6:45 AM: Wash your hands for at least two minutes. Do this every 15 minutes for the rest of the day. Realize that you would now have an excuse not to shake hands with that professor from your MFA program who always turned it into a long hug. Turns out that there are some good things about the lurking Coronavirus at AWP.
7:00 AM: Drive to your local train station and pretend that you have shared intimate emotional moments with every person you see wandering around. Then purchase a breakfast that you hope won’t drip onto the shirt you will wear for the next 14 hours. This will recreate the AWP-bound realization that everyone in your writing program is on the same flight as you, and they will all be watching you eat your breakfast at the gate.
8:00 AM: Choose a seat at the station next to a stranger. Call up your least-favorite relative and make insipid conversation with them for an hour. This is your flight to AWP.
10:00 AM: Drive to your school, go into a building on campus you’ve never visited before, and wait for classes to change. Watch how most of the students happily greet each other, while you are the weirdo standing in their way, watching. This replicates your experience of checking into your hotel and registering at AWP.
10:10 AM: Stop a male student with glasses and ask them what they think about The Catcher in the Rye. Now you’ve made small talk at in the London Review of Books tote bag line at AWP.
11:00 AM: Think about a celebrity you really admire. Google their name. Keep googling until you find out something awful that they once said or did. This is like that moment when you spot your favorite author across the room at AWP, and they meet your eye briefly before looking pointedly away.
11:15 AM: Walk through the campus library, and, when you come to a new book on display, fling cold water in your face. Now you’ve recreated that AWP experience of realizing that the guy you most disliked in your MFA program has published his first book. Pick up the book and hit yourself in the face with it. He got a movie deal, too.
11:30 AM: Take a moment to jot down the idea you just had for a great new short story. Discard it after you realize “A major conference is affected by a pandemic causing the people there to feel feelings” is the same story essentially everyone at AWP is also working on.
12:00 PM: Arrange to meet two of your closest friends at your local mall’s food court for lunch. Don masks, while debating whether masks are even helpful. Deliberately choose the least-appealing food and sit at a terribly situated table. Draw lots to see which of you will: a) have a panic attack; b) burst into tears; or c) repeatedly say in a far-too-cheerful voice, “This is not as bad as I was expecting!” Lunch at AWP is complete.
1:00 PM: Return home. Tell yourself you’re going to take a short nap and be back at it in no time. It’s an AWP afternoon, after all.
4:12 PM: Arise from your nap and, bleary-eyed, walk in place as you watch TV. Stay on a channel until someone says something you don’t care for, then flip to the next. There. Now you’ve panel-hopped, just like at AWP.
4:30 PM: Drive to your nearest cultural attraction. Post on Instagram that you’re there to be #AWPAWomanProvoked. Wander through it, making notes about poems you might write, inspired by what you see. Feel free and happy and creative for the first time all day. The cultural attraction closes at 5, so your respite is soon over. Never write a single one of those poems.
5:20 PM: Drive to your local library and take out 20 books based solely on their covers. Now set a $100 bill on fire in the parking lot. There, you walked through the AWP book fair.
6:00 PM: Time for the keynote speech. Back at home, find your most uncomfortable chair and fire up that Joan Didion documentary on Netflix. You may either turn the volume up way too high or so low she’s basically mute. Check-in on Facebook, noting that you are #AWPAwesomelyWonderingAtHerProfundity. Text all of your friends to ask where they are seated. Repeatedly tell them that we all need to listen to this literary icon. Miss most of what Joan has to say.
7:15 PM: Recreate the experience of the post-AWP-keynote Q&A by going on Twitter and asking if anyone has any opinions.
7:30 PM: Drive to the nearest coffee shop and listen to your local high school’s creative writing class’s slam poetry. Cheer robustly for every single performer. Find the one who seemed most nervous and loudly proclaim that they have “Got IT!” Tell everyone you talk to that you are a writer too. Feel strangely angry after the event wraps up without anyone asking to see your work. Now you’ve gone to an off-site AWP reading.
8:30 PM: Park several blocks away from your home and walk the rest of the way in the moonlight, thinking deep thoughts about the nature of art and meaning, and also about how AWP is probably a lot more fun if you have a book deal to brag about, and no one’s freaking out about a modern-day plague.
8:50 PM: Replicate the experience of locking yourself out of your hotel room by throwing your key into the yard. Call your best friend to come over with their key and let you in. When they arrive, give them a beer, burst into tears, and say that the day has really made you question some things, and that it might be time to pursue your music instead of writing. This will recreate literally any conversation you have after 8:30 PM at AWP.
9:30 PM: Ask your best friend if they will make out with you, to nail that AWP pub-crawl vibe.
9:40 PM: After they refuse, repeatedly try to pick a fight with your best friend as if your front stoop is the back alley of a bar. Give up after they say, “But it’s Tuesday,” and “Actually, no, I don’t think we’re all going to die,” and “Don’t you have to teach tomorrow?” and “Maybe put all of this feeling into a story or something, God, I don’t know, hon, it’s just, like, a convention, right?”
9:50 PM: Pick up one of your favorite authors’ books and read a few pages. Wow, right? Imagine what you would say to them if you bumped into them in an elevator at AWP. Recollect that the chances of running into Jane Austen in an elevator at AWP are very, very small. Especially this year.
10:00 PM: Set your clock ahead so that it reads 2:00 AM. Wash your hands for another 10 minutes, then it’s time for bed, you party animal. After all, tomorrow’s another amazing day at AWP.