I’ve been attending the AWP conference for a couple of years now, and it always has the same effect on me: endless anticipation, then a massive four-day adrenaline kick, then days of exhaustion. In the past, I’ve written about my AWP experience, post-conference, in a series of quick points because, by this point, that’s the only way my brain is remembering things anyway. Here is my 2010 and my 2011 experience.
This year, I went to Chicago to, of course, represent The Missouri Review. What this means is letting the conference attendees know about what we have been doing, what we are doing, and what we will be doing. It’s also for talking to other editors about what they are doing with their magazines, swapping ideas and tips and sharing information. Also, discovering the new magazines, and meeting the writers. So many writers. Writers that The Missouri Review has published, would like to publish, haven’t yet published, and all the other thousands of people there, many of whom, I simply want to say hello and tell them I enjoy their writing.
In an added wrinkle, I’m also looking to October, when my book comes out. What do I do to promote a book? I only have the vaguest idea, so I also wanted to ask people I know and trust what they could suggest to me about promoting a short-story collection. Lots of good advice. So, without further delay: the recap!
- Amtrak. Took the train from La Plata to Chicago. Truck trailer blew over on the highway on the drive to La Plata (75 minutes from Columbia). Train was three and a half hours late. When you’ve been on the road for five hours, a noisy and overcrowded train is not fun. Nor is it fun to come out of the train station into the windy and flurries of Chicago. Getting there was not fun.
- Did I head right out with my friends as soon as I dropped my bags in my hotel? Of course I did!
- Love, love, love Dunkin Donuts coffee. Kinda sad, actually.
- Next to TMR was the Vermont Center for the Arts. They publish Hunger Mountain, a journal I dig. Mostly, I was digging that they had bottles of whiskey on their table. Then I learned they were actually bottles of maple syrup. Oh well.
- In a nod to my St. Louis days, my phone blew up when we learned that my friend Richard Newman, the editor of River Styx, was coming to AWP. You’d have to know Richard to understand that he would never, ever, ever come to AWP. But he did. And, yes, it looked like he was dragged there.
- Heard lots of stories about bad breakups among the literary folks. Which is never good to hear.
- Hotel bar prices remain inexorably high.
- Andrea Martucci remains awesome.
- Finally got to hang out with Laura Straub, which was a long time coming, and even more fun than I thought it would be.
- Hard to pick a best time out of all this, but there is quite a bit to be sad for the times where I got to really talk to someone. I had dinner with Andrea, coffee with Laura, lunch with the poet Christina Hutchins, lunch with new buddy Sophie Beck, coffee with Andrew Scott, and I think, weeks from now, those are going to be my favorite moments of the trip.
- Ben Percy’s voice really is that deep. His voice could kill a grizzly bear.
- Random person I saw tons? This year it was Dan Chaon. Every time I looked up, Dan Chaon was going somewhere—entering the lobby, exiting a cab, something.
- Each hour, I think of another person I forgot to talk to. Drives me crazy.
- I made it to the Indiana Review/Gulf Coast reading. It was at Buddy Guy’s, on the second floor, and five minutes into the reading, the band downstairs started to play, the floors shook, and I couldn’t hear a thing.
- Windy in the morning when I first wake up and I’m headed out into the world? Love it! Windy at 2 am when it’s freezing cold? Not a fan. Yes, I know it wasn’t that cold in Chicago. But, still.
- Hotels where you have to slide your key to get to certain floors of the hotel … well, those are kind of dumb.
- If you get to Chicago, you should absolutely go to Villians and have a few beers. Fantastic place.
- When it comes to book promotion, being willing to travel for little goes a long way.
- And when you simply ask people for publishing advice, they are more than willing to give it.
- I’m not yet entirely sure what cities I’ll be visiting, but it might be more than I originally thought.
- Thanks to Rae Bryant for giving me a copy of her story collection. That was a nice surprise to have waiting for me at the TMR table.
- On my Twitter feed, I posted a few “Things Said To Me This Weekend” quotes and, yes, each and every one of those is completely true. I could have posted another dozen of those.
- Amtrak. Much better on the way home. Quieter, faster, no delays. So, one out of two isn’t bad, right? Still. Next time, I’m driving to Chicago.
- A big thank you to the entire Missouri Review staff and the good folks from MU’s Creative Writing department who made our table work. Speer Morgan, our fantastic editor who has made the magazine what it is, Kris Somerville, Evelyn Somers, and Dedra Earl; Joe Aguilar and Kate McIntyre, Austin Segrest and Melissa Range and Rob Foreman and John Nieves, Claire McQuerry (who did not lose her phone this year), Beth Peterson, Rachel Hanson, Beth McConaghy, and all the others who I am terrible for forgetting. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
- Each year, the number of writer-friends grows, and that means each year, I miss more and more people. We do the best we can, and no one takes it personally. Still. I’m so happy I spent time with many of you, however brief, however quick, a list including but not limited to Dan Stolar, Amina Gautier, Victoria Barrett, Ryan Stone, Steve Schroeder, Katie Moulton, Richard Bausch, Liz Prato, Lydia Ship, Tony Varallo, Michael Kardos, Jazzy Danziger, and so many others.