Now that AWP 2012 is over, I am just beginning to digest everything I absorbed these few days. I experienced Chicago, saw new and familiar faces, attended readings and panels, and even danced with a bunch of wobbly, energetic writers.
For my first time, I’d say it was a successful trip. I didn’t go in with any expectations beyond survival. I stayed with 5 girls in a four-person Travel Lodge room, with scratchy towels, thin sheets and flat pillows. Even thought I woke every morning with an aching back and a crick in my neck, it was the perfect room for this trip because I didn’t want to spend any more time in it than I had to.
Before the conference even started, we had our priorities straight and scouted out the best coffee places. We settled on a short walk to the nearest Intelligentsia coffee shop which was a great switch from the campus-brewed off-brand coffee I’ve been drinking regularly.
I attended plenty of panels, three the first day, two the second day and one the last day. These were fairly hit-and-miss since by the end of the conference, everyone seemed pretty hungover and unprepared. I’ll be posting about each of the panels individually in the next few weeks, as they each had very interesting points of discussion that I think warrant repeating and reflecting on.
One of my favorite parts of the conference was seeing people that I hadn’t seen in a while, such as authors that had come to visit and give readings at my school. I was lucky enough to run into Jaimy Gordon, author of Lord of Misrule, and Amina Gautier, winner of the Flannery O’Connor award for her collection, At-Risk. They are both fantastic women and phenomenal writers–and they remembered me! So that was definitely a highlight.
I also had a chance to support the director of my creative writing program as well as my thesis director, Eric Goodman. He read from his new book, Twelfth and Race. It was a great reading, part of the “Anytown, USA” panel about the use of place in fiction.
And oh, that book fair: sweltering, overwhelming and absolutely fantastic. They had one booth giving away free, promotional shots of whiskey, a man in a bird suit walking around spouting words of encouragement, and a group of people traveling around with backpack of coffee, pouring free cups of writer-fuel to anyone in need.
I only picked up one book at the book fair, since, to my utter dismay, the other three I wanted weren’t on sale. But I was able to find a collection of short stories by Amelia Gray. She did an amazing job at the Propaganda reading so I knew I had to pick up her second collection, Museum of the Weird from the FC2 (Fiction Collective 2) table, and for only $5!
Speaking of readings, the off-site readings I made it to were fantastic. As I mentioned, I went to the Propaganda reading which was at a bar and super crowded, but the quality of work and enthusiasm of the crowd made it an amazing experience. I also went to the flash fiction FC2 reading at the fine arts building, which required an old-timey elevator ride to get to which was exciting and frightening at the same time. I also made it to another fiction reading at Murphy’s Bleachers which had great food and beer, but it was too loud to hear the readers which was a bit of a let-down. I think if I go again in the future, I will make a point to attend more off-site events because they are a blast.
Other non-academic activities included a magical trip to Flaco’s Tacos, which was DELICIOUS, and some great times at the AWP dance parties which boasted free alcohol, a dance floor, a DJ, and a very enthusiastic crowd of all ages (and a distinct lack of deodorant).
Fun times were had, relationships were forged, friendships were made and some awkward times were insufficiently repressed to the back of our minds. Overall, it was a face-paced, exhausting weekend that I am still recovering from. I have no voice or money left, but I had a fantastic time and look forward to more trips like this in the future.