Before AWP, I wrote a post about how panels and conference talks in general often don't deliver what they promise, either because of misleading abstracts or poor organization. I said that I would see how the two panels on my schedule that I thought would be the most likely to mislead would go.
I'm pleased to report that those two panels did exactly what was promised in a well-organized and helpful way. In fact, the most disappointing panel I attended was one of the so-called "safe" panels--essentially a how-to on a certain topic that I thought would unearth more useful tips.
I don't want to call anyone out, but know that if you are disappointed in a panel, it's probably not your fault. After all, it's your time and money at stake! Like any public talks, panels must keep the audience's attention and offer information and relatable conversation.
Panels are inherently inefficient forms of information conveyance because they stress the human factor. I do wish that AWP's talks varied in format, because there are some topics that would do better with one or two presenters rather than a full panel. But I doubt that's going to change.
Instead, let me offer some helpful notes to keep in mind when running, evaluating, or judging panels:
I don't think it's quite worth spending the conference fee just to go to the bookfair, but it's close. I had a fantastic time walking around and talking to some great people about their presses, lit mags, and schools. I took home some great resources and books as well:
It's gotten to the point where I'm familiar with a lot of lit mags because of submission guideline research. Buying one-offs is always fun, and I'd like to leave some room in the budget for that, but I like having some special markets, not necessarily the big names either, that I can support with pride.
I'll be posting more on AWP and on my reading list in the next few days. I've just been, well, reading...
This is not breaking news. Writers work for little pay, perfecting complete works most often before they know they'll be published or even have a chance. Writing is a solitary act, and even more 'socialized' writing such as Nanowrimo and other activities still boils down to you within your process, being a writer.
AWP is the culmination of a writer's loneliness, a type of summit that confirms and yet validates the bifurcated need-community and need-solitude items in a writing life. It was wonderful to engage with fellow writers, meet the people who run lit mags, small presses, and programs, and just see, en masse, how many aspiring writers are out there.
Before I attended AWP, my goals were as follows: "As this is my first time at AWP, what I want out of the conference is to make connections, meet or catch up with people I know, and take in as many generally useful talks and advice as possible." I think I accomplished all of this. It's inspiring to come back to my desk with the resolve to write more, to write what's needed, and to continue on with encouragement.
I write this blog for all of you. I write so that I can stave off that loneliness and connect, and, I hope, let you know how I'm doing. I'm already planning out AWP17 in Washington, DC.