Confession Tuesday: The AWP Edition

A favorite memory captured by Ronda Broatch in my hotel room.
My fedora, an empty bottle of champagne enjoyed by friends and my reflection in the window.

Dear Reader, 

It's not Fat Tuesday, but Ash Wednesday, but after the AWP conference, I still can't catch up. Or I'm catching up the best I can...

Today's confession will be about the conference.  Now, if you have arrived here because you saw "Confession Tuesday: AWP" and got that "oh no, what did I say or do" feeling, you can untie that knot in your stomach as nothing incriminating will be revealed here. Relax friends.  It's a superpower of mine, I am amazing at keeping secrets.  And I value privacy as well as any zany decision that leads into interesting situations, all which will not be mentioned here. 

So if you came here for gossip, you may leave mildly disappointed.  

But I will give you my take on AWP, some funny moments, and confess what needs to be confessed from my point of view...

I confess on paper my AWP looks as if it sucked, but it really didn't:

I went to 0 panels (except the two I was on)

I went to 0 readings until I walked in late to the Jane Hirshfeld/Sharon Olds reading

I went to 1 offsite event (the one for my press, White Pine, at the Seattle Art Museum)

I saw only about 10% of the bookfair and about 90% of that was looking at Two Sylvias Press's neighbor Tupelo Press!

I did not meet Brian Spears of the Rumpus or even visit that table.

There were numerous friends and writers I wanted to see and didn't.  There was no encounter with Denise Duhamel or Richard Siken, two poets I love.

Saturday, I was completely limited to the bookfair, except when I escaped to buy crepes.

But it didn't suck. In fact, this was easily the best (and most organized) AWP I've been to.  

It was full of kindness and synchronicity. I fell in love with a ridiculous number of writers and became overwhelmed with the excitement for literary things.  I left (though dog-tired and with frizzy terrible Sheraton shampoo hair) uplifted and inspired.  That has never happened before.


I confess I made less of a fool of myself at this AWP, though I still had my moments.

Last AWP, I became Neanderthal girl with Bob Hicok only uttering this phrase, "My book. You sign?"

This year?  My only really stupid phrase was "I loved you before you were famous" to Richard Blanco, and the scene before of me running in circles wanting to meet him, but being too shy to introduce myself.  

My friend, Jay, took this glam shot of me basically photobombing Richard Blanco in my overwhelmed poethappy, starstruck state:

proof I am a dork
But someone saw me in my starstruckedness and introduced us.  Richard is absolutely one of my favorite poets since reading his book City of a Hundred Fires.  It's still on my desk and he was amazingly kind and generous. He had eye contact (something I so respect in people), didn't look away for someone "better" to talk to, and did not treat me as if I was ridiculous, which I kind of was.

I just ordered his new book: 

For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet's Journey which will be part of Seattle Reads in April. And Seattle folk, he will be coming back here and there will be events if you missed him at AWP.

And speaking of ridiculous things, here's a great essay in Brevity about another AWP faux-pas moment of mistaken identity by Suzanne Roberts called "How to Make a Fool of Yourself at AWP."

Meeting Richard Blanco ended up being was one of my favorite moments at AWP.

And here's the better photo:

A beautiful evening with two wonderful gentlemen


I confess there was incredible moments of serendipity I haven't experience in a long time and it has restored my faith in synchronicity and that you need to live a life of go-with-the-flow and stop struggling against yourself.

I am a planner. I am a Capricorn who loves to know what's happening next, where I need to be, and what's up.  I want is much information about everything. I want to wander the world with a compass and a map.

This AWP I dropped all that (and in fact, I've currently dropped that in my life too). 

For AWP, I didn't make any plans, and the one dinner plan I made, I had to cancel. And yet, it always felt as if I was in the right place at the right time.  

Two Sylvias Press had a booth at the conference which made everything a little more overwhelming to my freespirit that just wanted to roam the bookfair, sit in on a reading, or lollygag with friends.  

Still, when we arrived to the convention center to set up, we hadn't read any of the information on where to go or what to do, but we pulled in and were exactly in the right place.

We walked into the Sheraton and someone handed us a glass of champagne. Complimentary champagne. Really.  

Our last night, the hotel comped us a full bottle of champagne to celebrate my good friend's birthday.  To start and end a conference with free champagne is an amazing metaphor for how I want to live my life-- with the people I love and things that sparkle.  Luxurious. It was not a word I would have connected ever with AWP.

There is a huge series of other events that were magical from losing my Hourglass Museum cash envelope with $350 in it and having it returned because the kind folks at Grazing Grain Press and So To Speak Journal found it, saw my name on it and googled me.

I misplaced my iPhone a ridiculous number of times with all my ID and credit cards, and someone always handed it back to me.  If I sound a little absentminded, I was. Crowds and commotion, do that to me. I'd be terrible in the ER, someone would end up with my iPhone stitched inside them.

But there was this mystical element at play--

when I wanted to see someone, I swear, they just appeared. I said a poet's name, and she walked directly behind me.

It was a little magical, just existing in the world and here are these perfect chance encounters in a group of 12,000.  I am thankful for these moments, for the conversations about beaches in a bar, to reconnecting with old friends from my MFA program, to meeting people randomly and immediately becoming friends.

People were more than kind. The energy was open and giving.
And these were a hit--

The Poet Tarot by Two Sylvias Press

(You can read a review about The Poet Tarot here )

And people loved our swag.

And now you can get your own deck through Kickstarter!


I confess I still have regrets.

There were times I said no to experiencing life because I was too tired.  There were these incredible moments where I wanted to head out with friends, with favorite people who asked me to do fun, wild, exciting things...and I said no.  

Famous poet X called me, said I'm missing the best party of AWP then listed off the poets who were there, said he would come and get me (he was 5 minutes away) and I said I was going back to my room to go to bed. (My present-self is looking back pretty annoyingly at sleepy AWP Kelli who just wanted to nap, but in the moment of that night, I was tired.)

I said no thanks to people I wanted to hang out with because it was late.
 Because my bed sounded like most enjoyable place to be.

I know, I shouldn't regret what I missed because I wasn't there, I had a different experience. I had one with good sleep.  But it's kind of boring. 

And I didn't take enough photos to help me sort out the blur. And how did I miss The Rumpus table? And Robert Hass?

And there were longer conversations I wished I had with people. I wish I had more time, less commitment. (And less sense of responsibility.) 

So yes, unbelievable memories were not made due to my passion for sleep. But this is life and AWP.

And the memories I do have, were kind of fantastic. And the people I met for the first time in real life, real breathing and living writers, they were too. And I know there are several people I will never lose touch with again.  

So I have to go back to my belief-- right place, right moment--and forget the regrets.

And I guess this is what we hope for-- to connect and stay connected, to remember we are not alone on our solitary island, but there are others who think, breathe, and live similarly to us.  And this is good.


~ Kells 
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