By Joshua Tuttle
My second AWP was even better than my first. Last year I was extremely nervous to explain what “a journal of witness” means to people standing at our booth. I was new to Rock & Sling, and I was at the conference with a group of seniors who had been part of the journal for years. This time, I was the senior student, with a pair of first-timers (one of whom actually was a senior, but she joined the journal late in her undergraduate career) looking to me for example.
The engagement from the community seemed higher than last year, which surprised me. I was not expecting that in LA, to have tons of people come up to our table and be genuinely excited about our Christian theme. I only had one woman say “Oh, never mind!” after hearing about it. I was so happy that our broadsides and covers seemed to make people so excited and joyful. There was one man who was talking to his friend, and he walked up to our broadsides and said, “See, people do care about beauty, we have to make sure to show these to Charlie.” I talked to them about it, and he said that Charlie was an artist, who had been discouraged because he thought the literary world didn’t care about beautiful things. That may or may not be true (I don’t think it is), but it was probably the best moment in the convention for me that our efforts had helped someone else take heart.
The literary community was more interesting this year as well, now that I’ve got more experience. I recognized journals this year, because I’ve had enough exposure that I am more familiar with the lay of the land. I also had a story coming out in an anthology—my first fiction publication credit—which meant that I was suddenly someone a publisher was coming up to my table to see me. Their booth—Three Rooms Press—turned out to be only a few tables down from us, so we kept seeing each other and there was much goodwill to be had. I did my first book signing, and my second most notable moment was when I saw someone walking around with Songs of My Selfie and got to say to them “Hey! I’m in that anthology! Yes, of course I’ll sign it for you!”
LA was also beautiful. I’ve never been there before, and it was nice to walk around downtown. I think once you stay in a youth hostel with plumbing that doesn’t always work, you can say that it “counts,” whereas just traveling to a city doesn’t always count. Walking a mile to find fruit was annoying, but it gave me a chance to see the city. I took my first Uber ride, and had to chase the Uber around the block because the GPS wasn’t accurate enough. I also took the bus, which is always fun to do in a new city. As it happens, the bus was very late, so I only did it once, but it was fun nonetheless.