On our arrival, while we were waiting to check in to our room, Sal Pane greeted us from behind (shouting MIKE!, which is about what it takes to get my attention). He was dressed like Sal Pane. I thought, "That's Sal Pane." I was right.
After registering at the conference proper, I turned around into a hug from Brian Carr, probably one of the sweetest men alive. Last year we had Ethiopian food together; this year we didn't find the time. Next year we'll do better.
At the Booth booth, which Tracy and I visited often, searching for a former teacher (Booth editor Robert Stapleton), we spoke at length to two students of the new Butler MFA program. They like Indianapolis, which I mostly do not miss -- I liked a lot about it, for instance the trees and Holiday Park, but I hated all the driving. A shy, nervous girl who constantly giggled overheard me telling said MFA students that my story "What They Did with the Body" was in the new issue of Booth, which it is. The girl seemed positively star-struck to meet someone published in the annual print edition of a weekly online literary magazine and actually requested that I sign her book, which I did. (My first book signing.) She was very sweet. I wish her the best.
Speaking of the things I miss from Indianapolis, I did not get to meet our former teacher Susan Neville, though Tracy briefly did. We did catch Robert Stapleton, eventually, and we spoke with Bryan Furuness, who is so kind it is unnerving, and with our former English department's chair, and I saw Andy Levy (now the head of the Butler MFA, as I understand it, but formerly our early American lit instructor) from behind, leaning over the table, I think sharing a joke. He was always very funny. (Best wishes, all.)
From NMSU I saw a number of my fellow students, though only one graduate, Carrie Murphy (author of the forthcoming book of poetry Pretty Tilt). Well, two graduates: Joe Scapellato, with whom I played a recent game of Exits Are, left NMSU the year before we arrived, and he was there also. Puerto del Sol is still one of the most attractive and underrated university-affiliated literary magazines out there.
Our camera is broken, so we did not take pictures.
I met J. A. Tyler. I think I had seen him before at a reading, last year, but if it was him then this was while he didn't have hair, which has a very different effect from J. A. Tyler with hair, who looks rather more like say my dad, and rather less like say a man who could beat my dad up. (I have no idea how old J. A. Tyler is, but my dad is younger than you might think, and not well-prepared for fighting.)
I got a hug from Brian Oliu. I met Jensen Beach. I met Matt Salesses, again. Last time was in DC, in a bar, while I was waiting for a reading; he rather amazed me by recognizing me from across a room, sort of huddled in a corner. (Note that it is amazing whenever anyone recognizes me at AWP, because among that crowd I am extremely generic, a white dude with dark hair, a beard, and glasses.) This year I enjoyed his laugh a lot.
Matt Bell is busy, guys. I feel kind of bad for Matt Bell.
I had an awkward moment with Adam Robinson wherein he overheard something I had sort of whispered at the Dalkey Archive table, and thought that I said it to him, and it would have made sense if I had said it to him, but it would have also been awkward and terrible, so I hope he believes that I didn't say that to him. Later he gave me a book, I am looking forward to reading it. His beard was less spectacular than last year's beard but it is still quite a beard.
We met David McNamara, our magazine's printer, who was sweet and funny and also impressively bearded. Next to these guys my beard is very weak indeed.
We only actually went to one panel, the one about Internet literature whatever. It was a good panel -- refreshing in its calm, its honesty, and its willingness to engage with what is difficult and silly about being a writer. I liked it. Afterward I high-fived Roxane Gay. It was the only time we saw her, sadly. Her voice was totally, tragically gone. She went on to win a competitive reading; don't ask me how. That's the power of Roxane.
We ate dinner with Gabriel Blackwell, who puts up with me beautifully. The nearby Thai restaurant his friend suggested had a shocking lack of vegetarian options for a Thai place, for vegetarian Gabe.
Erin Fitzgerald and Laura Ellen Scott make an excellent comedic duo.
A. D. Jameson is even more energetic and funny and fun to be around in person than he is in blogs. He described to Tracy and me the four best Star Trek: The Animated Series episodes that we have to watch, and shared his feelings on the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine finale (he likes it more than I do).
Did a whiskey shot with Aaron Burch at the Hobart table to celebrate our good fortune. This made the constant press of bodies a little easier to bear.
Bought many books. Sold many books for Noemi. Saw many other people. Missed a lot I would have liked to see. Successfully attended just one reading, Saturday's Unstuck reading, which was very good; they are a good magazine. Gabe read here. I thought he did very well. The story is such a good one.
I have forgotten many things that happened. I was grateful to see everyone, that everyone was so kind to me, that they forgave me my awkwardness and my nerves. I am terrified of other writers. I want them to like me. I don't believe that they do. But they are nice about it. Thank you for your kindness. Sometimes, with you, I feel almost at home. That's saying a lot.