Cartoon by Nin Andrews
When this post pops up, I'll be just recently back from the annual AWP conference in Seattle.
Others (Kelli Russell Agodon, Nin Andrews, Kate Gale) have written (and drawn) far better than I ever could about the travails and wonders of AWP. The first time I attended AWP, when it was in Denver in 2010, I thought, well, I've done it and now I don't have to do it ever again.
I have attended almost all the AWPs since then. This will be my fourth. Every time, I think, I must stop doing this. It's awful. It makes me feel horrible.
But ... my friend(s) are going. And I have a new book, or I'm trying to have a new book. And most of all, what if I miss something? An opportunity, an amazing piece of writerly gossip, a MOMENT?
Like, if I hadn't gone last year, in Boston, I would have missed having super-terrific barbecue with the guys from sunnyoutside press. And if I hadn't gone to the one in 2012 in Chicago, I would have missed hearing my friend Daniel M. Shapiro telling Nikki Giovanni "Thanks for everything," which, in context, really made no sense. (Nor would I have the memory of standing on a corner in a clump of writers and getting doused in puddle water by a passing car.) If I'd skipped my first AWP, in Denver, I wouldn't have gotten to gasp with delight at meeting Sherman Alexie at the West Wind bookfair table. Speaking of the bookfair, I always come home with at least a dozen great new books.
Still -- it's a lot of money and mental anguish for the occasional moment of awesomeness. There are too many people, and it's too noisy, and nobody can really pay any attention to anyone else, and the whole thing makes you want to coil into a little ball and rock back and forth chanting "I am me, I'm still me, I'm the same person I've always been." I never write a word of any worth during AWP. I'm a gibbering mass of french-fry-seeking patheticness. Maybe I won't go in 2015. Seriously. I might not.