AWP 2012 Timeline

Posted on 06 March 2012

I still have all these notes from every session I attended at AWP, but since returning home I’ve 1) come down with a horrible cold and 2) seem to have lost my will to blog. But here’s a quick timeline of my first AWP:

Wednesday, daytime: Travel most of the way to Chicago with Sherry, who has brought along her good friend Bloody Mary. Check into hotel, panic about sheer number of 22-year-old MFA students converging in the lobby. Panic again upon realizing there is no free Internet to be had in the room, then decide it’s probably healthier that way anyway.

Wednesday, evening: Delightful dinner with Sherry and Teri (see photo below). Make it to the AWP kick-off party at the Empty Bottle, where it is impossible to hear the readers. Meet friend from Cleveland there who says, “If you feel freaked out and old around these kids, it’s because you’re young enough to remember what it was like to be one of them. But I’m old enough that they seem like a whole different species.”

Thursday, daytime: Panel sessions on POV, writing about family members in memoir, and writing for radio. Visit book expo, become overwhelmed by its sheer size and nonsensical layout. Meet BkMk Press editor Ben Furnish for the first time! Lunch at an Indian fast food place with a long-ago friend who also hails from Lancaster, PA and who also knows what it’s like to edit a school lit mag called Whispering Minds.

Thursday, evening: Dinner at the Artist’s Cafe with all these lovely ladies before Margaret Atwood’s reading. Atwood = amazing. Afterward, in book signing line, run into another Hempfield High alum from Lancaster. Bizarre. Obtain Atwood’s signature, go back to hotel, collapse into bed.

Friday, daytime: Sessions: debut authors on the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of the publication process; lit mag editors discuss submission management. Hit the book expo and track down/run into old friends, acquaintances, and people from alma mater. Sit at Living Arrangements signing and feel incredibly lucky to have the support of friends and writers (and some strangers, too). Sign books. Smile for photos. Chat with too many wonderful people to count. Get signed copy of Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones and stop by Susan Grimm’s signing. Walk back to hotel, exhausted, in the rain.

Friday, evening: Dinner with Teri, Lyra, Lyra’s husband, Suzy, Amy. Drinks afterward at hotel, where I reveal my silly, unexplainable goal (which is becoming a reality!) to much laughter. Get sucked into AWP vortex of time, alcohol, and good conversations and flake out on meeting two other friends that night. (Oops.) Have glorious time.

Saturday, daytime: Sessions on character development, an agents and editors panel, and “ambitious fiction.” Lunch with former college professor who’d tracked me down after seeing my book at the expo. College nostalgia ensues. Learn that my cat lady persona apparently goes back to my college years. While in expo later, randomly bump into friend I missed the night before. AWP is full of coincidences, long-lost friends, and apparently everyone you never expected to see but are happy when you do.

Saturday, evening: Fancy vegetarian dinner with the Lancaster gang at The Green Zebra. Fried Brussels sprouts never tasted so good (seriously). Rush over to The Sun event, where my friend (and Sun contributor, not that I’m jealous) was kind enough to save me an actual seat at an actual booth in the very, very crowded cafe for the reading. Scribble notes on a piece of scrap paper throughout reading; this is the only actual writing I’ll do all week. Try to explain the wonder that is Dear Sugar to a few people who don’t know about her. Fight back tears when Cheryl Strayed reads “Tiny Beautiful Things,” which is either thanks to the beer or just Cheryl’s amazingness (see blurry photo below). Finish evening with long chats about writing and academia and Chicago.

Sunday, day/evening: Longest trip back to Cleveland ever. Exhaustion, hunger, germ accumulation. And then I was home.

To everyone I met, caught up with, or spent time with in Chicago: Thanks for making my first AWP a memorable one. If you weren’t at AWP, or if events like this make you feel itchy just thinking about them, please follow this advice I found written on a bathroom wall at the Heartland Saturday night. (At least, I think it was the Heartland, and on Saturday. Who knows anymore.)

19 responses to AWP 2012 Timeline

  • Catherine says:

    Sounds like a fantastic and and gratifying weekend! All the hard work and waiting has paid off and you look radiant and well-loved. Congratulations!

  • Downith says:

    Wow. Sounds like it was a blast from start to finish. And I agree with Cat, you look radiant!

  • Paul says:

    Do you think your loss of a will to blog is temporary or a sign of some fundamental shift in your perspective? I guess I mean that I wonder if your time at AWP has left you feeling that there are “better” ways to use your time than keeping a blog? Or something like that? (I often feel that my blogging is a theft from my “real” writing time and from my creativity.)

    My daughter went to an Atwood signing in Salt Lake City and got me an autographed copy of Handmaid’s Tale. She even enscribed it to “fellow author Paul.” Now I really feel like a fraud.

    • While it’s true that being at AWP made me really eager to get down to work on my writing (I did take lots of notes for my next novel while there), I’m not sure my blogging apathy comes from reevaluating my priorities. AWP is so busy, you’re always surrounded by crowds, and you’re constantly interacting with people. I enjoyed myself quite a lot, but any introvert needs to regroup alone for a bit after being so social. So I think it’s a combination of having a cold, trying to adjust to my real-life responsibilities again, and just wanting to take a break from the social nature of AWP. Which, for me, even includes blogging about it.

      I do think a lot about whether my blog interferes with my writing time. I always tell myself it doesn’t — I try to steal blogging time from other things — but sometimes I wonder if it isn’t impossible for it to impact my writing time at least a little. I don’t know, but I wouldn’t say I’m at the point where I feel I need to abandon the blog. I just need to go easy on myself…at least until I get over this cold.

  • Sarah W says:

    Thank you for taking the time to write this up, Laura, especially through the ick.

    Now I’m really bummed for missing it . . .

    On the other hand, it looks like I’ll be heading over to Cleveland in early October for Bouchercon—wanna do lunch?

  • So, tell us, is Lyra’s husband as much a mensch as I imagine? Thank you so much for sharing this, Laura. And I agree with the others. You shine.

  • Averil Dean says:

    That picture of you is lovely, all that glorious hair. (I’m riddled with hair envy lately.) So sorry to hear that you’re under the weather. Smooches, and thank you for the rundown. I’m eating this stuff up!

    • Thank you. I was about to counter with some lengthy complaints about how my hair is super flat/fine/limp/easily damaged, but then I decided that maybe I should just learn to accept a compliment for once. So thanks.

  • Lyra says:

    What a whirlwind. Next time remember that in order to make your body a bad place for germs you have to keep the alcohol levels high…
    I thought of you today as a friend of mine just finished her first Ironman and has decided to go Vegan. I thought, hey! This could be Laura! Seeing you in action, handling it all with aplomb…yes, I thought of you.
    My best parts of AWP were spent laughing with you all. I thought of that today as I’m still trying to adjust to the fact that I must work, and the writing must wait more times than not.

    • Completely agree on all fronts! Well, except maybe the Ironman thing — I’m guessing that entails running more than 2 miles at once, which pretty much counts me out. (All thanks to AWP taking such a hit on my health, of course. My inability to run more than 2 consecutive miles has everything to do with AWP and absolutely nothing to do with my intense laziness.)

  • Erika Marks says:

    Like Averil, I’m eating these posts up and the pictures are so wonderful, all of you beaming and beautiful. Keep them coming.

  • Although I already loved you by way of our blogging relationship, those five hours on the MegaBus and the evening which followed confirmed you as a true friend.

    I’m so pleased and proud to be able to say that.

    The trip home wasn’t nearly as rewarding. I missed you. And the Bloody Marys, too.

    • Thanks, Sherry! I had a blast riding to Chicago with you, too. It made the time fly by. And as you know, my return trip home was horrendous; I could have used one of your Disney mugs on that one.

      Next time we meet on a random trip to Chicago or elsewhere — the Blood Marys are on me!

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