Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Heady Hive of the 2008 AWP Conference

Here are a few definitions of heady from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition:

1.a. Intoxicating or stupefying
1.b. Tending to upset the mind or the balance of senses
1.c. Serving to exhilarate

And beyond the obvious definition of hive, here's another:

1.b. A place swarming with activity

I think all of the above accurately describe my overall impression of the 2008 AWP Conference just held in NYC. It was an excellent experience for me, sometimes overwhelming, sometimes dizzying, but fascinating in so many ways. I found many intriguing readings and panels to attend, including the majority of those on my wish list in the preceding post. I was delighted to see so many offerings on the topic of hybrid writing, a love of mine: prose poetry, flash fiction, creative non-fiction, lyric essay, and the crossbred offspring of hybrids. (I'm not big on pigeonholing writing, but I'm happy to see acceptance of good work regardless of genre. ) One of the most memorable events was A Tribute to Russell Edson with Russell Edson himself modestly listening and reading some of his riveting works, and Robert Bly, Charles Simic, and James Tate honoring him. I loved that. I now am the proud owner of signed copies of The Rooster's Wife by Russell Edson and The Monster Loves His Labyrinth: Notebooks by Charles Simic. What great titles!

The three level book fair was totally packed and buzzing like the above-mentioned giant hive. (Last I heard, there were 7,500 people at the conference. ) One had to summon courage, slip into boy-in-the-bubble protective gear, pause to find an opening, then enter the flow of literary humanity. But it was wonderful to meet other writers and editors, to match faces and names, to briefly chat with people who have supported and published my work. I found it so interesting to see the three-dimensional versions of invisible e-mail acquaintances. Being surrounded by so many people who are excited about poetry, fiction, publishing, reading, and writing generated an uplifting form of energy.

The two editors of Bound Off were terrific and fun to get to know. Thanks, Ann and Kelly, for hosting my Stirring the Mirror signing Saturday morning! Nick Antosca, author of Fires, signed his books at the same time. We traded books, so I'm really looking forward to reading his.

Staying right at the Hilton was convenient and gave me a quick and easy place to hide and refuel when necessary. I felt that the social bits blended well with the scheduled events, and that I was able to balance the hive-like craziness with some laughter with writer friends or restorative solitude. The days were filled with positive chance encounters and good conversation. There are politics and big egos at work at these massive gatherings, for sure, but I generally operate outside the machine, outside academia. I felt a welcome sense of community at the conference. (Perhaps the glow is due to this being my initial conference experience?)

When I left on Saturday night, I had way too much to carry to the train. And I was exhausted! But on the ride home a single adjective kept popping into my mind: transformative. The experience felt transformative. I'm still processing it all. I'm curious to see what will blossom from this literary frenzy.


C.M. Mayo said...

It was grand to see you!

Christine said...

Thanks...I was delighted to find you and say hi! Love Jorge Fernandez Granados'"Ghosts of the Palace of Blue Tiles!"