AWP 2017: Too Much To Do

AWP 2017: Too Much To Do

Doe Parker (Editor, Columbia Poetry Review Vol 30) poses at the Columbia College Chicago booth at AWP before the writers descend upon the book fair.

Most fields have at least one national conference that pulls the professionals away from their profession for a long weekend to network, meet up-and-comers in the field, and share work with their peers. For the world of creative writers, that conference is hosted by the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, and we call the event AWP. Whether you are seeking out readings from some of your favorite writers, a convenient way to slip your manuscript into the hands of a publisher, or just massively discounted books, AWP is the place to go.

To give you an idea of what to expect, I spent a few hours going over the schedule of events, readings, and panels to narrow down what I might want to do with my time in Washington DC. To be clear, those few hours were spent looking at each event’s title and its guests/readers and judging them by topic and speaker(s); anything beyond that would’ve taken way too much time in a semester when time is scarce. With fifteen items on the schedule, I figured I would be able to narrow it down to a few events each day and spend the rest of the time working the book fair table for Columbia Poetry Review.

The inimitable Jan Beatty (who we will be publishing in Columbia Poetry Review 30) reading at AWP

The problem with a convention the size of AWP is that unless the stars have aligned, you will be forced to compromise one or more items on your agenda for other events. Dinner will run long, the off-site reading you want to attend will be prohibitively far away, or you’ll just need to decompress from a day of absorbing literature and being bombarded by the latest books. On my first night, I found myself weighing a reading by half a dozen poets published by Write Bloody against a Forklift, OH-run event with a friend, against a reading with Morgan Parker and a cadre of other poets and writers, all at 7 PM. With the political climate being what it is right now, there were also quite a few off-site events and protests that competed for time with the convention.

As far as problems go, having too much to do is perhaps the best kind of problem to have. I spent the weekend with friends from Columbia, met up with writers I haven’t seen in months or years, and was able to personally tell some poets how much I enjoyed their work. And I don’t know if I could have justified attending the convention if it weren’t for Columbia’s scholarship offerings, which include funding specifically for graduate students looking to attend a conference in their field. Without that kind of support, I wouldn’t have been able to take off work and allow myself to just enjoy being a writer for a few days.

How many of you will I see at AWP 2018 in Tampa?