representation, long-form journalism, short story writing, writing the supernatural and selling the movie rights.

Things I gleaned from a panel: Investigative journalism is dead (from a very cynical Ted Rall), we all need editors and agents (Larry Colton and his agent and editor) and the more time I spend sitting in a chair and typing, the better I’ll get (everyone). I decided to attend the movie rights discussion next year.

I left Wordstock with the following items: an information packet for the MFA program at Pacific University, a pencil with typetrigger.com on it, a C-SPAN tote bag (cool until I realized it said Comcast on the other side), submission guidelines for The Grove Review and more bookmarks than I will ever need. I successfully resisted temptation at the McSweeney’s table, but fell victim at the Tin House booth. How could I pass up a $20 subscription?

Overall, the $10 admission fee was well spent. I don’t think I sat through a bad reading. Some were well-rehearsed performances, while others were more like conversations about subjects I didn’t know I cared so much about. I exited Wordstock with a list of must-reads: Lean on Pete (Willy Vlautin); Kevin Sampsell’s yet-unnamed project; Half Empty (David Rakoff); Rock & Roll Will Save Your Life (Steve Almond); Bordersongs (Jim Lynch), War Is Boring (Matt Bors).