AWP 2012: It’s Like Christmas to Me

March 7, 2012 § 2 Comments

By Leslie Conder

There was an excitement in the air of Chicago when I arrived on Wednesday. It felt like Christmas Eve when you’re a little kid. I was too excited to go to sleep. I should’ve had a glass of wine with my fellow writers who were pooled around the hotel bar, but instead I nestled under the covers with my three friends in our one room.

The next morning I rose before my alarm went off. Too eager to sleep and too early for the first panel, I went to the hotel gym. As I rode the elevator a voice from the monitor began to speak. It sounded like a story from the Bible. Perhaps, it was the Christmas Story.  It turns out it was poetry playing in honor of the conference.

The Art of Telling A Joke panel consisted of hilarious writers telling funny stories, which induced outrageous laughs. It reminded me of the fun-loving drunken uncles and aunts in movies I’d watch every year during the holiday season. I would think to myself, that family is like my family, but with a punch. I was raised Mormon. Enough said.

After I left with happy tears from the panel I went to the main event: The Bookfair.

I felt like running through the aisles, grabbing each journal as if was a present just for me. Many Christmas’ (and one AWP) has taught me to pace myself, to really take my time to appreciate the gifts in front of me. I knew which journals I wanted and I spoke with those who had created and charged me for the gifts. I left with a sense of accomplishment to walk to another panel only to realize I had only visited one section of the Bookfair. It was a child’s dream Christmas. As for me, I took a deep breath and said, “Holy Jesus! It’s okay. I can do this.”

The last day of AWP I was completely exhausted. I needed some peace and quiet. Why were there so many damn people here? Were we the unwanted house guests who had overstayed our welcome? I went to push the down button by the elevator when a woman said, “No. No. Please don’t.” I turned around in disbelief.

“Are you going up?” She asked.

“No.” I said, with my finger still grazing the button.

She gave a full minute spiel on which elevators went where. My mouth was shut, but I was screaming, “Are you kidding me with this? You do know how elevators work, right?” I must have conveyed that through my facial expression. It was that or the fact that I didn’t move my finger from the button, either way our conversation ended with her saying, “Never mind. Do as you will.”

I pushed the button.

The next day Christmas, I mean, AWP was over. Like Christmas, I always feel sad when it’s over. Sad and exhausted, but mostly inspired. First sleep. Then write.


Leslie Conder is completing her MFA at Chatham University.

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