Dispatches | February 07, 2011

And …. we’re back!

We just finished a whirlwind trip out to our nation’s capital for this year’s AWP Conference.  We’re actually a little surprised we made it! You might have heard that sunny Columbia, Missouri, was rocked with twenty inches of snow, making travel a wee bit difficult. But, somehow, we all managed: our wonderful poetry editor Katy Didden and PhD candidate Austin Segrest bolted town on Monday and made sure we were all ready to go when (if?) the rest of us arrived.  Some of us drove (Claire McQuerry), some of us changed flights often (me!), and some of us didn’t make it at all (Speer).  So with a little more than half our staff, we all put in a little bit of overtime to make our table experience good for our readers and submitters. We hope it was a success. We really do appreciate everyone who came by, said hello, snagged a copy of our issue – which we gave away for free the entire four days – and for reminding us how important audience is to all the publishers, editors, and writers that are out there making it work.

So, in honor of last year’s follow up, a couple (but not final) thoughts on the D.C. experience …

  • TMR had a booth. We were tricky to find, but you all made it over. Thank you for that.
  • And it is really nice to have a little bit of extra leg room behind the counter. So, that was a plus on the booth situation.
  • Nell McCabe and I made it in on Thursday, with just enough time to make it to the TMR table for the afternoon. Kinda cool, though, to see who was on our flight out of STL: Scott Cairns, Gabe Fried, and Rodney Jones.  A cornacopia of poetry!
  • Washington DC has Dunkin’ Donuts.  This made me really, really, really happy.
  • Really great to see fellow editor friends that I met for the first time at AWP in Denver (Tyler, Andrea, Carolyn, Cara: yo!), as well as a couple of people brand spankin’ new to me: Cheston Knapp over at Tin House, Christopher Boucher at Post Road, Tanya Rey east at One Story, Jim May down country at New South, and what felt like the entire crew at The Fourth River (you guys are friendly!), just to name a few.
  • I’m blanking on the name, but the little French joint on Connecticut Avenue was really tasty.
  • TMR’s favorite dive bar was Toledo Lounge. Right, sailor?
  • I want to apologize to that one guy I was really rude to at our table. We were talking for a few minutes – he was a Mizzou grad a few years ago – and it was a pleasant conversation, but from the corner of my eye, I saw my dear friend Stacey Brown. I thought Stacey had already left town. I hadn’t seen Stacey in months. So, being the last day of the conference and my brain a wee bit fried, I just held up a hand and said “I’m sorry” and bolted – no, really, full speed – after Stacey. So, huh, Mizzou grad, whoever you are, um, my bad.
  • Stacey Brown, by the way, is doing great!
  • Even with all the signs up, I still have trouble with the rear exit of the Marriott, where I was on the third floor (really?) and took the elevator to the eighth floor (huh?) to leave the building on the street level (now I’m confused) to walk across the street to the Omni. Not sure how that works.
  • But it was a good thing that I did because I was on a panel at the Omni. At the invitation of Amber Withycombe of Witness, I was on “Change or Die: How Established Print Journals are Adapting to Life on the Internet”, along with fellow editors Christina Thompson (Harvard Review), Tyler Meier (Kenyon Review), and Andrew Ciotola (West Branch). Independently, from people I did not know, I was told it was the best panel in the history of the conference. Okay, I made that up. But if you missed it, here’s a little knowledge.
  • My favorite part of staying at the Marriott: the free shampoo in the bathroom was scented “Orange Ginger.” Just like me! I’m an “orange ginger”! Nice!
  • We had many, many people come by our table and say thanks. We work really hard to respond to our submitters with something more than just a form rejection letter, and I remain surprised by how much that matters to so many of the writers who came by the table to speak to us. It’s good to know that it means something. And, naturally, we will keep that up. Big thanks to everyone who swung by and took five minutes to meet us and say hello. It’s one of the best things about the whole conference, meeting the people that make your magazine work.
  • I craved fruit at one point, and even though the coffee line was really long (note: one of our staffers has already razed me this morning about how much coffee I drink. To which I had no snappy response), and even though I knew strawberries were out of season, and even though it cost something like, I dunno, $17 or something, I tried the strawberries. This was a huge mistake.
  • Forklift, Ohio had a gigantic fork at their table.  Best delightfully odd thing I saw at a table this year.
  • Andrea Drygas remains awesome.
  • Every year, there are old friends I cannot seem to catch up with, no matter what we do. And yet, there are people that I have never met before that I see everywhere. This year, I ran into D.A. Powell and Tom Barbash repeatedly, two terrific writers who are kind, funny, and easy to talk, making our multiple run-ins throughout the conference a lot of fun. Great to meet you both!
  • Don’t know about you guys, but being at the conference really makes me want to write. You know?
  • One complaint about the DC Metro: could you make the train lines a little bit more distinguishable? So that morons like me don’t hop on the wrong line? You can, D.C.? Great!
  • I have a ton of other thoughts and shout outs, but let’s keep this post short(er).  So, finally, a big thanks to the entire TMR crew for everything you did this weekend: Katy Didden for going not just the extra mile but extra time zones and continents with her time and effort for TMR; Austin Segrest, representing us at the table and the off-site events; Claire McQuerry for driving two days to get to DC because she’s unstoppable like that; Rob Foreman, keeping the balancing act going, Joanna Eleftheriou, Gordon Sauer, and John Nieves; Dedra Earl for directing traffic from our home base; Nell McCabe for being my travel companion, putting up with my *#$^, and letting the world know about textBOX; and all the others who I am terrible for forgetting.  We were all under quite a bit of stress to get to DC in the first place, and you all pulled together to make TMR jump. Thank you, thank you, thank you (“you’re far too kind!”)
Michael Nye is the managing editor of The Missouri Review