Chicago, Conventions & Conferences, Travel

AWP 2012 Conference – Chicago

The Palmer House Hilton
The lobby of the Palmer House Hilton in downtown Chicago - Image via Wikipedia

Well, I returned safely from my quick two days at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs’ 2012 Conference and Book Fair in Chicago. The conference was a whirlwind of activity with over 10,000 attendees filling ballrooms at both the Chicago Hilton and the Palmer House Hilton in downtown Windy City.

I came home with a good 10 – 15 pages of notes on the sessions I attended at the conference, so there’s no way I will hit it all in one blog post. But I do have a lot of useful information I’d like to share with my readers, so I think I will just touch on some of the surface fluff for today and then do a series of posts discussing the down and dirty writing stuff I picked up.

Since I wasn’t able to make it to Chicago until Friday afternoon (I was teaching a class Friday morning,) they were all out of AWP tote bags and conference programs by the time I arrived. So, I was a little disoriented trying to find my way around. By the way, I’d love to get my hands on a program still, so if you went and happen to have an extra one, I’d gladly take it off your hands!

I went to a couple of sessions Friday and then went out to eat with a professor and one of her friends at the Tamarind (I’m planning a restaurant review blog post too, so stay tuned for more info on that) before heading back to my room for the night. 

The Windy City definitely lived up to its name this weekend. I missed the last shuttle back to my hotel Friday night and ended up walking something like 10 blocks back to my room at the Hampton Majestic, in dress shoes no less. Why I didn’t bother to bring a hat and scarf is beyond me. Between my aching feet and frozen hands, I couldn’t wait to hop in the huge bathtub in my room!

My room at the Hampton Majestic
This was my room at the Hampton Majestic. I'd love to steal that couch!

My stay at the Hampton Majestic was an interesting one. My room on the 16th floor was pretty awesome, and I wish I’d been able to spend more time in it. But, there was no exhaust fan in the bathroom, and me without my fan, so… well, let’s just say it took me awhile to fall asleep without my fan. When I did get to sleep finally, I was out cold. That is, until around 1:00 a.m. when a loud crashing noise startled me awake.

For a minute there, I thought someone was in my room. Then I thought maybe the ice bucket had fallen off the cabinet in the kitchenette somehow. I got up, looked around, and finally found the culprit. A large plastic panel had fallen off the back of the television and clattered against the wall and the dresser on its way to the floor. I went back to bed but had a hard time getting back to sleep.

The view from my 16th floor room at the Hampton Majestic
This is the view from my 16th floor room at the Hampton Majestic.

The next morning, I had a cold buttered biscuit (the gravy was congealed into wallpaper paste by the time I got downstairs to the lobby for my complementary breakfast) and a bowl of pineapple for breakfast before checking out. I told the desk clerk about the TV falling apart in my room in the middle of the night, expecting her to maybe knock $20 off my bill. But, she surprised me by refunding the entire cost of the room (except parking, you’ll never get out of paying parking in downtown Chicago!) So, despite a few minor inconveniences, the Hampton Majestic was an overall win. I would definitely stay there again. In fact, the location is so convenient to the theater district, I’m thinking a weekend trip to see a show just might be in the cards for me at some point.

Saturday morning, it was back to the Chicago Hilton for a few more sessions and a nice jog around the book fair. I had some interesting conversations with people from a variety of writing programs and organizations across the country. All in all, I would say it was a productive weekend. I brought home a lot of great material and ideas for things I want to try: changes I want to make to my website, new literary journals I want to submit some of my short stories and poems to, stuff like that. I have a lot of info I want to share with you in the coming days (or even weeks, I have so much!) so be sure to come back.

Did you make it to the 2012 AWP Conference and Book Fair? Which sessions did you attend, and what did you learn?

~Mandy Webster

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