AWP 2011 was my first. The Emerson Review got funding from Emerson’s SGA to go, and eight of us went. It was the most terrifying, wonderful, career-affirming, draining experience I have ever had. There were approximately 7,000 writers of varying degrees of success in attendance, spread across several hotels. Two of the hotels were the largest I had ever seen and I got lost in them. I had a map.
Various things I am currently remembering:
- The DC Metro’s escalators are not kidding around. They are long and tall. I constantly felt like I was going to fall down one of them and die. We saw a man fall down one of them; it was near the bottom already so he was ok, but it justified my fear. If my friends didn’t all but hold my hand I would not have been able to go anywhere. The one time I traveled alone, I took a cab.
- I saw Maurice Manning read. He is my contemporary poet-hero. That doesn’t make sense but he is amazing. Then I asked him to sign my copy of Bucolics and he did. His accent is wonderful and he read like I thought he’d read.
- After the reading I saw Jericho Brown in the crowd. I am enamored with his poems so I would have kicked myself if I didn’t say hi. So I shook his hand and said, “I wish I had your book with me, to ask you to sign it.” He touched my arm and said, “You’re cute.”
- JERICHO BROWN THINKS I’M CUTE. That alone made the trip worth taking.
- You need more than three hours to properly explore the mall. We only made it through half, but I stood in front of Lincoln and in front of the Vietnam Memorial, and I think I had ‘moments.’
- I met many wonderful people I had previously only internet-known, including Roxane Gay and Tim Jones-Yelvington, who are two of the most fabulous writers and people approximately ever. I’m upset I didn’t get to spend more time with them.
- Despite repeated attempts via Twitter, I was unable to meet D.A. Powell. We will try again.
- I met Alex Dimitrov. He is a wonderful poet and had better be famous one day. He signed my copy of The Los Angeles Review, which includes his poem “Begging for It.” His voice is soft and lovely.
- I attended panels on hint fiction, narrative poetry, and historical fiction. I learned some things and unlearned some other things.
All and all, I am frazzled and amazed. But it was nice to see so many people come together for the love of words. I am sure I am moving in the right direction.
And I am so happy I got to spend time with seven of the editors. They are silly and smart and kind. Each continues to amaze me as I learn new things about them. The Emerson Review has a kick-ass staff and we are going to have a kick-ass book.
Will I go to AWP next year? I don’t know, but I’d certainly enjoy it.