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AWP, Part 1

There are many temptations in the big city for a couple of fellers in from the literary countryside. Today was opening day of the Associated Writers and Writing Programs Conference in Chicago, and my old friend Frenchy and I hit the irresistible book fair, sponsored by Columbia College Chicago, English Department, Poetry and Nonfiction Programs.

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February 12, 2009
 
 

There are many temptations in the big city for a couple of fellers in from the literary countryside. Today was opening day of the Associated Writers and Writing Programs Conference in Chicago, and my old friend Frenchy and I hit the irresistible book fair, sponsored by Columbia College Chicago, English Department, Poetry and Nonfiction Programs.

The book fair alone is a massive undertaking, with more than 500 presses, literary journals, MFA programs, and foreign organizations with tables in four different exhibition halls in the Hilton Chicago. We covered one of the four halls with aplomb, a second at a shuffle walk, and the third with increasing haste due to fatigue. It’s definitely worth a trip back and good to see so many of you I’ve known only through reputation.

As always happens, the conference geedunk bag fills quickly with catalogs, explanatory literature, pins (“Is that a poem in your pocket?”), magnets, bookmarks, and little compasses built into key chains. My real find so far was Open Me Carefully: Emily Dickinson’s Intimate Letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson (Paris Press, 1998). I generally try to avoid buying until later in the conference, but it’ll make great reading on the ride home Saturday night. (Tip for conference goers: I’m told that if you wait to buy from the book fair until Saturday, you’ll be charged sales tax, but not now.)

I’ll be posting more during the conference, so please check back. My nonfiction reading is in two hours, and I hope to put a prerecorded version up here at the blog.

As I finish this, Frenchy eyes the tempting Omni Sensation Bar on the counter here in the hotel room. Now he begins a dramatic reading of all the exotics we don’t have where we come from: “Pomegranate Lip Balm, $3.75. Rest Assured Pillow Spray, $6.50. Mojito Jellybeans, $6.25. Sleep-Inducing CD, $12.95…..”

Last night we rode the El up to Little Saigon for dinner with Crazy Larry; tonight there’s a fundraiser for Ninth Letter; tomorrow I’m privileged to luncheon with William Gass; tomorrow night the Oxford American and Ecotone Release Party; and all those panels, panels, panels. We live a lot quieter down south.

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