I'm here writing from Washington DC, already two-thirds of the way through the AWP conference. As a first-time attendee, I'm really enjoying myself, although I'm a bit overstimulated. At any given moment, there are thousands of people gathered in the Marriott hotel lobby either walking around, talking with friends or waiting in line for a $4 bottle of soda. The sessions I've been to have been crowded, lively and informative. My bag is ready to break from all of the things I got from the bookfair. Here are a few things that I've learned so far:
- The sessions fill up quickly. Every one that I've been to so far has been full along with dozens of people standing in the back. I like to show up early so I haven't had any problems but even the panelists and speakers are surprised by the turnout. Are the rooms smaller than normal? Are there more attendees at the conference overall? It's crazy but in a good way, like writers are so cool that people will stand out in the hall just for a listen.
- There is NOWHERE to find fast, affordable, decent food at this hotel conference center. I stood in line today for 25 minutes for a sandwich which wound up being a pre-made saran-wrapped sandwich on soggy bread for $10. I declined, bought a bottle of water and waited until I was finished for the day to get some real food.
- All of the presenters and readers have been so awesome. They are happy to be at AWP, excited to share their knowledge in fiction and poetry, and seem so approachable. I have an entire list of new authors I want to read merely based on their personalities on a panel.
- There are more presses, literary journals and writing programs with tables at the bookfair than you could ever imagine. I met lots of great people who were more than willing to tell me all about their organizations or universities. I now have a bunch of contests to enter and journals to submit work to that I would never have known about if I didn't visit their table.
- I went to Adams Morgan tonight for dinner and had Turkish food for the first time at Meze. It had an upscale but relaxed vibe and there were half-price drinks. My friend and I really enjoyed the meal (it was like Mediterranean tapas). I kind of wish that I stopped in the Black Squirrel (which is a bar, not a pet store) but next time for sure.