So…I actually did go to AWP. Let’s talk about that.

Dear Reader,

With all this COVID-19 business, let’s concentrate on something else.

I went to AWP this year! Association of Writers and Writing Programs for you folks who didn’t know.

This year it was in San Antonio and while the virus scared half the conference, I decided to go. Also my doctor said it’d be okay and to keep my hands clean. I’m so glad I listened because that was probably one of the last times I’ll be able to travel for a bit.

I don’t have very many pictures of the conference because, well, I was just too busy and excited to be there.

However, I do want to talk about the reading I did while I was there.

I was part of the One Poem Festival hosted by the San Antonio Library’s Latino Collection and organized by Canto Mundo, Letra Latinas, Macondo and an assist by Nuestra Palabra and Tintero Projects.

There was some controversy with this reading. I wasn’t one of the original readers for this thing.

I was granted a spot when my friend Lupe Mendez offered me his. This was as a way to rectify that there were not any Afro Latinos on the line up.

Me, wearing the best shirt I own, as I prepare to read at the One Poem Festival

I could go on and go on a rant about this but I want to focus on the good of this. There was a lesson learned here and I am excited to see what the organizations do after this lesson learned.

I read something I was working on for my collection and it was well received. I was excited when Norma Cantu herself said she loved my work!

Me?

Yes, me.

I have to remember that I’m a writer.

Yes, that constant reminder that I actually sit down and put words to paper (or screen) and that people read them. Or they hear me during one of these readings. Or they meet me at one of these conferences.

It’s strange to think that people outside of my inner circle know who I am and what I do. But hey, I have a blog that folks reads so why is this strange?

It’s was like this at AWP. It was only a fraction of what it was that it was like being seen. Seen. Yes, that’s the word I want to use for how this AWP went.

I felt seen in so many different ways.

In the African Diaspora Caucus, I felt like I took off an armor. I was seen by people who have never met me but whose experiences were so similar to mine. We were brothers and sisters in that room and I loved every second of it.

In the book fair, I felt seen. Since so many panels were canceled, I spent more time in the book fair. There I met so many new people and had actual conversations with people. Actual beginning middle and ends of conversations, not just chit chat. I felt seen as a person.

While I was at the book fair, I was approach by a friend to help with a panel since several of them did not come. I felt seen because literally everyone was looking at me but also, I was able to talk about the topic, diversity in publishing, from the top of my head.

How’s that for the power of reading!

From there, I met a new friend who I spent the afternoon with just talking about books. One book lover to another book lover. And I felt seen. I hope she did too. Book lovers will save the publishing industry. We don’t know how that will happen yet but it will.

In all these ways, I felt seen. And in all these ways, if the conference was at full strength, I wouldn’t have felt seen.

That’s the power of feeling seen. It’s the difference between being careful and being timid — only one of those are being done as a form of protection. And I loved being seen and making connections and learning so many things this year in San Antonio.

My only regret is that so many other people didn’t get a chance to be seen this way.

But then it wouldn’t be the same, would it?

The light in me sees the light in you,

-Icess

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