Tuesday, April 2, 2013

AWP 2013: Three Days in Boston

This is a recap of my trip to Boston early last month.  I was there for a conference, so if you'd like to read more about that, hop on over to my website for my thoughts. Since I wasn't there for too long, I'm really excited to go back this summer and visit with a little more free time and hopefully some better weather!

Thursday, March 7, 2013: New York, NY to Boston, MA
Though I'd hurt my back a few days earlier, I was still really excited to head to Boston for my first-ever AWP.  It's the biggest conference out there for writers, and I'd heard from several people that it can be a ton of fun.  (Spoiler: it was!)  I boarded by 6:45am megabus and was really happy to immediately find a few friends from school.  I sat with them in a four-seater and we chatted until we each started to drift off.  I slept for maybe another two hours, and the bus arrived just slightly late at around 11:45.  I took the subway from South Station to the hotel where the conference was being held, and I was pleased to bump into two people I'd done a reading with last year.  As someone who is a little shy, I was glad to have seen so many people I knew, and thought that it would be cake to find people to talk with for the rest of the conference.

But, as I walked into the conference center, I realized this was not going to be like every other conference I'd been to before.  It was enormous!  The conference center (which was attached to a hotel AND a mall) felt as big as a palace, and with 11,000 attendees, I didn't see anyone I knew the rest of the day.  They had a place to check your suitcase (which was amazing because for some reason, carrying my giant bag around was a big anxiety of mine), so I dropped mine off and headed to a few panels.  After that, I headed out to my friend Molly's apartment, since I was staying there for the evening.  Molly is one of Roger's friends from his time studying in Senegal, and I really love her, so it was great to be able to stay with her and catch up.  We got dinner at the Wonder Spice Cafe, which had some really delicious Thai food and is a short (but at this point, snowy!) walk from her apartment.  After dinner, I headed back to the conference for the keynote, which was (as to be expected) enormous, but really thrilling.  It featured Seamus Heaney and Derek Walcott, two of the most famous living poets, in conversation.  After a short wait in the snow, I took the bus back to Molly's and headed to sleep.

Seamus Heaney

Friday, March 8, 2013: Boston, MA
I was shocked to wake up to a ton of snow coating the ground.  It was absolutely beautiful, but I wasn't really expecting so much of it, and my clothes showed it.  When I finally dragged myself out to wait for the bus, I realized just how thin my coat was and cursed myself for not bringing a parka.  I ended up waiting for the bus for a full hour and fifteen minutes in the blizzard, and was pretty surprised that only two cabs passed the whole time I was waiting (both with passengers, of course).  It wasn't a great way to start the day, particularly because my back was feeling a little sore from sitting all day and then standing in the cold, but I was glad to get to the conference center and see a few panels.

The view from Molly's window
After that, I walked around the book fair, which was just incredible, and talked to a number of publishers and editors.  I'm not great at networking, but people were so friendly at all the booths, and that made it a lot easier.  By this point, I was in contact with several friends, and ended up meeting up with a few of them for different panels and a drink, so that made everything feel a little more homey.  A small group of us had a wonderful dinner at Trident, this great bookstore cafe near the hotel.  It was a fun, inviting bookstore (I love independents!) and the food was actually delicious. I had the "cape codder," which has melted provolone cheese, turkey, bacon and cranberry mayo on grilled challah bread, and honestly, it was one of the very best sandwiches I've ever had.  For some reason, the flavor combination was just perfect, and the grilled challah bread pulled everything together.  I had a side of sweet potato fries and was completely stuffed by the end.  It was wonderful, and if you're in the area, I'd definitely recommend it.

I headed back to the conference with a few friends for one last reading, and then planned to go to one of the off-site parties.  Unfortunately, during the reading, something slipped out of place again in my back, and all I could do was limp outside to a taxi to get back to Molly's apartment.  Sadly, I had to call her out of drinks with her friends to come let me back in, and I felt really bad, but I couldn't have stayed out any later, and we ended up sitting around talking for a bit that night, so that was really great.

Saturday, March 9, 2013: Boston, MA to New York, NY
I woke up feeling a tiny bit better, but still not great.  Luckily, the snow had stopped, so getting around wasn't quite as difficult as it had been, though the sidewalks were really icy.  Molly had gone for a run and warned me about the conditions, and so I just had to give her props for running on so much snow.  She's pretty hardcore.  We tip-toed over to CVS to buy some ibuprofen, and then had a wonderful brunch at Sorella's, a little breakfast spot near her place. It reminded me a lot of Waterstreet in Geneva, but there was a much bigger selection.  I ordered pancakes with some sweet fillings I can't quite remember now, and they were absolutely divine, even though I could have done with just one pancake and the order came with three.  Sadly, after that, I had to part ways with Molly and headed back to the convention center to peruse the bookstore and catch one last panel before grabbing the megabus home.

Some things (weather and our bodies) are out of our control, but overall, it really was a great trip. Now I can't wait to go back and actually see some more of Boston.  This summer, we'll almost definitely go for a long weekend.  Rob's moving there for the summer and Molly let us know we can always stay at her place.  I can't wait to run along the Charles, visit Sam Adams and Harpoon breweries, and check out some other neighborhoods soon!

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