AWP it happened.

So AWP holy fucking shit.

Let me say first of all that even though I missed out on a lot what I did do was great.

Also let me say I may never go again.

I completely underestimated the depths of my anxiety. I was nervous but determined. First day of panels I got there a bit late and was in a jam packed panel.

I’m not really clausterphobic but I did start to panic a little. I went in the hall to listen and sat down to catch my breath.

After I stood in line with some other folks to say hello to Roxane Gay. Holy shit. I managed not to just start yelling HI I LOVE YOU SO MUCH and she was very nice to me and then I had to run off.

Headed for my second panel and got lost. I had that sudden new kid at school oh shit I’m late and everyone is gonna hate me.

So I ducked into a panel with CLMP, tin House and some other folks. That was cool I learned some stuff.

Now, I should confess here that when I panic I am very good at hiding it. I hate crying so it all goes inside (which is bad of course) and I was bottling a bit and freaked out.

Wandered into the book fair which was a mistake. It was so huge and a few people recognized me by name and said nice things about my work at which point I started freaking out more. By then I was sweating anxiety panic sweat and my bowels were rumbling ominously.

I saw Roxane again and fondled Pank Merchandise. I stood next to Kyle Minor for a minute at the Pank booth but was too shy to say hello.

I met some folks who have published me, some really nice presses and did some fun things including writing a postcard for another author.

And then I tried to go to another panel and got lost again and BOOM panic attack. Mine have the feature where I get glassy eyed and feel like I am going to shit my pants and I had to go home.

I went for a long walk, trying to walk off my belly cramps so I could go to the Yes, yes reading/party.

No go I went home and pretty much went right to bed.

Friday was my reading with HEAT. The morning started off with more anxiety shits, late getting out the door. We made it and I finally got to meet Anna March and I got to hug my friends Dena and Milcah. I think I spotted Antonia Crane and some other amazing folks.

We couldn’t stay because the chairs were giving us both major back spasms.

The reading part was the easiest. I was nervous and felt a bit out of place with all these other authors with books out and important things. I did get a nice compliment outside.

I had to miss another reading/party because I was supposed to be interviewed for a column writer position at an as yet unlaunched site but she left town so I dunno.

Overall I was just really not ready.

If I go again I will be properly medicated or go with someone I know who can lead me around when I freak out. My guts still hurt but I guess I sort of succeeded. I hope I didn’t look as insane as I felt. In didn’t say anything embarrassing in front of people I admire. AND I got hugged by a very adorable South East Asian writer because YAY POC.

I may or may not do it again. I’d like to give it another shot and really experience more of it. I’m on the fence.

So there you have it. Shannon went, freaked, pooped and read.

About Shannon Barber

I am a strange little woman who likes pie. View all posts by Shannon Barber

12 responses to “AWP it happened.

  • iheartfailure

    I think there should be AWP sherpas you can hire to guide folks around and prevent them from blowing their wad on the bookfair.

  • Helena Handbasket

    Give me a month heads up and I will fly out and go with you next year. I’m an old pro at large conferences now.

  • Kyle Minor

    You should have said hello. I would have been glad to meet you.

  • tapati

    I am glad you’re able to convey what it’s like to attend while having panic attacks and anxiety because I would bet this happens to a lot of writers who go to or even avoid these conferences for that reason. I think organizers need to take this into consideration. Sci fi cons, while by no means perfect, seem to have more awareness that there are a variety of accommodations needed so more people can attend. Mind you I haven’t gone but I hear about some of the things they do.

    One thing that would be helpful is a quiet room with reduced lighting and comfy chairs for people who need to do some breathing or meditation before they go back out into the land of noise and people. Another would be providing some comfy chairs for people with back problems or even enabling you to check out back support cushions. Visible people to help those who are lost would also be great. I don’t know how many staff people they had.

    There are a large number of writers who have gravitated to a field where they could be home, alone, so I think your experience is fairly common. It may not be talked about much in our ableist society but I know they’re out there.

    I am so glad you got to read and meet some amazing people. You may have not felt ready yet you coped. And the real issue was, were they ready for you? Because part of the responsibility for your experience there rests with the conference organizers in creating and then communicating about accessibility. I find that these days I have to have some conversations with whoever is in charge of accommodations for people with disabilities in advance of my going to anything. That made the NASA Social event something I could do. Otherwise I would have had to give up part way through.

  • tapati

    Just for contrast, here is one of the better sci fi/fantasy conferences’ disability accommodations page vs. AWP:

    http://wiscon.info/access.php

    https://www.awpwriter.org/store/disability_statement

    Quite a difference!

    Perhaps there hasn’t been as much of a push from participants for AWP to change because there is pressure to look “professional,” whatever that really means. Just as in the workplace, people hesitate to deal with ableism and stigma. I don’t know.

  • How to Annoy the Author in Ten easy steps. | About that Writing thing.

    […] spite of my anxiety fueled disco freakout at AWP (read about it here) I did actually make some business related contacts. I’m going to try not to be indelicate […]

  • Liebster Award | About that Writing thing.

    […] went to my first one this year. It was way more intense than I expected and I had a series of massive panic attacks, almost pooped my pants (YAY anxiety) but I did a reading and it was great. I also met Roxane Gay […]

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