Last Wednesday I boarded the Megabus in Indy with a couple dozen other writers from Ohio, Illinois and Indiana and trekked off to Chicago for AWP. What is AWP? Association for Writers and Writing Programs is what the acronym stands for and every year they hold an annual conference where writers of all kinds descend on a city for a few days. This year was the biggest AWP yet with 10,000 plus participants crowding into downtown Chicago for a few days of literary bootcamp.
I don’t use the term bootcamp lightly. AWP is a marathon of panels, readings and networking. I’ve gone the past three years (Chicago, D.C. and back to Chicago) and I always enjoy myself but I also feel at the end like I could sleep for two days straight. It is a lot to take in in short period of time.
This year I had the good fortune of being a panel with three other writers who I meant at the Two Year College Caucus meeting last year. The title of our panel was “Reconsidering/Recreating the Workshop in the Online Environment.” My particular part of the presentation focused on blogs and how they can encourage collaboration and communication in an online class, which can in turn improve group dynamics which can make for better workshops later on down the road. I think our panel went well and that we had a pretty good turn out considering they scheduled us for 10:30 AM the first day of the conference. They also put us in the Grand Ballroom at the Palmer House, so I felt very small (literally) when I got up to speak at the podium but I am grateful for the experience.
I went to two great readings while I was in Chicago. One was celebrating Carnegie Mellon Press’s 40th Birthday and Nicky Beer was among the group of poets reading. Her book, “The Diminishing House” is one of my favorites and I had the privilege of working with her while I was getting my MFA at Murray. I also went to a reading about apocalyptic literature and listened to Nicky’s husband, and my former mentor, Brian Barker, read from his book “Black Ocean.” These two readings were by far some the best events I attended during the week.
Honestly, my favorite part about AWP is getting to see friends that I don’t normally get to see. It’s fun to walk through the crowd and see a familiar face. I find that just as inspiring as any panel that I could attend.
As a final note, the bookfair was crazy as per usual. I know next year, in Boston, they are going to have it in a convention center so it won’t be so confusing to navigate but I don’t think it’s the layout that makes the bookfair daunting. I feel like the fair is just sensory overload. There are hundreds of journals and small presses doing really wonderful things with their publications and they all want to tell you about it. That can be a tad overwhelming after you’ve walked around for an hour and not even seen a quarter of what the fair has to offer. That being said, I meant some neat people this year and picked up some interesting journals to read.
I came home from AWP exhausted and carrying a stack of books, which means it was a good conference. Till next year…