Other people will write funnier, more comprehensive posts on the 2013 AWP Conference. Those who are good at twitter (I try, but I just can't get the hang of its nuances) already know that the big news from this year's AWP is the "lockout"(popular panels scheduled in too-small rooms meant many people were turned away). I can't speak for other people, give sage advice, or complain. After attending 10+ AWPs (I've lost count), I know each one is its own experience, like meals at a variety of restaurants with a variety of people.
This year, on the last night, I'm in my hotel room by 10pm, exhausted. And what's on my mind is loneliness. Well, not loneliness, not quite, but that strange feeling of connections that were not long enough and are gone for another year; the loss of those possible miraculous encounters where you exchange a lot of intimate conversation in a few minutes standing in the bookfair; the loss of not seeing some of the people I care about because there are so many people and events and so little time and limited energy.
In a huge convention center amongst 12,000 writers, I am struck by how many really good-hearted, warm and genuine writers I know. How many writers have big hearts and radiate friendliness, how many look me in the eyes and hug with affection (and without affectation). And what I really want: a chance to get to know these good people even better. An afternoon walking in the woods, with plenty of benches to stop and sit and talk before we stand again and refresh ourselves in the open silence. A dinner at someone's house with low music in the background and plenty of space for laughter. A pot of tea and a good hour in a tea shop, with scones and Devonshire cream.
My writer friends and acquaintances, you are exceptional people. You open up the closed-in world with your words and your selves, your passion for teaching and for listening. I have crushes on you from reading your work and from watching you smile.
I think when I get home I'm going to remember to have these intimacies with the friends I am lucky enough to live close to. But I'll have all of you in my mind as well, my once-a-year writer friends.