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This is AWP

David Haynes, Heather Muller, and Jeanette Winterson, AWP 2013

David Haynes, Heather Muller, and Jeanette Winterson, AWP 2013

Iwas tempted to write a post comparing and contrasting some of the…problems of a large literary conference with a transcendent event that I attended on Friday afternoon. But that would violate the spirit that is Jeanette Winterson.

Ms. Winterson’s co-presenter was unable to get to Boston because of the weather, so Jeanette agreed to take the stage on her own. Shunning the podium, she stepped to the lip of the stage and passionately addressed the auditorium about the necessity of being good literary citizens. She was brilliant, reading from her amazing memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal, demonstrating through her warmth and wisdom that it is possible for any of us to be in the world in a generous way. Genuinely one of the finest presentations by an artist I have ever seen.

Post reading, Heather and I were to have dinner with Jeanette. We waited patiently as she greeted her readers, all of whom were as moved as we were. Forty-five minutes in, she sent a message to us: she’d be a while. She intended to speak with every member of that audience personally, to take the time to hear every voice, to pose for pictures, to offer what she could of her own time and energy.

“It will be a while,” she told us, “and I’m afraid I may be a little tired.”

There were still over 60 people in line.

We understood. So we took our picture with her—she pulling us in closer, to her and to each other.

This is the spirit of AWP.


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