The AWP conference is one event that I wish I had attended as an undergrad in college. My knowledge of publishing and writing was very limited at the time, and this conference would have given me a sense of the realities of the publishing world. I didn’t learn about AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) until graduate school. I was leery of attending the annual conference at first because I had attended conferences for job training that consisted of sitting in over-air-conditioned hotel meeting rooms listening to dry lectures. I was also concerned that the conference attendees would be university professors and not diverse in terms of age groups or types of participants. Was I wrong.
At AWP, if you are a writer, you will likely feel that you have found your tribe. I went to the AWP conferences in Atlanta and Boston. There are so many reasons for attending:
- To hear dozens of poets give readings from their work.
- To shop the bookfair.
- To meet publishers and editors of journals where you can submit your poem and manuscripts.
- To hear panel presentations on subjects from CNF, fiction, and poetry. AWP Boston had a few sessions on playwriting that I enjoyed because these are not panels that I see often. Other panels dealt with blogging, social media, or applying for grants. Writing in the Schools (WITS) also has a good presence.
- To meet other writers, or to connect with university friends and professors.
- To participate as a panel member.
- To research creative writing programs and speak directly with alumni and directors.
- To research job possibilities.
- To research different genres of writing.
- To get a sense of where the publishing industry is going, ebooks, etc.
- To give a reading hosted by your book publisher or the literary journals to which you may have contributed.
I was surprised by how many college students were able to attend, and by how many events were planned for them, including nightly parties / dances in the conference hotel ballroom.
There is also a huge, nightly presentation by a keynote speaker. The 2014 keynote speaker is the novelist Annie Proulx (The Shipping News).
My favorite things about AWP:
- I see friends that I would not see otherwise.
- I get away to a new city where I can focus on just my writing for a few days.
- I feel less isolated as a writer.
- My writing program hosts a yearly get-together at AWP for alums.
- I can sit in on panel sessions for topics that I am thinking about exploring, such as environmental writing and CNF.
- The panels and poetry readings give me a good sense of the newly-published books that I want on my coming year’s reading list.
- I meet other writers in airports and on planes on the way to and from the conference.
My least favorite things about AWP:
- The bookfair is always overwhelming.
- I tend to cram too many events back-to-back and burnout on panel sessions by the second day.
- The cost to travel to a city in another state. It’s so convenient to stay in the conference hotel, but best if you can split the cost with friends.
- I buy too many books and can barely carry them back in my luggage.
- There are a lot of people attending (10,000) and I need to take a break and recharge quite often.
The Seattle 2014 conference is from Feb. 26, 2014 to March 1, 2014. Registration and more information here. Registration deadlines vary and the cost is significantly less if you are a current student. Preregistration ends Jan. 22, 2014. There is onsite registration, though some years the conference sells out earlier.
Future locations for the conference are:
2015 Minneapolis, MN
2016 Los Angeles, CA
2017 Washington, D.C.
There is a great article on what the AWP experience is like here, “The Various Joys of Attending the AWP Conference” by Jacqueline Malone.
“Hope Springs Eternal at the AWP Conference: The Writing Industry Is Booming, Even if the Book Industry Isn’t” article on AWP 2013 from the New Republic.
“AWP: My First Time” blog entry by Lisa Mecham here.