At this point, I think writing an exhaustive breakdown of the Chicago trip probably isn't worth it. So, the short version is this:
The Amtrak ride up to Chicago was great and really comfortable. I did a lot of reading and writing. AWP was amazing and inspirational (more on that in a second) and seeing Margaret Atwood was totally worth the trip by itself. I bought lots of records and books and my checked luggage was 49 pounds. Erin, Mike, and I ate a lot of amazing food (pastries, popcorn, hot dogs, tacos, Ethiopian, waffles, cheese, sausage, quince jelly) and I drank a magnum of pink moscato champagne over the course of three evenings, because I'm classy. I thanked God every day for Chicago's freakishly warm winter that ensured I did not have to deal with anything except the smallest of snow flurries during my visit. I do not deal well with extreme cold. It was a pretty perfect trip, getting to see two of my best friends (twice in one year!) and visiting one of my favorite cities.
|Posing with a festive cow in my cat dress|
|Giant stack of lit mags I hauled home|
|Hot dogs! Chili cheese (T) and Chicago-style (B)|
Onto the inspirational part of AWP. Two of the goals on my 101 in 1001 list are to submit seven poems for publication and write two non-fiction pieces. I wrote those goals and then avoided them. Mostly because I just didn't feel like a writer anymore. Writing without a goal felt pointless and the goal of publication felt...silly. Calling myself a writer just because I have a BA in creative writing felt overblown to me. Egotistical. Obviously, this is partly an issue of semantics, but there it is.
AWP inspired me to write again. Being around other writers, talking to them, reading them, talking to people who run lit mags...all of it reminded me of how happy writing creatively makes me. I miss crafting poems, connecting moments for non-fiction pieces, writing in a non-academic way. I went around talking to a number of lit mag representatives and found that a lot of them are looking to publish more non-fiction. I got copies of journals and I've been reading them. Last night, I finally had a break in my mental block and I wrote for almost two straight hours. At the end, I had two non-fiction pieces and two poems. All in need of editing, but that's more creative writing than I've done in the past four years.
I made some decisions while I was at AWP. Or, if you prefer, confirmations. I'm going to keep reading and writing non-fiction pieces. I am going to send them to various outlets and try to get published. I want to eventually get good enough and have enough of a reputation to put together a small collection, to be published by a small publishing house. I would also like to publish another (non-creative writing) book, but that's a topic I'm a little too nervous to talk about just yet. :) I want to start writing more, creatively and for hire. To that end, I've emailed my editor at GoodNola and ended my self-imposed hiatus. I've put out feelers (and gotten some responses) about doing paid freelancing.
And, I am revamping this blog. I've already purchased a domain name and I'm in the process of moving the blog to Wordpress. Not all of the entries here will be moved there--some are much too personal for the more public face I want for the new blog. I want to start updating at least twice a week and, ideally, daily. I need to be writing more in general if I want to write more creatively. Right now, my words still feel hampered. I have difficulty expressing my more abstract thoughts sometimes and I fall back on words like "kind of" and "just" that really don't express anything. Writing more helps refine that sort of thing. I also want my name out there in a more public way so I have a public face to point to if I pursue publishing.
All of this is a little scary. I've mentioned here before that I hadn't really considered a life outside of academia. That's always been my goal. That goal has to be reconsidered now, not just because of Ph.D programs, not just because of the terrible economy for academics, but because it has slowly dawned on me that teaching English may not be what I want to do with the rest of my life. It isn't what I want to do anymore. There's no set path ahead anymore. So, for now, I'm going to pursue those things that make me happy and see where that takes me.