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.
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.