So long, Minneapolis.
The AWP conference is over and I head back to Austin, Texas this morning. This was my first AWP and I feel exactly the way I expected to, based on advice I got and posts I’d read before I ever arrived. Exhausted in brain and body from attending panel after reading after panel after lecture. Exhilarated from being around nearly 15,000 other writers for 4 days. Grateful for the opportunity to spend time with friends from California, Oregon, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York and points between. Appreciative of the writers and editors who organized and participated in the panels and readings. Every panel I attended was interesting and well-organized and inspiring to me.
Between time spent at AWP, I snatched a few hours here and there to reconnect with friends from high school, watched the documentary Going Clear with my niece, and shoe-horned a day at a winery west of Minneapolis followed moments later by a stop at a brewery with more family. A friend I met through social media drove up to the Twin Cities to make me and another friend breakfast and brought along the extra gift of home-made Bloody Mary mix which she cans from her own tomatoes. I love life when it is filled with possibility and life usually is if we pay attention.
Minneapolis outdid herself for the thousands of writers who descended from the skies last week. I overheard compliments flying throughout the conference about the beautiful skyline, the quality of the bars, restaurants and the people. The AWP conference added to the magic, with poetry readings popping up in bars, restaurants and galleries all over town. Writers who may have hoisted one too many beverages at Nye’s Polonaise Room sang loudly, if not very well to tunes pounded out on the bar’s piano. One young woman complained about the skyways not providing “the most direct route” to her hotel, but I will assume she changed her mind when the sunshine turned to rain, then sleet, then snow late Thursday afternoon. A friend from California walked 6 blocks with me wearing feather-ornamented sandals in that icy snow until her toes turned blue and she still posted love letters to Minneapolis throughout her visit. Thank you to all of you writers who fell in love with the city and made me appreciate it that much more.
Even though I chose to move away from the Twin Cities nearly 30 years ago, and had approached the trip feeling like the city was as strange to me as a distant cousin many times removed, it took just one short afternoon strolling around downtown to feel right back at home. That is part of the beauty of being a life-long traveler. That ease of creating a sense of home wherever you land.
Later today, I will land in Austin and after a long make-out session with my dogs I am going to fall into the deepest sleep I have had in a week and wake up ready to write like a dervish. I will be back in Minneapolis in summer, surrounded again by family and friends and probably 15,000 mosquitos rather than writers.