AWP is always a learning experience, even if I don’t mean it to be. Even if I’m mean to it, call it names, reject its advances, or ignore its plaintive cry, still AWP will teach me something that I never even knew I knew (or could know).
1. Being Anonymous is Freeing
And I don’t mean in the way that anonymouse people on-line call other anonymouse people names without fear of reprisal or any regret (after all, those other people are just faceless grey mice, right?), but this AWP I was asked – through circumstances of chance and happenstance – to be a roving twitterer for BOMB Magazine. You can find the Tweet log here. Those that you like best are obviously the ones I wrote.
What was interesting to me about being recruited by BOMB is that it gave me a sense of purpose. Usually I wander around the Book Fair (or the conference at large) looking for people I know, or hitting up magazines that’ve published my work, or trying to sweet talk those magazines that haven’t, but overall I’m just another faceless wanderer in the crowd, one neuron in a brain of millions.
As an anonymous tweeter, I was looking for that NEXT BIG THING (in 140 characters or less) that would take the next minute of the Twitterverse by storm. It is the closest I’ll get to being an investigative journalist, scouring the streets for story, and deciding what stories should be brought out into public light.
2. Nothing Really Matters
This is my seventh AWP in a row. The first was so amazing that I decided I’d go every year, because if each was only half that amazing then my years outside of AWP would be polished into brilliance by those four days in whatever random city the collective mind of writers has decided to descend upon.
My next AWP was horrible. With some bright spots, yes, but much worse.
The AWP after that was, if you can believe it, slightly worse.
And then they started to get better, and now I’m at a happy medium-rare level that most people can agree upon to eat.
If, you may ask, your later AWP experiences were so bad, then why did you keep going?
It’s because each conference proved itself worthwhile in matters outside of pure enjoyment. I met editors that I made friends with. I found out about contests (Hey, Zone 3 Press!) that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise. I found books that I would never have known existed. And I made friends – non-work-related friends (i.e. Non-editors) – who I strive to keep in touch with whatever way I can.
If, you may ask, all that good stuff was happening, then why were your AWP experiences les miserable?
Because of expectations. Part of why the first AWP was so wonderful was because of a whirlwind romantic experience that crashed and burned and therefore made my second AWP a bit of a tension-induced headache.
First I had to let go of the idea of relationships sparking between far-flung writers caught in the throats of different cities.
Second I had to realize that talking to people at AWP doesn’t have to be any different than talking to people anywhere else, and that attempts to force connections (i.e. Networking) are doomed to failure. Besides, I like editorial connections to spring from casual conversations just as I prefer relationships to spring fully-formed from friendships.
Third I had to give up the goal of having every minute be time well-spent. For this conference and the last I’ve been working on this, trying to embrace the notion that enjoying the moment at hand is what’s most important. Otherwise, so much pressure is put on each moment being the best that none of them can live up to what you (or I… mostly I) dream they should be. I’m not unfocused on the current conversation or reading or meal because I’m thinking about the next one in line that I don’t want to miss.
This is hard for me. Very hard.
3. Have Fun