February 23, 2012
I am leaving on Sunday forArkansas, a state I have never visited in my wanderings. I’ve been to Alabama, Mississippi and Florida though.
Hendrix College is super nice looking; a private college in the South with the trees and brick buildings and so on. Should be interesting. I fly from there to Chicago for AWP which will be crazy/fun.
The problem with AWP is that you run into so many people who you are really glad to see and you want to spend more time with but they’re in the elevator, they’re gone. I think the worst thing you can do at AWP is to play any kind of games or try to talk to people just to get something out of them. If someone is trying to “talk me up,” at AWP, I just start wishing for a drink. If too many people try to play you, you start to lose track of who actually likes you and who does not. I think I know though. I have a few good friends like this one friend of mine who is a great poet and has a really loud laugh and lives in Michiganand this other poet friend of mine who lives in the Antelope Valley and does weird things with wedding dresses.
When I was running my marathon on Saturday, I saw this girl running in black tights and a greenish black crinoline skirt over it and some kind of t-shirt, I almost yelled out, “Hey Nicelle!” Because that is exactly how my friend Nicelle would dress if she were running a marathon.
I am always happy to see Peggy and Jim, Trowbridge and Gaylord, also Lynnell and Cynthia. And Kate Coles. And so many other people I can’t think of them all. Rob, Amy, John,Alice. AWP feels like my literary world with the volume turned up and too many people. And Jackie and Lisa are coming this year from LA, and Bart is always there, I like my LA crowd although I never have time to talk with them there.
The reason people go to AWP is to see other writers who they only get to see once a year at AWP because they live all over the country.
My advice for AWP is as follows:
- Make a plan and decide what panels you are going to attend
- Add to the plan what part of the book fair you want to visit. Hint, you cannot see the whole thing.
- Decide who you want to see and make sure you have their cell and if possible, set a meeting in advance.
- While you’re at it, don’t plan on meeting people you could see in your own hometown. See people you can only see at AWP.
- Plan for some downtime to visit something cool in the city—inChicagoI’m all about the Art Institute and the ice sculptures, but if you like jazz, go out to jazz one night. That ends up being the core of your visit, not because AWP isn’t fun, but because you need down time away to be able to absorb it.
- If you are going out to eat, make reservations, there are 10,000 writers going out to eat.
- Do not let people tag along unless you know they will pay their part of the bill and you really want to hang out with them. That is the bane of AWP gatherings—we were once handed a $1400 bill for a group of a dozen people we mostly didn’t know and haven’t spoken with since back when we were a baby press and we had to foot the bill ourselves. Mark’s never stopped talking about it.
- Make sure you have some fun every day. It’s supposed to be fun, not just work.
- Don’t drink too much, you’ll miss the real fun which is meeting new people.
- Don’t take it too seriously. There’s another AWP next year inBoston. You can get serious then.