AWP Journal #2

Again, typos and fragments abound…

11 pm Friday

I just wimped out early for the evening, and plan to wash the cigarette smell out of my hair and lie around reading in the hotel room bed. But my second day at AWP has been really fun.

I started off slow, arriving late to Sandra’s panel, entitled “Found in Translation: Poetry that Stems from Multilingual Homes.” My lateness might have had to with my subconscious lack of enthusiasm for the subject matter, that is, poetry. But I was shamed by my preconceptions, because it was for the most part really engaging stories and poems by poets who grew up around two different languages. Dominika, who I see working at the RWC several days a week told about her Polish family immigrated here when she was nine, and it was riveting, and she was just one of the interesting panelists.
I
attended “Prize Stories: Reading of the Year’s Best,” readings by winners of various prestigious prizes in 2006. This was enjoyable, though perhaps because I am already not as new, didn’t blow me away like the reading yesterday.

I skipped the next panel to go hang around the Book Fair on the lower level. Quite a scene–it felt like a flea market. I was a little worried as I wandered around that to the people at the tables, who I’d heard were often publishers of journals and reviews, it might seem like everyone (including me) was just a writer trying to schmooze before they submitted. In 98% percent of the cases though, the pressure felt directed the other way, either subtly or less so. There’s nothing quite like idly picking up a book to have someone a foot and a half from you say, “Hey, I published that book, and right here is one of our authors. If you buy it now, he can sign it for you! If you buy it now, we’ll give you a discount! If you buy it now, I’ll give you a kiss!” (That last example is courtesy of a report from Katie.) Conversations lasted a little longer than I anticipated as well, I think I covered five tables in an hour and twenty minutes, and bought three items. There were over a hundred tables left to go, but fortunately I had promised to meet Suze for the next panel “What Really Happened: Research and the Novel.”
By evening, since we’d only eaten from the Café Express counter in the hotel lobby for two days, we decided to try a Thai Restaurant near the Highland Motel, where Jessica, Forrest and Elizabeth were staying. That was a great call. We followed up with a visit to Manuel’s Tavern, where I got to talk to the nice people from University of Texas Press, K.C and Stephanie, that I had met earlier at the book fair (they had not to hard-sell me any books), and a group of guys from Louisiana State University. I make it a point to meet a couple of strangers each evening, just on principle—if you drive a few hundred miles and spend a few hundred dollars you should talk to someone you won’t see in the grad lounge on Monday—but it can be, at times, hard to make myself do this. When I plunked myself down at their table, one of the Louisiana State guys immediately reached over and said, “Hi, I’m Ben, this is Jerry(? that’s weird, was it really Ben and Jerry?) and that’s Chris,” and made me feel right at home.

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