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?