Around AWP-time last year, I posted this piece of advice for those who were attending AWP for the first time. In bold are my updates to the list.
“For those going to AWP for the first time, I’m sure you have gotten tons of advice. Here’s a bit of mine, though it is limited by my experience.
- Invest in a rolly bag that also has spinner abilities. Pack it light with journal, pens, book you are going to read, small bills for buying items (See Below), business cards, etc. If you have a bad back like me, this is essential for you not becoming a grinch on day 1 and a hellion by day 4. If you are young and sprightly or simply without back issues, you don’t want to develop back issues and suffer a metamorphosis into said beings. Stay human. Human is hard enough these days. Be kind to yourself.
- Wear comfortable shoes. This year, I am going to pack my little rolly with sandals. AWP is in DC in Winter (who had that idea?!) but the convention center will most likely be warm. I will be switching shoes on occasion. It’s all about thick soles and arch support.
- Statement accessory. Scarf, hat, earrings, the coolest shoes ever, whatever. A friend of mine told me this years ago. It makes you easy to find and easy to remember. I’ll be wearing beads, Maasai necklaces and bracelets and earrings. Forgot the scarves as I packed. That shift from Kenya to DC has me a bit un-rooted to place or packing logic.
- Take advantage of Southwest’s two bags free policy. Bring one empty bag inside your checked luggage. You are going to get a lot of books through trade or buying. I’m counting on my husband not to pack his bag totally full. Also, my one bag can fit a body. I think it can fit a few extra books. I’m resolved to buy no more than 20 books this year.
- Buy books you love early. They will not be there by Saturday. Check out the journals and presses again on Saturday. They generally sell discount copies then.
- Go to author signings. Still working on my AWP schedule. You need to get the app and get yourself organized. If not, what are you doing with your life?
Carry a well-balanced and empty backpack for the days. You will fill this with books that you place with love into your empty suitcase when you get back to your hotel. No matter how well you plan it, you will probably end up with a stuffed bag at the end of the conference.Forget this. Rolly bag all the way. #Stayhuman like you #staywoke.
- Carry small bills and cash. You will be a press’s best friend. Make a stop to the ATM at the airport to get your cash. Break bills with buying small snacks and keep the small bills. Make sure you have a budget and stick to it. Be a press’s best friend with the bills … don’t get sucked into breaking out the credit card.
- Hit the tables where all the flyers are. Pick them up, keep them organized. I spend part of my evenings submitting. Oftentimes a journal will extend its deadline after AWP. All the yes.
- Go to readings on site and off site. All the yes.
- Set up your schedule on AWP site in advance. Write in your alone time and time for friends. Set up breakfast and lunch. If you are anything like me, you will find that you forget meals or get overwhelmed by the people and need a quite space. There is a Yoga Room at AWP that I will definitely be using, if only just to get my corpse pose/sleep on. All, all, all the yes.
- Party and maintain your awareness. Maintain your critical eye, keep your wits about you, and know your people. Still true.
- And if you have the ability in the future, fly Southwest or another carrier that allows you to check bags for free and always get a hotel room with an extra bed. There’s always someone whose plans fall through and needs a place to crash. Though I have emergency crash space as always, I’m hoping to ride solo until the partner comes in. I need a little quiet time away from people after a month of contact. The empath/introvert needs to be fed with silence and the conference can be exhausting.
- If you haven’t had at least one experience where you felt like packed in a clown car in taking a taxi to an off-site reading; gone to a fish fry in someone’s house; had an impromptu music and poetry session; found yourself in a blind rage after attending a panel and end up collaborating with others about a response project; ended up dancing all night with your favorite writer; or otherwise had a writerly adventure, you are not doing AWP right, so go back and try again. God willing, this will be my story another year.