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AWP — Forecast for First-timers

March 2, 2020

You will not see everyone you wanted to see; deal with it. You will see the same people too often; deal with them. You will spend more time in line for coffee than you ever have in your life. You will not have room in your carry-on luggage for all the free books of poetry being thrust into your trembling hands–trembling because you walked past the 60-writer-long Starbucks queue and all you’ve had for breakfast is four mini Snickers taken from an MFA program’s table while you listened to how intense and personal their low-residency creative writing program is. You’ll look up “low residency” later. You won’t need an MFA, but you will need the Snickers.

Overeager, you will spend hours making yourself a panel schedule, an off-site event schedule, a meet-and-greet schedule. Two close writer friends will be reading at the same time but at opposite ends of the city. The panel on writing sex scenes will be the most boring panel discussion you’ve ever had to sit through–because in your overeagerness you will sit on the front row at a sex-scene panel and will be too embarrassed to get up and leave. Everyone behind you will be waiting for someone to leave so that they can feel embarrassed together. You’ll fall sleep. This will be the only time you sleep at AWP. It will be so needed, so rejuvenating.

On the first day of the bookfair, you’ll come to understand how fresh meat feels. You’ll sense the desperate gaze of journal editors, of MFA-program representatives, of small press owners (seriously, find these angels and buy books from them). Don’t get me wrong: we have pretty eyes. Most of us. Well, I do.

You’ll spend quite a lot of time cross-legged on the floor outside the bookfair, outside the panel rooms, outside (if it’s not raining, and the forecast actually looks favorable!). There are tables set up where you can sit like a normal person, but you’ll choose the floor. If the floor and tables were playing rock, paper, scissors, the floor would win every time.

There are too many Michelles, Jennifers, and Christophers in this world. You’ll get them all mixed up. Don’t worry. We’ve all done it. And we Christophers are used to it. I’ve been introduced as Christopher James more times than I can count. Sorry, Chris! Sometimes I just let them think I’m you. I say, “Yes, I’ve come all the way from Jakarta.” So much farther than Germany.

You will not get the coronavirus, so stop obsessing. OK, I can’t promise this, but the chances are very very low. Hug people. OK, don’t hug people. Air-hug people. Hug them with your eyes. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Sneeze and cough into your arm, not your hands. Don’t touch anything (except the really pretty SmokeLong pens)! But DON’T OBSESS!

You will have the time of your life. This is your WRITER VACATION, when you get to be yourself. Everyone is cheering you on. #yougotthis

You will bring your micro fiction entry (under 400 words) ON PAPER to table T2062 by 4:45pm Friday March 6. The best story will win $200 to help you pay for all this amazing writerly fun. Entry is free, so you really have to do this. The winner will be announced Saturday morning.

We can’t wait to see you in San Antonio.






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