Last winter, at the AWP conference in Boston, I was a guest reader at the first annual AWP Heat Reading in an Irish pub a few blocks from the convention center. I sat, short legs on a high stool, a tall drink of something in front of me, too nervous to behave as graciously as I would have liked to the strangers at my table, but I tried. It was loud, difficult to make connections between readings and clapping. At one point, a woman at the far end of the table slid a business card to each of the three writers thrown together by a mutual passion for story. She was T.L. Sherwood, Fiction Editor, r.kv.r.y Quarterly Literary Journal.
Everyone says the AWP is the place to meet important people, the “fat cats” of literary writing. It’s a frenzy of networking. Pay attention. Take advantage of the conversation around you. It makes me nervous.
At the bar, T.L. Sherwood listened to readers. She smiled and encouraged and clapped. I slipped her card into the pocket of my sweater instead of taking the time to tuck it in with the other cards and bookmarks and slips of papers I’d been collecting in my purse. That was the extent of the connection. Simple. Understated. She did not make me nervous.
Flash back 6 months earlier. I am on a writing retreat at The Wellspring House in Ashfield, Mass. where I had decided to limit the books I brought along to Amy Hempel, Lorrie Morre, and Flannery O’Connor. I don’t know why. They’re good. They’re sharp. I wanted my head to be in my own stories and I wanted to read others’ stories, too, ones that had stood the test of time. I admire how these three authors write about everyday life and relationships, often lonely women, often slightly oddball situations, always deep in their simplicity.
After a particularly long and rainy morning of reading Hempel by the lake, avoiding my own revision work, I went back to my room and fell asleep. I love morning naps, so rare; they’re like birthdays. When I woke, I opened my computer and began to write a story as if from a dream, about a woman who adopts an obese cat from the humane society. Yes, a cat story. A story about a lonely woman and her new fat cat.
Flash forward, two months after the AWP Conference, a business card recovered from the pocket of a sweater on my desk, and a completed draft involving “recovery”. I networked.
Dear Ms. Sherwood,
We met briefly at the AWP Heat Reading in Boston. I was trying to remember where I had heard of r.kv.r.y as I shook your hand, but it was a noisy, busy place. Later, I figured out that I’d explored your journal because of a link to Dylan Landis whose work I greatly admire. I featured her story published in r.kv.r.y at my forum where I read and review 365 Short Stories in 2013.
Today, I am pleased to be submitting a short story titled ‘Attachments.’ Thank you for your time and consideration in reading.
I will include a bio below.
Thank you indeed for you time and consideration and also to Mary Akers, Editor-in-Chief, whose work I also greatly admire. Thank you for finding merit in my story.
It’s a story about a fat cat, not the kind who’s a big wig perched on some hierarchical pedestal, but the kind that lulls on the floor, and his kindly foster lady who bears her own load, heart heavy, with the hope of finding a little loving from a old friend.
You can read my story, “Attachments” along with many fine pieces in the current issue of r.kv.r.y, The Art of Recovery, here.