AWP 2012

I spent the past few days hanging out in Chicago, IL for the annual AWP conference and bookfair.

I don’t even know where to start with this post because it was literally four days of literary madness.  And that madness was amplified by the fact that I stayed with my friend Stephanie at her arts collective, the West Side School for the Desperate; there were two shows there this weekend during my stay.

I decided to go because a friend of mine mentioned that Margaret Atwood (perhaps my favorite author of all time) would be giving the keynote address.  And tickets for students were only $40– a steal given all that the conference gave me access to.

My favorite part of the conference was accidentally stumbling upon the chance to chat for a bit with Bonnie Jo Campbell, who is another one of my all-time favorite authors.  She was part of panel on “The Renaissance of Midwestern Literature” on Thursday, but I was unable to attend because by the time I got there, the room was literally overflowing with people.

I assumed I’d missed her, and was pretty bummed about it.  But the next day, I was having lunch with Sarah, who mentioned that BJC would be giving a reading alongside other National Book Critics Circle Award winners & finalists later that afternoon.  So I hightailed it over there and somehow managed to get a third row seat.

After that, I was dicking around on Facebook and happened to notice BJC’s status: she’d be signing books at the bookfair at 3:30.  So I headed over that way.

One of the things I love most about her is the way she handles books signings.  She actually takes time to talk to people who come to see her.  We’ve only met at readings & workshops, but she remembered me (and apparently, she reads my Twitter).  She had tattoos promoting her book of short stories, American Salvage, and applied one on my hand.

I have photographic evidence of this encounter.  (Too bad I don’t know how to keep my eyes open for pictures.)

Other things that rocked: Spending time at the West Side School for the Desperate, and seeing all kinds of people from different aspects of my life.  At one point, my friend Matthew (who I met at SVSU about four years ago) turned up at the WSSD & performed at an open mic in conjunction with a feature reading by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz.

I actually read at the open mic, too.  It was my first time reading poetry in public in years; I only got back to writing creatively a few months ago.  (Been too busy smashing the patriarchy, you know.)

That was cool, because not only do I consider the WSSD to be a safe space, but some really talented people were there– among them, Stevie Edwards, who lives in Ithaca, NY, and is releasing her first full-length collection of poetry from Write Bloody Publishing next month. You should go pre-order yourself a copy if you haven’t already.

Other highlights: Margaret Atwood’s keynote speech (even if she only spoke for twenty-five minutes).

And sushi.  I love seafood, and most of my friends don’t understand.  But Stephanie does!

There are other things I could say.  About how I attended a panel called “A Face to Meet the Faces: Five Poets on Persona, Empathy, and Race,” and how I learned a lot from it.  Or about how the high school students that Stephanie teaches opened for Patricia Smith at her book release Friday night.  But I think I’ve nerded out enough this past weekend.

So instead, I’ll say this: Chicago has an awesome public transit system; why can’t the rest of America be like that?

And lastly, here is an adorable picture of Stephanie and me dressed as twins.

I had a wonderful time.  My mom joked that if it hadn’t been for the cats, I would have never returned home.

Thing is, though, she was right.

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About Amelia

feminist, seafood enthusiast, bookworm, blogworm
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3 Responses to AWP 2012

  1. What a completely amazing experience to have had. I can’t believe you got to hear Margaret Atwood speak and MEET Bonnie Jo Campbell! It must have been a very inspiring time.

    • Amelia says:

      I feel really lucky to have been able to go. And I can’t say enough good things about Bonnie Jo Campbell. She’s a great person; I hope you get the chance to meet her someday. Two years ago, I was working as the editor-in-chief of my campus art & literary magazine, and she visited our school, so I was offered the chance to have lunch with her. She’s both brilliant and kind– probably my favorite mix of qualities in a person.

  2. Hi Amelia! You are too kind! It was a pleasure to chat with you at AWP 2012. I went home and immediately got hit with a hell of a cold, so I hope I didn’t pass to you any wicked germs. Cheers! BJC

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