29 degrees with thin filmy clouds at Logan Int'l in Boston
My AWP began before I even left Little Rock, as it turned out that John Vanderslice, Mark Spitzer, and Robin Becker, all of the University of Central Arkansas (Toad Suck Review), shared my flights with me. Once on board the plane, I realized that I forgot my journal. Wow! That's a first. I ended up tearing out the few blank pages at the end of the two lit mags I had with me and using those.
When we landed in Charlotte to connect to Boston, I met fellow blogger Jessie Carty for the first time. As she and I stood chatting waiting to board, our conversation turned to AWP, and wouldn't you know it, the person next to us was going also. This was my first introduction to Katie Booms, who would pop up several times in Boston. On the flight to Boston, I eavesdropped on several conversations all around me. Yep, writers bound for AWP.
Once settled in the hotel, registered, and de-airplaned, I enjoyed my regular AWP kickoff tradition of sharing drinks with fellow Arkansas alum Adam Prince and the lovely Charlotte Pence. Sadly, I forgot to take their picture (and they are stunning!). Then, it was off to dinner with Bernadette Geyer, whose new book is out from Word Works, and Steve Schroeder, before our off-site reading for Barn Owl Review and Thrush. Many, many thanks to super editors Mary Biddinger, Eric Morris, and Helen Vitoria for inviting me to read, even though I don't write those entertaining, sexy AWP poems. :) The only thing missing was the wonderful Stephanie Kartalopoulis, whose flights were delayed by the storm. Lucky us, she arrived in the nick of time, baggage in tow and with airplane mouth, but undeterred.
And that was Wednesday.
On Thursday, I started in the bookfair, and the first thing I did was scope out a notebook. Luckily, the folks at Zone 3 had a deal: a back issue for $5 got me a handy little notebook. Cruising the bookfair is one of my favorite AWP activities. Before I arrive, I actually plot out all the tables and booths I intended to visit for sure. I stop by the tables of journals that have published me and give thanks, shaking hands with editors and readers. I pop into the booths of certain publishers and grad school programs to hug old friends and buy books just coming out. If I tried to list all the folks I hugged or met this year, you'd stop reading. Suffice it to say, these interactions are invaluable and they re-energize me for the rest of the year.
AWP has grown to such large proportions (11,000 writers > the number of people in Monticello, AR where I taught for 18 months after grad school), that the conference is now held in convention centers, and the one in Boston is attached to an upscale mall. I am not a shopper by any stretch of the imagination, but I definitely enjoyed the foodcourt as an alternative to the long lines at the Dunkin Donuts closest to the convention center. It was also great to watch the masses of non-writerly folks try to figure out just what alien population had descended upon them. We writers are known to sprawl haphazardly, tossing bags and books here and there, moving chairs and tables as needed, etc. Our conversations, when overheard, must seem quite strange.
Each year, I seem to attach myself to a doppelganger or two, and this year was no exception. Oliver de la Paz, Steve Schroeder, and Katie Booms seemed to cross my path with greater frequency that anyone else, and I am happy they did!
Thursday afternoon, I attended a great panel on fundraising, information I hope to take back to PTC and use for the Big Rock Reading Series. Then, there was more bookfair and what was, perhaps, the most important panel for me this year, a memorial for Jake. Everyone who spoke brought Jake's spirit alive in that industrial conference room. We all cried and we even managed to laugh a few times as well. And while I will still mourn my friend, I feel, at last, that his death is real.
In the wake of the memorial, I really didn't feel like going out; however, I had several friend reading at an off-site. It was Jake who gave me the energy to go out. I thought on the times I missed a chance to talk with Jake, and I remembered that this life is fleeting. I went out, enjoyed good friends and good words, and slept well.