All Grown Up and Stuff at AWP

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!).

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In Memory of Mitch Dorson, Who Taught Me Compassion

 

I’ve had good reason to remember my long-ago years spent living in Tucson these last few days. Those years were difficult ones for my family in many ways, and that time of my life often feels incredibly distant and foreign; so much has happened since I lived in the desert, and the person I am now barely resembles the girl I was then. As time passes, though, I find that I’m able to reflect on that part of my history with ever-increasing warmth and fondness. Though we only lived in Arizona for about five years, the relationships I created during my time there have grown and evolved in ways I never could have anticipated.

This past week, I’ve been enjoying a visit from my dear Tucsonian friend, Kristian who is moving to Seattle with his family next month (hooray!), and we’ve had plenty of the requisite “Remember that time when…” conversations. There aren’t many people I’m still close to from my Arizona life, so treasuring these nostalgic conversations over dinner and wine really does serve as good medicine for me.

Having both attended Catalina Foothills High School, Kristian and I were devastated to receive the incredibly sad news that one of our most beloved teachers, Mitch Dorson, has just recently and unexpectedly passed away. Mr. Dorson was one of the most influential teachers I had the opportunity to learn from, but beyond being the most passionate educator one could imagine, he was—most importantly—the kindest man an impressionable kid could hope to meet. After passing through Mr. Dorson’s US History class, I went on to TA for him, soaking up every single bit of his extremely contagious energy for teaching. It was as his TA, talking together after class each day, when I saw in him the model of what I hoped to one day be: A person who possesses equal parts passion and compassion.

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