On Tampa and AWP

Last Wednesday, I boarded a plane headed for Tampa, Florida. It was snowy Burlington—the smack-dab middle of a Nor’easter—and the plane just barely got out. All others were cancelled for the next two days! Somehow, I got lucky. Two plane rides, a long layover in D.C. and a total of 8 hours later, I was welcomed by a downright tropical Floridian night.

I’ve been eagerly anticipating the AWP conference for awhile now, since I registered in November. Not only was this going to be my first appearance at THE literary event of the year, it was also going to be the first time I viewed my managing editorial baby: the newest issue of Hunger Mountain (it’s beautiful, by the way!!!) We opened the boxes which had been sent directly to the hotel and prayed that the book hadn’t been printed upside down or backwards.

And can I just say…

I loved AWP. Really. Really really loved it. It’s hard to fully imagine the conference without experiencing it. But let me try my best. It’s 15,000 writers and teachers and students and editors and publishers and logophiles and bibliophiles, all geeking out over writing and reading. It’s getting the nerve to go up to the Paris Review or Guernica or [insert prestigious journal here], shake hands with the editor, and have confidence in your own work. It’s about dancing like no one is going to write about it later. It’s about attending readings and inviting lyrical rhythms and delicious words to whirl around in your ears for hours. It’s about breathing in the same room with the poets and writers you read online or follow on Twitter or whose likeness you’ve taped to the walls of your bedroom. It’s about making a new writerly friend or contact, or discovering that your work fits in perfectly with the aesthetic of a journal you had never known to exist before. It’s about being inspired and soaking up everything you can and reflecting on why you are here (which you do belong here!) and why you love to write and why it is so important to share your voice.  It’s about finding a community of people who understand why you do what you do. It’s about supporting yourself and others and literature itself.

Yes, the conference was chaotic and a total sensory overload and exhausting and the food wasn’t great and was very overpriced,  but it was worth it to work at the book fair all day long…

…so I could introduce myself to other writers, so I could talk about how much I love Hunger Mountain, so I could meet some of the contributors and editors of our new issue in person (gosh, I am such a fan of them! They are all incredible people)…

Melissa Febos and Donika Kelly (our guest editors) IN REAL LIFE!

…so I could attend panels and craft lectures on the things that are important to me: “The Next Step: Teaching & Writing at a Literary Center“, “Work Work Balance: When a Day Job Pays More Than the Bills,” “Writing Bad Ass and Nasty Women,”  and “The Real Mother of All Bombs: Reconsidering John Hersey’s Hiroshima.

…so I could see dear writing mentors of mine again (Robert James Russell, Allegra Hyde, Alex McElroy, Amelia Martens, Britton Shurley, to name a few)

…so I could leave my footprints on the dry Tampa sidewalks.

The only unfortunate event of the four day trip was when my friend’s phone slipped out of her pocket and disappeared forever below a sidewalk and into a storm drain. After phone call after phone call with the police and the sewage department, the phone was deemed a lost cause because apparently, sidewalk manholes are cemented in the ground and unable to be lifted. The ice cream we had treated ourselves to that night quickly began to unsettle inside our bellies.

Despite that quite disheartening hiccup, have I mentioned that I loved AWP? I did. I managed to even be pretty restrained in the bookfair—given that by the last day most of the booths pass their goodies out for free—and did not bring back too many books! Here’s my loot pile plus a whole lot of contact cards (not pictured):

Goodies courtesy C&R Press, Wolverine Press, Lee L. Krecklow, and Traveling Stanzas

I’ve decided that I will attend AWP every year from this day forward until I can no longer travel or walk.

After I arrived back in Montpelier this past Sunday, I slept a good 12 hours. It definitely is good to be home again. Back to class, back to snow, with books to read (Vermilion Sands by J.G. Ballard, Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, Sourdough by Robin Sloan, Indictus by Natalie Eilbert, and The Expanse Between by Lee L. Krecklow), work to do, contest entries to read, a thesis to plan, and coffee. Always coffee.

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