My first AWP was in Chicago four years ago and it helped inspire me to launch this blog, among other things. My desire was to connect with a larger writing community, but I found myself in a world that felt overwhelming. There were too many writers, magazines, and presses. There were institutional relationships that someone outside academia, like myself, didn’t have. There were more established writers, more confident writers, writers with posses.
Even though my first two books had come out the year before I found myself, at times, feeling like I didn’t belong. People often complain about the dynamics of AWP that remind them of high school popularity, the constant act of people looking at name tags and looking for more important people to talk to, the dynamics of the in-crowd at every table, panel, and off-site event.
As I ready myself to go to my third AWP in my home town of Los Angeles, I am struggling with my own neuroses. Two of my best friends I’d looked forward to hanging out with are absent. My community is often long distance, and fostered on social media. I’ve spent too many years as a recluse. The one thing I find solace in, however, is that almost all of the other writers here feel similar emotions, regardless of their reputations or publication history.
This AWP I have decided to just have fun and feed my creative need. I have loaded events, panels, and book signings into my phone that I am excited to attend. I have told myself that if I can reboot my creative energy to last the year, to propel myself to write and read more diligently, that the event will be worth it. I have decided to consciously not network, but to try to fill be my most vulnerable creative self. I have taken three days off work, and will start the process tomorrow to prepare for a reading later in the week and go to my first event where I may not know anyone.
All writers are neurotic. It’s part of our DNA. Do yourself a favor – don’t compare yourself to anyone else this week. Don’t worry about being a nobody, a geek, or a fan. Every person at this event has moments of doubt. We are here to support each other and our craft. Hope to see some of you in LA.
– Martin Ott