Sam, at the Call Me Ishmael booth.
This was my first time at the Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference. I’ve heard about it for years, but in not enough detail to realize what an amazing experience it would be. I only went for the final day and I spent it walking around in a state of bliss. Like everyone else, I could walk into any of almost 30 panels or readings being held each hour and a half from 9:00 a.m.-5:45 p. or cruise the Bookfair floor meeting book and magazine publishers, creative writing program representatives, etc.
The people at AWP were amazing. I arrived very early and sat and talked with an undergrad named Agnes who had only decided to attend the day before when her professor encouraged her to go. While we waited for things to get going, I also met a woman who has been an English teacher all her life and was there doing some life research: looking for a place to retire based on the literary community in her new city. It was so easy to start up conversations with people…we had the essentials in common.
One of the most surprising things I encountered was the Call Me Ishmael booth, which was manned by the welcoming Sam, pictured above. I listened to a heartfelt message about a book I’d never heard of. Check out their site where you can listen to messages, and leave one yourself.
Thanks for the photo, and for organizing this reunion, Noel!
One of the highlights was meeting up off site for breakfast with these fabulous humans. As Noel so aptly said, “In 1998, we met as ‘Emerging Voices’ at PEN Center USA West. We haven’t met as a group in 18 years.” It was great catching up with Noel, Jenoyne and Ellery.
I went to panels on creating a workshop for women veterans, writing as a “woman of a certain age,” creating storytelling projects, and making your passion project come to life. I wandered the aisles of the book fair and made a point to visit some booths I have a connection to, like PEN USA/West, Hedgebrook, Counterpoint Press, and The Sun, where I met Derek, Caroline and Sy! Pretty thrilling.
At the end of the day, I was reluctant to leave, so I sat in the lobby and took pictures of people walking out. I asked the lovely Geeta from Washington, DC, about her experience. She’d been there all three days and seemed to feel the same way I did. That it’s a very heady experience to be around so many writers, so many people who share this desire to create and communicate. Our tribe had gathered and it was good!
Yes, I bought some books! This is my haul, minus the one I found for Hydra. It was the only one I saw with an airplane on it. This pile is a fun mix of literary journals, fiction and non-fiction. So exciting to have all this ahead of me.
My friend Antipasta went on Thursday and talking to her on Friday was great, from the practical to the philosophical. I took a rolling computer bag to avoid a back ache…best decision ever. She said that there was a good mix of ages and that the younger writers weren’t dismissive–which, you know, isn’t always the case in the general population–and she was right. I talked to people from 18 to 80 and felt happily connected and mutually respected.
We Emerging Voices fellows from 1998 talked a little about aging. Being the most aged, I was able to honestly say that once you get past a certain age that’s buried in your particular psyche, it gets easier. At least, that’s been true for me. At 55, like the women on the panel, I just don’t care as much about what other people think of me as I used to (or I can talk myself out of caring more quickly!) It’s not that I’m more easily pleased, but I have a much better idea of what’s satisfying to me.
The women-writing-over-fifty themed panel was the most empowering for me. I love Laura Orem’s (Women’s Voices Mentorship) message that our writing lives do not have an expiration date or a specific time frame. Some writers take a decade between books. We aren’t athletes or models. We can write our whole lives long.
The writers of AWP gave me a much appreciated boost. I’m still floating!