There was an official AWP dance party last night. I didn’t go to that, but I certainly heard some rock and roll.
Jhumpa Lahiri and Junot Diaz are rock stars of the literary world and it was incredible to see them live.
Thursday night, Jhumpa was the keynote speaker. She even had her own opening act, which was hard to listen to as I was anxious to hear her.
She spoke about how to answer the question “Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?”
Admittedly, I was hoping to hear her read fiction – thinking it was a “reading” not a “keynote speech.” But once I realized she wouldn’t be reading, I sat back and was entranced with her personal story about moving from a childhood without possessing many books to, having just won the Pulitzer Prize, listening to her father worry that this writing thing might not be able to support her.
When she was finished, the crowd applauded thunderously and with sincere appreciation. Many stood for a standing ovation but most quickly bolted to their feet to get in line for her to sign their book. I couldn’t bear to wait in line behind two hundred people so I opted for the bar with some friends.
Last night Junot Diaz read two stories and he brought the house down.
If I can’t BE Junot, I wish I could have a speck of his talent – how he brings together riotous humor, pain, and honesty in a way that has me catch my breath between laughing and crying.
The line for his signing was even longer than for Jhumpa. At this point in the conference I could not stand in line nor hit the bar.
I will write more later about Junot’s reading but now off to another panel this morning!