Tag Archives: writers

AWP and a Writer’s Packing List

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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…

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What People Think Writers Do

There is an internet image meme going around along the lines of “What People Think _____ Do,” the “blank” being filled in by variation occupations (entrepreneurs, producers, etc).

There is a screenwriter meme that is pretty close to fiction writing, but not so close enough so as to be satisfying. And a professor one that makes me laugh–because I teach at a community college, and that one, that one resonates.

I think it’s time for a “What People Think Fiction Writers Do” poster. But since I’m a writer, and not a graphic artist, I am going to put down my thoughts in writing, and not attempt photographic images.

What I’ve started needs some revision, but you get the idea…of What People Think (Fiction) Writers Do:

What my mom thinks I do: never make money and sleep on a park bench at night

What my friends think I do: sleep in, take luxurious lunches, peruse bookstores in the afternoon, and be reliably available for coffee/lunch/dinner/drinks

What society thinks I do: come up with an idea and while impeccably coiffed with a cup of gourmet coffee, write the novel in four hours in aforementioned coiffed state and in my spare time, go to an Occupy protest or fall in love.

What “investors” i.e., editors/agents think I do: never sleep, never shower, hardly eat, never FB, typing away with bleeding fingers

What I think I do: Stare at the wall all day, end up with three words.

What I really do: stare at the wall, fight back tears, write, delete all that i write, write some more, find a sentence i like, celebrate (tweet/FB/watch TV/drink before the self doubt erodes all joy), then write some more, delete all that i write, stare at the wall some more, believe that the wall will give me answers, write some more…and spend a lot of time on twitter/FB and watching TV, and procrastinating…go back and write, delete, write some more. somehow write three words a day until i have a novel in a year/decade

Update: My gracious blog reader, Jelena, decide to share with me her rendition of “What (Fiction) Writers Do.” I love it!

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Filed under Funny Things, Writing