I is for I’m here, and I definitely am. I’ve been here for two days, going on the third, and am wearing out a bit. For those of you who don’t know, AWP stands for Association of Writers and Writing Programs, which should probably be AWWP and that is different from what I wrote earlier thinking that the P stood for Professionals. Certainly everyone here is not. It is such a diverse group and a very large one. I haven’t heard the number of conference registrants this year but judging by the lines at the coffee shop and the restrooms there are scads of us.
The conference center is huge, having four levels. Going to the various rooms for different panels and readings, I have no trouble getting in 5,000 steps a day (yes, I have an app on my phone). I’ve gotten lost a couple of times. There are adequate escalators, some quiet areas to get away (if you can find them), fairly good signage, and a covered walkway that goes to almost all the nearby hotels and shops. The center DOES NOT have enough food vendors and you really have to time things right to get a cup of coffee between sessions.
I do a lot of people watching and there is a lot of interesting material walking by at all times. This is a national event, (maybe international, I’m not sure) probably with a larger number of midwestserners attending since it is in Minneapolis. My daughter told me that Minnesota is one of the states with the highest number of educated people with college degrees and evidently many of them are writers and teachers of fine arts and they are here. The major publishing houses are here and have booths in the book fair area. Lots of MFA programs of universities throughout the states are represented. All kinds of writing are being presented and talked about in the readings and panel discussions.
As I said, I am getting a little weary. I often find I’ve chosen a session where the talk is “over my head”. These people who are immersed in reading, writing and publishing have a language I’m not all that familiar with. I’m often made aware of my ignorance and that is a little daunting, but everyone has to start somewhere. I’m coming away with a lot of words to look up, a lot of authors to read, a lot of ideas to implement in my own writing. I’m learning about tweeting (groan…). During the last session I attended I found myself looking at facebook and checking email more than listening, so have ducked out to find this quiet table where I can think and write. I have no MFA, no published books, no large platform but even for me, writing is where it is at.
J is for the things I Just have to say – I’m going to give you some of the quotes that have been meaningful to me from a few of the sessions, the take-aways that made it into my notes.
“underneath the nothing, there is usually something”
“be harder on yourself than anyone else in your narrative”
“What have I come to tell? Why do I have to tell it? What stands in the way?”
“changing from writing about something to writing to someone allows you to be authentic”
“some suffering demands silence”
“the one person you don’t want to read your memoir is the person who will read it”
“your truth, interpretation and memory are not necessarily facts”
“honesty isn’t just not lying – to be perfectly honest would be to have perfect self-knowledge”
“it is never true that one does not have a story to tell”
“the fact that someone has had something terrible happen to them does not make them a good writer”
“if you want to be creative, write fiction. Creative non-fiction is also called non non-fiction”
“writing should make you a better person”
and many more, I’m just sayin’… I came and am glad I did.
(I regret I did not get the names of the people I quoted – it was often hard to hear it in the first place and get it all down correctly. My notes on each session were done hurriedly and often in awkward circumstances. If you recognize yourself in any of these quotes please know I would gratefully acknowledge. Thanks)