Here is my first post for the April A to Z Challenge. A is for AWP, folks!
Every year, the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) meets in a different city. The Internet explodes with articles about “How to Make the Most of AWP.” All of my writer friends start talking about it about a month in advance, especially the ones who teach at colleges. It’s one of the biggest conferences out there: the estimate this year is that 10,000 people will attend.
This year will be my first time attending the conference. I have heard about it for years, and I have wanted to go for a while. Last year I was going to go but had to cancel at the last minute. This year, it is in my backyard, in Minneapolis, so I couldn’t pass that up. I’m taking the money I saved on plane fare and spending it on a hotel room, so that I can dive in and not come up for air until it’s over. I’m looking forward to it.
AWP is an industry conference but also geared highly towards the average writer. There are many more breakout sessions to attend than at other conferences I’ve been to, and the schedule is insane. I still haven’t finished going through it all. They have a nice feature where you can mark a session that interests you, and add it to your schedule. So when you’re done, you print it or send it to your phone or whatever, and then you have a handy list of everything you want to do, when it’s scheduled and where it is. Some sessions are geared towards academics, but most are simply for writers. There’s everything from How and Why to Blog to publishing companies sponsoring readings from their authors. I have several choices marked for each session time – it will come down to a game-time decision based on where I am standing, what else has come up, and what I feel like doing.
Of course, one of the fun parts of AWP is the off-site events. There are myriad parties, readings, happy hours and so much more. Everyone pulls out their A game. I’ve received about 25 event invites on FB so far, and I am having trouble deciding what I want to do. One of my issues is that I don’t want to drive. I want to park my car and leave it there – that’s the whole point of getting a hotel room. There is a good bike rental service in downtown Minneapolis, called Nice Ride, so if I really want to get to something off-site, I could probably use that.
The problem with big parties is that they are just that – big. Huge crowds of people all talking to each other is something I can’t do for days on end. I’m going to be by myself too, which makes it kind of awkward sometimes. I expect that at most events I will know people, so that’s not really a big concern. But I don’t have a pal to hang with. If push comes to shove, I can always retreat to my hotel room and actually write.
One of the things I’m most looking forward to is meeting people in person that I have been communicating with for years. I am hoping to set up a time to meet with Bethanne Patrick, otherwise known as The Book Maven, as well as run into Jane Ciabattari, a past President of the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC). I’ve done blog posts for both of them in the past, and follow them both on several social media platforms. I also hope to meet some writers that I admire, such as Dani Shapiro.
I’ll make the bookfair my first stop, since I know several people who are exhibiting. And my attendance at AWP is not as a publishing professional: it is as a writer. So I’m going to be there first and foremost for myself. I want to get to the bookfair before it gets too crowded, before everyone gets tired out, and before they run out of copies of their latest issue. I want to visit journals that I might submit my work to, and meet the editors whenever possible. I also want some facetime with folks that I have worked with in the past.
I’m so looking forward to this! If you are on Twitter, look me up @LindaWonder and follow along as I navigate this spectacle. It starts next Wednesday!