AWP doesn’t really stand for awesome writers party, but it sort of should. I’m in the midst of my vintage beaded sweater and red cowboy boots tour but I’m reporting from the confines of my Chicago hotel. Held in two huge hotels (there were actually guides along the way to shepherd all the lost souls who were wandering around looking for a cookie crumb trail to get them where they needed to go), this AWP seemed bigger and better than any other I’ve attended. I happily spent an hour roaming the book stalls and chatting up the staff of literary magazines, independent publishers and more.
Who wouldn’t want to have the charismatic, hilarious Lizzie Skurnick as moderator for your panel? Well, we would for our panel of Algonquin writers and writers who’ve appeared in New Stories from the South, but Lizzie got lost in the maze of the hotel (you had to transfer from one hotel to the next), and showed up about ten minutes late, but not to worry. The wonderful Tayari Jones took control until Lizzie showed up and then Tayari gave a gorgeous reading of her novel, Silver Sparrow. Rahu Mehta read from Quarantine, and Lauren Grodstein from A Friend of the Family, and Kevin Knight read a story from New Stories from the South. I, of course, read from Pictures of You. The loveliest thing was we all declared this reading our official Valentine to Algonquin Books, who saved our lives, shined up our careers to a new glowing luster, and absolutely were gods and goddesses to all of us.
Of course, part of the fun of AWP is mingling with other writers, and the night I arrived, I was thrilled to meet up with Eleanor Brown (I was her first blurber for the The Weird Sisters and we had become fast friends on FB before we met), the incredible Algonquin author Heidi Durrow (The Girl Who Fell From the Sky), Rebecca Rasmussen (The Bird Sisters), Sarah Pekkanen (Skipping a Beat), Tanya Egan Gilbson (How to Buy a Love of Reading), Barbara Drummond Mead (the president of Reading Group Choices), Therese Fowler (Reunion), and Siobhan Fallon (You Know Where the Men Have Gone). Over dinner, we talked about how to stretch two outfits through a week of tour and why you have to resign yourself to being sort of dirty no matter what you do, why such a group of smart, literate women really loves trashy reality TV shows like The Bachelor (I admitted to Rock of Love), and then we all recited the worst Amazon review we had ever received in our literary lifetimes (yes, we still remember them word for word).
I had to whisk out again to get to Chicago so I didn’t have a chance to see any of the great presenters (which still makes me yearn), but I can’t wait for the next AWP.
–Caroline Leavitt, author of Pictures of You
Tags: A Friend of the Family, AWP, Barbara Drummond Mead, Caroline Leavitt, Eleanor Brown, Heidi Durrow, Kevin Knight, Lauren Grodstein, Lizzie Skurnick, New Stories from the South, Pictures of You, Rahu Mehta, Rebecca rasmussen, Sarah Pekkanen, Silver Sparrow, Siobahn Fallon, Tanya Egan, Tayari Jones, The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, Therese Fowler