“Wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.” —Toni Morrison
2016 entered with expectations. The Year of the Monkey and the year Leonardo DiCaprio finally won an Oscar was also the year of my first AWP appearance since graduation, lucky number seven. I imagined how this sequel would unfold in Los Angeles: me with colorful business cards, me with a freshly-printed novel manuscript in my tote, me with the pitch scribbled across my life and head and heart line.
Three years have passed since I last attended, a literary tradition with a couple soul sisters. I registered. I saved book and cocktail money. I compiled a list of writers and lit mags to hunt. I organized a conference schedule. I arranged plans with friends, made promises.
I failed myself in all of those ways. No business cards because I barely have a business. No novel manuscript because it’s not in a printable, shareable state, let alone queryable or pitchable.
Even after I was content arriving as myself—a work-in-progress, empty handed but full hearted—I couldn’t even succeed at that.
Once again, money is a thing. This time, my bank account lacks deposits, and there are student loans and weddings and a burned-out tail light. I have credit cards and a modest savings but me, understanding the current state of things, cannot part with my tiny, high-interest securities.
This is not the worst thing to happen to me. Not. Even. Close. Not this year. Or this month. I know how quickly things can turn, so I count my blessings. I kiss Waylon. I visit the library. I continue editing. I sit in the sun. I pass on the conference.
I hope by sharing the things my cells will miss that I can hunch among the audiences, among friends, at booths and tables in spirit.
- 1:30 pm to 2:45 pm – The Violence of the Page featuring Lucy Corin, Maggie Nelson, Brian Evenson, Ben Weissman, and Fred D’Aguiar. I bought Maggie Nelson‘s Bluets in Seattle last year, and I need to sit in the presence of the woman who experienced then thought then wrote, “Mostly I have felt myself becoming a servant of sadness. I am still looking for the beauty in that.”
- 4:30 pm to 5:45 pm – American Tropics featuring Patrick Rosal, Tiphanie Yanique, Willie Perdomo, Christina Olivares, and Brandy Nalani McDougall. Because Hawai’i, and Land of Love and Drowning.
- 7:00 pm to 9:30 pm at Wolf and Crane Bar – Crossing the Line: Genre-Curious Readings featuring Lily Hoang, Nicole Walker, and others, oh my! I’m a Japanese whisky virgin and who isn’t genre-curious?
- 10:30 am to 11:45 am – Hugo House Literary Series All-Stars featuring Jennine Capó Crucet, Natalie Diaz, Roxane Gay, Jess Walter, and Peter Mountford. I want to know the joys and the horrors.
- 1:30 pm to 2:45 pm – Adapting to Adaptation: Making the Most of Going Hollywood featuring Eleanor Henderson, Cheryl Strayed, Stephen Elliott, Jennifer Gilmore, and Jenny Halper. Because dreams.
- 4:30 pm to 5:45 pm – I Wrote My First Book Because I Wanted to Read It: Black Women and Their Debut Fiction featuring Danielle Evans, Cole Lavalais, Naomi Jackson, Angela Flournoy, and Jacinda Townsend. Because I want to read the book I’m writing, and listen to the stories of these beautiful women.
- 3:00 pm to 4:15 pm – No Facts, Only Interpretations: An Examination of the Multiple Point of View Novel featuring Eric Sasson, Anna North, Julia Fierro, Rebecca Makkai, and J. Ryan Stradal. I need another point of view.
This year’s theme, for me, seems to be newness. My What-Jane-Wants-to-Do-Most-at-AWP-2016 list has shed a lot of my long-term obsessions. Maybe I’m exhausted with the familiar, balancing-work-and-the-creative-life anxieties, the craft of drafts upon drafts. Even though it is comforting to revisit kindred spirits, hearts that beat and minds that think in similar ways, I need something else, but I’m not sure what. There is a lesson here.