The full impact of AWP and the publication of Welcome, Anybody didn’t really hit me until I turned into our neighborhood after driving home from Chicago.

It wasn’t just being up since 6 a.m. that morning. Or the 6-hour drive. Or missing my family. It was all that plus feeling like I had just left the prom after being crowned queen.

Believe me, that sounds just as silly in my head as it does in writing, but I don’t have a better analogy.

Driving into Chicago, moments before realizing that the exit I needed was closed.

AWP was simply joyous and surreal. What an experience to be able to say to strangers new friends “I just had my first book published” and for them to be delighted for me AND buy a copy then and there.

I got to meet and hang out with many of my fellow Press 53ers. I am honored to be in such fine company. We can no longer call Press 53 a “small” independent press. Independent yes, but no longer small.

There were 16 Press 53 authors at AWP2012 – on panels, giving readings, selling their books. And nearly everyone I talked to at the bookfair had heard of and was impressed by Press 53 and its publisher Kevin Morgan Watson.

I was also delighted to hear readings by and meet in person some extraordinary writers including Jennifer Egan, Darin Strauss, and Bonnie Jo Campbell. I was star struck yet cognizant enough to give each of them copies of Welcome, Anybody – just in case…of what, I don’t know.

As I turned the corner into my neighborhood, I burst into tears. A cumulative reaction, I think, to all things book-related.

In February, when I received the box filled with my copies of Welcome, Anybody, I didn’t have the response I expected (uncontrollable sobbing). Instead, relief swept over me. The books were here, in my hand.

Done.

I would no longer talk about the book in future tense. And I would no longer have to edit/rewrite/look at these stories again – except for reading them FROM A PUBLISHED BOOK!

I arrived home exhausted, both physically and emotionally, at about 9 p.m. I hugged my family and became very weepy and remained so until about 3 a.m. when I finally fell asleep.

The next day, I realized what I was feeling: this is what it feels like when dreams come true.