In Lieu of AWP …

I have attended every conference of the Association of Writers and Writing Presses (AWP) since it was in LA in 2016 … and am taking a break this year. I haven’t been on an airplane since everyone took off their masks and I dunno, I’m really not into it. But I’ve also known for most of the past year that AWP23 wasn’t happening for me and that’s OK! I miss the friends I won’t get to see in person. I know I’m losing the chance to attend live readings and the opportunity to pick up great books, while interacting with fellow writers at indie press tables of the Bookfair.

If you ARE going to AWP, have fun, be safe, make connections, talk shop, take steps to nourish your craft and your dream. I’m cheering for you and I want you to tell me who you met, what you learned, the books you picked up, and the ideas that moved you in Seattle. I’ll be back attending conferences some point!

The thing is, I can tell I’ve gotten into a routine of taking a literary spring break. My brain and my body want to get AWAY. So I did!

Instead of AWP this month, I …

Probably spent what airfare and lodging would have cost for the Writer Conference on a wholly worthwhile manuscript editing service, and have been rewriting and reimagining, slowly. Rewrites both hurt AND feel good, because I can tell I am headed toward a stronger draft, but my brain is working overtime on this project!

Got a funky boutique hotel room to myself for a few nights. And… TUB. DEEP TUB WITH JETS. May I say, I spent $20 more per night for that tub in the room and I got my dang money’s worth!

Spent a day being trained as a disaster response volunteer for a different org than the one I work for. This was the official reason for my days off and travel to the Jersey Shore, and an honor to be in the room with staff and volunteers who are willing to be deployed to feed large numbers of survivors and/or first responders after natural disasters … or the human-made kind.

Knowing how large-scale feeding operations mobilize soothes me, if you can believe it. Not to kill the vibe but I am certain that responding to climate catastrophe is THE top issue facing humanity in the next 100 years. (The Washington Post has a Wind Damage Prediction Map, for instance.)

Returned to Red Bank, NJ for a bit.

At this point I’ve lived in enough places I’ve enjoyed that I have lots of cool spots to visit every so often, in a 90-minute radius. 

I laughed at myself because I am certain I have taken this same picture^ maybe 100 times since high school. On disposable 35mm cameras. To post to MySpace. On and on.

But I love the view and bless the Navesink.

Fun part of my return to the Shore: I could actually engage with local dining debates: McLoones VS Laurita for brunch. Or, did you know Talulah’s has a lunch menu now??

Ate a vegan feast and eavesdropped on the 20-something staff saying it’s OK to fall in love with someone new “too soon” after your last relationship ended,  since life is short and pollution + environmental disasters kill us a little more every day. Like many other vegan restaurants, three entire people ran the whole place and let’s face it they were all probably born after the year 2000. They did a great job! So warm and friendly and interesting. There is a lot of love for them waiting in the world … but yes, environmental disaster, too.

Got a haircut. Maybe it’s a sad state of affairs that I can only do this if I take a vacation day but oh well.

And overheard a different stylist and customer agree, ”It’s OK to be rude to the checkout employees at Whole Foods. Sometimes they deserve it.” (Sometimes I miss living in Monmouth County. Sometimes I do not.)

Spring-cleaned my car; I treat myself to detailing the interiors once a year. I read most of Tommy Dean’s Hollows on the wait, which felt apt somehow. The best part of hanging out at a carwash is watching grandfathers take their toddler grandkids on this errand, cheering as their car gets soaped, and explaining with infinite patience how a windshield wiper works.

Coffee date with a Jersey Shore slam poet, where I had to move my car after exceeding the two-hour parking limit. We had a lot to catch up on!

Pilgrimage to Princeton to see the Toni Morrison: Site of Memory exhibit at the Firestone Library.

I highly recommend this curation of Morrison’s papers, drafts, outlines/notes, and correspondence. I had never known how important space and geography were to Morrison while writing fiction, though looking back, every house or town she’s written about feels so real. She mapped out downtowns and floorplans alike, and many of those documents have been preserved in this space.

It was incredible to see the way she squeezed so much out of life; she wrote out drafts in her day planners as well as tracking her lunch meetings and appointments. She was university faculty, a parent, and also devoted so much headspace to crafting quintessential American fiction … I am out of words for how humbling it was to be in the presence of her papers.

I will say, it was energizing for my own rewriting endeavors now. Her sketches and maps were painstakingly crafted documents that helped her furnish the worlds of her novels. Just stunning. Not saying I have any business comparing myself. I was just soaking up inspiration.

The pilgrimage of course included Labyrinth Books. Have since read A Mercy by Toni Morrison in practically one sitting.

Diner for cheesecake at 10 p.m. on a whim; acai bowls the next day.

Sipping a gigantic Diet Cherry Coke for Cocaine Bear.

When I type it all out, it DOES seem like a pretty full Spring Break!!

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