Monday, February 7, 2011

Round-Up: Day 3 at AWP and Closing Thoughts

I'm back from the AWP Conference and even though I had a great time, I'm happy to be home.  I learned a lot, read a lot, walked a lot, took lots of notes and introduced myself to many people (and had almost everyone ask me to repeat my name--sometimes I forget how much of a mouthful 'Crystal Patenaude' really is).  Surprisingly, I actually enjoyed the sessions on the last day the most (see my round-up of Days 1 and 2 here). 

Some observations from Day 3 at AWP:

  • By the final day of this conference, everyone seemed exhausted.  People were starting to leave (I actually had an older woman tell me that the last night of AWP is a 'letdown' so she always heads home early) and the ones who stayed seem tired. I myself went to four back-to-back sessions before heading home mid-afternoon, and I was so over it all that I could barely get myself to the train station. 
  • There is always one person in every session who drives me crazy.  The worst was the woman who kept mmhming and moaning in agreement while the panelists were speaking.  It took me at least 20 minutes to figure out who was making the noises, some of which were so loud that I couldn't hear what the presenters were saying.  If you have to express your agreement/pleasure/displeasure while people are talking, stick to silent movements like nodding or head shaking until question time at the end.  I guarantee that it will improve everyone's experience. 
  • I have short legs so walking from the a basement ballroom in one hotel to a small room on the opposite side of an adjoining hotel in 10 minutes is a real challenge.  Yesterday, despite my best efforts, I was five minutes late to a panel that I was really looking forward to.  I forced myself to walk in and take a seat though and really enjoyed the talk.  And when a woman walked in 40 minutes late, I felt much better about my own tardiness.
  • I didn't make it back to the bookfair before I left and I really regret that.  I wanted to visit the tables I missed the first time and maybe collect a few more bookmarks, contest notices, calls for submissions, etc.  Also, I found it funny that several journals and magazines were handing out temporary tattoos with their logos.  They are adorable and I fully support the giveaway, in case the editors aren't sure if they were well-received.
  • My ride home on Amtrak was so much better than the trip to Washington, mainly because I wasn't in a quiet car.  Also, a really nice dude helped me put my suitcase up in the baggage rack.  This was awesome since the first time I tried to do this, I realized too late that I am not strong and it fell on my head.  Boo. 
Overall, my first experience at the AWP conference was a success.  At times, it was quite isolating; I didn't know anyone at all and even though I talked to tons of random people at the bookfair and at sessions, I still felt alone a lot of the time.  By being alone though, I was able to concentrate on the craft of writing and really immerse myself.  I learned a ton and even got to see a few of my wonderful (non-writer) friends who are now living in DC. 

My personal AWP highlights:

  • It was amazing to be so close to such wonderful writers.  One morning, I even walked up the hill to the Marriott next to Yusef Komunyakaa.  At the hotel bar, I felt like everyone looked vaguely familiar.  And the readings were fabulous.  It meant a lot to me as a writer who is trying to 'make it' to listen to authors that I love and admire.  The panelists and readers were all unbelievably generous with their time, and I truly appreciated that.
  • I loved the 'Women Writers and How to Get Out of the Slush Pile" panel I attended on Saturday morning.  There was such a great vibe and the speakers, all editors of wonderful lit magazines, were beyond knowledgeable.  They not only gave tips on submitting and writing, but also provided advice on keeping positive and staying confident.  It's hard to express how empowered I felt when I left that ballroom. 
  • Richard Bausch is obviously a great writer but it was easy to tell how wonderful of a person he is from the one-on-one interview with Jennifer Haigh.  Haigh is incidentally one of my favorite authors so it was thrilling to see them both together on stage, laughing and conversing about writing and life.  Richard Bausch's students are incredibly lucky because I can tell he is a fabulous teacher. 
  • I met one of my favorite short story writers, Danielle Evans, at a great panel entitled "The Myth of Relevance."  The talk and the panelists were both thought-provoking and interesting, and I wanted to run to my laptop as soon as I left to work on a new piece.  Danielle Evans was so gracious and kind when I approached her after the event was over and even told me to feel free to email her if I had any questions about the American University MFA program.  That totally made my morning. 
  • I am now following a ton of new people on Twitter after either meeting them or hearing them speak at AWP.  I feel almost unreasonably excited to have their cool tweets show up in my timeline. 
  • On a personal note, before I left DC, I visited Hello Cupcake, which is a cupcake bakery right near my hotel in Dupont Circle.  I'm extremely proud of the fact that I bought three cupcakes for Anthony and that after a Metro ride, a taxi ride, a 5 hour train ride and a car ride home, they are still in relatively good shape.  After all of that, I hope they taste magnificent. 

And on that note, it's been great and I'm looking forward to applying everything I learned to my own work.  Hope to see you next year in Chicago for AWP 2012!

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