I’m an old hand at this AWP thing. I didn’t even have to stop and think as I navigated the mall skyways from the subway stop to the convention. I passed Tiffany’s and Jimmy Choo (if I got that right) without batting an eye.

My first panel was about risk taking in careers. I couldn’t even complain. Each person was different, well-spoken, and interesting. No one was pretentious. The questions were interesting. One of my favorite poets got up and talked a little. A few quotes that I wrote down:

“It’s amazing how lucky you can be if you work hard.” (I think that was Ann Fisher-Wirth)

On being asked when do you know whether you’re ready to do something risky/new, Luisa Igloria responded “You just jump with your heart in your mouth, baby.”

While waiting for my lunch date to finish her conversation, I struck up a conversation with a nearby student.

“Are you a writer?” I asked.

“I’d like to be.”

“Do you write?”


“Then call yourself a writer.”

“But then someone will ask me where I’ve published, and I haven’t published anything yet.”

“You won’t get that question from me! I’m too afraid that someone will ask it back.”

I thought it was a good deed. But later, someone else told me that people asked whether she was a writer, and when she said yes they asked her where she was published. When she said that she was taking time to work on her craft and write a bunch of stories they said “Oh, so you’re an aspiring writer.” (Pretentious fucking asshole graduate students)

My post-lunch panel was Adrian Nicole LeBlanc and Tracy Kidder. This is where I learned that grown women need to stop fucking whispering during a reading. I might have turned and glared at them. Maybe. I learned that even when you’re successful, have published many books, and are a MacArthur fellow, you can still be a self-loathing author. This somehow made me feel better.

Tracy Kidder on writing “it’s not the length of time, but the intensity of time [you have] to write” that is important.

Adrian LeBlanc on interviewing people “People check you out to see whether you’re ready to hear their stories.”

Then I bought a ton of books and went out to dinner at a place called the Salty Pig, where I ate charred octopus (yum), and drank two of my favorite beers (Boulevard Tank 7 and 21st Amendment Bitter American).

How do you know whether you’ve hit the big time?


17 responses to “AWP Round III

  1. You had me at the Salty Pig.

    “I learned that even when you’re successful, have published many books, and are a MacArthur fellow, you can still be a self-loathing author.”

    Good to know.

  2. …When you stop worrying about whether you have arrived or not.

    Given my very advanced age (which still wouldn’t keep me from kicking any of y’alls asses on my hot shit mountain bike), I know that self-loathing is not the preserve off writers. I am a self-loathing writer, but also a self-loathing …ologist, a self-loathing mountain biker (yes, even that), and a self-loathing, well, self…

    It’s just that writers are more isolated, and so they wallow. The point? You don’t have to be as self-loathing as you are, but for that you’d have to give up the bunny slippers and PJs at work.

  3. Two of the stories I posted anonymously online were reviewed on Tumblr a few weeks ago (I had no idea until someone sent me a comment) and just reached over 10,000 hits each.

    I’ll never make money from them, but they’re being read and people have been kind enough to tell me they like them.

    That, I think, is a kind of success.

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