I’ve just returned from my fifth trip to the annual AWP Conference (the Association for Writers and Writing Programs) , and am proud to say that I’ve yet again survived the thrilling ordeal. It’s taken me two days, three loads of laundry, about six servings of pasta, and many hours of sleep to recover and recombobulate after the exhaustion and overstimulation of the chaotic, 12,000-attendee conference, but I am once again walking and talking like a human being.
This year’s conference was almost like a homecoming, in a way: I caught up with old friends, signed and swapped books with said friends, reminisced over the silly foibles of my not-so-distance youth in this industry, and looked back at the distance I’ve traveled thus far in my writing career. When I first attended the AWP conference in Chicago five years ago in Chicago, I was fresh out of my MFA program and had no idea what trajectory my career would take. I had only submitted my work to a handful of literary journals, and had only been published in one. I certainly never dreamed that in a matter of years, I’d be editing one of the industry’s most reputable literary magazines, and would have published my debut memoir, A Real Emotional Girl by a New York-based publisher of substantial prestige (In hardcover! With a photo insert!).
I’ve neglected this blog for far too long, friends, and I apologize. I hope the absence is forgivable in light of what I was busying myself with the last few months: the upcoming release of my book!
The last 60 days have been tough, but incredibly rewarding. Having never sent a book off to be published before, I suppose I didn’t have much in the way of expectations, and I certainly knew the process wouldn’t be easy, but the reality was actually even more grueling than I could have ever anticipated. In the end, I managed to make some pretty significant—and incredibly beneficial—edits to the manuscript in an awfully short window of time. Every day for nearly a month, I would wake at 6, work a full day, come home to walk and feed Mona, and then I’d sit down in my home office for at least 6 or 7 hours of editing, only to start the whole exhausting routine all over again the next day. It wasn’t easy and the lack of sleep definitely wasn’t a good look for me, but I’m rather proud of the work I did. I never thought I could say this, but I know with complete confidence and calm that my book is absolutely the best I could possibly make it.
When the day finally came for me to approve the last few remaining revisions and send off my little brain child for typesetting, I was anxious about really being finished with something that has taken me 10 years to create. The moment approached in an anticlimactic build-up, and I felt like I needed to do something that would signify or commemorate this momentous occasion. So as I made one final sweep of my manuscript, dedicated it to my father and my family, I turned on my dad’s favorite movie, “Jeremiah Johnson”. I half-listened to the movie, only registering key plot points of lines of dialogue intermittently. There were moments when I stopped to reflect on the landscape of the film, or to let one of those iconic lines of dialogue resonate in my mind; at times it almost felt as if my father were speaking to me through the movie.
Many hours later, as I pressed the “save” button one final time, I felt a sudden rush of weightlessness, almost dizziness. I instinctively placed my hand against my heart and felt the heavy burden of this opus leave me. And then it was finished. Finished.