Takeaways from AWP: The Power of Saying Yes (Part I)
AWP usually garners several reactions from writers — It is so intense. I can’t handle the crowds. It is so overwhelming. I don’t know if I can deal with all the stimuli. This resistance has some truth. AWP usually attracts 9,000 to 12,000 people, and it can feel busy and chaotic navigating panels, walking the book fair, and finding your way through the crowds.
But I squashed my reservations and decided to make 2023 my AWP year.
My conference journey began in 2022. A writer colleague, Julie Vick, asked if I wanted to participate in a panel presentation. With the help of other writer colleagues and friends, Sharon Van Epps, Windy Lynn Harris, and Rachel Mans McKenny, we decided to submit a proposal, “The Intersection of Art and Revenue: Writing for Literary and Mainstream Outlets.” AWP notified us of our proposal acceptance, and it was official — I booked a ticket to Seattle with excitement and wondered what to expect from my first AWP.
At the beginning of 2023, I learned through social media of in-person and online connections attending AWP and in January and February several Literary Mamas confirmed they were attending. We were going to make the most of our time together by setting up a table at the book fair, hosting a reading, and meeting for dinner.
Saying yes to AWP 2023 delivered some chaos, but also unforgettable goodness, too.
Here is one takeaway from my time at AWP 2023.
Connecting with Other Writers
I walked the conference hallways not knowing what to expect. As I stepped into the elevator, a contributor from The Sunlight Press (a literary journal I co-founded and co-edit) recognized my name and gave me a hug. This was an unexpected good surprise.
As I approached the book fair, I walked to the Literary Mama table and connected with Jenny Bartoy, managing editor, and we had a nice conversation as we sat at the table together. Soon I met other Literary Mamas — Cindy DiTiberio, Brianna Avenia-Tapper, and Sarah Dalton. I had a chance to watch these ladies read excerpts from Literary Mama’s anthology at the Ballast Bar. I loved witnessing these writer mamas who I had only met online take the stage and read their prose. As I sat and watched them read their work, I thought to myself, This is what AWP is about – connecting with other writers, listening to lyrical work, and exchanging thoughts about writing and life.
Yes, there were likely readings I missed or panels that I couldn’t attend because I was busy catching up with a friend, but the enormity of the conference isn’t important; it is about these micro exchanges happening everywhere where writers who ordinarily sit behind a computer feel seen and heard.
Throughout most of the conference, there were several of these conversations, and it felt fulfilling talking with my colleagues and friends about various facets of not only writing, but our personal lives. There is no replacement for in-person connection, and AWP reminded me of the importance of nourishing the extroverted part of my writing life.