Hello, here we are at Spring.
My birthday just passed and I feel obligated to start this by telling you that I am very old now, ancient and brittle. I am made of stale crackers and regret and have recently injured my neck and back simply by ‘sitting‘?
Apparently, my posture is so bad that my neck has simply given up. Something between my dusty old skull and my scaly, leathery shoulder blades is borked and I am in a great deal of searing pain whenever I move and sometimes when I don’t. I should probably explain what I mean even though I just described my body in gross terms, so I’m sorry that this tale now takes us to: Me! In the shower!
I’ve had back cramps in the past, even recently, and what I do is: I take a bunch of hot baths, kindle, candle, and maybe some tea. Luxurious. Like a sultan who lives in a palace hilariously too small for him.
So I did that yesterday. I grabbed my kindle, walked into the bathroom, turned the faucet on, and lightning shot through my neckbackarm and I kinda collapsed. I had to lay down on the cold tile floor, body completely straight, every bone in its proper place, and breathe for five minutes until the stars cleared out of my eyes.
Ok, so no bath. Hot shower. Standing bolt upright in a half-full bath, I crank the hot water and shift my horrible body into the stream. I am able to stand like this for about 90 seconds before my neckbackarm catches fire again and I have to exit the shower and, in a sort of a slow-motion tuck and roll, fold over the lip of the bath and burden myself onto the tile floor (now soaking wet and colder) and gasp for air.
Our bedroom is maybe eight feet away. I gather my strength and haul myself off the floor, wince myself eight feet forward and collapse onto the bed. Then up to dry off. Then back down. Up to put on boxers. Then back down. On and on. The whole thing took an hour and I was in the shower for two minutes.
Today I’m able to sit upright, so I was able to work. And now, I’m typing this. I wanted to talk a bit about my time at AWP, which I have also only just recently recovered from.
AWP has always felt to me like one of those things that is very much not for me, but something I’m supposed to do as a serious writer person. I wrote a book, so I’m one of those people, right? So I should probably go, and listen to people talk about craft and say it like that just: ‘craft’ not ‘the craft of writing?’ or maybe ‘writing craft?’ just ‘craft’ and maybe ignore that ‘craft’ is one of those words that loses its meaning after saying it maybe four times.
I only went to three panels. Writing is a huge open space with very few rules and sometimes when people talk about craft, they quickly reach the boundaries of what any specific advice can contain, so it turns into a telling of personal experiences that end in ‘but that’s just me, whatever works for you.’ Which is valid and true, but I’m not sure how to bring that back and put it into practice like a real writer person. Or if I should. But I probably should? People are taking notes. I don’t know all the people on the panel, but what if one of the panel people knows the secrets? What if the note-taking people know which panel person has the secrets? What if the note-takers are the serious writer people? Or are the people leaving early the serious writer people? One guy had a scarf on.
I didn’t take any notes. I hunched over my phone and texted my wife during a lot of the panels. I told her my personal experience with it and she sent me pictures of my dog to try to get me to relax.
The book fair is neat. Again, kind of dizzying if you can’t relax for a fucking second. But I bought some books and tried to support presses that I like, or who have been nice to me in the past and I met some nice people and only once realized too late to say anything that I’d met the person I was talking to a few years ago and should’ve said “Oh shit, we met a while ago. We both have masks on and I can’t wear my glasses when I have a mask on, so my vision is kinda fuzzy and I’m not sure if I am the kind of person who is supposed to go to AWP even though there are six thousand other people here.”
I’ve never handled crowds well. I’m a bigger person, but even in regular places, I feel like I’m eternally in the way. In the past, I’ve explained this by saying adorable things like ‘I feel like I need to make myself smaller so I hunch over or crane over my phone to take up less space, draw less attention, sometimes even remove myself from places where I feel like I’m going to be an annoyance or bother someone by just by being. One time I saw friends in a grocery store – people I loved – and my immediate instinct was to hurry to the other end of the grocery store because they were busy. I didn’t want to bother them.
I’ve always thought of these things as being related to having low self-esteem but it’s all narcissism. In order to be an encumbrance, you have to be meaningful. I don’t think I’m slightly taller than average, I think that I am gigantic. Saying hi to someone is completely normal, assuming you will impact someone’s day is not. ” How will this poor person recover from the experience of having seen me?” And, like all narcissism, it’s borne of cowardice.
Anyway, whatever it is, it’s fucking up my neck real bad. Pain down to the elbow. Shivering on the shower floor. Stand up straight, dummy.
One last thing: I ticked a box on my ‘real-writer checklist’ and read at an AWP off-site event organized by the generous and wonderful Sara Lippman who has a new book out and you should buy it. If you came out to the reading, thank you very much. It was a good time and I got to meet people I know from Sara’s workshopsand while AWP isn’t for me, I think seeing these people once a year very much is.
Looking forward to Seattle 2023.