This year’s AWP conference was unique for me in a number of ways: not only was it the first time I’ve attended the conference on my home turf of Seattle, but it was also my first chance to enjoy the conference in a purely spectatorial role, as I wasn’t behind a table or booth but free-ranging in manner of a Pacific Northwest chicken. This conference also had a few trouble spots all its own, but at any moment when I could have entered crisis mode, someone met me with such generosity that I can’t help but share some words of gratitude:
When I learned that my publisher was unable to offer my book for sale at its booth this year, the wonderful women of Two Sylvia’s Press, Kelli Russell Agodon and Annette Spaulding-Convy, stepped in to make my book available at their booth. Their generosity in helping me make Burn This House available affirmed what I’ve always believe to be true about the poetry community: this is a literary ecosystem that runs on goodwill and graciousness. I can’t wait to pay forward the same kind of literary help in the future.
On the same day, Lori Hettler at The Next Best Book Club named Burn This House an author discussion title for March/April, and is facilitating a giveaway of ten copies of the book. If anyone wasn’t able to find the collection at AWP, not only is this a great chance to get the book, but also to get it for free! Details are available at the link. Many thanks to Lori for making this happen!
Next, Saturday saw me involved in a bizarre encounter on the bookfair floor; I thank my friend and teacher Bruce Holland Rogers for saying everything I feel needs saying about the situation here. Despite being confused, embarrassed, and generally startled by the incident, there’s room for gratitude in this situation, too. Not only did a number of people voice support for me after hearing about what had happened, but my writing partner, Tanya Chernov, also came running–literally–to my side after catching wind of the incident. She made sure I was unharmed, and helped me enjoy the rest of my AWP experience; she walked the bookfair with me for the remainder of the afternoon, and we had a good time with many good laughs, and I can happily report that, with her help and so many others’ kind words, I was able to truly enjoy my day despite one man’s ugly behavior.
Saturday was also the launch of Tahoma Literary Review’s first reading period, and I was gratified to see a strong response to our call for submissions when I logged into our submittable system. I’m grateful for the authors who have entrusted us with their work, and I look forward to reading, publishing, and promoting their work in the days and months ahead.
So, in spite of the ups and downs of the conference, I leave AWP 2014 feeling that the experience was a success specifically because of the goodness of my literary community. I certainly hope that next year’s conference will go a bit more smoothly, but I have nothing but love for those who were so wonderful this week.