AWP Seattle was my 6th AWP. I was such a snarky jerk the whole time. I don’t even know why. I had a great time, I just really enjoy how drastically AWP opens itself up to sarcasm attacks. I’m always skeptical when people take anything too seriously, and that kind of attitude is in abundance at AWP. Not that people shouldn’t respect themselves, each other, and their work, but come on, 10,000+ writers in one place at one time… some funny shit’s gonna go down, especially when the conference organizers make a public wall displaying all tweets with the #AWP14 hashtag. I also frequently used the #AliEatsSeattle hashtag. Because, for real, Seattle was like an epic festival of flavor. I ate at Biscuit Bitch, Sazerac, Black Bottle, Lola, Some Random Bar, The Pink Door, some bar & grill near the market, and the crepe stand outside the conference. I ate clams and oysters, chocolate covered bacon and s’mores, beignets and egg scrambles, biscuits and crepes, salad and pizza and molten chocolate cake.
In addition to eating Seattle, I also got to explore Seattle with two of my best friends from college because even though a much needed major rainstorm hit LA the day I left, Seattle was bright and sunny most of the time we were there. I’d only been to Seattle once before, when I was 18 and with my family. I had just graduated from high school, I was about to move to New York City to go to college, I was obsessed with only three things: the book Fight Club, my boyfriend, and going to parks with my friends. So I didn’t really notice Seattle back then. I made up for that on this trip.
I got to see so many of my friends read, which, in addition to drinking with my friends and buying my friends’ books, is my favorite part about AWP.
I got to wander the book fair, got to say hi to all my folks running their respective tables of awesome journals and presses. R even let me take a photo with this rocket ship at the Versal table.
AND I found myself, lake wandering, desert spirit that I am, in a photograph in my professor’s newest novel!
Every AWP since DC, which means DC, Chicago, Boston, and now Seattle, I’ve found myself at an art museum on the last day. J, N, and I went to SAM before I left for the airport this time and we found these exploding cars and we found some music except not really, and it was finally raining outside when I walked to the light rail to head back to LA.
I bought Jake’s final book, Abide, which was published after he passed away. I bought it following the reading five of his friends gave in honor of him and of the book’s release. I went to the table, gave the woman my credit card, and when she handed me the book, I felt a wave of nausea because this is the first and only book of his I’ve bought from someone other than him. It’s the first and only book of his that he won’t sign and inscribe. And there is everything wrong with that. I took the book over near a wall, sank down onto the floor, and sobbed while I began reading. It is so hard to have lost someone so, so talented, someone so endlessly inspiring, so infinitely strong, even in their passing.
Most people I know hate AWP. Even the people who go every year. And I get it. It’s a lot of networking, at lot of ego inflating, a lot of people pretending to know people and work they don’t know. But Jake brought me to my first AWP when I was 20 years old to help run the Copper Nickel table and I got sick first thing when we landed and was no help at all. But I did attend two events that year. One was Ander Monson reading for Hotel Amerika. Another was Jake reading. The first time since he came to my high school in 2005 that I’d seen him read. We were in some strange building in Chicago, I think part of Columbia College. I sat on the wood floor because I was too sick to stand. I come to every AWP now not even because I really consider myself a writer, but because sitting on the floor watching someone I admire read something they made with their words opened up a door to a whole new world for me. And now that that person isn’t here to occupy that world with his physical presence, I feel like I want to occupy it with mine, not in replacement, but in reverence.