Little A and I had four glorious days in Chicago for the AWP conference. We went by train and felt oh-so-much-more civilized than traveling by plane. My mom met us in Chicago so that I could attend panels, meet friends, and drink and eat without having to worry about my three-foot companion getting plowed over in the riot of writers.
And a riot it was: ten thousand writers, editors, teachers, publishers, and their ilk descended on two hotels. I attended one panel on which my friend Kate Hopper and four other mama writers shared their thoughts on negotiating motherhood and the writing life. Take home message: jotting down little notes while waiting in the carpool line and at sporting events is key. Also: Hope Edelman eloquently conceded the ways in which writing can take away from mothering but thoughtfully dissected all the things that writing brings to motherhood.
I listened in on another one for first time memoirists, where I found that other writers struggle with the same issues of reportage versus personal story and finding the balance of the two.
But most importantly, I got to meet some new friends and see a few old friends from my Columbia MFA days. We sat down over drinks and food and talked about writing and reading and life and teaching. I realized how much I've missed the intensity of being surrounded by writers, of accessing a shared vocabulary to talk about craft and narrative and sentences and books. I realized I've been going along feeding the fire with tiny bits of kindling and scraps of wood and then this weekend came along and brought with it a barrel of kerosene and two cords of wood.
Now to keep the writing fires burning...