This year is going to be a very different experience. For one thing, I’ve got baby in tow and don’t know how many events I’ll actually be able to attend, or how many I’ll have to leave early because Ama’s getting bored and talkative. When I originally registered, my main intent was to spend some time wandering around the book fair—by far my favorite thing about AWP last year (well, not counting reconnecting with old friends). After I’d already registered, I found out that the book fair is free and open to the public on the last day of the conference—doh! I could have just gone, kicked around Chicago with Amalie, and then checked out the book fair for free on Saturday. Ah well.
Since I did register, though, I do plan on at least trying to attend some events. I’ve been reading The Blind Assassin this past week (and falling in love, hard, with Margaret Atwood) and would really like to attend Atwood’s keynote address. There are also some panel discussions whose topics sound really interesting.
But I know, with a five-and-a-half-month-old in my charge and daddy Damien working the New Ohio Review table for half the day, every day, I’ll be at the whims of Amalie’s moods (and feeding and napping schedule—if you can call it a schedule . . .). And that’s fine. Because AWP feels different for me this year not just because I’ll have a baby this time. It’s different, too, because I’ve been through it once before, and while I had a ton of fun, the magic has sort of gone out of it already.
I know I’m not going to meet an agent in an elevator, suddenly become charming and outgoing, pitch my novel to him/her, and land myself a book deal (I didn’t even have the guts to sign up for a scheduled pitch session with an agent last year). And I know that at my book signing, I’ll be lucky to sell any copies to people I don’t already know—and since the people I know have already bought their copies, I’ll be lucky to sell any at all this year. And I know that, while I like the idea of all these people with shared interests and goals congregating together and sharing this thing with each other, there’s something overwhelming about seeing 10,000 writers together all at once and realizing that they’re all competing for the same publications and the same jobs—it really hammers home your chances: slim, at best.
But like I said, I’m excited, nonetheless. I got some Christmas money that I have yet to spend, so I plan on really letting myself loose on the book fair this year. And I’m looking forward to a fun vacation with Amalie. And I’m going to see some old friends just like last year (I’m really excited about seeing fellow UAF MFAer Jenni Moody!). And I’m definitely looking forward to my off-site reading. I like doing readings, oddly enough (odd, because I’m shy and introverted, and because readings tend to be a sort of dismal affair, where hardly anyone shows up, and of those few, maybe one buys a copy of the book, if you’re lucky), and this reading should be especially good, since several people have already committed to attend.
Oh AWP, for me, you’ve changed. But that’s okay. I still love you, all the same.
(Don’t forget to check back next week, when my March interview series kicks off with an interview with self-published author Ken Brosky.)