My friend emailed me the other day to ask if I wanted to share a hotel room for the AWP conference in Washington, DC. I wasn’t surprised. Writers are generally not the most financially successful folks (unless you are, perhaps, JK Rowling, Stephanie Meyers, Stephen King, John Grishom, Nora Roberts, Danielle Steele…Okay, maybe there are actually quite a lot of folks who make a very solid living writing something [no comment on quality here], but I am not yet one of them and neither is my friend. Yet.)
I had already planned to attend AWP this year because it’s close enough that I won’t have to fly. I had somehow convinced myself that the flight was the most expensive part. Um, no. Given the number of frequent flyer miles I accrue every year for my job, I think it’s probably safe to say that I could probably fly for free. The conference registration fee and the hotel room rate will definitely surpass the cost of a flight. So why have I put off attending until this year?
Because I still feel like a fraud when I call myself a writer. It’s not my primary job. It’s barely my secondary job. It still feels like a hobby. In the U.S., we identify ourselves most predominantly by our source of income.
“So, Bob, tell me about yourself.”
“Well, Susan, I’m a teacher/bank teller/construction worker/porn star/doctor/truck driver/writer…”
I have another job, a full-time gig that pays my mortgage and is also rather satisfying. So when people ask about myself, I’m first an editorial manager for an educational non-profit, and then I’m a writer. But when I’m surrounded by a posse of other writers, everything else fades into the background, and I am first and foremost, a writer. Because writing is a very solitary occupation, I don’t often find myself in a posse of writers.
And so, AWP is exactly what I need. A once-a-year gathering of an enormous writing posse to reminder that I am, in fact, a writer.
The hotel room is booked. The conference registration is complete. Now if I could just get this damn story published…