As steam escaped from the right side of the car, we quickly pulled onto the shoulder of a highway off-ramp. Realizing that the turbulence was not a bumpy road, but that something somewhat serious had occurred, we filed out of the car to assess the situation and were confronted by a shredded front tire. Our dark brown Camry, as we would later describe it to the AAA dispatcher, was crammed to max capacity with not only 5 people, but also with what felt like half of AWP in our trunk as well. The events of the next 6 hours left our group feeling as if we were unwittingly performing in some kind of theatrical production. After we had exhausted all legal seating options with the tow-truck operator, a few of us walked to the gas station in the pouring rain while the remainder of the group rode off to the service center. As we waited for news of the car, my gas station buddies and I played a scrabble-like scratch-off lotto game to revitalize our luck. After a few minutes, we realized each of us interpreted the directions differently and none of us won anything, but we got quite a good laugh out of it. The tow-truck driver came back to pick us up and drove us to the service center where we reunited with the other half of our group and walked through the mall, soaked shoes, smelly wool coats and all, while the car was being fixed.
The whole incident mimicked my first experience of AWP in some ways: I was totally unprepared for how overwhelming it would be, excited by the unexpected adventure, exhausted by the effort, intimidated by the unfamiliar surroundings, but overall so completely grateful for having the best company possible. Everyone that stopped by our booth and spent a minute talking to us left me feeling more and more positive about the sometimes-uncertain terrain of publishing and literary journals. Being able to talk face-to-face with writers and publishers alike about not only Portland Review, but about their work and interests made me really look up to the richness of our literary community. Sharing the woes of funding with other publishers, talking about the aesthetic of submissions with writers, learning about new, innovative ways of distributing and book selling made the chaos of the convention worthwhile. Although I may have felt overwhelmed by AWP when I arrived, feeling less than prepared for/worthy of this mass congress of talented people, I quickly realized that no matter how new or inexperienced I felt, or how overwhelming these things can seem, being stranded on the side of the road alone is merely just an illusion: there’s always someone around to share a seemingly unlucky lotto ticket with, a reminder that even though we all may be coming from different places, we’re all trying to go the same way.