Today many writer folks set out for DC--the AWP conference starts tomorrow. I feel this weird emotion that has no easy name. Let me try to untangle my feelings today:
--I'm nostalgic for the 2011 DC AWP conference which I attended. I've been rereading my blog posts, which likely triggered a deeper case of nostalgia than I'd have otherwise.
It was a great AWP, and I returned home full of determination not to miss another one. For a variety of reasons, I have yet to return.
--I feel this sense of wistfulness, because of people's posts--yes, even this early--about all the people who are running into each other at airports and such. But I know that if I went, I would be unlikely to run into people I know. I know that most of the people I know also do not have the kind of writer's life that makes going to the AWP feasible.
I have books that I got at the last AWP that I have yet to read--why do I want to go to buy more?
The wistfulness also comes from rereading some of my 2011 posts and remembering how hopeful I felt about social media's ability to open doors and make an easier writing life. And now my Facebook feed seems full of difficult politics more than anything else. I'd like to get back to reading about people's creative projects and what they had for breakfast and what their chickens/dogs/babies are doing.
There's also a wistfulness that comes from reading posts from people who live in the area, posts that have restaurant suggestions. And I realize that the D.C. that I once knew doesn't really exist anymore.
--That feeling leads me to some nostalgia, but for several different D.C.s. There's the city where I worked in the summers when I was in my college years, back when D.C. had the highest murder rate in the country. I could have picked up a cheap property then that would be worth millions now. There are also later D.C.s--my parents lived just outside the city, on the Virginia side, and we often explored parts of the city when I returned for visits. I kept up with which exhibits were coming to the city, which bands, which restaurants.
--I feel a bit of sadness for how I don't live the kind of writer's life that justifies the huge expense that going to the conference entails now. When I went in 2011, I only had to pay for the airfare, which I could find for a cheap rate, and the conference fee. I stayed with my parents, so I didn't have the huge hotel fee.
Back then, I had a dean with an academic background, so he understood the value of the conference. My school didn't have travel money, but I didn't have to dip into my vacation time to go.
I feel a bit of sadness too, because even if I went and made connections, I would return to a work life that would make it hard to move forward with those connections. I went out for Pho last night with my Hindu writer friend. She asked me if I had made any submissions to an agent. Frankly, I don't have a lot of free time in a day, and I've decided to use the free time that I have to write, not to pursue an agent (although I will send out some poetry submissions here and there). It's just too dispiriting.
--There's a sadness for how much has changed since then--my parents have moved to Williamsburg. They're happy, and I'm happy, but I'm remembering the 2011 AWP when I stayed at the house where I've returned since 1984, when I had a chance to see family in addition to attending a great conference.
In 2011, I felt more connected to people because of blogging more than Facebook. And this year, I can't help but notice that many people are not blogging in the same way.
--But let me not get swamped by these strange emotions. Let me remind myself of the ways I am lucky. I'm happy that I have a good job with good pay; if I wanted to go, I could go, although not this year, when I haven't accrued vacation time yet. I know that most people aren't working at schools where they have travel money that covers a huge trip like this one. And writers working outside of academia are also unlikely to have the budget to go. The conference is a good one, but it's not worth debt to me--when the cost to go to a conference begins to approach a mortgage payment, I have to ask myself serious questions. And I'm glad that I have access to books here, away from the publishing centers of the U.S. And I'm grateful for my writer friends here--we could have our own mini-conference if we could all find a day when we were free.