Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Adventures at AWP

I flew back to Vegas from Seattle on Sunday night, and I haven't had time to write since. The conference was great, but playing catch-up isn't so much fun.

I don't know if I should describe the conference as "great," actually. It was certainly good, but the truly great thing about the trip was Seattle itself. What a city! Until the last day, when it rained and rained and rained, I thought maybe everybody there had just been lying about the weather to discourage visitors. Most of the time it was around 50 degrees and sunny; we even spent lots of evenings on bar patios. I guess the writer gods were pleased with the convergence of scribes in the city and wanted to reward us. The Capitol Hill neighborhood seems to be WHERE IT'S AT, and by it I mean everything. Culture, fun, etc. Each night I'd book it uphill from my hostel on 1st and Pike to go to one of many offsite readings or to meet some of my fellow MFA-ers' local friends. I kind of loved the hills, honestly. I would have a great ass if I lived in Seattle.

Places you must visit if you ever find yourself in the Capitol Hill area: 
  • Elliott Bay Book Company--gorgeous bookstore, à la Denver's Tattered Cover. Enjoy a cup of jasmine tea while perusing a book from the bargain table. The whole week there was a single copy of Best European Fiction 2013 staring me in the face, and when it was still there on Sunday, I decided I was meant to have it.
  • Montana--chill bar. Comfortable. Cocktails on tap, if you're into that. Tried a pickle back here, which is apparently something one must do in Seattle: a shot of whiskey followed by a shot of pickle juice. Surprisingly better than it sounds.
  • Linda's Tavern--supposedly the last place Kurt Cobain was seen alive. Spooky? Not really, but it has a killer patio.
As I mentioned, my hostel was downhill at 1st and Pike, right near the uber-touristy Pike Place Market and the waterfront. Just because Pike Place Market was touristy doesn't mean it wasn't fun, however. I stuffed myself full of fresh fish all week and my tummy was pretty damn happy about it. Didn't spend as much time hanging out in this area, but I'd highly recommend Seattle Coffee Works. I can't vouch for the coffee itself, as I don't drink it, but the atmosphere is great and the chai tea is delicious.

One of my favorite parts of the trip was when Austin, Joleen, Denise, and I took a ferry to Bainbridge Island. I love the desert landscape of Vegas, but I must admit that the sight of pine trees mingling with the cloud-covered mountains was stunning. We didn't spend long on the island--just went to a coffee shop and worked--but it was worth it to escape the hubbub of the city for a while.

Of course, in between all this I was attending the largest writing conference in the country. The best part of AWP itself was probably the bookfair. Thousands and thousands of publishers and MFA programs and literary magazines, all selling their wares (BOOKSOMGSOMANYOFTHEMSOMANYBOOKSJOY), all looking for submissions. I knew that if I wasn't careful I'd buy everything, so I developed a process: the first few days I just wandered around and talked to people. I finally made my purchases on Saturday, the last day of the conference, based mostly on who I thought had seemed the nicest. (This turned out to be a smart move anyway--most of the merchandise was discounted by then.) I did make one impulse purchase earlier on: an issue of The American Reader because it had a poem called "Gloomerang" in it, and I'm a sucker for a good portmanteau. I also bought a tote bag that says "Word Counts are Oppressive" because I feel it expresses my beliefs with great accuracy. Best of all, I now have so many new options for submitting my work. That will have to start happening soon...

I also attended some panels. They tended to be hit-or-miss--often they talked a lot about very little, or the topic of the panel was more interesting than the conversation about the topic turned out to be. My favorites were the double-header I did on Friday: "Women Writing Violence" (featuring Alissa Nutting, whose work I love because it is so wonderfully creepy), and "Unlikeable Women in Fiction." The panels sort of spoke to each other regarding several feminist issues. Why are women who write violence judged so much more harshly than men who write violence? Why do people assume that violence always comes from women's experience, whereas they assume that men are capable of making it up? Why do people sexualize female violence? Why do audiences always demand that female characters be "likeable," when that's simply not the case for famous male characters? And so on. Nice food for thought.

So many random things happened throughout the week that I'll never be able to write them all down. Joe's amazing homemade Camera Fantastica that turned us all into ghosts. (#!) Running into my barista from Borders when I was in high school. "Poetry Brothel" in a suite at the Sheraton. Madness, I tell you. Rest assured, it was a wonderful trip. I'll have to go back to Seattle someday--didn't even get to do the Space Needle!  Now if I could only find the time to make up all the work I missed while I was there. Wish me luck.


  1. Wait, which barrista? Joe? Bret? Or Borders grandpa whose name I'm ashamed to say I forgot?


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