The man next to me is talking software. A woman across the way is absorbed in her smart phone. Very few people, tragically, are reading. I’m at the airport, waiting for the first leg of my flight to Chicago for the Associated Writing Programs (AWP) Conference. I’m so excited, despite the fact that shortly I will be getting looks that could kill because, well, I have a cold.
I’ve been to the AWP Conference many times, and each time I leave it exhausted and rejuvenated in that beautiful paradox that comes from so much time with writers, agents, editors, and publishers. Here’s my ten reasons for why I love writing conferences.
10. The Hotel – Writing conferences – despite the relatively low income of most attendees – often take place at very nice hotels with great amenities (like a coffee pot IN THE ROOM – crazy stuff). I look forward to only being able to do what is before me, by which I mean – watch TV and make a really comfy pillow perch for myself.
9. The Food – At least once during each conference, I order room service – something ridiculous like a grilled cheese sandwich and eat in that cushy bed. Then, the rest of the time I get by on muffins and the occasional salad. Oh and coffee, lots of coffee.
8. The Energy – Rarely in my day to day life, do I get to spend time with groups of people who love writing and books as much as I do, and this love gives the whole conference space a particular kind of charge that feels to me much as a huge waterfall does – all glory and positivity.
7. The Presentations – I usually pack my days with presentation after presentation, some by people I know, some on topics I love, some just on random luck. Without fail, I learn something in every session. It reminds me of my MFA program.
6. The New People – At every single conference, I meet a handful of new people who become fast friends and colleagues. We exchange emails, and this year, I expect we’ll exchange Twitter handles as well. Suddenly, my writing world gets bigger.
5. The “Old” People – This is the one chance in a year when I get to see people I’ve loved a long time. People from graduate school or from the places I’ve taught across the country. We grab a drink and catch up about life and our writing projects. It’s like a family reunion.
4. The Keynote Presentation – This year’s presenter is Margaret Atwood, so you can understand my excitement here. Last time I attended, John Irving spoke. There’s something amazing about hearing a writer who has not only experience but also fame – it charges me up. Now, if only I can get a seat for Atwood’s talk through the registration lottery.
3. The Time – Rarely do I get to speak five whole days thinking almost entirely about my writing. I have teaching or Relay or laundry to consider. Here, I can focus entirely on what it means to be a writer. That’s luxury.
2. The Book Fair – Think of a football field full of books, and you’ll have a fairly clear picture of the AWP book fair. I usually save an entire half-day to peruse it and then plan to go back on Saturday to pick up what I have mulled over. Academic and trade publishers. Little publishers and big ones. Agents and book stores. It’s pretty close to heaven for me.
1. The Writing – The best part of AWP is when I return to work on Monday. I will be filled up and rejuvenated, if a bit groggy and caffeine withdrawn. I’ll feel myself full of words and ready to write with fervor and intensity. I can’t wait.
Why do you love writing conferences?
Throughout the rest of this week, I’ll be writing about my experience at the conference. I hope you’ll follow along and weigh in.