AWP Day 5: the conference never ends

So, in my haste to post between events the last couple of days, I’ve had to gloss over some amazing things that happened at AWP. So let me back up briefly before sharing the awesomeness that was the last day.

First, Friday night. This was the Hot Pillow reading hosted by JP Reese and Jen Knox in their hotel room. I posted a couple of photos of the reading the next day, but I haven’t written much about it yet. Folks, this thing was fabulous. I’ve been telling people that it wasn’t so much a reading where people drank as it was a drinking where people read, because the purpose was to have fun and just hang out with fellow writers, and we certainly did enjoy ourselves. But no kidding, the work that people read that night was some of the best work I heard at any reading of the conference, and the environment was so much fun, with people sitting on couches and on the floor, a second hotel room nearby getting commandeered as a kind of staging area/bar, and the hallway a natural extension of the event. At one point a man came down the hall from his room to ask what all the noise was about, and when he found out we were reading our work for each other, he asked to join us and read a piece of his own!

There are no strangers at AWP — not for long. 🙂

On Saturday, I was feeling like I needed to get back to some panels, so I booked a few from the list my students gave me and dragged myself out of bed early (which, after the Hot Pillow reading, was NOT easy). In the end, I only attended two, and both I ducked out of during the Q&A. They both were interesting enough, but I was beginning to feel like I’d heard most of the commentary before — probably at a previous AWP — and the more I looked at my schedule, the more author events I realized I was missing in the bookfair. So I returned to where the action was.

I’m glad I did. In addition to meeting some more writers and chatting up my book at the sunnyoutside table, I also bumped into my friend Mark Russell, author of God Is Disappointed In You, and he invited me out to lunch with a group of other writers: Monique Daviau, Mark Brunke, and Dena Rash Guzman. We just popped across the street for a quick lunch, the resulting conversation — which touched on craft, camaraderie, religion, performance tips for readings, and the importance of bees to the planet — was exhilarating. I’ll be honest, I was starting to feel pretty burned out that Saturday afternoon, but after lunch with this amazing group of writers, I was recharged and ready to finish AWP strong.

I returned to the bookfair for a bit and rounded out my haul. Altogether, I picked up twelve new books (eleven of them signed), eight literary magazines, and three trade magazines. It made for heavy hauling on the journey home (though it was easier by train), but it was worth it.

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Here are my books (in the order of the stack in the photo):

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With my stash secured in my luggage, I hit one last reading downtown, then I made my way south to the Georgetown neighborhood for my own reading.

Folks, this thing was one of my favorite readings of all time. The bar, the Georgetown Liquor Company, was a perfect reading environment: intimate, honest, and friendly, with amazing vegetarian food and a terrific beer list. The emcee for the evening, Mike Young, was hilarious. And the reading roster was simply stunning. Daniel M. Shapiro, Ayshia Stephenson, Adam Robinson, Margaret Bashaar, Chelsea Hodson, John Walker, and Tatiana Ryckman — they just tore the place up with their words. And my reading got a great response, too, probably in part because I read my bar story, “The Voice You Throw, the Blow You Catch.” I was particularly thrilled to meet and hear some new voices last night. And after the reading, despite us all protesting that we were tired and hoped to wrap up early, we wound up hanging around for hours drinking and sharing work. I lost track of some of the gang, but I ended up in a deep and fascinating conversation with John Walker, my pressmate at sunnyoutside; Ayshia Stephenson, whose poetry was so amazing I bought her book; and a friend of Ayisha’s, Jason H. York.

It was, in short, the perfect way to wrap up my return to AWP, and while I’m exhausted and thrilled to be back home in my beloved Portland, I’m also thrilled to have been at what was my most successful AWP ever. I don’t know if I’ll have the energy next year to hit the conference quite as hard as I did this year, but I’m definitely looking forward to trying.

See you in Minneapolis in 2015, writers and readers!

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