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:

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!







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 next 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.
    • 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 Seattle!

Supporting One Another as Small-Press Authors


Writer friends!

Ryan Rivas, Joanna Ruocco, Michelle Ross, and I hope you’ll save the date for this AWP event we’ve been working hard on and are really excited about! We’d also love for you to help us spread the word in the small-press community!

It can be challenging for small-press books to find their way to readers. Four small-press authors who are passionate about supporting the work of other small-press authors will share what’s worked for them, but the bulk of the event will provide participants with a chance to brainstorm generous, creative ways to support one another as small-press authors. For the purposes of this event, we’re defining “small press” as anything other than Big 5 or self-publishing.


Without the promotional support that often comes with Big 5 publishing, it can be difficult for small-press books to find their way to readers. For several years, I’ve organized a gathering of fellow Dzanc authors at AWP to brainstorm ways to support one another as small-press authors. This event will expand that project to include other small-press authors, and will offer a space for participants to share ideas for supporting creative work by other small-press authors.

Note that this will be one of the conference’s new Discussion Room events, meaning that this event is all about participation and brainstorming together, so please plan to join us to share your ideas and hear tips from others!

What You Can Expect:

Welcome: 5 minutes

Examples: 5-minute presentations by each of 4 panelists on ways they support other small-press authors. (20 minutes)

Breakout: Participants will break into groups of 4-5 to share ideas for supporting other small-press authors. (25 minutes)

Ideas to Go: In the final 30 minutes, we’ll come back together to share the best ideas with the larger group.

Following the event, ideas will be collected and shared on a Google Doc all participants will have access to.

New Work in Autofocus

Excited to have new work up today at Autofocus. Thanks to Michael Wheaton for giving this one a good home!

This piece grew out of a flash marathon this summer with writers David K. Gibson, Kim Magowan, and Brittany Terwilliger. Special thanks for Kim’s outstanding anaphora prompt for getting me started!

The aggro teenager energy in our house this summer had me fantasizing about the empty-nest years, but also recognizing that they will leave me feeling all sorts of contradictory things…

New Interview in Rain Taxi Review of Books

So happy to have this new interview with Ryan Rivas up at Rain Taxi Review of Books.


Author Ryan Rivas talks about his new book, Nextdoor in Colonialtown (Autofocus), the accidental “truth bombs” of his neighbors’ posts on Nextdoor, and what it means to illustrate the “slippery time” of our historical moment.

Ryan’s an incredibly generous literary citizen, a wildly talented writer, and a genuinely nice person. Excited to help shine a light on the cool work he and Autofocus Books are bringing to the world!

A Celebration of the Orlando Poet Laureate and Finalists

Excited to read Saturday at this celebration of the Orlando Poet Laureate and finalists.

Come hear incoming Poet Laureate Shawn Welcome, outgoing Poet Laureate Susan Lilley, and finalists Terry Thaxton, Martha Brenckle, and me at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts as part of UCF Celebrates the Arts.

This Saturday, April 9, 2022, 6-7:30 p.m. Free, but advance tickets required:

With thanks to the University of Central Florida’s College of Arts and Humanities and the Department of English for organizing!