Seattle is an experience. Expensive parking. One-way streets. Extra-long busses. And that city smell (see description above). What I loved about it was the people. All speeding up and slowing down, waiting at stop lights and cross walks, sitting on benches, running down the sidewalk--all in a sort of flow that only exists in large cities where people must move, breathe, and exist simultaneously in the same place.
The actual writing conference itself was no different (except the smells were a bit less potent) than the outside, city world. A wide variety of people--writers, poets, teachers, agents, editors--walking and running, and idly waiting on the escalators to get to the next panel or reading or lecture. All of them old or young weighted down by the free canvas bag with a 300 page schedule and various pamphlets and other items (candy bars, bottled water, wadded-up tissues, jackets, notebooks, menus from restaurants down the street) that only spacious bags tend to accumulate.
Many of the classes were crowded. Some of them because the rooms were simply too small, and the topics too interesting to pass up. People filled the chairs and sat on the floor, leaned against the walls, stood in the doorways--all the things you can think of to break fire-safety codes. The people were eager to learn, to ask questions, to meet other writers (but mostly to find out who was an agent or an editor). They were also exhausted and struggling to stay awake, antsy to leave and get something to eat. Some of them came and left as they pleased, not caring if anyone found their abrupt exit offensive.
AWP is the first writing conference I've attended that was so BIG. The classrooms spread throughout all three to six levels of three different buildings. Every person seemed so different, too.
I'll end right now by saying that I very much enjoyed the conference…though I think I enjoyed Seattle and hanging out with my mom more than anything. Up next will be an essay inspired by Pike Place, and a maybe a summary/discussion or two about things I learned from the panels I attended.
Have you been to a conference lately? Or a new city? And what did you think?