AWP Day 2

I am too worn out to come up with a better title for this post, that’s how much happened today.

The AWP conference this morning started early, too early for many, I imagine, seeing as how my first panel was sparsely attended for such a huge room. This was “On Adapting and Being Adapted”—about novels being turned into screenplays, and I’d meant to go with e, who beyond being my other half owns, or could own, the options to every single story and novel manuscript I’ve ever written or will write. I tell him this all the time, but I don’t think he believes me. I’d sell him anything he wanted for one dollar, okay no dollar, okay fine it’s all his if he wants it. He’s my own personal director and someday he’ll make a movie of something I wrote, I know it. But 9am in Midtown was crazy-early for e, who is a night owl, so I went there, one of the few conference-goers who made it, and learned the following:

Seeing your novel adapted is hard to describe. One novelist said it was like watching your spouse make love to someone else, or no like watching your child make love to someone, or no… like watching your spouse make love to your child? She wasn’t sure how to put it to words, just that it makes your bowels shiver.

Another writer brought up what Ken Kesey supposedly said when One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was being made. The filmmakers invited him to the set to see a scene being filmed and he said, “That would be like saying your daughter’s being raped on a street corner, want to come watch?” (Is this true? Did he really say that?)

But all horror stories aside, hey, I’m not scared! Having my fiction adapted by the person I love is like giving him a present—like something I baked maybe, if I baked, let’s pretend my kitchen is bigger and has a countertop and I actually do—and watching him eat it. Once he swallows it, I let go—it’s all his.

(I’ve given him a couple of things and he says he’s adapting one now… I told him to turn it into whatever he wants it to be, change whatever he wants, really. Maybe it’s so easy for me to say that without any bowels shivering or horrifying analogies because I trust his vision. Maybe I just love him a whole lot.)

I have a lot more notes from the adaptation panel, but I’ll move on.

The panel “From Stories to Novels: Crossing the Great Divide” had me feeling, in parts: exhilarated, inspired, deeply depressed, frustrated at my slow progress, annoyed at how I got myself crammed into the middle of a row and I really should have chosen a better seat, excited about returning to my novel, excited about novels in general, a clear sense of how to tackle it, or a clearer sense. Either way, lots to think about there, and in a good way.

Then there was an incredible panel about “Writers Revealing Family”—the full title of the panel inspired by this quote from William Faulkner:

“If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate: The ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ is worth any number of old ladies.”

I was intensely impressed by the papers the writers of this panel read—about the denial of what consequences there might be in writing about your own family (in my head this big red screen and the flashing words *WARNING* *WARNING* *WARNING* which I pushed down and promptly ignored, clearly in a bit of denial still myself). And Susan of ReadingWritingLiving blew me away by her essay. I was so impressed I went up after to introduce myself and tell her how much I liked what she wrote, but she was surrounded by people who wanted to do the same and I got shy and slipped out of there. Don’t worry, I got to meet her later and apologize for my sudden bout of shyness! (Susan, your panel was truly fantastic.)

Which brings me to the highlight of my day: my first meeting with a blog friend in real life—I have actually never done this before!—Jade Park. We met up and went to lunch and then spent the rest of the afternoon going to panels together. I have to tell you guys, she is hysterical. Both e and I adored her. The weirdest part was how not-weird it was to meet and hang out with her. It felt like I’ve known her for years, like we just hadn’t seen each other for a while and were having lunch to catch up, not like we just met five minutes before. How cool is that?

The day did have some gray spots. Some rain, sure, also some periods in some of the panels where, let’s just say I was having trouble keeping my eyes open. But a certain person was cracking me up so I can’t even say that with a straight face.

As for tomorrow, I have high hopes, a bunch of stuff planned out without even a break for lunch, maybe I’ll run into some people I know, maybe not, and then the conference is over.

Sunday is back to real life: a looming deadline I am now officially behind on, but let’s pretend we don’t know anything about that. Tomorrow will be better that way.

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