Have you ever read a book or rented a movie, only to find out that it wasn't anything like the description? (By the way, authors do not write their own blurbs, in case you were wondering why most of them are so awful.) I get angry when I'm out x amount of dollars and hours and the imaginary product I conjured in my mind blew the actual product out of the water.
Now, imagine paying hundreds of dollars to go to a time-limited event where each item you schedule overlaps or conflicts with other possibly-desirable events, and when you get there, you find out that the small paragraph that lured you in did not reflect the experience you received. That, in a nutshell, is every conference or convention I'd ever been too.
Sometimes it's safe to play it straightforward. If the pitch of a panel does not fulfill its claims in that case, it's poor presentation on the part of the author. Sure, your expectations may have been higher than what you received, but it didn't veer off topic. Panels such as 'How to Publish Your First Book,' or 'Should You Get an MFA' might not say what is maximally helpful to you or what you want them to say, but it's hard for them to miss the mark completely. Events like the 'Goddard College Reception' probably aren't going to hide anything devious.
It's the intellectual panels that are more problematic. So I've picked out the top two problem children at AWP. I'm enormously excited for these panels, but I'm aware that they could go in a completely different direction than what I expect.
Panel One: Seeing There: The Intersection of Visual and Literary Art
Their description: From a book cover or author portrait to comics, photo essays, and accompanying illustrations, writers are constantly confronted with how visual imagery compliments or complicates the written word. How can images be crafted that contribute to poetry and prose? Can an image ever take the place of language? What role does design and photography play within contemporary publishing? This panel examines how images and text cohere to create a product that is arresting for both reader and writer.
What I think it's about: How to present written material, pair written works with visual works, and use in-text hybridization to convey ideas.
Panel Two: Concentration Camps, USA: A Critical and Artistic Retrospective of Literatures of World War II Internment and Detention
Their description: In this tribute to WWII internment literatures, authors of works exploring internment camps and detention centers discuss, contextualize, and celebrate the historical, political, cultural, and creative influences shaping the literature that emerged from, and continues to emerge from, the WWII internment/detention experiences of persons of Japanese, Italian, and German ancestry.
What I think it's about: Surveying the literature that treats the subject of American internment/detention in the WWII era.
I'm looking forward to going and seeing how my expectations line up.