Just over a week ago I went to Chicago for AWP, the association of writers and writing programs, or something similar to that. I could look it up but would rather keep journaling while my fingers feel right. This was the fifth time I’ve gone to AWP but the first time in which I didn’t attend any onsite forums or events, outside of the book fair, which is free to the public on Saturday. In the past I was always part of some table, whether it was editing a journal or supporting a program, and this provided time to see panels and be more actively engaged in the topics most writers and attendees were conversing about. Also, it was always a venture, of sorts, to go, meaning that a new city would be presented and traversed. Chicago, however, was not new to me but my old stomping ground.
Having not attended any onsite events I avoided the overwhelming apertures of the conference, of which many people speak about. It’s a confrontational setting but in a very mysterious and half-assed way, like someone choosing to call you an asshole instead of pushing you at the beginning of a fight. I will clarify what I mean and not resort to metaphors. There is so much tension in the air and this is due to the fact that everyone is there to get and give something. Usually, it’s attention and not necessarily in a disgusting manner but as validation, as most writers want some validation, whether it’s the physical copy of something they’ve been published in or for someone they’ve just met to say “hey, I’ve read your work.” This search for validation permeates the air. I encountered it while at the book fair and while running into many familiar faces who all want to know what you’re up to but few genuinely want to know, it’s just a question that is passed as equally as hello. In this kind of situation I either end up saying “just writing, continuing writing,” or I get a little too indulgent and talk about the premise of something that seems capable of great allure and promise, only to walk away saying “well, that book just died,” well before it even gets written. But these are just passing thoughts.
The greatest component of AWP is always the combination of excited minds hosting exciting offsite readings. Usually the readings are marathon or shotgun readings but many give enough time to reach in. I was fortunate to get to read from a collaborative chapbook (written with Thomas Cook) that Amber Nelson of alice blue books put out during AWP, called from Monster: a Glottochronology. Thomas and I read with contributors of Coconut Books and Bloof Books, so there was a nice mix of writers and listeners. We decided to read from a finished novel, instead of the chapbook, as it’s quite often that one wants to read the freshest material they have in order to hear it out. That Friday marked the reading and release party for On the Escape, the film and writing series that Ted Dodson and I run. We were blessed to have the space to host a handful of readers. We used Dolly Lemke’s house, known as the Dollhouse Series, and with that space hosted Corina Copp, Ted Dodson, Alina Gregorian, Amy Lawless, Chris Martin, Ryan Doyle May, Mary Austin Speaker, Jennifer Tamayo, and Ken Walker. It was a blast and it was also great to see these readers at a podium, with their work, the same work that will come to life soon in the films, if I can ever storm enough time to edit them all. There are new photographs from that night and just new photographs up here.
I feel as though there are many updates in the works but this is mostly because the season has changed and everyone is up to many things at once. It’s certainly odd to move to Brooklyn after having lived in the West Village of Manhattan for two years. It’s as diverse of a move as a rural town into a city, in my opinion, though not for any similar reasons. What I see and am beginning to feel, in and about Brooklyn, are the indefinable pathways of quietude that sprout on side streets and even main avenues. There’s not as much direct intensity and less obligatory pushing-forth toward something in Brooklyn. In Manhattan that “push” can be incredibly promising and yield great results but when there’s always a push then there’s often a push toward nothing, if you don’t watch out, and this becomes a pushing into things, at times dangerous things. Yet I don’t want to enervate Brooklyn’s complacency either as even if it’s quieter there one must focus just as hard on getting things done, especially anything in line with art.
I’m traveling to New Hampshire to read for the Good Neighbor’s Readings Series, hosted by Zach Green. on Saturday, March 24th. That following week I’ll be reading at Stain, hosted by Erika Moya and Christie Ann Reynolds. Come out if you can, whoever you are.
Perhaps Spring is making me want to “blog” again but I don’t want to get trapped in the margins of observation, where one just makes hefty observations all day until they peter out. However, I do feel as though the continuance of such observations often streams into a statement that makes a theory possible or, in turn, a conversation, and that’s often what any of this is about, even if only with oneself—the converse.