Wednesday, March 4, 2020

San Antonio, AWP, and the Night Erin Pringle runs from Web House to The Cove

Texas Presses at the Cove: AWP Offsite Reading,
San Antonio, TX
Right now, there is a huge writers' conference happening in San Antonio. It's the Associated Writing Programs conference, or AWP. It's an annual carnival of writers, books, readings, panels, wine, presses, new books, graduate students, writing professors, and existential crisis set in hotels large enough to have multiple conference rooms and the aura of business meetings that seem at odds with a writer's general aim to take out the knees of capitalism (or, one of my smaller but no-less-pressing aims).

It's mainly attended by university people--writing professors and creative writing students, and literary journals and presses that are also, usually, housed in universities or connected in some way to them. That's the book-fair portion, set in an arena-sized room sprawling with folding tables, free samples, and women in scarves and nose rings, men in beards and plaid, and the newest older generation of professors in jeans and T-shirts who've published many books but seem that they, too, would be happier at a baseball game than here. But here we are, and here they are, and there is where I'll be on Friday.

Awst Press Logo,
Austin, TX
On Friday, I'll stand still for a bit at the Awst Press table. There will be copies of Hezada! I Miss You for sale. I will sign copies for those who might be interested. I will try to interest people. I will swallow despair and the thoughts of death that find me whenever I'm in crowds of people delineated by folding tables.

- If you're already at the conference, stop by between 10 AM and 11 AM
- Awst is at Table #1522 with Deep Vellum.

The best aspect of AWP is after the day's schedule of events are over, and parties are thrown all over the city by presses and magazines. Usually, the press will have their writers share work from the newest book. Magazines will find contributors to past issues to read. Hundreds of invitations are handed out. Then, at coffee shops, bars, and restaurants all over the city-of-the-year, writers stand at microphones or in corners reading their work, drinking beer, or spilling back onto the sidewalk to find the next party-reading they wanted to catch or overheard someone saying that they should see.

On Friday night, I'll be moving between two parties.
  • The first is with Awst at Web House. I'll be reading from Hezada! at 5:15
  • The second is with the Willow Springs portion of a reading shared by them, Bloord Orange Review, and Fugue. I'll run to The Cove in order to read sometime between 6 and 8 PM.
AWP Offsite Reading: San Antonio, TX

What I Remember about San Antonio
Although I lived in San Marcos for seven years, and the drive from there to San Antonio is only fifty minutes or so, I visited enough times to tell you about each one. The first time I went to San Antonio was with my best friend Alexa when we'd driven down to Texas to try to find an apartment for me. We went to the art museum and ate at Earl Abel's. From time to time, I run across the empty matchbook from that diner. It was a dusty place. Old-time touristy but with a feeling of abandonment. We loved it.

Another summer, now living in San Marcos, I would drive two or three times a week to San Antonio to teach piano to children at daycares. Much like the tennis coaching I now do, I would heft a large key-board and bag of music and activities from the car to the playroom and wait for my students to join me. It would be in this job that I'd learn how important it is to say aloud to a teacher that something is hard. A small girl I adored said just this when trying to play one note and then another.

- This is hard, she said.
- I paused. The world glowed with sense.
- Yes, I said. It is hard.
- And hearing that, she nodded, and we tried again. Since then, I've tried to vocalize the difficulty of learning for all of my students, whether they were learning half notes in a preschool or thesis statements in a college classroom.

The other times I went to San Antonio would be with visitors, usually. To take my mother to the Alamo, then up the River Walk, both beautiful and famous. We'd do it again with my friends Ashley and Ryan. I'd buy a ring in a souvenir shop for twenty dollars and tell my future husband that this is the ring I wanted, which I did because it was beautiful and shaped like a flower. It lasted as long as beautiful costume jewelry from souvenir shops last. But I still have it, no matter.

We went to see The Magic Flute at the San Antonio Opera House. Jeremy had a cold, and we'd stuffed our pockets with cough drops.

We drove again to visit the art museum, to see the Edward Gorey exhibit. (He would illustrate even the envelopes of letters he wrote to his mother, beautifully.)

We walked through a children's museum. My general memories are taxidermy animals in glass exhibits and recorded voices imparting facts. I set part of a story here. Sanctuary, in The Floating Order.

When my college friend Natalie would join the air force, she was stationed in San Antonio, and we met there once. I have a picture from then, of her eating a sandwich at the coffee shop. Surely, we walked the river, too. Talking. She told me she was gay. It would be ten more years before I told myself, then her, the same thing. (Natalie, Alexa, and I took the same class together in undergrad at Indiana State University--for those of you following these stories I tell of my life.)

Another time, it seems we wove the looping interstates to San Antonio and landed again in the center, near the Alamo, but wandered the old hotels that carried pictures of the past on their walls.

It will be good to return, now to show our Henry through this city, and to take Hezada! too, first to Web House, then to The Cove, and then in my bag back to the San Antonio KOA where my family is playing ping-pong or walking about or perhaps sleeps already in the small, familiar KOA cabin that most always mean I have a new book and am far from where I now live.

But, luckily, this time, I'll be close to where I live in my memory because, like every ghost, I once lived in this place and sometimes visit.