This is the post where I put together the oddments (and there is much that is gloriously odd about AWP).
Let’s start with reunions. Now that I’ve moved 1,800 miles from anything that remotely resembled home for me, AWP events are very much reunions because the odds of bumping into anyone I know from all parts of life previous to August of 2009 out here in Wyoming are rather slim. As someone who has wanted to be a writer & an English teacher since the fifth grade, there are a lot of old friends and acquaintances that I stand to see at AWP. There are people from the poetry class at Susquehanna University when I was a high school student (and I have seen at least one person from that class at each AWP event I’ve been to since that semester in 1999). That one class (and freshman comp, also taken at SU, with the same professor) was incredibly instrumental to my development as a writer. It was with those classmates–including a very, very tall young man who wore an authentic Tom Baker Doctor Who scarf before I even knew what Doctor Who was–that I learned how to accept workshop criticism gracefully. How to do that is a difficult thing to learn, and I’m grateful to have had that opportunity when I was a young writer.
These classmates–from however brief a period, even when I was a high school student well aware of just how out of my depth I was in this class–are a reminder of all of the things that I learned from a really well-run writing classroom. That prepared me to go into my own B.A. program at Lycoming College. There are a lot of excellent people from that program with whom I am close friends, and seeing them becomes one of the major draws for the whole conference.
And then there are the many writers who I’ve had the pleasure of hearing read, of meeting once or twice, who I don’t know very well but whose presence I look forward to beyond simply enjoying their work. Seeing these many folks–once a year, once every other year, even longer in between–reminds me that distance is less material than I often think it is. There are so many ways to connect with the world, so many ways of knowing and interacting, of meeting new people, too.
Having this reminder is an integral part negotiating these wide swathes of space that are part of the way our lives take us across the globe. The literary journals and artistic projects that arise from these connections, the way we gather threads from everywhere we’ve been and everywhere we’re going.