It's funny, I was thinking about 5 years ago, the last time the conference hit town and how terribly overwheming it all was. The staggering whirl of panels, readings, and book fair chaos. For three days straight I was running all over the place with too much to possibly do in such a short span of time. The press itself, was still rather in its imfancy, I had managed only weeks before to put together the copies of Bloody Mary, our trial run, and was carrying it around, should the opportunity to thrust it into someone's hand arise. I was also armed with a bunch of wicked alice postcards I kept rescuing from beneath piles of similar paraphanalia on the catch-all tables (pretty much any available surface). I think I may have even left a couple in the women's restroom. I went to panels on chapbook publishing, blogging, electronic poetry. I weighed myself down with pretty much any freebie I could get my grubby hands on. I was exhausted by the end--too much information, too much inspiration, too many wheels set spinning in my head.
I was also so in awe and so excited at the mere idea of that many writers in one place, loitering in the hotel lobby, filling up the restaurants and bars, waiting on corners with their very recognizeable totebag. It made me feel like part of a profession, like doctors or dentists. Sure, I knew lots of writers, but it always felt for me like some little illegitimate (yet delightful) way of filling ones time, something about as professional as bird watching or fortune telling, and probably as embarassingly forthright as stripping. It was like I was suddenly part of some great, dare I say "professional", wave of practitioners. When I saw a woman on the bus with a totebag I fought the urge strike up a conversation with someone I probably wouldn't have even noticed before, like we were part of a secret club, compatriots in the good fight.
Admittedly, the second I attended in Atlanta, I was bit more seasoned, a little less shell shocked. The press had been around three years, we had published close to 20 books, and were at the point where people were really starting to be interested in what we do.. I knew more people to hang out with, and met so many more people I sorta knew from online dealings. I felt a bit more comfortable in this literary sort of skin, a little less overwhelmed with it all, though it was still a wild, exhausting, very fun ride. (It also helped that I hid behind the book fair table most of the time, stayed away from the panels, and had a defined plan of attack in my book buying spree.)
This year, you'll probably still find me hiding behind the table mostly (754/755 with Featherproof and Switchback Books), and we've published alot (seriously alot!) more books. AND, we have three brand spanking new titles making their debut, including Claire Hero's Cabinet (she will also be doing a little informal signing for us at 2:30-3:30 on Friday), Emma Bolden's The Sad Epistles, and Susan Slaviero's Apocrypha, all of which turned out lovely. We'll be running our 5 books for $20 sale real live and in person, plus, we still have limited edition of billet-doux available for pure Valentines goodness..I will also have copies of in the bird museum in tow for anyone who wants to purchase...you should stop by...