Overwhelming, energizing, and inspiring, the 2013 Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference steamed straight ahead through a long March weekend. I added to the already crammed schedule by writing for Newfound Journal's blog Hothouse, which was kind of crazy, mostly fun. (The posts are included here at Thunder on a Thursday as well). Now that the AWP experience is said and done, many of us (the ten-eleven-or-twelve thousand writers who attended: the number is still being debated) are trying to catch up on sleep and reading and writing.
At the Hynes Convention Center on Boylston Street (aptly named "The Snow Globe" by Lee Martin), I spent time with friends who are poets, fiction writers, memoirists, essayists. We laughed until we cried, tried not to get locked out of yet another panel, and witnessed Seamus Heaney and Derek Walcott recite their own poems and speak of poetry. By the end of the weekend, some of us had new books and journals in hand, and we'd been able to meet and thank the editors who had accepted and published our stories and poems. We'd also been able to introduce ourselves to writers we admired--Siobhan Fallon, Bich Minh Nguyen, Andrew Lam, Myfanwy Collins, Michael Martone, Sharon Strange, Rita Dove!--and to small press publishers, like Victoria Barrett of Engine Books, Mark E. Cull of Red Hen Press, and Kevin Morgan Watson of Press 53.
For me, the experience was incredibly positive, especially in terms of meeting writers I'd only known in the virtual sense (Facebook, emails, etc.) and in attending panels like "Keeping Track of Your Novel," "The Darkroom Collective" poetry readings, "What We Talk About When We Talk About War," and the VIDA-sponsored readings and discussion with Elissa Schapell, Meg Wolitzer, and Cheryl Strayed. Engaging in literati-type venues is not always helpful for writers, those of us accustomed to being alone at our desks. But a literary conference like AWP13 can also be a window into the world of writing, one in which writers can experience the wit and shine of words, moments and sometimes hours with new and rediscovered writing friends, tables and tables lined with buttons and matchbooks, postcards and books--the physical graffiti of journals and presses--and the allowance of abstractions, lofty, floating from panels and ballrooms down the wide corridors and right out the revolving doors.
And one more sweet AWP13 moment: Ru Freeman's Huffington Post piece, 13 Bests of AWP 2013!