In our “Been There, Done That” series, Literary Mama editors and readers share their experiences at conferences, workshops, classes, and residencies. This month, social media editor Abigail Lalonde recalls her time at the AWP 2016.
Where was it and what was the time requirement?
Los Angeles, CA. It was a three-day event but nothing was “required.”
What were the course offerings?
The panels were plentiful each day and required serious planning. They ranged from panels on genre, literary journals, race/gender, music, publishing, etc.
How did you spend your time?
I split my time between attending panels and the book fair. I carefully planned some of my panel selections and “winged it’ for others, which allowed me to sit second row for a panel that included Cheryl Strayed. The other half of my time was spent buying books and perusing literary journals and networking at the book fair. There were also many “outside” events such as the celebrity-studded Literary Death Match I attended.
What did you take away from the experience?
I went into the conference with impostor syndrome and left with a renewed confidence in both myself and my writing. I also learned that shipping all the books I purchased without insurance was a mistake when the box broke and the post office lost all of my books. I had no idea how many books I would buy. Next time, I’ll buy less (nope!) or ship in multiple boxes or put them all in my carry-on! Another lesson I learned is not to apologize for spending your time the way you want to spend it. If a panel isn’t doing it for you, leave. Sure, it might seem rude, but you paid for your experience and should get all you can out of it.
Did you have the opportunity for a writing critique? Was it helpful?
Would you attend this event again?
Share some helpful tips for a writer considering this experience. (Tips may include transportation, lodging, food, classes/instructors, or anything you think future attendees would benefit from knowing.)
Instead of staying at a hotel, I got a local AirBnB within one mile of the convention center hosting AWP. I was able to save money, walk back and forth to the venue for meals at home if I wanted, and save money on transportation to the venue. I was also able to stay longer and play tourist in California by saving money on my accommodations. When going again, I would probably peruse the panels more in advance and pay attention to the panelists. Although I did end up at Cheryl Strayed’s non-fiction panel, which was incredibly inspirational, I missed out on some other good panels, and attended a few duds. My advice, if you don’t know for sure that you want to attend a panel, sit near the door for an easy, less-interruptive exit.
Have you attended a conference, workshop, residency, or class? We’d like to hear about your experience. Email us at lmblogcontact (at) literarymama (dot) com.