My last visit to the Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference
was in 2007
. Nobody was talking about YA. Blogs were an outlier. Facebook was for college kids. Twitter didn't exist. Don't even get me started on the absence of the "word" ebook. Amazon? Nobody was threatened by them then; Barnes & Noble were still referred to as Big & Nasty by the Indies.
Seems a fantastic futuristic pitch back then would have been a Sci/Fi set in 2012.
Of course, some of the same old, same old seminars were prevalent. Truth in memoir, POV, building a strong writing program, the connection between creative nonfiction and poetry, etcetera. The book fair was a vast and curious place that had to be experienced in increments lest participants (particularly middle aged female participants) fell prey to lethal hot flashes.
Chicago was its windy, flat early March self, ranging from 50 degree tolerable to flurries and bone chill. The Palmer House's Sistine Chapelesque lobby turned out to be my favorite place to hang out and visit with writing chums.
I finally met a group of women I've been buddies with online this last year--which was, I think, worth the price of admission. I also ran into old friends from grad school, and a woman I met back in 19fucking95 at the Prague Summer Writers' Workshop. Which really brought home the sense that the conference was replete with teenagers. Smart teenagers, but teenagers never-the-less.
The thing about this huge event that I both love and loathe, is the finding the gem in the chaos of an untended treasure chest syndrome. Seriously, my jewelry dish, with its knot of baubles, is an apt metaphor for my particular experience. Where are my favorite earrings? What ever happened to my strand of pearls? It was as though I were moving through my bling with fingerless hands--I felt slow, behind, quick-sanded. I felt anxious after settling onto a patch of floor behind a pillar once I finally decided on a particular seminar--wondering what I was missing in the Hilton down the street. Ill-prepared note-taking-wise, I ended up scribbling upon scraps of paper I'd found in my room, and on the backs of handouts from the yoga teacher in the hotel gym. It didn't help, I guess, that I sort of had this virusy, fluish thing going on the whole time.
Overall, it was like my trip last year to Disneyworld. I had four days and too many options. I was torn between trying to fill every minute with adventure and experience, and selecting a few peak options, and percolating my way through them. In the end, I did it both ways.
How about you folks? Do you like big, ambitious metropolitan conferences, or are you more of a cabin-in-the-woods with a book type?