“It’s the space station,” or…On AWP and Why Writers Geek Out Over It

I just returned yesterday from Boston, where the annual writer geek-out (also known as AWP, also known as the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference) was held. It was my first time attending, so I’m sure I was even more wide-eyed and full of wonder than usual than most of my counterparts. Still, I don’t think I’m alone in saying that these few days in Beantown were impactful for me, important in some way much greater than my singular experience.

AWP swag…I will always be excited about a good tote!

Of course, this AWP was marked by an enormous pile of snow that insisted on blowing through the northeast last week, thereby trapping masses of writers within the confines of our hotels and the tunnels connecting them to the Hynes Convention Center (I literally did not breathe outdoor air for three days…) My hotel roomie, the inimitable Kait Burrier, described the other-worldly nature of this situation best, I think, when she said “It’s the space station!” She was referring to Prudential Center architecture at the time, but I find that the metaphor holds up for all other aspects of the conference, too.

Because writers are weird. We’re weird, and we know we’re weird. We couldn’t possibly deny it. Most of us go about our daily lives feeling the weight of our own oddity, noticing the awkward pauses as our conversations with non-writers shift away from whatever point we were trying to make and onto something more ordinary. Sure, we can get some solace from general book talk (“Hey, did you read A Visit from the Goon Squad? It’s awesome, right? Yeah, those characters are really something.” And this is surely a lovely discussion…Goon Squad is incredible, after all, and you tell your non-writer pals so), but there’s something about the life talk, the unnameable chemistry that occurs when speaking with someone who “gets” you, that simply isn’t there. Our friends and family love us, enjoy us, appreciate us–to some extent, they may even understand us–but, for the majority of writers, it is only the rarest of interactions that makes us stop and think, Yeah, they really get it.

Imagine, then, a place in which 12,000 such people have congregated, all aching for conversation, literature, and frivolity. All feeling buoyed by the presence of each other’s oddities–embracing them, reveling in them. Together.

In short, it’s amazing. I mean, mindblowingly and heartwrenchingly amazing. Indeed, what masks itself as a conference is really a return to the writers’ proverbial home planet. A trip to our own bizarre space station.

So forgive us, please, for the onslaught of post-AWP lovefest blog posts, tweets, and Facebook statuses. Take it easy on us when you ask how our time away from home or the office has been, and we are only capable of responding with a glazed look, a breathy adjective, and perhaps some small, insufficient anecdote. We do realize how annoying we are. It’s just that…this was really something special. Like, really incredible. We’re going to need a few days to come back down to Earth.

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6 thoughts on ““It’s the space station,” or…On AWP and Why Writers Geek Out Over It

  1. Samuel Snoek-Brown

    2008 was my last year. We moved overseas and I couldn’t get back for the conference, and then when we moved back I couldn’t afford it. But next year it’s just a train ride north to Seattle, and I’ll be there again at last! I miss this conference so, SO much!

    Hope you had fun! I’ve been immensely jealous of all my friends and colleagues who went this year — Boston’s a cool town to visit.

    Reply
    1. daniwriteswords Post author

      It’s a fantastic conference! I hope I can make it to Seattle next year, but it’s a long haul from NY. If I can’t get there, you’ll have to blog and let me know how it is!

      Reply
  2. Carol Deminski

    Hi Dani, thanks for following my blog recently. Sorry it’s taken me so long to come and visit.

    I’ve never been to an AWP conference… or any other writing conference actually. What happens at the conference? Is it lectures, readings, small presses selling their books, and people offering services to writers… that sort of thing? (That is what I imagine it is like.)

    Other than the benefit of having the company of other writers (which I imagine is fun) what other benefits do you feel you got out of attending? Obviously your experience is personal to you, but still, I’m sure it’s indicative of others too.

    Thx
    Carol

    Reply

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