Although Potomac Review took a breather this year from the hectic booth-sitting that is AWP, our grad intern Amanda decided to attend. Here’s her take on the first two days…

I’ve never seen such a condensed population of messenger-bags and plastic-framed glasses. The people who sport such things (me included) have been shuffling from panel to panel all day, further shredding the bottoms of our jeans beneath the heels of our greying Converse sneakers and lace-up loafers.

It’s not like I imagined it would be. From the way all the writers back home talked it up–at the Potomac Review, or on the blogs of other lit mags even–I got the picture that this would be a huge party, that there would be explosions of ideas and expressions of writerly camaraderie not to mention sex in the convention center bathroom stalls and french kissing in iambic pentameter. Maybe I’m not hanging with the right people, but it’s been quiet. Really quiet.

Instead it feels to me like everyone is watching everyone. Before the last panel I attended, I took a moment to survey the people around me and was met with the gaze of four other people who appeared to be doing the same thing. Instead of looking at your face, they’re staring at your midsection, trying to read the name and affiliation printed on your badge. Everyone is looking for the next person they want to meet, and a lot of people keep themselves busy pretending that they are that person.

The panels themselves are okay. A little odd. I attended one on writing in prisons, and one about “ellipsis–using negative space in fiction” which basically just involved a man shouting “dot dot dot dot dot” at the audience for a half hour. In one, a girl the row behind me was clipping her nails. I learned early on that the chairs near the doors are the most valuable. I’ve slipped in and out of up to three panels in one session, which felt sort of like trying to see more than one movie on a single ticket, and gave me a bit of an adrenaline rush. So far the information has been rather shallow.

Last night I met up with the dog ryan (and also his owner Kirk Nesset). We listened to Michael Chabon (who was fabulous) and drunk writers proclaiming that the secret to writing is “three beers and jesus” (also fabulous).

And that brings us to today, which should, I guess, be more of the same. Not sure yet how I feel about that.