AWP 2013 is over.
Frankly, I’m already excited for 2014’s Seattle conference. How could I not be stoked about a west coast adventure?
I’ve been going to AWP since I started grad school. When I started going, it was an excuse to get out of Boca and see a new city. Oh, and listen in on some panels. The end result, at least the first year, was a brief and embarrassing moment in a museum (there may have been an incident with a crucifix, the YMCA, and a professor), the top of the Sears tower (or Willis tower—whatever), and this extreme high.
Since, AWP has served its important purpose of reminding me, especially when times are dark, that yes, I do want to be a writer. That my M.F.A. was a good investment. Totally worth the student loans.
AWP as a grad student can simply be described as overwhelming. There are not enough minutes in the day to go to panels, navigate the book fair, and see a pretty awesome city. At the conference, you find yourself wishing you had clones in order to do everything.
As a non-student, AWP is more of a jarring realization that you’re not publishing enough, your hair is not cool enough, and that you probably should invest in more clothes from Urban Outfitters, despite your age and desire to dress they way they do in the Hamptons (minor digression). But what makes AWP an important pilgrimage for me is the high. It’s inebriating being surrounded by others who love the pain and suffering of being a writer, as I do. The intellectual conversations about writing and craft are intoxicating.
The buzz begins upon arrival to the airport. Since I live in Charlotte, my airport is often a stop for many AWPers. I can usually spot a fellow AWPer at the gate with his or her hip clothes and small press books. Often they travel with a friend who is there to boost his or her ego. So and so wrote a blurb for my book and such and such press wrote I was a revelation. You know the type. Regardless of the fact that I can’t boast any such thing to anyone, I still get excited to see my peers at the airport, then again at the book fair, or at a reading.
The high peaks at the conference thanks to all the energy of the fellow writers around you. It’s like you’re home.
In my Charlotte life, I don’t have a circle of writer friends. Most of my contacts are either high school teachers (like myself) or work in racing (like my husband). My daily conversations are not about craft and books or stories found on small presses. Most of my friends don’t know what Ploughshares is. At AWP, it’s different. Everyone there is a writer. This is so comforting because writing is a lonely experience.
Then when you actually get home you have all these ideas, which you hopefully wrote down. Your writing year has been refreshed. You remember why you signed up for all the heartbreak and nights of bad food choices and reading theory.
For all of this: the pain and suffering, the memories, the kick in the ass to get writing and published, the ideas, the confirmation that you are following your calling, you can only thank AWP.
Gloria Panzera resides in Charlotte with her husband. Her writing appears in The Inquisitive Eater, Chicken Soup for the Soul: NASCAR, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Campus Chronicles and others.