There is an energy at AWP I don’t understand.
I tap into it as soon as I first arrive in the bookfair. It enables me to stay up 3 nights straight until 4:30 in the morning. It enables my feet to withstand miles upon miles of walking and hours upon hours of standing. It enables my liver to oxidize more alcohol than I should ever ask it to, my throat to endure more whooping and laughter and conversation than its cords were ever built for.
It’s the books and the readings and the panels, sure. Ten thousand people who care about the same thing in the same place creates a glow. But it’s also all my friends being there, a sense of belonging I feel few other places ever. It’s knowing I won’t see the vast majority of them for another year.
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For the last 2-3 months, I’ve had few fucks to give about books. Every single Vouched table or post I’ve done since early December has had to push through a wall of misanthropic inner monologue, of guilting myself out of obligation to keep caring about Vouched and words and people. The effort to get me to show up was huge, and I can only thank Tyler, Layne, and Ashley for wanting to hang out at the last few Vouched tables, for giving me the reason and energy beyond a table of books to keep showing up.
If I’ve vouched something of yours these past few months, I want to tell you it was no small thing for me to have loved and enjoyed your work enough to cough out a couple hundred words here and maybe tweet or post about it on facebook to draw some traffic to your work.
Sometimes what we love takes more energy from us than it gives. If we can’t find energy elsewhere to reallocate to what is draining us, burn out happens. This happens no matter how much you love someone or something. Sometimes, the more you love something the quicker you burn out, because you naturally give more to that love and sometimes that love can’t give back in equal amounts. Sometimes, this is no one’s fault. Sometimes this is no one’s fault but our own.
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Books can’t give us anything we aren’t willing or able to give to them. If you’re in the business of writing, publishing, or bookselling, and you forget this, God help you. God help us all.
For some people, books can sustain them. If you are one of these people, fuck you. I envy you in a way you can never understand. For me, it’s the people behind the books. I have to make it about people. Or rather, 25% the books, 75% the people. I love you people, because let’s face it: I don’t always love the books, and I feel terrible about that because I want to love them; you, a person I love, poured yourself into this thing. But I hope it’s enough that I love you.
I love my contributors here at Vouched, the publishers I work with. I love Jim and the Big Car crew for giving me a space to hold readings and being excited to work with me. I love the authors whose books I sell. I love the people who’ve believed in Vouched from the start: Roxane and Adam and Bell and Burch and Wickett and Young and Heavener and Housely. The people I get to see once a year at best, I love you: Koski, Straub, Seigel, Sirois, xTx, Jesus, Etter, Gaudry, Tyler, Salesses, McNamara: I am always so glad and dumb to see you. New friends: Devan, Boots, Hannan, the Akron crew, KMA, Kleinburg: I’ve cried 9 times since we left. And my old BSU profs who believe so much in Vouched: Neely, Lovelace, Christman, Scott, Barrett, Davis: thank you, thank you, thank you.
It is all of you, more than your books, that sustain me. I eat so very little at AWP, but feel full to bursting.
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I miss buying your books. Last week, KMA Sullivan offered me a free review copy of I Don’t Mind If You’re Feeling Alone by Thomas Patrick Levy, a beautiful beautiful book, and I almost cried, I said, “Please let me buy this book.”
I’m sorry if this sounds ungrateful. The review copies that show up on my doorstep, thank you thank you, but I can’t take them anymore. I am drowning in them.
God, that sounds so ungrateful, and I’m sorry, I really do appreciate them so much, but they’ve become 2 entire shelves full of guilt: guilt that I’m a slow reader, guilt that I want to love them all but don’t, guilt that I have bought very, very few books this past year, books that I’ve wanted so much to buy, but haven’t been able to justify because I have 2 shelves full of books at home waiting to be read.
Please let me buy your books again, or at least swap it for one of my own (I have one now, and it’s incredible, this small wonderful thing). I miss it so much.
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I already miss you so much.
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I have no pictures of AWP except the one up there from the Literature Party, compliments of Glitter Guts. I can’t thank the table team enough for their work Friday Night. I can’t thank Zach and Gene and Adam for letting us be a part of that event. That night, like the rest of the weekend, needs no pictures. I brought my camera. I could’ve taken hundreds of them, but what’s the point. I’ll remember you all always.
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I’ve woken early every morning since returning from Chicago. I have things to do. I have Vouched Presents: Heather Christle, Ben Hersey, and Tyler Gobble next week. I have the Over the Top Reading Tour next month. I have to contact Housely and book a flight to DC for the Conversations conference. I have to unpack.
I have energy to give. Thank you.