AWP is creative writing’s big annual conference. I’d only been once before, when it was in Vancouver, but I think my coworker Sara summed it up well: “The first time I went, I was just starting my MFA and I was all bright-eyed, like, Oh my god! So many books! So many writers! And the second time I went, I was kind of in a dark place. I was like, Oh god…so many books…so many writers.”
Everyone you know is there, meaning you don’t have time to see any of them, plus a lot of people you don’t know but should, but are too shy/tired/drunk to talk to.
At one point I met a tipsy friend of Colin’s at the Hyatt bar. He told me his first name and extended his hand, and I was like, “Oh, hi. You’re my boss.” This can happen if you teach in an all-online writing program. He was planning to fly from Denver straight to Berlin to spend six months writing poetry, so I’m actually not even sure whether he’s my boss anymore.
Another time Colin and I had this conversation:
Me: Anytime you get a bunch of the same type of person together, you realize that individuality is a complete delusion. In Vancouver, I kept thinking about how all the women had the same haircut I’d been wanting to get.
Colin [not referring to any particular, actual girl]: I sort of have a thing for the girl with the dark hair and glasses.
Me: Oh, she’s here. And this year she’s wearing very cute tights.
That was AWP. As for Denver, I didn’t see too much of it, but I did get to meet one of my students, who lived in the area and met AK and I for lunch. She was not tipsy. She was busy taking care of her cute-as-tights little boys, one squirmy, one mesmerized by ceiling fans. She mentioned nursing while bent over the computer, finishing her assignments for class—really good stories, I must add—and it gave me hope that there is literary life after children. That’s what I love about teaching: getting inspired by your students and, ideally, reciprocating. It’s almost as good as going to academic conferences and drinking a lot.