I'm particularly grateful for the free wireless as I'm sitting in this airport for about seven hours today. AWP ended earlier that I'd realized (no programming on Sunday), so I figured I'd come to the airport early and try to go standby on an earlier flight, so that I might get home before Kavi went to sleep. Kevin says that she's started to notice that I'm gone. (She doesn't have such a great sense of time, and mama does go away to work most days, so I figured we had a little time before she realized that this was a longer-than-normal stretch of mama away. But that time is apparently running out.) Sadly, not only is the earlier American flight sold out, but they tell me that my ticket is not fancy enough to allow me to go standby. Pfui.
Ah well. I'm reasonably comfortably ensconced in a cafe in the concourse, where I have enjoyed a leisurely snack while finishing a delightful YA novel by Eva Ibbotson, The Dragonfly Pool. And then I wrote a little scene for my own YA novel (many thanks to Lori for loaning me her spare laptop because my power cord died on Friday), and now I'm talking to y'all, and then I'm either going to write some more or read one of the several books I bought at AWP. I picked up Indivisible, the first anthology of South Asian American poetry, Temporary Lives, the winner of the Grace Paley short fiction award, written by another S. Asian author, Ramola D, and two anthologies of creative nonfiction. I had planned to also buy the poetry collection, This Noisy Egg, by my Utah classmate Nicole Walker, the new fiction collection Recipes for Endangered Species, by my Utah classmate Traci Connor, and college friend Swati Avasti's new YA, Split, but I did not navigate the bookfair successfully in my search for those titles. No matter -- Amazon will save me.
I won't actually have any time to read once I get home until the semester ends -- not with 70 papers still to grade, several books to teach, and a host of events for Asian American Studies in April. But the end of the semester is coming. I'm hanging on to that for dear life. I plan to lie in a hammock (we don't actually own a hammock, but still), eat bon-bons, and read books for a solid week.
AWP was generally wonderful, inspiring, exhausting, sick-making, depressing (when I realize how long it's been since I seriously wrote much of anything), and more. I want to apply for a Fulbright to Sri Lanka. I want to start an online workshop for DesiLit. I want to invite my Utah classmates, excellent writers all, to come and read at UIC. (That's not really up to me, but hopefully I can talk the right people into bringing at least a few of them out.) I want to help Indivisible become amazingly well-known and well-read, maybe by helping to hook them up with The Poetry Foundation and my advisor Kathryn Coles who I think is working there.
I want to start a mailing list for Sri Lankan American writers -- I met two more at AWP, which means there are eight of us? I'm sure there are others I haven't met yet, but here are the ones I know: Me, Pireeni Sundaralingam, Marian Thambynyagam, V.V. Ganeshananthan, Ru Freeman, Gowri Koneswaran (who just put out her first chapbook of poems), Sunil (from the conference, last name unknown, in MFA program), lovely woman (from the conference, entire name completely forgotten, argh, in MFA program in Eugene, I think) -- umm...and I think I'm forgetting someone, but still. With less than 10 Sri Lankan-American writers total, I think I really ought to know them all. And their work. And have them on a mailing list. If you are a Sri Lankan American writer, or know one, please get in touch? Being published not a requirement.
My two S. Asian lit panels went well, I think, and the off-site in Highlands Park (Highlands Branch?) was lovely -- thanks so much to Sangeeta and Minal and Parijat Desai's mother (Meena Aunty, I think?) for organizing it. Especially lovely was the homecooked rice and curry meal afterwards, and the chance to see Sangeeta's gorgeous paintings in person. (Another project: I want to set up a S. Asian illustrator database at DesiLit.) But the library reading was also a lot of fun, and I'd like to do more events like that. I agreed to be on two panel proposals for AWP in D.C. next year, which means, I think, that I can only propose one more of my own? I think I want to propose one on ethnic arts foundations, and the challenges of running them -- I need advice for DesiLit, and would love to learn from others who have gone before me. So now I need to go find some ethnic arts foundations that are already out there, and the people who run them, and figure out if they're going to AWP in D.C., and ask them if they want to be on my panel proposal.
Mostly, of course, the best part of AWP was the people. Most of the first half of the conference, I spent hanging out with S. Asian diaspora writers, old friends and new. Which was great. And the second half was mostly hanging out with the Utah people, which was also great, and my only regret is that I didn't get to see a few of them (I entirely missed Steve Fellner and my teachers Kathryn Coles and Robin Hemley, I know), and I didn't get a chance to talk properly with some of the others (David McGlynn and Nicole Walker and Jacqueline Lyons and Eric Burger and Kathryn Cowles I saw mostly in passing). But I had longish conversations and food and drinks with the others, and that British pub with the Strongbow cider was much fun, even if I was feeling a bit sick still and they took forever to seat us.
It was good to have a chance to vent and stress and be reassured that yes, the children will get bigger and I will write again some day. Maybe even someday soon. And it's okay to feel a little bit weird about my odd spousal hire position at UIC, and the awkwardness of not really being a full member of the English department -- but that I should also be happy that I normally have a reasonable teaching load and that I get to live with my partner and have a sane commute and that I get to teach both creative writing and lit. Which I am happy and grateful for most of the time, really, but it's good to be reminded.
It was just all pretty good, really. And the evil cold lingered through most of the weekend, but three nights of good NyQuil sleep and no waking up by children in the middle of the night seems to be mostly getting rid of the sickness, so I'm hopeful that I'll be in good shape to make it through the next three weeks. It was good to go; it'll be good to go home.