Object Lessons: Rantings of a Lone Pamphleteer
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Is AWP Worth the price of admission?

I attended day one of the AWP conference today, and it left me wondering if I was wasting my time and money. Of course, it made me feel better to know that 400 people wanted to be here, but couldn't. Forfeiting the price of a ticket is definitely a waste.

Today I saw only two talks: What does a writer do all day? and What is normal in non-fiction?

Writers love to title talks as questions.

The former seemed like it would be an instructive tour through a writer's daily life, which is something I've been trying to grasp for decades. I had hoped it would answer my perennial question: "How do I get the seat of my pants into the seat of my chair, and stay there long enough to produce a novel?"

Instead, I was treated to an academe's view of how to stay afloat so one has the financing, support system, and health insurance to survive as a modern writer. Gone, apparently, are the days of wine bottles and selling roses to support one's art. Now it's all grants writing and writer-in-residence jobs that keep an author -- or an aspiring author-- busy all day. I was disappointed in the academic turn of the talk, but did glean some useful tidbits, mostly from quotes and just being in the room with a bunch of writers who would, like me, rather be on the other side of the bunting.

Perhaps I am a literalist in the truest sense, expecting someone published to hand me a winning writing schedule. Perhaps, too, a bit naive.

"What is normal in non-fiction" was more entertaining, if not more on topic. Mostly the authors spoke of their own writing life, a topic which might have been more suited to the first talk I attended. Still Bob Sachacosis was hysterical, and the authors did meander around the titular topic as they discussed their own successes. Not a plan to follow, but at least I gained a sense of what is possible, and the praise that might await me in blurb form should I get a book in print, ever.

To answer the question posed by this piece, I must answer yes. After all, what is AWP for me but an opportunity to get back in the swing, to find some motivating blurbs among all those books and authors. The sheer number of writers and books gives one hope, a paper sea of hope.



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