AWP/ Day 2 -- Dispatches from the front lines by Caitlin Leffel '10.
There was a line to get into an elevator this morning, and a line for the cross-conference shuttle. The Hilton gym was packed at 7:30, and I've never seen so many people reading Poets & Writers on an elliptical. (OK, it was two people. But still.) The line for Starbucks when I went was twenty-deep—and that's not even counting the dozens who I'm sure were queuing at the same time by the coffee kiosk in the hotel. Though I'm starting to worry a little about crossing a writer who's behind on their caffeine-consumption schedule, I am quite pleased with what all this is signaling.
There are a lot of writers here, and you can feel it. In my little sardine-tin of an elevator ride, I heard one Chicagoan tell another that she knew of a bunch of kids from her area who, until they closed conference registration, were planning on packing into cars and checking out some of the panels. Kids--kids!--paying admission for a conference about writing and being a writer. I was pinned at the back of the elevator behind a rolling suitcase and unable to reach the utterer of this to fact-check her claim before she exited. So, dear blog readers, I suggest you take my word on this.
AWP sold out this year, and I don't know if that's a usual thing or not, but I have to say, I was a little shocked when I heard that. Now that I'm here, I just think it's really cool. Maybe I'm a little hungry for some NYC-style energy after having spent the past six weeks on the west coast (I'm certainly appreciating the tall buildings here!), but I'm genuinely enjoying the packed, bustling atmosphere in and around the Hilton. It feels vital, vibrant, and communal. For any writer who's questioned the relevance of his or her toiling and felt alone while persevering along the page, that's a really encouraging feeling.
Last night's VCFA dinner was similarly energized. This was the first time I'd make it in to attend, and I'd definitely make it a priority in future years. While we still have the Friday night gathering (and a drink on the college) to look forward to, the dinner had a different sort of energy. I'm attending the conference without my usual band of close friends, and yet, when I arrived on the second floor of the Essex, I immediately felt right at home. I caught up with old friends, and was introduced to some new ones, as everyone connected the dots between residencies, genres, and graduating classes. Louise and Melissa said some words (I will not reveal here the stupendous number of residencies Melissa calculated that Louise has attended), and Mary Welz introduced a great video presentation of VCFA in summertime. Guys, it's a really, really, great place we've all lucked into, isn't it?
Tomorrow I'll have some dispatches from attendees on the panels they've seen, plus my report from the front lines, after my own panel presentation. If you are in Chicago and want to stop by, I'm presenting at 3 in the State Ballroom at the Palmer. We're going to tell you how to make money off of your blog!