I have finally rounded the corner of the AWP Conference and entered the homestretch. The past two nights I've felt a great surge of motivation, excitement, and ambition. Despite listening to the five panelist at "MFA Thesis to the First Novel" all tell me it took them eight years to get their books to print. I'm convinced, by a feeling of a coming break through and absorbed good writer vibes, mine will not take that long. The panels at the conference have been good for the most part. It is always overwhelming to receive the 200 plus page schedule and try to narrow my trip down to four panels a day. All too often I hear patrons leave panels greatly disappointed and let down because the amazing description and title failed to live up to their expectations. This happens for many reasons, the panelist focus on plugging themselves or their work too much, the topic is too narrowly or widely discussed, people abuse the Q&A segment to get on their own soapboxes, or the patron had too high or unrealistic expectations. Fortunately, I have not had that experience this year. Lots of the panels I have been interested in are focused on the current state of the publishing and literary world. I am graduating this winter and have been looking for a job since last September. It's slightly daunting and frustrating to listen to each panelist introduce themselves and tell a little bit about their history because I'm still not happy with my place in the literary world. Sure I am a writer and I am working on everyday making that my main occupation. However, when the bills roll in throughout the month I get anxious and rethink how many hours I should be working at my part time job. It's really a delicate balancing act I am still trying to navigate.
Today there is a panel on "Careers in the Literary Arts" that focuses on occupations that are open to people who do not want to teach. This is a panel I have to reassess my expectations. I must remind myself it is not the end of the rainbow with a pot of golden open positions waiting for my acceptance. More to come.
What I have appreciated most about this trip to AWP is as Dennis Johnson of Melville House Publishing says I am "getting to know my industry." So many times I have had conversations with people about lit magazines and editors etc and felt I was still far at the edges of this world. I rarely knew the "it" people that could make or break a writer's career. It seems like every industry has these "god" like figures with ambitious minions fighting each other off to get noticed by them for their big discovery. While I haven't met the woman or man that I think will make me a best seller (in reality that is really only myself) I have learned tons of names in the business and been able to get a snipit of their personality making them much easier to recall later. This I believe has been invaluable to me as an ambitious writer. Something I did not take into consideration before coming to AWP. Off to more panels.