I’d been warned (in jest) about the rain, but the first day of AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs) in Seattle dawned bright and clear, and the weather stayed that way throughout my stay. Not that it would have mattered anyway, because my home away from home was the Asymptote table at the AWP book fair, which was safely tucked away inside the Washington State Convention Center. Thousands of writers had gathered at this convention center to hobnob, talk craft, and attend panels during three days of intense book-related activities. From my vantage point at our table, I had the chance to meet around 250 AWP-ers—some of them Asymptote contributors, some editors from other journals, some already our fans, and others simply curious about the journal and what we do here. It was also exciting to hear that at least a handful of them found out about us because they had attended a panel where we were mentioned as the go-to place for international literature.
One challenge for us was the fact that, being an online affair, we didn’t have a physical copy of the journal to display on our book fair table. Instead, we loaded it with our beautiful, bilingual Asymptote bookmarks (which were very popular!), piles of January issue postcards, and of course the six gorgeous books by contributors that we raffled off at the end of the conference. I also had my laptop on hand to show off our website and demonstrate features such as toggling between the translation and the original, our MP3 recordings of some pieces, the visual art slide galleries, and newer additions such as the map, and this blog! (A shout-out here to Alex Cigale, our editor-at-large for Central Asia, who kindly helped me out so that I could occasionally step away from the table.) People were very complimentary about the website (“Clean”; “Visually interesting”; “Easy to use”; “Dynamic”), and those who hadn’t seen it before were impressed by its design and functionality.
But by far the most gratifying thing about the whole experience was the number of people—readers, contributors, editors from other journals—who took the time to stop by the table, thank us for our work, and say how much they enjoyed reading Asymptote. “You guys totally rock!” “Thank you for doing what you do.” “The work you guys do is so important and necessary.” “I love reading the journal because I always discover writers I don’t know.” These were just some of the lovely and generous comments I heard from some of our visitors. Enormous thanks also to staff from Words Without Borders, The Literary Review, Electric Literature, Lapham’s Quarterly, TWO LINES, New Directions, and The New York Review of Books for coming by to express their support. This was all especially inspiring to me because while working for a virtual journal with staff members scattered all over the world is enormously thrilling and eye-opening, it also means that one doesn’t often get a chance to connect on a personal level with the Asymptote community.
And what a great community it turned out to be. Thanks guys! It was wonderful to meet all of you and have the chance to chat!!
Tara FitzGerald is a writer, journalist, and translator based in Brooklyn, and she is also the managing editor (content) of Asymptote. Before moving to New York, she lived in Mexico City for six years, where she worked as a freelance reporter and travel writer. Tara holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction and Literary Translation from Columbia University, and was also the recipient of a 2011 fellowship from the American Literary Translators Association. Her writing and translations have appeared in Vela, The Common, TWO LINES, Words Without Borders, and Guernica, among other publications. Tara is currently translating Ernesto Semán’s novel Soy un bravo piloto de la Nueva China (A Brave Pilot From the New China), and is also at work on her own nonfiction book about the people who live on the shores of Central Asia’s dying Aral Sea.