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Sounding my barbaric AWP

I’m a bad blogger. For those folks who won the contest (Ainsley, who chose Black Clock; Angela, who chose a Narrative VIP backstage pass; and Dawn, who chose a subscription to the very wonderful Missouri Review), you should hopefully all have received your first and perhaps even second issues by now and are enjoying the wealth of words in your various johns. I highly recommend the john for reading short stories. You know you’re going to read something when you go in there, and if you don’t read a lit journal, then it’s just going to be Real Simple or Marie Claire or Nylon. Your brain and soul will thank you for picking up an issue of Pank instead.

(True confession time: all of the above are currently in my john right now. My apologies to Pank, as it truly doesn’t deserve such company.)

I spent last weekend at AWP in Chicago, where I hung out with old friends and some new ones too. I fell in love with the creative forces behind so many new journals(new to me, anyway) and also had a great time fighting my way through the masses in the basement of the Chicago Hilton. Some high points:

  • Staking out a front row seat for the Jennifer Egan reading, only to have Liam Callanan randomly sit next to me in the seat being saved for him. Somewhere on the AWP website, there’s undoubtedly a photo of us clapping. I am almost certain that my eyes will be crossed, drooping and perhaps my fly will be open. Actually, I think I was wearing a dress that day, but it’s still possible.
  • Giggling with Molly Backes on the fourth balcony of the Margaret Atwood keynote.
  • Margaret Atwood. Margaret Atwood. Margaret Atwood. Sure, it was only twenty minutes of basking in her fantastic self, and from my vantage point, she looked like a Fisher-Price Little People (specifically this one) but it was still glorious.
  • Dan Chaon, waving his arms around as he saw me approaching and then telling me that Lynda Barry said to say hi.
  • Going to Wendy McClure’s reading at The Hideout and then skipping another reading to go out and eat plantain and steak sandwiches with her and her husband. Because sometimes it’s the small table that matters instead of the big filled room.
  • The Paper Darts journal. You guys, it’s so beautiful that I want to have its babies. I’m serious. Go buy issues 1 and 2. Now. Don’t wait.
  • The AWP Karaoke Idol party. It was actually worth waiting out in the cold, because I met crazy awesome poet girls Sun Yung Shin, Loretta Clodfelter and Anh-Hoa Thi Nguyen.
  • The “Who’s Oldest” mutha-fucking walk-off with Anh-Hoa. I’m not telling which of us is older, but apparently non-drunk partiers attested that neither of us looked as old as we were.
  • I may be a fiction writer at heart, but man, I need some more poets in my life.
  • I got my nails done AND a cocktail for ten bucks!
  • The ladies working at the Weiner Circle bought me my hot dog and cheese fries. That’s right, the bitches tipped ME (although with the $27 in cab fare to get to and from the Weiner Circle, this was merely a symbolic victory.)
  • I am so fucking glad that I didn’t book a hotel room in time to get a room in one of the conference hotels. It was so peaceful in my little hotel off Michigan on the other side of the river. Plus, I got free breakfast every day.
  • Quiet time on Saturday away from downtown with Kate Harding, where we talked about writing process, the blogosphere and dogs over ridiculously delicious peppery brunch fare.

Less awesome things at AWP:

  • I think I had to face off the minotaur in the bookfair. Seriously, what was with the Southeast room ghetto? There had to be fire code issues there, with the narrow aisles and overcrowding.
  • Who picks a room that only seats 30 for a session with Dan Chaon? DAN CHAON. Yes, yes, I’m a big fan girl, but come on. Simple math.
  • It was SO hard to pick things to go to! There were so many sessions that were awesome, seemingly at the same time as every other awesome thing that ever was. However, this is minor griping, because the only solutions are to stretch out the conference over more days (not realistic) or reduce the number of sessions (please no). Or, you know, let me schedule everything so that nothing I want to attend conflicts with anything else I want to attend.
  • Not getting to go to the Barrelhouse party because I wandered around Chicago like a lost little lamb until they had reached capacity (bittersweet, per above).
  • Only getting to see Tom Williams –my undergrad fiction mentor–but once across a crowded Irish pub (thanks to skipping the reading mentioned above). Ah well, there’s always next AWP.
  • I tried checking out the Bull: Fiction for Thinking Men table, only to be totally ignored by the staff and literally elbowed aside so that they could speak to male attendees. Then not a week later, the editor is stating that they are mystified as to why they don’t have more female writers. Um.

All in all, AWP was very enjoyable and a check mark in the positive category. I still haven’t decided whether I’m going to go back to Indiana this year (although Dan Chaon, Lynda Barry AND Jean Thompson? Hmmm) but I am tentatively in for AWP 2013 in Boston.

Did you go to AWP this year? What did you think? Did you get a chance to traipse through the Chicago art museum up the street to Dream Academy’s cover of The Smith’s “(Please please please) Let me get what I want” by any chance?

If so, I want to be your friend.