Come join us for Conversations and Connections on April 5th, in DC!
Almost exactly one year ago, I was on my way to an interview with the Minneapolis Arts Council for a position on the board. It was a nonpaying position, but the possibility of being able to influence the direction and support of the arts community in my city, no matter how tiny an influence, was too amazing a chance to pass up. My specific dream was to get more attention for the literary community in Minneapolis as a whole and bring members of the genre literary, spoken word, and “serious” literary communities together for some sort of city event. At the very least, I wanted the city to find some way to court the Associated Writing Programs to having Minneapolis as a host city some day.
I had spent a good part of the night before and part of that morning putting together my pitch, which was basically a list of things I thought Minneapolis could do to highlight the achievements of its literary artists as much as it had its visual artists and musical artists. I almost never type my notes for a speech/lecture/presentation, because I work better when I’ve handwritten my notes, and I now realized I would be giving this very professional presentation holding a couple of grubby, badly-creased pieces of notebook paper covered with scribbles. Luckily, I had scotch tape in my purse, so I began carefully taping the notes inside my otherwise-empty portfolio. This way, if I held up the portfolio while I was reading my notes, all the interviewer would see was the outside of my very professional looking portfolio notebook. If they happened to glance inside it, of course, they’d see a couple of grubby, creased pieces of lined paper taped very lopsided to either side of the book. I wasn’t sure if I’d be sitting on standing during the interview, but I hoped that either way, I’d be able to hold my portfolio up like a shield between me and the interviewer.
My skin itched from wearing too much make-up—at least more than I’m used to wearing, which is usually none—and my hair felt unusually stiff and awkward as I got off the bus and headed to City Hall. Except for when I’m teaching—which I only do for 1-day to 2-week stints at a time—I don’t work outside my house, so meeting new people doesn’t work for me. By the time I reached the big, stone steps of the building, I had eaten almost half a box of Tic-Tacs and had mentally reduced my presentation from a solid half-hour to about ten minutes. I would cut to the chase and get the hell out of there. Quick and painless, like ripping a bandage off. I would shout three things at the lady doing the interview and run right back out of the office. I would not do the meeting at all. I would type up my notes and mail them to the Arts Council anonymously.
By the time I reached the elevator, though, I had talked myself back up to giving an hour-long presentation, even though I really was only supposed to have a fifteen-minute interview. I would bombard the interviewers with ideas. I would be the crazy lady so aggressively passionate about Minneapolis’ literary scene that it would seem the most important facet of the arts community, and the Arts Council would feel ashamed that they had neglected it so much. I would not let them excuse me until I had said everything I needed to say. I would show them my notebook full of taped-in scribbles, wink like a comic-book hooker and say, “This is just the beginning. I can come up with so many more ideas!” They’d be fools not to want me on board.
I think I had settled into a happy middle ground between abject terror and rabid fundamentalism by the time I sat down for my interview. After a few minutes, though, I could tell that no matter how passionate I spoke about literature, these were visual arts people. I have found this disconnect in a lot of arts groups, where they seem to think that literary artists don’t need the same social/cultural supports that visual and musical artists do because literary artists are A) not artists, but writers, and B) get plenty of support, since you can find books in grocery stores, but you can’t buy a painting in the impulse aisle. I crammed my hour-long presentation into my allotted fifteen minutes and finished lamely with, “I think we should at least try to get the AWP Conference to come to Minneapolis.”
When I got home that night, I shrugged off my day with my customary, well, at least I tried something new, to reconcile the hours I’d spent getting downtown, going through the motion of an interview, and getting back home again. I decided to try to find some other way to try to get AWP to come to Minneapolis, since, with two kids at home, the only way I was going to get to go to AWP myself was if it was within bicycling distance from my house. I went to the AWP website to see if I could put in some sort of petition, and was amazed to find that there, right there, in the list of upcoming conferences, was Minneapolis, and for AWP 2015! I had looked at the site just a few weeks before and hadn’t seen anything about Minneapolis, but there it was.
2015 AWP Conference & Bookfair
Minneapolis Convention Center &
Hilton Minneapolis Hotel
April 8 – 11, 2015
March 21, 2014: event proposal submissions open
May 1, 2014: deadline for #AWP15 Minneapolis event proposals
Holly Day lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she teaches journalism, fiction, and publishing classes at the Loft Literary Center. She has two poetry collections, The Smell of Snow (ELJ Publishing) and Night-Light Reading for Hardworking Construction Workers (The Moon Press). Her published nonfiction books include Music Theory for Dummies, Music Composition for Dummies, Guitar All-in-One for Dummies, Walking Twin Cities, and Insider’s Guide to the TwinCities.