Although Wednesday was truly wet, Thursday began bright. I was staying with a friend on the North Side--a non-writer friend who reads voraciously and so attended AWP just for fun--so we hopped on the El along with all the commuters and got down to the Hilton in time to grab some coffee and a giant muffin before going to the first seminar of the conference. We had chosen "Fictionalizing Family" moderated by Eric Puchner, whom I know from Bread Loaf. He and the other panelists, including Don Waters, a friend from Sewanee, talked about the challenges of using autobiographical material in fiction. I can't say I learned techniques for avoiding the inevitable problems, but it was interesting to hear the experiences of other writers.
Next, I attended "First Books of Fiction" with several panelists I know: David McGlynn, moderator, John Dalton, Michael Czyzniejewski, and others. Margot Singer, another friend, was supposed to be on the panel but couldn't make it. The panelists' experiences ranged from very small press to large press, from small print runs to large print runs, from unagented to bit-time agent, and so the discussion of the first book experience was comprehensive. One of the reasons I was interested in this was to hear tips from marketing, and the books from the small presses definitely do provide some guidance.
There were some great options for the next time slot but I chose "The City--Real and Imagined" because it featured some great Chicago writers, all associated with Northwestern": Reginald Gibbons, Stuart Dybek, Aleksandar Hemon, John Keene, and Alex Kotlowitz. And, indeed, I enjoyed their discussions of their own work and other great urban writers: Poe, Schulz, Ellison, Paley, Calvino, and others.
After which I was both exhausted and starving, so we went up Michigan Avenue to find lunch, where we ran into other friends, including Pedro Ponce, David McGlynn, and Roy Kesey.
We made it back in time for the next session, and I went to "The Online Creative Writing Workshop". The panelists all had handouts, which look helpful, and I'm eager to give some thought to the tips they offered, considering that I'm about to teach an online workshop. I realized midway through, though, that I was done for the day, and instead of going to one last workshop--there were several good choices on my list, I headed to the bookfair. As a final AWP post I'll give my impressions of the bookfair and a partial list of the journals and books I collected, but for now let me say that it did NOT disappoint. It's an amazing spectacle of literature.
And then we headed off to a nice dinner at a Pan-Asian restaurant before going to Flatfile Galleries for the Dzanc Books reading, featuring lots of writers known to us, plus a little wine, a little food.
A nice, long day.