Just Another AWP in Sunny LA

Just Another AWP in Sunny LA


Downtown Los Angeles from the Convention Center’s West Hall lawn.

This year’s annual Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) Conference took place from Wednesday, March 30, to Saturday, April 2, in the beautifully sunny Los Angeles. Claudia Rankine, whose book Citizen has been nominated for National Book Critic Awards in both poetry and criticism, kicked off the conference with a powerful keynote address challenging white professors to reconsider the labels placed upon writers of color. Conversations about many aspects of the world of writing continued throughout the conference, as writers, educators, students, editors, and agents alike swapped information, experiences, and ideas.

As a student writer and as an ambassador, I attended Thursday to Saturday and had the opportunity to provide student representation at Columbia College Chicago’s Admissions table. Suffice it to say, it was an awesome experience!


Columbia College Chicago’s Graduate Admissions Counselor Summer Shiflett and I manning the booth at #AWP16

The weekend was my second AWP experience and my first ever trip to California. Both the conference and the city experiences were different. When I attended last year’s conference in Minneapolis, my days were packed with back-to-back panels from about 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. This year, because I worked long shifts at the booth, because I attended the conference for a shorter time, and because it was Los AngelesI knew I didn’t want to burn out. I didn’t try to do everything. As a second-year grad student done with classes this May, there was only one panel I absolutely had to attend—”From MFA to J-O-B: Making a Living, Making a Difference.”

Unlike standard how to get a job panels, this one featured 1) a Columbia College Chicago Poetry MFA graduate, Kenyatta Rodgers, and 2) panelists who actually provided currently hiring job/career announcements.

The rest of my time was spent in readings or at the Bookfair: at our Admissions booth, where I answered questions from potential students, parents, and professors, or at other booths, where I bought books and publications. (I did a much better job this year of making financially responsible decisions and sticking to my purchasing limits).


The keychain and the badge

AWP has such an amazing turnout of writers from all walks of life. It was amazing to watch professors reconnect with famous author friends or to bump into authors who have visited Columbia College Chicago’s Reading Series (**and yes, I did squeal on the inside when one author remembered my name!!**) I also really enjoyed getting to know the Graduate Office.

There are very few things that I’m ever like OMG, you have to do this! AWP, however, is one of those things.

Next year’s AWP marks the 50th Year Anniversary and will be held in Washington, D.C. from February 8 to February 11. If it’s something you can save up to do, definitely do it. And when you do (prospective students, current students, alumni, professors, fellow writers), definitely keep an eye out for our booth. Feel free to stop by and say hi.