The reason I'm in Washington D.C. is that I'm attending a conference known as AWP, the Association for Writers and Writing Programs. This is my first time attending, but anyone who's anyone in the writing world knows of and/or has attended AWP.
Just to give you a sense of the scope: there are 15,000 writers here, with 200 panel discussions or readings per day, (for three days), plus Key Note speakers, off-site readings and events, and even a midnight dance party. In addition to that, there is an entire floor filled with hundreds of bookfair booths and tables. These tables represent everything from literary journals to MFA programs to writing residency programs.
One such program is Writing Workshops in Greece.
For anyone who doesn't know me, I attended WWIG in the summer of 2015, and it changed my life. I never expected to connect with a country, or an island, in the way that I did on that first morning and the month that followed. I've written exhaustively about Thassos, but the recurring theme is that I was ruined by Greece--I can never travel anywhere else because I can't imagine a year without "my island home." Last summer, I returned to WWIG and intended to stay indefinitely (i.e., move there), but that was thwarted when I couldn't extend my visa.
Today, I reunited with my Writing Workshop friends. They poured us cups of tsipouro, a distilled liquor specific to each locale in Greece--this one fresh from Thassos--and just as gold called to the Pirates of the Caribbean, other teachers, fellows, and WWIG participants started arriving. The smell of the drink alone brought me instantly back to the patio of Archodissa, where I could envision our glasses clinking in a toast over our plates of grilled octopus and red pepper florinis; I could feel the warm Aegean breeze carrying the scent of olives and thyme and salt of earth and sea; I could hear the shouts of, "Yia mas, guys!" from Tassos of Thassos, our friend and the owner of Archodissa.
It was a sweet moment, heavy with nostalgia and lachtara. Longing. But I'm so happy to have seen my friends, to have met people I'd only ever heard about (or read their books), and to had this moment to share with them.
PS. I'm also DELIGHTED to have seen a friend from grad school whom I haven't seen in a couple of years. We didn't take a photo together, but this is my official shout-out to Greg!