I wasn’t sure I wanted to attend AWP#16 in Los Angeles this year. I’ve had the real privilege and benefit of attending periodically since 2008. As a new writer, my first AWP’s were overwhelming–with busy-ness, with social demands, with learning opportunities. As is inevitable, some of the bloom wore off the rose over time. I no longer needed instruction in what literary magazines were looking for, advice about how to get an agent, or to listen to this year’s “it” young author reading from work the likes of which I will never publish (and that’s by choice, not opportunity). Yep, you could say I’d gotten a little jaded. I went this year mostly because my son lives in LA. (I visited with him often and that part was wonderful.)
As it turned out, the rest was pretty amazing, too.
In review: writing is my second act (at least; I could make an argument for 3rd or 4th, easily) in this life of mine. I’ve been at it for a little over a decade. I write mostly fiction and have published some short stories I’m proud of in journals most people have never heard of. I’ve been working on two separate novel manuscripts with an agent I love and respect and I’m starting a new novel ms, too. For the past year the very patient folks at Tiger Oak have given me the opportunity to write for some local magazines. I like many things about magazine writing, including that it pays, entirely unlike most fiction writing (short of a best-seller).
What I was missing in planning for AWP this year was a goal. I remembered, once I was in LA, that in 2014 my goal was to learn more about social media and blogging. In 2015 my goal was a little less ambitious but important, nonetheless: to show my AWP-newby friends around (the conference last year was in Minneapolis). This year I had a vague notion to look for panels on magazine writing and pitching, and I found them. One was on book reviews and I liked it so much I found a few other panels dealing with the world of book reviews, as well.
I’m thinking about how I can get more practice in book reviewing (Facebook message me if you’ve got a book I can review here on my blog) so that I can then take these “clips” to other outlets. It may not work; I am expert in little. But I was expert in less a decade ago.
I think this is how you build a new, or any career. Work hard, every day. Open yourself to possibilities you may not have previously considered. Find what works for you. In writing, there’s AWP and then there are writing retreats and workshops. I liked the Tin House Writer’s Workshop when I went in 2011, but I’m not sure I’d do something like that again. It lasted a week and many such workshops are even longer, with a lot of distractions from getting my butt in a chair and writing. Every. Day.
Three days I can take. AWP is in Washington, DC in 2017. I’ve already reserved a hotel room. I don’t know, yet, what my 3-day goal will be, because it’s a year away and a lot can happen in a year.
What I do know is this: in the meantime I will work hard and write. Every day.