Curiosity, Connection, and Kindness: A Few Thoughts on AWP

I put the piece below together for some of the grad students I teach, many of whom will be heading to AWP for the first time this week. I thought it might be useful for us all as we hit the road for our annual conference/homecoming for writers.

The first time I went to AWP, I was terrified and overwhelmed. There were so many people there, all of them trying to accomplish all of the same things I was! Suddenly, everything I imagined for myself seemed impossible. I wondered: How am I going to succeed as a writer when there are all of these other folks I have to compete against.

Here’s the thing, though. Art is not a zero-sum game. The more of it there is, the better the world is. After many years, and lots of trial and error, I’m now able to see AWP in a very different way: as chance to connect with other folks who are as excited to geek out over writing as I am.

My mantra these days: Go with an attitude of curiosity, connection, and kindness. Some tips for this:

    • If you’re a planner (like me!), you can build yourself a schedule ahead of time using the tools here, here, and here.
    • If you find yourself in a panel that isn’t what you thought it would be or doesn’t seem useful to you, it’s completely okay to sneak out if you can do so unobtrusively. If you think this is likely to be the case, try to snag a seat in the back and on an aisle if at all possible. You can check out another panel (again, if you can sneak in unobtrusively) or roam the book fair.
    • Almost all panels will have a time during which the audience can ask questions. Before raising your hand to ask your question, check in with yourself first, and ask: Is my question a real question, or is it an attempt to center my experience and/or work?
    • Food at the convention center is expensive, and you may not want to stop for lunch. Pack yourself a healthy snack. (Can you tell I’m a mom?)
    • Be kind to the people tabling in the book fair. Whatever kind of a long day you’re having, theirs is probably longer and filled with more awkward interactions. Should you find yourself book-fair chatting with an editor who has rejected you or has been sitting on a piece for quite some time, stifle the urge to tell them this. Instead, tell them something you like about their journal: the cover, the design, a piece you admired in it.
    • Follow up after the event—reach out to the folks you enjoyed meeting, whose panel you found especially helpful, etc. Tell them what you appreciated!
    • Buy books and journals if you can; if you’re on a tight budget, note that nearly everything will be deeply discounted on Saturday as the conference comes to a close.
    • If you’re an introvert, pace yourself, but don’t hide out. You may want to make use of the conference’s Dickinson Quiet Space or the Low Light Space.
    • If you need other accommodations, you can learn about them here.
    • Treat the conference as an opportunity for genuine connection rather than a networking event. People can sense naked self-promotion and ambitious angling. You’re in a room with almost everyone across this country who cares as much about creative writing as you do! Try to enjoy that as an experience.
    • Remember: as big and as overwhelming as it may seem while you’re there, the writing world is small, and these folks will be your colleagues for the rest of your career: behave accordingly (including and especially at evening and offsite events).
    • Keep an eye out for folks who seem to be terrified and overwhelmed, and if you can, invite them to join you and your friends for a conversation, a meal, an offsite event.

Looking forward to seeing you all there, and if you find yourself feeling lost or lonesome, I hope you’ll reach out. My AWP dancecard is is always a more-the-merrier one, and you’re welcome to tag along with whatever I’m up to.

Safe travels, everyone! See you in Kansas City!

New Work in Burrow Press Review

New work up today at Burrow Press Review:

This one is close to my heart, thinking about the impossible standards we sometimes hold ourselves to as mothers, and those ugly, intrusive, (often internal) voices telling us that no matter how much we strive toward those standards, we are never, never enough.

I hope you’ll give it a read and share your own thoughts.

 

Proud to share pages with Sherrel McLafferty, Gregg Shapiro, Fortunato Salazar, Vi Khi Nao, and Christine Shan Shan Hou.

With gratitude to Ryan Rivas and special issue editor Bre’Anna Bivens for bringing our work together in conversation!

The World Ahead Project

You guys! I’m super excited to share this! I’m working on a new collaboration with book artist Rachel Simmons and wanted to share a peek at our work in progress!

Here’s a description of the project: We’re all tempted, seduced by the question: what will happen next? Especially in times of anxiety and uncertainty, we crave someone or something who can tell us what’s coming. THE WORLD AHEAD is a found text, collage poem, and book arts project using text from the Economist’s The World Ahead 2023 issue, described by the magazine as a “guide to the coming year” and as “future gazing analysis, predictions and speculation.” The project, in which text from the issue is collaged and rearranged into poems and book-art objects, is an attempt to question the idea that we can ever meaningfully predict the future, that we can ever make sense and order out of an uncertain future.

The piece here is based on a poem called “A Chance of Pain,” built using text from “Cloudy with a Chance of Pain” by Roger McShane, China Editor, The Economist “The World Ahead 2023” issue, November 11, 2022.

 

New Work in Burrow Press Review

Proud to share pages in the Burrow Press Review’s new special issue “The Call to Space: Bodily Awareness” with Ariel K. Moniz, Clayre Benzadón, Bee Hyland, and Emily Lake Hansen.

My piece is “Enter the Ageless Future,” a weird little found-text collage poem built from ad copy for Estee Lauder’s Perfectionist Correcting Serum.

Thanks to Ryan Rivas and to Bre’Anna Bivens, special issue editor, for bringing our work together in conversation! Also, super loving the images they’ve paired with these pieces!

Longleaf Writers Conference

Just back from an incredible week at the Longleaf Writers Conference, and writer friends, I cannot say enough about how awesome this conference is! Warm and welcoming and packed to the gills with talented, fascinating people to talk to and learn from.

 

It’s a great conference for writers at all levels who are looking to learn more about craft, build a literary community, and get a chance to talk with some of the most talented established and emerging writers out there.

With thanks to Matt Bondurant and Seth Brady Tucker and all the rest of Team Longleaf for one of the happiest weeks of my life!

Event with Novelist James Chapin

Orlando friends!

Hope you’ll save the date for this event with me and novelist James Chapin: Saturday, March 25th, 6 p.m. at Zeppelin Books. We’ll be chatting about science, literature, the natural world, and our novels RIDE SOUTH UNTIL THE SAWGRASS and CHARMED PARTICLES. Would love to see you there!

Tickets required, but FREE and available here:

Post-Event Resources for Supporting One Another as Small-Press Authors Event

Thanks to everyone who came to our Supporting One Another as Small-Press Authors Discussion Room event at AWP with Michelle Ross, Ryan Rivas, and Joanna Ruocco! As promised, all of your good ideas are now available here: http://tinyurl.com/spsupportawp23

In the spirit of support and collaboration, this resource is meant to be shared and added to, so please spread the word to anyone you think may find it useful! Thanks for all of your great energy and generous, creative ideas!