I don’t have much to say about AWP 2011, the writing conference I attended last week. There are many posts on it out there, all similar in nature, with people name dropping the other cool people they hung out with. I don’t have names to drop. I did, however, enjoy hearing people read. I always enjoy Joyce Carol Oates, whose reading about the death of her husband made me tear up. I also liked the reading with Jennifer Egan, Joshua Ferris, Rick Moody, and Benjamin Percy.
Last year’s conference was better for me. I came back with a notebook full of ideas to write about. This year, the panels left me flat. The book fair seemed as obtuse as a high school cafeteria. It was a little disheartening to find that writers fall into a “type,” just like computer programmers or accountants have a “type.” You don’t realize it until they are all jammed in a building together, but there is definitely a certain kind of person who is attracted to becoming a literary writer. And, too, there are further subcategories of sameness–a “type” of person who is a poet, a “type” who writes YA novels, a “type” who writes nonfiction.
The thing that most inspired me was the dinosaur section of the Natural History Museum. There is an armadillo with a shell the size of a boulder on its back. Oh, and did you know about giant camels? Imagine that, giant camels!
And then you round the corner, and there it is: the giant ground sloth. Bigger than an elephant with claws like ice picks. I think I know where Godzilla came from:
These things used to roam around Argentina and Panama eating from 20-foot-high trees. It looks ferocious to me, but maybe they weren’t. Maybe they were as cuddly as the modern sloth:
Here are some obligatory Washington DC pictures. There’s something wrong with my camera, so there are black spots on the images.
Weird white tap water in our hotel room.
The Capital Building
Dead plants in front of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Blind man touching the statue of Helen Keller inside the Capital Building’s Visitor Center.
The Washington Monument.
Marcia pretending to be a bill on the back steps of the Capital. You know, like this:
I was vetoed!