AWP and a Writer’s Packing List

new york taxi tangerine

I’m off to AWP in Chicago! This is my second AWP in five years; the first time I went was not too long after my stroke. I dragged my recovering brain to one panel a day and then slept the rest of the day in my hotel room. I don’t even remember the panels I attended, because I was so brain damaged the information either never got into my brain or they’re lost in that weird black hole.

In that sea of activity and sensory overload, I remember two valuable things from that very first AWP:

I remember John Irving’s keynote speech–how he said he writes the last chapters of his novels, first. And how that got me unstuck in my own novel, because months and months and a year later, I tried writing the last chapter of my novel, and that helped unfurl the entire narrative of that first draft.

And I remember meeting Nova for the first time irl, after months and months and years of interacting online via our blogs. We had falafel. And giggled over my yellow umbrella in a sea of NYC black umbrellas. I don’t remember what we talked about, only that we made a real connection and became, officially, “irl friends.”

This is my first AWP with my entire brain. I’m no longer an MFA student, but I am looking forward to mindshare on the writing process and writing life. I’m looking forward to a few more irl connections, and a number of panels per day. I’m also petrified of being exhausted and overwhelmed, so my backup plan is to stay in my hotel room in the fetal position.

The twitterverse is bustling with AWP anxiety and travel updates. Writers are converging upon Chicago! I travel so much that this will be my second trip to the airport in three days. And by the time I return home, I’ll have been at an airport three times in seven days.

But here’s the upside about traveling so much: I can pack my bags in 5-10 minutes. Really. (Ok, confession: I meditate upon what clothes to bring for days, but the packing process is very speedy once I figure out my wardrobe). And I’m going to share a little bit what I’ve learned, and because there are no “packing lists for writers,” I’ve put together a packing list for writers…

Before you leave:

  • Backup your laptop. This includes sending a copy of your manuscript to an offsite email address, backing it up to Dropbox, and backing it up to an external harddrive like a Lacie.
  • Charge all your batteries–your laptop, your iPhone, your iPad, etc.
  • Close up your home–take out the trash (I tend to forget this), clean, clean out stuff from your refrigerator that might rot while you’re gone.
  • Get some cash
  • Print out your itinerary. Print out your hotel reservation. Print out your rental car reservation if you have one. Make sure you’ve got your photo ID.

Packing items

  • Clothes: Underwear, Shirts (one blouse), Tshirts, Socks, a dress/jacket (in case you go somewhere fancy), Pants/Jeans, Sweater, Hat (if it’s cold), pajamas. When you pack them, lay them out flat on each other, and then ROLL them up! Voila: your clothes won’t be wrinkly!
  • Shoes: walking shoes, fancy shoes, boots if the weather is inclement. When you pack them, put them each in bags so your other items stay clean. Wear your heaviest/biggest pair of shoes onto the plane.
  • Miscellaneous things like: umbrella, costume jewelry, your housekeys!
  • Documents: itinerary, boarding pass, things like your hotel reservation or car reservation, gov’t issued ID (driver’s license or passport), credit cards, ATM card (make sure it has a 4 digit PIN if you’re headed for Europe). Have your boarding pass + gov’t issued ID handy, like in your pocket or an easy to reach place in your purse.
  • Toiletries: Razor, toothbrush (or electric toothbrush with charger), toothpaste, contact lenses, contact lens solution, container for contact lenses, extra glasses, any feminine products, medications, antiperspirant/deodorant, hairbrush, facial cleanser, makeup, hair accessories (if you travel a lot, you’ll have a small bag ready to go with these things). Put these all in one bag. Liquids of course go in a small quart sized ziploc bag. Put that ziploc in an outer compartment of your luggage if you are not checking bags so they’re easy to reach through security. If you have a hard time figuring out what toiletries to take–what I do is run my morning grooming sequence through my head: contact lenses in (what does that require?), then wash face (facial soap + headband), brush teeth (toothpaste + toothbrush), etc., etc. Run through your nighttime regime too, in case your nighttime regime is different than your morning ritual.
  • Gear: iPad + iPad charger, cellphone + cellphone charger, laptop + laptop charger/power cord, external harddrive, wristguards if you have CTS, headphones for music and/or the plane, books if you read them, iPad or Kindle if you have an ebook.
  • Notables: a notebook + pen if you like to take notes at AWP (I do!)
  • Last but not least: If you’re off to a writing residency or whatnot: bring all your creature comforts with you! Like DVDs and a portable DVD player if you like to write in front of a TV, or your favorite tea, or a robe in which you like to write. Writing residencies will likely not carry your favorite kind of tea, and you’ll miss home, so bring a few of your comforts with you. Or ship them ahead of your arrival.

I like to start laying things out the night before–and leave the toiletries for last, packing them as you use them before you get ready to leave.

And if you forget something, don’t stress too much! Most of what you forget, can be bought. And if you can’t buy it–well, you won’t die. Well, except for your prescriptions, so don’t forget your prescriptions. Even if perhaps you feel like dying.

See you at AWP! If I’m in my hotel room sucking my thumb, I guess I won’t see you at AWP.

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1 Comment

Filed under Travel, Writing

One response to “AWP and a Writer’s Packing List

  1. Alvin

    What a thorough list. I usually wear the shoes that are the easiest to take off and then maybe change once I get through security.

    Have fun at AWP!

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