I’m back in Seattle and thrilled to be home after a great AWP conference in Boston! (At the end of the trip, I came down with some nasty pestilence that one of you writers gave me, so I fear this roundup is going to be tinged with Nyquil. My preemptive apologies for any delirium in this roundup.)
* I met some fabulous people! I’m astonished by how many writers and publishers I did manage to connect with when there were reportedly between 12,000 and 13,000 attendees at the conference. Thanks to every person who came by and said hello. I truly enjoyed all the writer hugs.
* One of my new favorite people is Traveling Marla, who collects some pretty unique book inscriptions, and whose blog you should check out.
* Every single copy of my book that my publisher brought to AWP sold. I will admit that when my publisher informed me that they’d be bringing an entire case of Burn This House (and let’s remember that poetry volumes are slim. Quite a few books fit in a case!), I was fearful that I’d be brining home, say, four fifths of that case. I had no idea whether anyone would be interested in buying my book, and the outpouring of enthusiasm from readers floored me. I left the conference humbled and grateful.
* People loved the cheeky bar coasters we had at the Los Angeles Review table. So much so that we don’t have a single one left. Now we’ll have to come up with an equally great giveaway for next year.
* I found the conference very friendly this year. Unlike some notably grim and standoffish conferences, like the one in D.C. a few years ago, this conference felt pleasant and kind. Perhaps even more uplifting that the collegial attitude was the fact that, this year, people bought things. Unlike conferences past during which we had to twist arms to get people to shell out for The Los Angeles Review, people were enthusiastic about buying our, and other, magazines.
* I only have one bizarre experience to add to my list of odd occurrences at the book fair: an elderly woman scolded me for my apparently too-short skirt. She looked me up and down, then said, with deliciously slow deliberation, “You’re…not…dressed.” Whoops. I thought about posting to twitter that one could see an undressed poet at the Los Angeles Review table, but decided that might not draw “the right crowd.”
* The panels at the conference were a little rough this year. I can report that I only enjoyed 1 in 3 that I attended. Folks who want to be on panels at AWP, can we all agree that you’ll prepare remarks ahead of time? Watching you “wing it” is cringe-worthy at best. It’s not respectful to ask people to listen to you ramble extemporaneously or, worse yet, merely talk shop with other panelists while several hundred people eye the door.
* Apropos the above point, can we also agree that “What We Talk About When We Talk About…” titles could use a rest? Also “Essaying”-related titles? And Golems as panel topic?
* Packed as the conference and many of the panels may have been (much to the grouchiness of many attendees), I had the impression that this year’s AWP offered much greater accessibility for all attendees. I saw many more people using mobility aids in the the conference center than I ever have in years past. I hope that the AWP board is making a conscious effort to make the conference more accessible for all writers, not just the “able.”
* It seemed that every other table in the book fair was that of a brand-new small press publisher. The increase in those giving back to the literary community mades my heart glad–it’s not easy work, but it’s critical work to our literary ecosystem, and I applaud all those taking a risk on literature.