The Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference I attended in Los Angeles has been over a month ago but I’m still talking about it to friends and family. Particularly the story that I swear to goddess I am not embellishing, the story where I coached my shy extroverted me to find Claudia Rankine in a crowded room to introduce myself, the un-embellishment where she met my “thank you for your artistry” with a nod/a smile/& then a slight rub of my upper arm and said how she liked my shirt! We later shared a quick chat on a bench after she signed CITIZEN; I briefly shared my own experiences at a graduate poetry seminar, how it was my night for critique, and the lily white room went dead SILENT. She shook her head, knew all too well that it happens, partially the subject of her AWP16 keynote address.
And oh how proud I was of my good friend Aja Couchois Duncan who shared the podium in the joint reading that evening. Me (I learned through a professional development marketing talk) the black shy extrovert sitting in the front row, even playing technician when poets didn’t know what to do with the mike. This was my first AWP, and I was not prepared for the hella overwhelming 20,000 writers, publishers, and media blitz. But I found my way with hugs and smiles from Cave Canem fellows, and pep talks from mentors Caroline Goodwin and Maxine Chernoff, and a wonderful evening supporting Aja’s work.