by John A. Taylor
I was sitting with Thom, our managing editor, watching a hipster specimen meander through the rows of booths near our table, but never quite reaching Rock & Sling (which is just as well because I’m not sure if I would have cared to talk to him). He had a very thoughtful walk, thoughtful in the sense that he probably thought about it, practicing, in front of a mirror until he got it just right. His shoulders were back, head stiff, looking either directly forward or 90 degrees to either side, and he trudged. It was a marching trudge, though, a thoughtful trudge. A little bit like C3PO but with elbows in check. Thom leaned over to me and said that in past years he had had an AWP bingo card with things and characters to watch out for. This particular hipster would have fulfilled the “trying too hard” block. His bag never changed hands. His bag never changed shape or weight. His clothing looked expensive because they were the type of clothing made to look like they were from the thrift store but really not because sometimes hipsters still get an allowance from their parents and are too lazy to thrift. And his dark Ray Bans stayed on. Indoors. Because, as we all remember, it was really bright. This was my first memorable experience of AWP.
My favorite parts of the trip were walking through Boston when the snow was not blowing horizontally, having a lobster omelet Saturday morning at the Boston Harbor with a new friend from Gonzaga, standing at Timber’s booth within the half hour they sent me a rejection, discovering a game-changing television show after a long day at AWP: Amish Mafia (hide your children from the hut parties), and meeting the people (Booth: Journal) who published my poem about kidney stones and who were surprised to see that I was twenty, not eighty. The rest of the trip has remained an absolute blur. I suppose that in time I’ll remember some of it clearly. I do remember feeling deeply ambivalent about the whole experience. I was surrounded by so much beautiful writing and beautiful art, but there was also a whole lot of garbage. (And, despite all the good writing, I could not even image a world in which Jack Gilbert would attend such an event; this was a discouraging realization.)
Before AWP I considered Rock & Sling to be a strong journal for what it is / where it is / why it is, but those qualifiers dropped away during the long weekend. Our art rivals or surpasses that of the strongest, most widely read journals. Our content grapples with some of the easiest material to unforgivably screw up, and yet it stands up even at such a large conference. I’m biased, of course, and just spent the last week as a sort of Rock & Sling salesman, but the journal ranks. It’s small but growing, and I am really excited to be working on the journal now. I’ve seen it in context and was pleasantly surprised.
I’ll conclude with a comprehensive list of AWP do’s and don’t’s, as I’ve learned them, and as everyone seems to be wanting to read / write:
Know who Amber Tamblyn is before she comes to your table
Have a Free Back Issue for a Kiss! deal (restrictions apply to mostly everyone)
Inform Amber Tamblyn of this deal
Look where you’re going
Apologize when you accidentally body-check meandering hipster
Help pick up scattered books and Ray Bans
John A. Taylor is a senior at Whitworth University. He loves gardening and goldfish, and knows a lot about both.