AWP 2013 Dispatch: The Beast From the East

Posted By admin - 6th March 2013

Katie Wudel

It’s dreary here in Boston. The AWP bigwigs must be partial to overcast skies, bone-chilling air—next year, we’re all headed to Seattle; the year after, Minneapolis. They’re calling this gross wintry mix “The Beast from the East.” A lot of folks who were supposed to arrive this morning have been stalled out at airports in St. Louis or Chicago for most of the day. We writers—who tend toward misanthropy even without slush pooling in our dress sneakers—are beating back the crankiness as best we can. Cocktails help. The hotel bar is already over capacity and friends, it’s still early.

(Bingo card courtesy of Daniel Nester)

I’ve kept my AWP bingo card handy today and already, I’ve got “N-G-O” (well, with the free space). Is it like this on the first day of Star Trek conventions? Comic-Con? To horribly misquote Buster Bluth: Man, it’s awkward in here. There are 11,000+ nerds in one place! Most of us are high on adrenaline and righteous anger at the TSA! We’ve prepared hand-outs for our panels and our 30-second book pitches are tight as hell. We. Are. Ready. But registration’s over—we’ve got nametags and this year’s spiffy new totebag, pre-packed with a hefty conference program that looks like—but is not—a phonebook. Now what?

Other than a few private gatherings, there’s a whole lot of nothing on the schedule for this evening. I’ve decided to use this spare time to wrestle with my inner demons: I am an introvert, yet I yearn so desperately to connect with my fellow man! I am accursed! I’ve donned my convention costume—unlike the Trekkies, it’s just a cardigan, a pair of specs, and a glass of wine. The first page of the schedule for tomorrow morning contains only 10 of the 17 events slotted for 9:00 AM, and already there are four I can’t miss.

But then—I spot it. The One. “Modern Fairy Tales and Retellings.” A panel! There’s a “need for fables in modern society and the literary marketplace,” it says! Kate Bernheimer! Kelly Link! Is it, like, super nerdy to get this excited about a seminar at nine in the morning? It is, right?

Read Katie’s next AWP dispatch here.


Katie Wudel’s writing has appeared in Tin House, McSweeney’s, Prairie Schooner, Nerve, The Rumpus,and on the Ploughshares blog, and can be heard this spring on NPR’s Snap Judgment. Katie has taught creative writing at San Francisco’s School of the Arts and the University of Nebraska-Omaha Writer’s Workshop, and has been awarded scholarships and residencies from Hedgebrook, the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and Summer Literary Seminars. In 2011, her story “Tongueless,” which first appeared in Monkeybicycle, was one of Wigleaf’s Top [Very] Short Fictions.