Books & Writing

AWP Boston 2013

March 20, 2013
Every year, the association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) holds a conference in a major city of the US. Writers, students, teachers, and academic institutions get together to share ideas and reflect on what’s going on in the writing world through discussion panels, readings, and book fairs. In short, it is literary overload! I had never been to an AWP conference so I was so excited my grad program asked me to go and represent my school. Graduation is two months away and I knew I needed to get as much networking done as possible. Living life as a writer is 75% about writing and 25% about networking. At least from the outside looking in those stats seem accurate. I wanted to make connections with small printing presses, editors, and other writers. My strategy was to figure out where to start because I’m so new to this. I never really considering being published until a year ago. I mean it was always in the back of my head but I didn’t make it a priority until my professors kept nudging me into thinking about it. I thought AWP was the perfect place to see where people who’ve been writing for years started.So, I chugged my way up the rail to Boston in anticipation of what was to come. I overheard a few conversations about writing and publishing and I think that’s when it hit me, this event was going to be huge. Cars and cars of people poured out of the Back Bay station in Boston and I followed the mob of people from underground to the  surface of the train station eager to meet Tiffany , my classmate.
Once she and I got checked into the hotel we ventured out to the mall at Copley Square. We snagged our AWP bags and saw where everything would take place the next morning. One thing I’ll say about this experience is it’s all about preparation. Soon though, we found ourselves weary from traveling and hunger pangs. We found a cute burger restaurant called 5 Napkin Burger and Tiffany and I had girl talk over a tower of onion rings….
When we got back to the room we mapped out what the next day would look like. I’m all about logistics so I came prepared with stickies, highlighters, and my laptop. I narrowed down a few interesting panels I wanted to see and times we should be at our table to rep Manhattanville College’s MFA program.
There are discussion panels at AWP are scheduled from 9am to 5:45pm so it’s impossible to see and do everything that’s available BUT you can do everything you want to do. You may lose sleep and down time but, it’s for sure possible. Day two, I managed to set up our table, attend a panel with Kwame Dawes  on race sensitivity in the classroom, walk around to gather material from a few small printing presses, get frozen yogurt, tweet pictures of Tiffany and I for free chocolate (which came in handy for those late night cravings), attend a panel on landing your first teaching job, hang out with Angela (another one of our MFA students) at the Seamus Heaney reading, and throw some fuchsia lipstick on for the dance party. To me, that was a super successful first day!

Day three started with Starbucks and I have to say, this also was a productive day. I went to a panel on starting a non-profit organization and another one on starting a literary center. BOTH were super informative and hopefully I can manage to be a part of something like that in the future. I walked around to the tables downstairs in the Book fair and honestly, that was so overwhelming. Just picture tables and tables of information about MFA programs and presses. I made a connection with an Associate Editor of a literary magazine who asked me to send her my work personally. I also found some presses that focused on publishing new poets.
I was able to shake hands of some people I think are important but my favorite part of day three was meeting and getting a book signed by Patricia Smith!
That evening, I had to wear my signature poet t-shirt to the Terrance Hayes reading. I had to. What better place to wear it than AWP at a poetry reading with one of my favorite poets! I have followed a lot of his readings thanks to youtube but that was nothing like seeing him in person!!
I found myself thinking about how pivotal this moment in time was. My life has been shaped by moments like this and I’m never blind to them. I sat there listening to him read his poetry reminded of the time I sat at a Maya Angelou event when she spoke at UConn (my alma mater). In both situations I sat in a room full of people yet I was alone. In both situations to my left was a stranger and to my right was an empty aisle. The difference is, when I heard Maya Angelou her words called out to me beckoning me to accept my calling as a writer and when I sat listening to Terrance I realized I had heeded the call. I was everything I had hoped to be 10 years prior. For that, I thank God. It’s amazing how time aids us in becoming our true selves when we work with it instead of against it. I’m still pushing to “become” but I have learned to accept the moments that are and the moments that remind me of what I already am.
If you’ve never been to AWP I urge you to go to their website and start planning for next year! It will be in Seattle and it’s worth the trip! I loved every inch of attending AWP Boston! It as fun, crazy, busy, but absolutely worth it. I left with everything I was looking for. Hopefully in the next few years one of my manuscript will be on a table being sold. That’s what I’m working towards; that’s the goal because I am that ambitious. I am a dreamer. I am a hard worker. I am…a poet.
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1 Comment

  • Reply
    March 25, 2013 at 9:23 am

    I love conferences.

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