I'm back from the AWP Conference in New York. Five pounds lighter with a pocketful of business cards.
To those of you not in an academic writing program (if you're over 25, rejoice! then go live in a foreign country until you have something interesting to say), AWP stands for Associated Writing Programs. The annual conference is typically a depressing confluence of desperate graduate and PhD (for fuck's sake) creative writing students, and adjunct, assistant, and associate (plus a few full) professors trying to move up in that narrow spout akin to that which the itsy-bitsy spider ascends only to get washed out by the rain. Eventually, the spider dies as a result of its Sisyphean life because the pipeline does not prepare it for the big green FROG OF DOOM hopping by on its way from one marvelous teeming pond to the next. But that is another children's song of quite a different tune. (Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha!)
This year's AWP was different. Or I was different. Or both were different. I can honestly say I enjoyed myself more than once. In hindsight, the reason is clear: I was surrounded by breathtakingly brilliant, funny, talented, intrepid women writers, editors, publishers, et al. Nearly all of them are, in one way or another, involved in avant-garde literature. This is no coincidence. I've said it before (though I can't remember when or where): Avant-garde women writers take significantly more risks in their lives and therefore in their writing and therefore are endlessly fascinating, endlessly evolving. They put their asses on the line again and again and don't give a shit if that ass is naked. Naked is good. Curious is good. Being a good writer is good. Being a good girl is boring -- and an old, frayed-at-the edges lie. And these women know it. As do I.
When you not only question the rules (created by...um...who?) but break them because they coddle the status quo and protect some notion of humanity disturbingly separate from actual human biology ("godlike," my naked ape ass!), then you achieve a level of freedom otherwise impossible. A priceless Visa moment. But better. Because Visa would never advertise such a moment as it would interfere with rampant consumerism.
There's a quasar in the eyes of these women. Glint of mischief. Laser flash of perspicacity. If you're hiding something you're going to get cooked. If you're not, that light's a doorway to great conversations. I'm going to introduce you to a few of these women writers in my next few blogs. And when I say they are GREAT WOMEN WRITERS I mean: They are great writers who have vaginas not penises. But as for balls...!
P.S. to those who requested my Text + Image presentation: It will be posted here by February 15.