Well, it’s been and gone now, and I can heave a sigh of relief. To tell the truth, I didn’t do much work on this year’s AML meeting, but I did stress about it—does that count? Kathleen and Boyd and Margaret pulled it off, with Matthew doing lots of the work I usually do. Matthew Jarman is a blessing that’s come to AML this year (he’s treasurer), along with Jonathan Langford, who revitalized the blog and has made it all I had dreamed it would be, and Dennis Clark, our awards coordinator who did an amazing job. Things are looking up for the old AML, with people like this!
This year’s meeting was rewarding for me in many ways. One very literal way (key word: rewarding) is that I got an AML award! For “Service to AML.” Which means, “We’re glad you do all those things that the rest of us wouldn’t want to do,” but it also means “We consider you one of our own,” and so it is very meaningful to me. Because that’s the whole reason I ever volunteered to help with AML: so I could play with the cool kids. And I really have been blessed to get to know some extremely cool kids, and come to consider them friends. This was more clear to me than ever this year because I felt so much joy in being able to greet all the old regulars and some of the new regulars by name. It makes me very happy to help people make connections with each other. I don’t think I’ve been all that influential over AML other than that (and, maybe, keeping Kathleen going, who is really the reason AML has survived some of its bumps). But I felt appreciated yesterday and so it was nice. (They even gave me 2 dozen yellow roses! And stood up for me! I wanted to pull a Sally Fields: “You like me! You really like me!”) The most meaningful part of it was the beautiful citation that Eric Samuelsen (one of the coolest kids of all) wrote for me, and the fact that he came, sick as he was, just to read it. THAT was very moving.
Thanks, my friends.
Another big ego boost was that an editor from Signature passed me a note in class asking when they’re going to see a collection from me. That had me skipping around. It was funny to me that it happened there because, as I’ve mentioned here, I’ve been doing some really good work in my class and feel like I’ve got some very solid work to begin sending out to lit mags. And I’ve been having this debate with myself about whether to put together a collection for a local (read: LDS) audience or send them out singly to non-local (read: non-LDS) mags. Signature’s interest sparked some conversations with other writers that helped me understand that I can do both. So that’s cool. And, yeah, I know that one editor passing me a note does not in any way imply that an ms. from me would necessarily be accepted. Still, it’s nice to be noticed. I know they aren’t interested in reading submissions from people who aren’t already publishing, so it felt like I’d passed at least a first screening.
But besides all the ego-boosting, this meeting was nourishing in other ways. In a day-and-a-half, I heard well-crafted stories (fiction and essay) about a suicide, a dying father, a brain tumor, a daughter with debilitating anxiety, and more. So I feel like I’ve been through the wringer. But I also heard stories of hope and humor, stories of realistic faith. I loved hearing Stephen’s prize-winning essay about his mission experience again, which is both funny and challenging and faithful. I loved seeing the documentary about John Bennion’s study-abroad group (so full of envy that I can’t go myself!). I loved the readings at Charlotte England’s house in the evening and running into FoxyJ there. (And, really, who doesn’t want an excuse to go to that beautiful house?) I enjoyed meeting the people from Mormon Scholars in the Humanities, who shared our meeting.
BTW, Kathy (Soper) read a fantastic paper on "The Alchemy of Memoir." It made me sad that we don't publish the written versions of papers in the Annual anymore, because it was so well-crafted that it deserves a good, deep read. As it was, it was a really great paper. I hope she'll put it somewhere I can read it again. AND, my friend Angela got an AML award for her anthology, "Dispensations," which was well-desereved, as everyone who's ever seen it agrees. Congrats!
All in all a fantastic, filling day-and-a-half.
And, by the way, I have to mention that I went for only half a day on Friday because I was at a funeral earlier in the day for a young man in our ward. It was an amazing, beautiful meeting and I was taught by the Spirit there about my own parenting and other things. It was cool to learn more about the family this happened to—I love Mormon funerals for that reason: I always come out loving the deceased and his family so much more after.
Just a fantastic couple of days.