Not going to a lie, I spent almost forty-five minutes trying to find parking for this conference. Downtown Tampa’s roads were a crisscross of cement that intersected with my driving anxiety and my last ounce of patience. When I finally found the right turn, I passed it because I hesitated a second too long and the car behind impatiently pressured me by honking their horn. But, once I finally made it into the parking garage my journey was just getting started.
Tampa Convention Center reminded me of an airport in its’ summer vacation season: beautiful lighting, wonderfully high ceilings, and a constant hum of people on a mission. People walked in groups, pairs of twos and threes or on their own – like myself. We were all carrying some kind of tote, either the official AWP 2018 one of our own. I slung both over my shoulder, dedicating the AWP one to merchandise and my own to my wallet and packed snacks.
Overwhelming feels like an understatement for what I experienced walking into the book fair. There was table after table of information I didn’t even realize I was curious about until someone sitting there offered me a smile and flyer. I lingered at the Cave Canem booth, willingly getting lost in the wide display of poetry. The founder of Well-Read Black Girl openly shared her experience with me on how to successfully start up a literary business with the aid of social media. And I ran into writer, after writer, all with the same type of hopes and fears I had when it came to taking advantage of this rare opportunity of being in the presence of so many other writers. Because as we all know writing takes up time that would otherwise be used for socializing.
Being in the presence of so many storytellers and readers reminded me of how large the literary community truly is. Sure, the numbers of people involved and interested in the art of literature are undeniably high online. But, after a while, I forget how to visually translate tweets and Instagram likes to actual individuals. AWP reminded me there is always someone out there that’s just as excited as I am about the future of stories. And not only excited but willing to share their excitement and experiences with others, generously and unabashedly.