It’s been a couple of years since I last went to AWP. So I was glad this year to have the opportunity to attend, thanks to one of my freelance clients, and that it was in D.C., a city that’s relatively easy for me to get to and where one of my dear high school friends lives.
The day of my departure a snowstorm was scheduled to hit. This got my mother worried, prompting her to call me the night before.
Her: “There’s big snow coming!”
Me: “Yes, but the subway’s only a five minute walk.”
Her: “But you’ll walk in the snow!”
Me: “It’s only five minutes.”
Her: “But you have your suitcase!”
Me: “It’s only five minutes.”
Her: “But! But!”
If I wasn’t worried about traveling in the snow before her call, I certainly was afterward.
But of course getting to the subway in the morning was perfectly fine. I left so early, there was hardly any snow on the ground, and the train wasn’t even delayed. Even lovelier: I had a whole row to myself as I enjoyed my breakfast, worked on my novel, and daydreamed. There was no snow in D.C. although it was quite windy.
Since I’ve been to AWP several times, I don’t really get too much out of the sessions. However, there were a few that I liked.
One was about university teachers using multimedia to teach writing while another was about running grassroots literary conferences. There’s one in Lancaster that sounds really cool, but its focus is creative nonfiction while I’m primarily concerned with my novel right now.
The one big session I went to was with Ta-Nehisi Coates and Chimamanda Adichie, as moderated by E. Ethelbert Miller. It was packed. Luckily I got there early. The reading and talk were interesting, especially in this day and age.
Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery
In between attending sessions and doing work for my client, I had the chance to visit the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, which was walking distance to the convention center. (It’s also free so I went twice, catching up on sections I missed the first time.)
Near the front of the National Portrait Gallery is a painting of Donald Trump. It had its own rope and security guard. I asked the guard, “Are you here to make sure no one does anything to that picture?” He just laughed and shook his head like “no comment.” I wanted to take a picture but chickened out.
The portraits part of the museum was a little boring, but upstairs they also had other kinds of American art, including this “Dreamers” exhibit, which was very cool:
There’s also a beautiful courtyard.
Smithsonian American Art Museum
This museum is attached to the National Portrait Gallery so it was easy to visit (and again, free). It had a wonderful Isamu Noguchi exhibit:
Where I ate
Needless to say, the convention center food was pretty limited. There were one or two places at the main entrance, and almost always they both had ridiculously long lines. On the convention floor there was a Jamaican stand that had pretty good curry chicken, but at $11, it was overpriced.
Luckily, Chinatown was in walking distance. Twice I ate at ShopHouse (which, sadly, has shuttered its doors). It was Chipotle for southeast Asian food. Literally. It was owned by Chipotle. I thought it was really good. The bowls were tasty and less than $10.
One night I was craving a burger, and got takeout from Fuddruckers. Again, very good. Another night I got delicious koobideh from Grill Kabob. It was overpriced but the place was full of Aghani people so at least it was probably authentic.
Catching up with a friend
My last night I had the chance to have dinner with a good friend from high school. I hadn’t realized how long it had been since I last saw her. I kept thinking five or six years but it’s more like 10! Too long. We had a good long chat over Asian food and then a nice walk back to my hotel.
AWP 2018 will be taking place in Tampa. Party in my hotel room?