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Entries in #AWP14 (3)


The Loyalty of Water: Fold into Family

Guest post by Liz Green 

Families are the most destructive force on Earth, aside from tornadoes.  A dear friend Ainsley, a member of my chosen family, shared that with me while we were in college. It’s stuck with me.  Only recently did she tell me that it came from the writer Reynolds Price.  Ainsley was the midwife (first editor) for my novel-in-progress. She offered this quip after some young adult bonding about the difficulties of given families.  But even chosen family can pose its own challenges.  It’s rather shocking how many people in my given and chosen family are writers, and what’s more shocking is how I can see family dynamics play out in the all-too-small literary world, ties of kinship or trust aside.  

And so for me, AWP this year was a homecoming.  Not only did I see scores of people I know from various corners of my writing life—colleagues from colleges where I teach, Mills alums, Lambda Literary Fellows, Tin House participants, slam poets—but this year the event took place in Seattle, which is where I made my debut in the world as a wee babe almost 35 years ago.   To top it off, my stepdad is a writer himself (Peter Donahue), and I got to connect with him when he read from his novels at a panel for Northwest writers, and then later, at dinner with my Mom and my friend Billie Mandel from Lambda.   It was a thrilling weekend filled with various families merging and dancing around the bookfair and endless escalators.   Are you on your way up or down the environment seemed to ask constantly.  The answer? Enjoy the ride.

This year I got the message: we need to stick together as writers in this culture.

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AWP Spouses

Cathy Day has a great piece up about her AWP spouse, her husband Eric Kroczek. As the proud partner of another one of those registered as "Spouse," I can relate. Especially to this line:

  • He is the kind of spouse I am too proud to be. My biggest fear growing up was that I’d end up being nothing but Mrs. So and So. 
  • None of us writes in a vacuum; we're enabled, for better or worse, by those intimate to our lives. I'm lucky enough to have a husband who made me a goodie bag, braved the conference hall full of experimental poets, sat through several evening events, and cheered me on every time I came back with even the tiniest victory. And then he did all of the driving on Saturday after I finally hit my wall.

    For me, a big part of growing up in this time and place has been learning that letting other people do things for me doesn't mean I can't do them myself, that accepting help isn't admitting weakness, and that, even if it were, being weak sometimes isn't actually anything to lose sleep over.

    All this to say that I've spent a lot of time talking about women writers lately and how that particular community supports me, but it's critical to also mention just how possible my non-woman, non-writer husband makes my work.


    AWP Packing List

    • One travel mug, and at least three decent types of tea bags
    • One good sneaky move for approaching the coffee condiments table and making off with some milk
    • The business cards that make it look like I'm trying too hard
    • The alternate business cards that make it look like I'm trying too hard not to try too hard
    • One tote bag for the inevitable book purchases
    • One car, with mostly vacant trunk, for the inevitably overflowing tote bag
    • A small bag for the free chocolate
    • A big bag of almonds, to offset the free chocolate
    • The names and numbers of people in attendance whom I know, for social validation
    • Three phone numbers of friends not in attendence, for occasional reality checks
    • Velcro for soul, firmly attached on both ends
    • One list of must-see events, panels, and people 
    • Three brilliantly scintillating pitches for the major projects, all coming in at under 30 seconds
    • Three slightly longer yet no less brilliant synopses for said major projects, accessible in less than the time it takes to steep tea
    • A list of editors who like good tea
    • Extra tea
    • Two printed copies of my first 50 pages. One is just asking for trouble via spilled tea; three is expecting too much.
    • One good natured spouse who likes books in the way a healthy person does, for balance and a birthday dinner
    • One overpriced hotel room with a bathtub, for emergencies
    • Confidence, confidence, confidence. 
    • One stop at Powell's on the drive home, just in case the trunk isn't full enough.

    See you there?