Differently to #AWP22

It’s been a packed week, but also kind of a splendid one. I feel more connected to literary people again–and more conscious of how much the first pandemic year, especially, disconnected us.

I returned from a good conference last Sunday to visit with the wonderful poet January Gill O’Neil, who talked to my class the next day and gave a terrific public reading. We had some good conversations not only about poetry itself but ambition, publishing, and publicity. Then on Thursday I spoke on a panel at the Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville with Cliff Garstang and Sharon Harrigan. The theme was “Uncertainty in Literary Fiction,” and after the logistics of parking and an on-site Covid test, I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation–AND signing a pile of copies of Unbecoming for strangers, which hasn’t happened much in the last two years. Afterward I had dinner with Jan Beatty, long a poetry-crush of mine, and the next day I drove back to C’ville to see old friend Sara Robinson read from her latest collection with Hiram Larew. The loss of my mother last year made me more aware that our opportunities to support each other are not endless. Afterward Chris and I dined on a restaurant patio, enjoying the near-spring balminess.

Those were all highs. I felt like a writer again, reintegrating that part of myself with being a teacher and advisee and committee leader (sigh) and tired secret striver. Now I’m getting my head and my bags together for the AWP convention, this year in Philadelphia, which can be a great gathering but also a challenging one, logistically and sometimes emotionally. I’m participating in more events than I remember doing in the misty past. My only official AWP program event–meaning something you have to register to attend–is a prerecorded virtual one on editing with Celia Lisset Alvarez, Catherine Esposito Prescott, Todd Kaneko, and Ashley M. Jones, but we’ll all be “present” in the chat when it goes live and would love to talk shop. The others are offsite readings. Two will be brief ones from rockin’ anthologies in which I was grateful to place work. The third is my FIRST EVER reading with a group of Tinderbox Editions authors, where I’ll read a little bit from two books: The State She’s In, which I’d planned to give a soft launch at AWP in March 2020 (double sigh), and the forthcoming Poetry’s Possible Worlds. Here are the details:

I’ll have a few copies of The State She’s In with me, if you’d like a signed book, and giveaway bookmarks for Poetry’s Possible Worlds. That forthcoming book is in digital ARCs for potential reviewers/ class adopters, but hard copies should arrive in early April, which is CLOSE.

I’ve reflected a lot during the last few years on how I approach conferences–formerly with a can’t-miss-a-thing drive, now more gently. There are many panels and readings I’d like to attend, but I’ll skip some if I feel overloaded; I have noticed that 3 per day max me out and if I push myself to a 4th, I’m not paying a good quality of attention. Get-togethers with friends and a fancy dinner with my daughter feel more important. And then there’s the boot I’m wearing for tendinitis, so my physical need for rest is higher. A friend just loaned me a knee scooter that I think might be particularly handy for the bookfair (if you haven’t been to AWP, the bookfair is HUGE, simultaneously overwhelming and one of the conference’s best features). Will my strategies and events cure me of that old AWP feeling of being an insignificant bottle rocket sputtering among the stars? I don’t know, but I’m grateful to have a chance to try.

One response to “Differently to #AWP22”

  1. Lesley, face it–you are one of the stars! (In my “book” anyway). Glad we met for a few minutes & I trust the dinner with your daughter was lovely. I left thinking, this may be the last time I attend this conference. But time will tell! I look forward to the essay collection–I ordered it–and I hope your tendon heals up rapidly.


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