Emergence: Sleeping and Waking in Our Times

1. Sleepwalking

Sleepwalking is when you walk around while still asleep. Before walking, you might sit up and look confused. You might leap from your bed and walk or run frantically through the house or even out into the night. You might be desperate to escape a threat. You might talk or shout or hallucinate. Your eyes, usually open, will appear glassy. You might do things not normally done at night, often things that are crude, strange, or in the wrong place. You might urinate in a trash can, move furniture around, climb out a window. You might become hostile or violent or even homicidal. You might get in your car and drive a long distance, perhaps toward Canada. Indecent exposure and other sexual behaviors may occur. You might attack any person who tries to wake you. Men, especially, are prone to violence during these episodes. When you wake up, you might be confused, remembering only torn fragments. Or nothing. Rarely, you will recall the entire episode in excruciating detail. Sometimes, sleepwalking ends suddenly, by itself, leaving you wide awake in an awkward place. Sometimes, it lures you back to your bed—unaware you ever left it.

2. Lucid Dreaming

Lucid dreaming is when you recognize that you are dreaming, when you realize that what is happening cannot actually be happening—that this is not real life. You might be able to control, to some degree, what happens in a lucid dream: the characters, the environment, the narrative—but not always. One year before the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States of America, Chris Taylor, veteran journalist and former chief news writer for Time, wrote a column for Mashable headlined: “Hey, America, We May Be Sleepwalking into a Trump Presidency.” Taylor asked us to picture it. “Not just a vague haze of orange hair in the Oval Office,” he wrote, “but what Donald Trump would actually do with the White House between 2017 and 2021, maybe even until 2025?” Taylor then shared a series of nightmare scenarios, all of which and more have come to pass. Those nightmares, he said, were the reason we all avoided thinking about Trump winning. Instead, we just kept sleepwalking toward it. To wake yourself from a lucid dream can be arduous. On message boards, lucid dreamers report struggling to force themselves back into consciousness, pinching themselves, even screaming and hitting themselves in the face to end the dream, sometimes without success.

3. Roosting

Sleeping birds are vulnerable—but power emerges from numbers and strategy. This is why birds flock by the tens of thousands to roost for the night on the low, gnarled branches of the mangrove trees that flourish in the back bay waters of Estero Island, Florida. In these sleepy tidal marshes, huge knots of tangled leaves, boughs, and trunks rise skyward from the surface of the sea—not a trace of ground above water. No ground, no predators for the birds. On the landless rookery of Bird Island, some fifteen thousand birds huddle together at dusk and nod off in peace, fearless.

4. Dream Rehearsals

I used to dream I was paralyzed. I dreamt this over and over again for years until I didn’t. I don’t know exactly why I had this dream except maybe because of my stepfather. Little children are among the powerless because they let you do anything. Grab them by the pussy, by their…wherever; you can do anything to them. The places he touched me burn at night.

Early people saw dreams as a medium, often prophetic, between our earthly world and that of the gods. Freud saw dreams as messages of repressed longing. Jung probed the oblique symbols of dreamland. Some modern neurobiologists say dreams are just electrical brain impulses pulling random thoughts and imagery from our memories; they believe we construct dream stories only after we wake up, just a natural attempt to make sense of it all. But other mammals dream too—even our dogs and cats. Evolutionary psychologists see dreaming as an ancient biological defense mechanism. They say dreams might protect us by simulating potential threatening events and enhancing our neurocognitive ability to perceive and avoid danger—like a rehearsal.

5. Silent Nightmares

It is possible for nightmares to arise from nowhere. But they can also be caused by external factors. Ironically, one research-based treatment for adult nightmares involves training sufferers in the techniques of lucid dreaming. One night, I am jolted awake from a stuporous dream scene in which my car is slammed from behind, and I am lurched out of the front seat. My head wedges into the crevice between the driver’s seat and the car door. I writhe and open my mouth to scream, but no sound emerges. This silence is more harrowing than the immediate impact of the crash. Later, I bring my children to visit my grandmother’s grave. I watch in fascination as they arrange unwrapped Hershey’s Kisses in a careful pattern around the edges of the marker. Nana loved candy. Then, in an expression of what is, to her, unnamable, my youngest meticulously scrapes moss from the carved letters of the marble headstone of a woman she never knew.

6. Dead Sleep

Obstructive sleep apnea causes breathing to stop and start over and over again in the night. The problem is, your throat muscles relax and block your airway. This can cause loud snoring. Of course, if you are the one snoring, you probably won’t hear it. Other symptoms to watch for include crushing daytime fatigue, gasping and choking in the night, morning headaches, difficulty concentrating, mood changes that include depression or irritability or even extreme anxiety, and complete aversion to sex. Gasping through the night triples your death risk compared to those who breathe freely. It stresses your heart. It can even stop your heart—cardiac arrest—due to how it inflames your body, triggers fight-or-flight every single time your throat collapses.

7. Nightwaking

Sleeping and waking are distinct states of being, but they sometimes overlap. Complete escape is impossible. And yet, being awake in the dark is like an altered state, a borderland of consciousness. We take our children to the ocean—a beautiful stretch of island beach famous for its shells. Shells are a protective outer layer for certain animals. When empty, they wash ashore. They become empty because the animal has died and the soft parts have been eaten by another animal or have rotted out. The shell is what is left. Shelling is best at low tide. How otherworldly to comb the wet sand at four in the morning, a time when the sea breathes all the way back into itself.

8. Emergence

General anesthesia has three main stages: going under, staying under, and emergence. Emergence is more arduous than waking from regular sleep. Airway support may be required. Shivering and confusion often ensue. The brain must wander through a thorny maze back into conscious experience. The brain must reboot itself.

My daughters and I visit Peru as volunteers with a charity that offers free surgeries to children with cleft lip and palate. In Peru, the altitude exhausts us, throws us into amnestic sleep each night as soon as the sun sinks beneath the mountain line. During the day, we work in the hospital—intake, records, surgical theater, recovery ward. One little boy wakes up kicking and thrashing so hard his fingernails draw blood from my daughter’s arm.

If general anesthesia is a kind of trauma, perhaps emergence is an aftermath. My friend says trauma makes everything abnormal, but that there is an upside: you see everything more clearly than before, so much more clearly, like waking from a dream or from sleepwalking. Your heart pounding, you crouch and scuttle gracelessly back into the waking world, your gaze circling like a broken spirograph, searching for whatever is left. 





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Hydration is very important, especially if you are attending off-site events where drinking and merriment is plentiful. Make sure to take care of yourself and replenish throughout the evening. Your head will thank you in the morning.

  Smart Phone

If you do not have a smart phone yet, and have been considering purchasing one, now is a good time to do it. Smart phones will help you stay in close connection with AWP schedules and friends throughout the conference. Consider adding all contact info for not only friends but authors and editors you would like to meet. Add profile pictures to your contact files for easier recognition. Add latest book, publisher and AWP presentation and reading information. For friends, add personal details like names of kids, pets, etc.

  Taxi Magic App

Make sure you have this app downloaded to your smart phone and have your information entered. If you are stuck and/or inebriated at 2 AM, this app might very well mean the difference between a long cold walk back to the hotel or a quick warm drive back to the hotel.

  Local Eats App

Sometimes you’ll want to get out of the AWP crowd and find a less hectic place to relax and have a bite without the commotion and noise.

  Meetup App (Local Indie Music)

AWP isn’t just about writing, it’s about enjoying the local culture of the city, too. Check out a local band or two.

  Top Three List

Make a list of the top three things you absolutely must do when at AWP. Everything else is a nice to have but these three things are must haves. You won’t be able to do everything and so making a top three list will ensure that you have your priorities straight and can feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the conference. Remember: Meeting and having a beer with the Pulitzer winning keynote is not necessarily a realistic goal. This isn’t a bucket list. Make your items realistic.

  Top Ten List

Add contacts to your smart phone with FB/Twitter links and face shots of your top ten “Meet List.” Identify ten journals, editors and writers who you really want to meet either at a booth or event. These should be realistic goals. You might not get to them all, but at least you’ll have your tier two list of things to do.


Did we say hydrate? Hydrate!

  Wing Man/Woman

AWP is better on the buddy system. Make sure you have identified your buddy, the person you can call or text no matter how early or late it is and you know this person will come find you if you are lost. This person will join you for a cup of coffee or cocktail. This person will help you think through good or not so good choices when you are too tired or inebriated to think for yourself.

  Quiet Space

A room of your own or with someone you feel very comfortable is key. Having personal space to get away from the crowds is essential to keeping up your energy and enjoying your experience. If you are forced into a small room — i.e., two double beds and eight people, don’t laugh, this happens quite often — then identify a close by restaurant or museum prior to AWP. Use this place to escape and find quiet space. You also might want to have a backup hotel plan in case your accommodations become the crash site for all disavowed and partying AWPers.

If you plan to reserve a room for only yourself but you know that several friends will likely seek sanctuary in your room from their own more chaotic rooms, reserving a single bed with a pull out couch will be helpful. This way, you have the option of saying, “Sorry, I have only one bed,” or “Sure, you can sleep on the couch.”

If you are stuck in a chaotic room with too many people, a graceful way to move to another room or hotel is to explain that you are having back issues as a result of sleeping on the floor or with too many people squashed into a bed. If you do secure other accommodations, it is important that you make good on your portion of the room payment. AWP sleep deprivation can turn any good friendship into a fight for survival and rest and so remember that the way you handle accommodations in the trenches of AWP will resonate after AWP has ended.


Moleskines are an Eckleburg favorite. Make sure your Moleskine is big enough to fold fliers in half and store inside the pages. Moleskines come with elastic closures to help keep “stuff” from falling out. If you have a favorite journal, already, consider gluing an envelope in the back for keeping business cards. We have a few favorite Moleskines for AWP:

Evernote Ruled Smart Notebook – LargeThe new Evernote Smart Notebook by Moleskine uses Evernote’s Page Camera feature to capture the pages of your notebook with your smartphone or tablet. Evernote Page Camera is available for the current iOS and Android release. Evernote Smart Notebook features unique “Evernote ruled” and “Evernote squared” page styles with dotted lines designed to ensure a clean image when digitally capturing your notebook. Moleskine Smart Stickers introduce Smart Tagging into your workflow. When you capture a page with Evernote, the Smart Sticker icons become searchable, digital tags that make it easy to keep your ideas organized and to keep your digital and analog workspaces synced.

Evernote Ruled Journals with Smart Stickers – LargeTake a photo of any page in this book with the Evernote app and its content instantly becomes digital so that you can save it, search it and share it with the world. Evernote Journals have a flexible, heavy-duty cardboard cover that can be customized and decorated. In Kraft Brown with visible stitching on the spine, 16 detachable sheets and a back pocket for loose notes, it’s a lightweight paper companion for studies, trips and daily writings. A booklet detailing the history of Moleskine is included. Includes 1 month Evernote Premium subscription in the pocket.



Don’t forget your pen/pencil and bring extra for friends who have lost their own.

Using Pens as Promotional Materials: If you are on staff for a journal, you might ask your editor if you can have pens made with the journal name/logo, but this is NOT suggested for your own novels or collections. Handing out pens with your author name or the name of your book would be overzealous and a little bit creepy, unless you could pull it off in some sort of humorous and self-deprecating way. Otherwise, it would likely come off as self-absorbed and this is not the impression you want to give. And remember, make sure your pens work. No one likes to be handed a bum pen, even if it is free.

Using Pens to Promote Your Reading: If you are participating in a reading that includes other authors/poets, you might ask the reading series coordinator if you might have pens made up with reading title, venue, date and time made. If there are not funds for this, ask if it would be okay for you to do it. This would be an excellent way to promote not just yourself but others as well, and it wouldn’t come off as purely self-serving. Again, make sure the pens are good quality.



If you don’t have a comfortable over the shoulder and lightweight bag, you might want to purchase one now. A lightweight attache or messenger bag with long strap will work well. You will be given an AWP bag but it doesn’t zip and you can’t wear it across the shoulder and chest. When running between the floor and off-site events at bars, you’ll be happy to have a lightweight attache style bag with a long comfortable strap and zipper. Cloth bags are often good. Leather bags can be heavy, especially after filling them with books, but whatever works for you. A good bag settled across your shoulder, chest and back will allow you to travel easily and forget about the bag as you have beers with old and new friends. The other option is to find a safe space to store your bag while at an off-site event.

  Warm Coat and Comfortable Shoes

AWP is usually in a cold weather location. There will likely be snow, rain and/or a good deal of wind. This is not the time to break out the Jimmy Choos. Bring comfortable walking shoes and a warm coat. You’ll be much happier.

  Roller Bag

Pack a roller bag half-filled with clothing, shoes and toiletries. The other half should be filled with your books to be sold or given away and to be replaced with the books you will pick up at the conference and bring home. Unless you are exhibiting, one roller bag should do it. If you are not taking books with you, then leave half your bag empty.

*Roller bags are best. By the end of AWP, your bag will be filled with books, and it will be heavy. You’ll be exhausted and sleep-deprived. You’ll be happy to be able to roll your bag.

  Author Cards

Have cards printed with your name, book, AWP reading and contact info. DO NOT print on cheap cards at home. Cheap cards are worse than having no cards. Use a good printer. There are several:

FedEx Office
Office Max

Keep your cards handy, but don’t be a schmuk about it. Wait till someone asks you for your information or shows a genuine interest in you and your work. Not everyone will want your business card and pushing it on people you’ve just met will come off as self-absorbed.

If you’ve hit it off with an author or editor, make sure to ask where you can get more information about his or her book or journal. You might inquire in an open-ended way such as, “How can I learn more about your book/journal?” This allows the author and/or editor the opportunity to direct you to their preferred form of communication, website, booth, etc.

At AWP, Gather as much information as you can. The best way to recall the crazy wonder of AWP, after AWP, is to go through the business cards, books and reading fliers you collected along the way. Make sure to record important information on reading fliers and in your Moleskine. For instance, if you hit it off with an author or editor at an event, and they give you specific information not readily available, such as the name of their dog, kids, the fact that they’d really like to come to your city and participate in a reading, make note of it on the event flier. This will be helpful to you later when you are trying to remember the what, where and when of conversations.


If this is your first AWP, patience. This is your first time around. You will meet many people who are veterans. Some of these people really won’t care if you have a new book out or if you need their advice on how to write a novel or market the novel you’ve written. It’s not a matter of being mean. It’s merely timing and resources.

For many authors, AWP is a once a year time when old friends on opposite coasts can finally meet up and say hi, have coffee or a beer. Writing is an isolating craft. AWP makes the isolated less isolated for a few days. If you are looking to meet a writer or editor and want to be impressive then just be human. Say hi. Ask about their newest work and how you can learn more. Don’t be pushy and don’t monopolize the conversation. Talk less about yourself and spend more time listening to the other person.

If after talking, you seem to hit if off in a genuine way, offer to buy him or her a beer or a coffee. If he or she accepts, then let the conversation develop organically, not centered around what the writer or editor can do for you.

If the write or editor is in a hurry, be respectful, friendly and brief. Good first impressions are often short and sweet and you can always follow up later, after AWP, on Facebook with a friend request. Make sure to let the person know that you met at AWP and shook hands. It also helps if you have purchased his or her book and have something nice to say about it.

√  Water

Yes, again. Hydrate.

  Finally, Take Care of Yourself

Remember, AWP is a hairy beast to be adored and feared. You will be exhausted, but you will come away from the experience with more knowledge, friends, experiences and connections. It might take you a few days to begin writing again or you might find the experience has prompted you to a writing fury. Either way, give yourself time after AWP to rest and come out of the fog. You will. It may take a few days, but you’ll be yourself again. We promise.

√  Check out the following topics on…

If you found our AWP Checklist helpful, you may find the following topics helpful, too. And don’t forget, we offer many craft-based workshops for fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry and intermedia. We invite you and your words to join us again at The Eckleburg Workshops.

How to Handle Drunken, Pushy and/or Entitled Writer People
How to Make Connections
How to Schedule Wisely & Take Care of Yourself