When you arrive you will hate the festival. Take a breath. Oh, look, Person You’ve Always Admired is the keynote! You love this festival. Wear the lanyard, even though you hate lanyards. Talk to everyone. The fact that you will never see them again should inspire some intense conversations. Make BFF (Best Festival Friend) right away. You are going to need them.
Did you buy the meal plan? No? Bad you. Go back in time and buy the meal plan. It’s where all the action takes place. If you sit next to Very Important Person, engage in conversation. Ask them about their pet (safe). Ask them about their favorite font (bold). Ask them about their gun (Texas). If you are single, it is not too early to pick out who you’re going to sleep with. If you are married, identify your crush. Tell your BFF in detail everything you might be willing to do with your new love. In detail. This is a writing festival.
Go back to your room and get your lanyard. What? You thought I wouldn’t notice?
In workshop, take copious notes. Draw a picture of your instructor as a memento. Festival rule is that the workshop you were so looking forward to kinda sucks and the one you signed up for at the last minute is brilliant. Say something cogent but don’t hog the floor. That position is already taken by that Very Annoying Person.
You may find yourself the only Jewish/Christian/woman/man/gay/straight/young/old person there. Embrace it. Do not be judge-y until you and your BFF are getting drunker than Hemingway buying a round for Dylan Thomas. Go to every activity. Even the six a.m bird walk. Go to the least well-attended reading that no one cares about. Be only one of three people to hear that kid get up and read the real thing.
OMG there is one other Jewish/Christian/woman/man/gay/straight/young/old person here! No, wait. That was just a person using the turnaround.
Never sleep during the festival. Sleep’s for when you’re dead. If your head is exploding, go shopping. Engage the shopkeeper in conversation. Brood later on when they asked you where you were published. Oh, yeah. You hate this festival, you really do.
Have your work genuinely praised in workshop. OMG, you love this festival!
Drink. If you don’t drink, eat. If you don’t eat, shop. If you don’t shop, lay in your bed and thank god you are not on William Duffy’s farm.
When the festival is over, embrace everyone. Plan to stay in touch, even though you won’t. Cram your suitcase with all the stuff you went around buying until you finally found someone who may have heard of you. Put those amazing rolls they served at the award dinner in your pocket. Give yourself an award. Look at the sky. Kiss your crush, to everyone’s infinite surprise.
When you get home, find you are published. They named a new psychological condition—fear of lanyards—after you. Feel so proud and write to everyone. Sure, some of those emails will bounce back and also the AMA misspelled your name. It doesn’t matter. Open your notebook. Write it all down. Every word.