Please do not misunderstand my purpose for writing this post, It is in no way intended to make light of the health danger posed by the outbreak of Covid-19. The risk poses an incredibly real danger to the population at large, and that includes you and I. Epidemiologists tell us that the number of positive cases will double every 6 days. That kind of growth rate is nothing short of frightening.
Unquestionably, this will have tremendous impact on our society - at least for the short term. The nation and indeed the world economy is already being taxed tremendously by it, and the impact on markets, businesses, schools, transportation, hotels, and anything that involves people coming together in groups and close quarters is being felt.
NBA, NHL, MLB, March Madness are all being impacted because the crowds in such venues would provide easy pathways to transmission. Seeing all the various sports canceled leaves me wondering about how how married couples are going to deal with. this void. They may have to actually talk to each other.
It was during evening drive time I was thinking what a hit culture in the country is taking a hit. I know for example our symphony is canceling events. I assume theaters are as well. So too I would think that local poetry readings are being canceled. I certainly will not be making the rounds and this is sad but the right thing to do.
In an effort to keep poetry before the public during this dark period, I plan to share on social media some of my favorite poets and poems. The same with music. It is at times like these we most need poems and music to speak to our soul. I hope others will do the same.
In closing I would encourage people to rely on the CDC as well as state and local health departments for information concerning issues related to your own health. Please keep in mind it is important to consider your own health, but those you come in contact with. Even if you have a mild case, realize you may be placing others with high risk factors in serious danger.
Yes, thanks for asking. I have a fair amount of new reading material. Later I will go into details.
You may have heard that AWP has found itself competing with Covad-19. I began hearing some talk a week ago about the outbreak (which seemed minimal at that point in the US), but was certainly on radars. Like most other writers I followed the latest CDC news and yes, even the largely suspect White House information.
On March 2nd it was announced that the Board would be issuing a statement on the conference.
By the 3rd, I was aware there were 11 confirmed cases somewhere in Texas. AWP Board Members were in contact with CDC and the Mayor's office. A The word was they were moving conference the size of AWP is certainly a financial liability and asset at the same time. In Portland last year I believe there were between 14,000 and 15,000. The thousands of exhibitors and time commitments by staff and even members is no small matter. Writers plan way in advance for panels, onsite and offsite readings, and there are an array of big name speakers.
The day before the event opens there is news that the Board of directors painstakingly ruled to move ahead with the event. I have to tell you, writers, AWP members, are social animals. It was suggested that while the conference was moving forward it was with the caveat to caution to curb the greeting enthusiasm. Such recommendations as loud enthusiastic greetings, no handshakes, hugs, or customary embarrass. Blown kisses only. Thoughtful nods. Wash hands regularly. Use hand sanitizers often. Keep your hands off your face, nose, eyes, you get the drill here - curb the socialization as much as possible.
But when the word can down that the event was a go, the board indicated that those who were coming could have their financial investment in AWP#20 applied to AWP#21 in Kansas City next year. In addition, this tweet was sent out by Diane Zinna one of the co-directors of the conference:
Diane Zinna @DianeZinna. Mar3 I am broken-harted, but I resigned from AWP this morning over the decision to hold the conference. I will always love. this community and ask that you please be kind to the board and tiny staff, people who are working so hard and believe in you.
Diane is a very special person to many of us. She created the Writer-to-Writer mentoring program. I am an alumni of the Spring 2017 Session. She has nurtured the program and all of us along the way. This hit me very hard.
Still, I was preparing to leave at 5:45 in the morning. Besides packing, people that know me well, know that I would be would be up all night, watching Super Tuesday returns. Those that don't know me well won't understand this. But I rolled out of here at 3:00 a.m. for the airport dead tired, but trying to be upbeat.
I should have known it would be a bad morning when I parked in the econo-parking and caught the tram to the terminal. I realized I had left my glasses in the car. Inside I bought a pair of single vision. to get me through everything, checked my bag and ultimately boarded to the Conference.
I had known for days now that many of my friends were opting not to go. While waiting for my boarding I sifted through a number of Facebook and Twitter feeds. More were deciding not to go. Oh, I had some friends already there and I rationalized this would give me an opportunity to meet new people (which is always one of my goals). Then I saw that many of the presses were pulling out and that they were organizing an online or virtual book fair offering some of the normal conference discounts through Sunday.
I can't tell you the last time I flew and had a whole row to myself. I got my own row on the flight to Dallas where I would have a short layover and then on to San Antonio. This would have been great but the whole flight I was hot and the overhead blower was not helping. My ears popped and I felt miserable. My anxiety increased. Yes, I thought about. my age, and diabetes as placing me at a higher risk if I contracted Covid-19, but I hd been over that rational for days. What I was really starting to fear was getting to the conference and finding that it was a shell of what it should be. That some of the panels that were important to me had been canceled and God knows how many more would before it was over. On the layover I had tweeted some of my friends there already and they all had friends that opted out - pretty much said everyone was choosing to be non-judgmental. If you fell you needed to be there, it's your call. If you feel this one is not for you same. People said they would miss me but life goes on.
There was still the matter of my reading Saturday, and the hotel reservation. I called my wife and decided to convert my return ticket and fly home. I made the other calls to clean up the remaining conference details and was back in Kansas City later in the afternoon.
So my day today has been busy writing. Following details of conference. A hand full of things are being live streamed. Working on some ideas, and virtually shopping at the book fair. (which requires real money)
So here is what I have coming as far as new reading material. Some are supposed to be here by tomorrow evening, a couple are new releases for later in the month.
Fieldnotes on Ordinary Love by Keith S. Wilson
Soft Targets by Deborah Landau
Father's Day by Matthew Zapruder
I Live in the Country and other Dirty Poems by Arielle Greenberg
In the Lateness of the World by Carolyn Forche
Like a Bird with a Thousand Wings by Melissa Studdard
Partial Genius - Prose Poems by Mary Biddinger
Slide to Unlock by Julie E. Bloemeke
The Long White Cloud of Unknowing by Lisa Samuels
That's the book purchases so far.
By the way - I am especially. happy with my writing so far today.
Will catch a livestream of the Keynote address this evening.
The one thing you cannot replicate besides seeing friends, is the swag. I will miss the #W2W Reception and the swag.
The annual AWP writers conference is coming at us with the speed of an asteroid. The annual event brings together writers of all genres from across the U.S. and beyond.
AWP #20 will occur in San Antonio, starting on Wednesday the 4th. I can confirm that I have already experienced a bit of the typical anxiety associated with the pilgrimage. Each year there are generally 12,000 or more in attendance. If I recall correctly there were like 14,000 last year in Portland.
I have somewhat introvert tendencies, although at times I may break free of the chains. As long as I am able to retreat and recharge from time to time, I can deal with it. For me the stressor are being away from home, being in the midst of a crushing mob (slight exaggeration), meeting people I am in awe of and being fearful I appear to be a complete goofball, and meeting complete strangers and feeling. my first impression (and lasting one) totally sucked. It is my hope to report/blog from the conference maybe a couple of times a day.
WHY EVEN GO? Good question. I think it has to be personal for each attendee. For some it is seeing friends that you may see only once or twice a year. Or it could be meeting publishers. Crisscrossing the book fair (always enormous) in search of bargains, newly published material, author signings, or readings. Both onsite and offsite. It could be learning more about the craft at panel presentations, or ideas, learning about marketing or working with publishers, agents, etc.
This year, I am focusing on a couple aspects of craft. Seeing some friends, attending some readings and doing a reading myself. I want to springboard from the conference into a greater energy in my writing. I have a manuscript I am trying to finish and this could help push me over the finish line.
I always make a list of those I hope to see. Some for the first time. Some friends I'd like to hang out with for a bit. It's a challenge to see how many of these people I can catch up with given because everyone has their own schedule and we often become like ships passing in the night.
THE THING THAT IS DIFFERENT THIS YEAR:
There is something looming overhead as we head to San Antonio. So much talk of the coronavirus has added a new level of anxiety. So many questions about how ready we are for an outbreak in the U.S. have created a legitimate concern. I am impressed with AWP leadership for tracking the CDC daily and reporting on efforts to proactively implement ways to make the conference as safe as possible.
AWP has been tweeting messages like this- Fewer handshakes, more smiles, louder greetings, thoughtful nods! At #AWP20, we’re in close communication with the conference center & City of San Antonio, & watching news fm CDC closely. We’re increasing hand sanitizing units and will have Lysol wipes in every meeting room.
I have a reasonable level of confidence that all will go well, but this is in large part because I believe the leadership of the conference is doing what it can to protect us all. I have way more confidence in their leadership on this than I do the federal government.
Anyway, I am busy getting ready this weekend. Hopeful San Antonio will be a great conference. I am a veteran of 4 previous conferences - this will make 5.