Last week I attended the AWP conference. I’m probably eons behind other blogging attendees in reporting about my experience, but here’s a bit about the first day.
Neophyte that I am, I exhausted myself on that first day, attending panels and readings and wandering the book fair from 9 am – 10 pm, buying way too many books and magazines way too early (no strategy– none). I went to a panel on putting together short story collections, in which Steve Almond called short story writers “poets of the prose world”. He gave fresh, honest advice about not letting agents or editors shove gimmicks on your collection (which appeared to make some other panelists shift uncomfortably in their seats). As such, deciding on where your commitment is and what your aesthetic may be before seeking representation may be helpful in staying true to your art. Noted.
After the panel, my grumbling stomach led me to room of pastry, bagels, and coffee. AWP attendees were heaping cheese danishes and pineapple slices onto little white plates. “What a pleasant surprise!” I said to a fellow writer as we munched on. Half-way through my raisin bagel, a Hilton security guard came in and asked if we’re from the writing conference, with a look of disdain at all the AWP badges. “This isn’t for you! It’s for another group.” he lamented. “Get out before my manager sees you.” Twenty odd writers then scurried off with their half-eaten food. I felt like a coyote.
One of the readings I went to that day was the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” . One question posed during the Q&A was how the writers are able to stay motivated to write despite mounting obligations to other things (jobs, children, compulsive self-googling). Two recent mothers chirped that less time for them means becoming more efficient with the spare hour left for writing– that they actually get more done. And while that’s encouraging, I had to admire Amity Gaige’s honest response: that she wishes she had more time to think and to wonder.
Perhaps more AWP stuff at a later time (jobs, wedding planning, and actual fiction writing may delay the next post…not to mention compulsive self-googling).