Tag Archives: AWP

Widener Seniors Attend 2019 AWP Conference in Portland

On March 27, four Widener English majors–all Blue Route staff members–and two faculty members traveled to Portland, Oregon to attend the annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference. Along with nearly 12,000 other writers, readers, editors, and publishers, the team enjoyed three amazing days of panels, networking opportunities, enlightening readings and keynotes speeches, and of course, the pacific northwest! Read on for a few words from all four senior English majors about their time in Portland!

Kelly BachichIMG955578
Carlie and I signed up for an hour of manning the FUSE table in the book fair section of the conference. While we were setting up, Carlie nudged me and said, “Kelly, doesn’t that dog on that poster over there look just like the one you wrote about in Historical Fiction class?” Low and behold, I look over and the juxtaposing booth is sporting a poster of Laika, the space dog from the Sputnik II mission that I had just written about the week before coming to AWP. Naturally, I had to go over and investigate. I asked the woman working the booth why Laika was on the poster and she informed me that their book press had published an author who just wrote a biography on Laika. Not only were they selling copies, but he would be there signing them in an hour!

I purchased the book and stood waiting in line, mustering up the courage to ask the author, Kurt Caswell, if I could send him my short piece to read. I am a pretty confident and outgoing person but, for some reason, the minute I was next in line I almost chickened out. I told him about the poster and why I had to buy his book and meet him to tell him that I had also just written about Laika. He handed my book back to me after a really great conversation about Laika and I knew my window to ask him to read my story had closed. Then, to my complete shock, he asked me to send him my story to read and even gave me his personal email to send it to. I was elated.

Later that night, Rohan met a panelist named Shayla Lawson who wrote a poetry chapbook mixed with Frank Ocean songs and got us invited to a “battle of the bands” where she performed her work with her band. One of the opening acts, however, incorporated the song “Space Oddity” by David Bowie into his piece. The minute I heard the lyrics my head snapped over to look at Carlie who was already staring at me, mouth agape. “Space Oddity” is also an integral part of my short story about Laika. In a three-page story there is not much room and for two major aspects to crop up so blatantly at AWP had to be a sign for me to continue working with that piece. AWP is an invaluable resource for English and creative writing majors, it is a hub for creative minds and a space where we can feel important and bond with other professionals.

Vita Lypyak
The first panel I attended at AWP was one of my favorites. It was titled “Translators Are the Unacknowledged Ambassadors of the World,” which is a play on the famous Percy Bysshe Shelley quote, “women are the unacknowledged poets of the world.” I speak two languages besides English, so languages and translation is something that always interested me. The final panelist opened my eyes to the Iranian culture and the struggles associated with translating Iranian literature to English. Unlike the first two panelists, she explained that Iran, as a nation, hinders its own artist by utilizing strict censorship and even executing writers. As a whole, this panel made me understand the crucial role translators have in the dissemination of literature. It helped me understand that translating is also a form of creative writing; a translator has to not only present the same meaning of the original work, but also closely match the same style.

In a sense, translators are poets and makers of things, too; they give readers access to things they could have never reached, due to a language barrier. AWP features a lot of intellectually stimulating and educational panels, which are great, but they can also cause a lot of mental fatigue. By attending poetry readings and readings of other kinds, it really helps your mind slow down and recharge, at least that was my experience. At “A Wild Girls Poetry Reading,” I was particularly moved by one poet, who wrote a collection of poetry where she was attempting to deal with the grief associated with her younger brother’s suicide. The stories she told the audience and the poetry she read were so raw and they made me empathize with her so much. I attended this reading on the first day and I could not stop thinking about her work. Her words impacted me the entire trip to the point that on the last day, I went and bought her book. I had to or I would never forgive myself. After I purchased it, I sat outside and read it from cover to cover, and her words continued to move me.

Rohan Suriyage
I decided to go to Page Meets Stage, a reading that is a yearly tradition at AWP. This was the best decision I made throughout the time of the conference. The reading consisted of five poets reading and performing poems after one another, “popcorning” in order and choosing what to perform based on what was read before them. The panel was led by Taylor Mali, four-time poetry slam champion and arguably the most famous American spoken word poet, and consisted of other notable poets like Anis Mojgani, Mark Doty, and Shayla Lawson. For the whole hour I just sat there, mouth agape, at the MVIMG_20190329_221411incomparable stage presence and refined performing art they all shared with the room. When it was time for Shayla Lawson to read, she prefaced her poems in explaining they were all from a book of poems inspired by Frank Ocean, an R&B artist and one of my main artistic inspirations. When Shayla finished performing “Strawberry Swing” from her poetry book I Think I’m Ready to See Frank Ocean I struggled to retrieve my jaw from the floor and knew I had to speak to her after. Upon the panel’s conclusion I was able to do so.

We talked about Frank and our common interests, and after we spoke, she invited me to come to a reading she was orchestrating in downtown Portland. Of course, I obliged and I ended up going after the last of the panels of the day. In the library room of the Heathman Hotel, I heard Shayla and 4 of her colleagues read marvelous poetry. All of them are part of an association of writers called the Affrilacians, about 2,000 southern writers strong (per Facebook). Two of them I met and spoke with, published poet and educator Mitchell L.H. Douglas and former Kentucky poet laureate and educator Frank X Walker. Both were incredibly down to earth men who gave me insight on getting published and furthering my education, and I thank them for that. To whoever made the decision to take me as one of the students to go on AWP this year: thank you. Thank you. What I owe you can never be repaid. This was a span of days I can’t see myself ever forgetting, a span of days I firmly believe will prove to be important as I further my writing career.

Carlie Sisco
One of the panels I attended was titled “8 Techniques Guaranteed to Take Your Script to the Next Level.” Using examples of films such as “Juno,” “Star Wars: A New Hope,” “Pulp Fiction,” and “Little Miss Sunshine” among others, this panel offered techniques relative to character, scene structure, descriptions, and dialogue. Though I do not write screenplays myself, I have always loved reading the screenplays to my favorite movies and television shows. It makes a very visual experience feel like reading a book. This panel demonstrated the ways in which some screenwriting techniques have the ability to transcend into fiction writing, because, even if I am not worrying about camera angles, it is still storytelling. Screenwriting can sound like a novel just as a novel can read like a screenplay.

Something that stood out to me in particular had to do with a tip on character development: “we watch movies because we want to connect with our characters.” Is that not the same for fiction writers? Shouldn’t I also be focusing on want versus desire, asking emotional questions in scenes, considering symbolism and foreshadowing, making my language visual or finding imaginative ways to introduce my characters? Isn’t it good advice regardless of the medium to think about increasing tension and suspense by slowing down, using misdirection to reveal information, or revealing my characters through their actions? I chose to go to a variety panels on screenwriting and playwriting not because I want to try my hand at either one, but because I know that the techniques between them and fiction writing are interchangeable. I also know that films and television serve as my influence, the driving force that compels me to provide visual detail and intricate characters. I would not have been able to explore what that means to my writing or how related the two mediums are had I not been given this opportunity. My path may not have been the one most fiction writers would typically take, but I think that is what was so amazing about AWP at the end of the day. I was able to find what interested me and gained insight from an influencing medium all while taking my own unique path.

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by Carlie Sisco

Widener Students Attend 2018 AWP Conference

On March 7, four Widener English majors and four faculty members–including five Blue Route members!– traveled to Tampa, Florida to attend the annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference. Along with nearly 12,000 other writers, readers, editors, and publishers, we enjoyed three amazing days of panels, networking opportunities, enlightening readings and keynotes speeches, and of course, the sunshine! Read on for a few words from three senior English majors about their time in Tampa!

 

Emma Irving

This year’s conference was truly the ride of a lifetime and I’m incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to attend.
The ride of a lifetime literally began with a ride that felt like a lifetime—17 hours down the east coast as we escaped early from an impending winter storm! It was an exhausting way to begin our weekend but come the next morning, we were all ready to go for whatever the conference brought!
One of the best things I did at the conference  was visit the Traveling Stanzas exhibit. The Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University received a grant to create a world of interactive exhibits in conversation with the immigrant and refugee community in Akron, Ohio. At the exhibit, you could add a line to their community poem, create your own poem from speeches from people like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Emma Gonzalez, and listen to immigrant and refugee community members talk about and read the poetry they created through Wick Center workshops. I was blown away by the scope of the work and the ways in which poetry had a direct effect for the better on the Akron community. Sometimes the scope of what authors and editors and publishers can really do in the world feels small to me, especially when we’re all packed in one convention center, the thousands of us all individually vying to put our name out there. This exhibit was enlightening as to how much good words can do.
That afternoon, we all went to the National Book Critics Circle reading with Jeffrey Eugenides, Lorrie Moore, and Dana Spiotta. I enjoyed getting to hear these big-name authors speak so candidly and joyfully about creating; Lorrie Moore in particular was strikingly funny and I was laughing out loud at some of her comments.

Jennifer Rohrbach

image1I really enjoyed this year’s AWP conference in Tampa, Florida. In addition to enjoying beautiful, warm weather, I met some amazing people, attended interesting panels, heard inspiring speakers, and spent some quality time with my Widener friends. My highlights of the trip were attending the Keynote by George Saunders, meeting Rita Dove, a handful of panels, and stopping by the Emerson College booths at the book fair.
Prior to attending AWP 2018, I had read a couple of George Saunders’ short stories, including “The Semplica-Girl Diaries,” which is one that I think about quite often. I also own his short story collection Tenth of December which I haven’t read but look forward to reading now. His writing style is unique, and I am often struck by his tendency to push against stereotypes of what makes “good literary writing.” By that I just mean that his writing is not overly flowy or ornamental—he usually gets to the point quickly and efficiently. The circumstances of his stories and characters are always unusual, twisting our reality and running into the genre of speculative fiction. Hearing him speak at the Keynote made me appreciate his writing even more, because he seems like a really funny, down-to-earth person.
Another highlight of the trip was meeting Rita Dove. I heard her speak at last year’s AWP in Washington, D.C. This year, she just happened to be at the Traveling Stanzas exhibit at the same time as me, and I had the opportunity to tell her how much I liked her poetry. It wasn’t a deep or lengthy conversation, but I got to speak to her in person, so it was still pretty cool!

Victoria Giansanteimage2.jpeg

Attending the AWP conference solidified my decision in continuing on to graduate school for an MFA in Creative Writing. My experience was uniquely designed around my interests, and I was able to network with a variety of publications, graduate schools, and other like-minded individuals. My days were filled with panels, and the massive book fair filled with everything from small university presses to large commonly known publications. Spending time around people who have similar passions and have so much knowledge and wisdom to offer and pass down is an experience in and of itself that I would not trade for anything.
The AWP bookfair was a continuous event that was held every day of the conference. It was absolutely massive, and took the entire conference for us to get through the whole thing. This was the place where networking was the most important. I had the ability to talk to so many people, ranging everywhere from grad students to publishers. I even made my decision on which graduate school to attend by talking to the director of the MFA program at Rosemont, who was at their literary journal’s table. After speaking to her for quite a while, I left confident in my future decisions. Along my path up and down the isles of the book fair, I also met a woman who was the director of the International Women Writers Guild, who I had the pleasure of speaking with for some time. We discussed fiction writing, feminism, activism, and social justice, and I left that table with a free honorary membership to the guild, and a chance to visit a conference next fall. This book fair showed me the importance of networking and the value of relationships in the professional world, not to mention I left the bookfair with about 20 new books to add to my collection.

AWP was an experience I would recommend to anyone who loves writing, or literature in general. It’s an invaluable experience that I hope many more students after me get to continue to have.

Written by Emma Irving

2017 AWP Conference Reflections

     The Association of Writers and Writing Programs held it’s annual conference and bookfair February 8-11, 2017 in Washington, D.C.. The AWP Conference is an opportunity for writers, teachers, editors, publishers, and everyone within the literary community to gather for four days of insightful discussion. Each year, AWP accumulates over 12,ooo attendees, with over 800 exhibitors and 550 events to explore. Several students from Widener University’s Creative Writing department had the opporunity to attend the 2017 conference. Below are two students’ reflections on their AWP experience:

Evan Kramer
     The 2017 AWP Conference in Washington, D.C. opened my eyes to a literary world that I never realized was so large in the United States. This was my first AWP experience; however, it was not my first writing conference, so I did have high expectations. Planning your panels and routes beforehand is a necessity at AWP because panels are operating around the clock with only fifteen minutes of time in between each one. I made these minor mistakes on the first day, but for the remaining days, I planned accordingly and learned a lot about writing, the future of writing, and all of this information shaped me into a stonger creative writer.
     One of the first panels that I attended was called “Writing in the Internet Age.” As a writer in the twenty first century, I view the Internet as technology that will be present in the world for the remainder of my life. The Internet and digital humanities is changing writing and thinking for all writers and readers, so attending this panel, in my opinion, would provide a lot of insight for me. The Internet is too fast to be studied, said the panelists, and it is a cure for loneliness and boredom, and a way to pull us out of the reality of the world. I learned that the Internet is a convenience for writers because it replaces a trip to the library by functioning as an online encyclopedia, but it can also slow down writing because it is distracting and sometimes addicting. A presence on the Internet is a requirement for writers so that readers and other followers know that you are alive and writing, so that they can develop trust with your work. Absence from the Internet creates suspicion, and for writers, it is critical to maintain an image through interacting online with other people, news topics, or by generating personal opinions.
     In addition to this helpful panel, I attended another one called “The Village of Your Novel,” which talked about how to manipulate the universe that you create as a writer. Writing a setting is important to me, as a creative writer, because I view it as the first step to taking my readers out of reality and into a new world that is worth visiting. I am currently in the process of writing a story in which two separate villages clash together.The panel inspired me to consider the boundaries of the village, the traditions, the internal alliances, and how a stranger entering is the catalyst of change, comedy and drama. The panelists used Jane Austin and the Bronte sisters as example because they create social novels with striking locations, such as Highbury from Emma and the Moors from Wuthering Heights. This panel got my creative juices flowing to produce more work because the panelists provided helpful tips to think about when designing a village for the characters’ events to unfold. The setting always interests me as a writer because it should inspire every reader to want to visit there. No matter how beautiful or deadly the village is, it should shine from behind the characters, their dialogue and the plot.
     The final reading of AWP included Rita Dove, Terrance Hayes, and Ocean Vuong, and it was entertaining to watch these vastly different poets present their work. As a student who is easily discouraged from reading out loud, I paid close attention to their delivery. Out of all of them, Terrance Hayes was my favorite because he frequently interacted with the crowd and he improvised, almost like a stand up comedian, before returning to his content. Hayes produced the most controversial poems and presented his poetry with a confidence that differed very much from Ocean Vuong, who carefully approached the podium and read with a gentle innocence. It was a perfect contrast, and their topics approached different things, yet still impacted the audience in many ways and deserved standing ovations. I heard of Vuong and Hayes previously before going to AWP, but watching and listening to the way they deliver their work on stage was something that reading a book cannot recreate.
     Exploring the book fair and interacting with many publishers and schools was my favorite part of AWP and it did not fail to reach my expectations. I did not explore every booth of the book fair because of its immense size, but I did obtain a wide range of novels, chapbooks, and books about craft. AWP taught me new things about the literary community across the United States, and how the writing life is continuing to transform as the country heads into new eras and as new technology rapidly influences American trends. I plan on attending the 2018 AWP Conference next year in Tampa Bay because I learned so much, and believe it is an informative event to attend, as well as an important place to show yourself as a member of the literary community.

Taylor Blum
     I had an amazing time at the AWP conference in D.C. I was not sure what to expect, and I was a bit apprehensive, but I am extremely glad that I went. I also had a great time with my fellow students, and I had a great time getting to know everyone better. The number of panels and readings set up was amazing, so it was easy to find something to go to during each time session.
     One that particularly stood out to me on the first day was the “Adaptation in Three Acts: Adventures in Adapting Material for Scripts” panel. It was not entirely what I thought it would be, but I was very interested in the projects that the speakers were working on. One speaker, David Shields, talked about his project I Think You’re Totally Wrong: A Quarrel, which he first created as a book, and then made into a movie with the help of James Franco. The book is essentially an argument between him and his friend over a wide variety of topics, with an overarching theme of the balance between art and life. Shields posed an interesting question about a person who sees themselves as an artist, and if they see themselves as such, how committed to life would they be if they have a need to commit themselves to art. Can there be a balance without neglecting one side? What I found particularly amazing about his story is that James Franco, who went to the same graduate school that Shields taught at, offered to make his book into a film. I find his whole project fascinating, because it is something that is not really done. To publish a book that is, as Shields put it, a “manuscript of discussions” and then get the chance to bring the discussions to film is unique. Another speaker talked about her project of taking a woman’s life story and adapting it into a book and how a playwright got wind of the story and took to adapting it for the stage. No speaker at this panel had the same story when it came to adaptation, so what I took from this is that there really are infinite ways to make a story accessible.
     Another panel that I enjoyed excessively, was “Coming of Age: The Blurry Line Between Adult and YA Literature.” This panel featured many established writers of Young Adult (YA) literature, such as Jason Reynolds, as they discussed the art of YA literature, their struggles throughout the community and industry, and the distinction between adult fiction. What I loved the most about this panel was the honesty of the speakers. They did not behave as if they were anything special because they were published authors, or that they were untouchable, but instead acted real and treated the audience as friends. While I have not read any of the speakers’ work, I feel this is probably reflected in their writing. They all brought up how 80% of YA books are bought by adults and that teenagers will read adult books if they are interested enough, because young people do not care about the YA or adult distinction. They also brought up that the genre of YA was created to sell more books, and that the decision to publish their stories is purely based on marketing techniques and what people in the publishing industry think will sell. It was a very honest discussion about publishing and marketing which I appreciated from an aspiring writer standpoint. They were also very honest about how it is harder for non-white writers to find a place in publishing and getting non-white stories told. Part of this issue comes from, racism, of course, but also the way certain publishing and marketing higher ups think that teens should be portrayed and the type of stories they think they can be in. Jason Reynolds spoke a lot on this, as he writes stories about black youth doing mundane things, but there is a stigma in the industry that that is not typical for black youth. Reynolds spoke a lot about how teens can be turned off stories if they feel they are not represented properly, which I also agree with. I know I do not want to read a story with a depiction of females that is constantly unrealistic (although, I have been faced with a lot of that in literature), and I can see how that can be a real problem for non-white people reading literature. This panel covered a lot of important topics, while also reaffirming my love for literature. That is what I loved the most about the conference, the sense of community between everyone there.

     The book fair was a great experience, and I really underestimated just how big it would be. I was slightly overwhelmed at first, but luckily, I had three days to walk through it. It felt almost empowering to see how many literary journals are actively engage in the community, and their effort to gather more submissions and readers. I really enjoyed visiting each booth, learning about their journals, and seeing their artistic endeavors.  Making connections with the people tabling was also fun, as I spoke to a lot of people who enjoyed the community and the friends that they have made over the years. I had never been in a situation where everyone around me all shared the same sentiments and love for similar things. It was amazing to be in a community where I could start a conversation with anyone and know that we would agree or share similar thoughts. Knowing that everyone around me loved literature and writing was something I was not used to, and really helped me ground myself in my love and dedication to the arts. Every day I felt motivated to dedicate myself to language and the writing craft. I feel inspired to hone my skills in writing and delve deeper into this community.

For more information about the AWP Conference click here.

Reflections on AWP 2016

From March 31 to April 2, the conference for Associated Writers and Writing Programs wasIMG_4611 held in Los Angeles, California. AWP is a massive conference that joins editors, writers, teachers, and publishers, from students through veterans of the occupation. More than 12,000 people gather for over 550 readings and panels. Widener’s Creative Writing department was able to attend and brought four students along for the ride this year.

Before coming to AWP, I’d attended FUSE, a national conference for undergraduate student editors. That conference was quite different, and I knew it would be, because it was much smaller-scale and much more tailored specifically to student editors of literary journals. FUSE had also been held at Widener this past fall, so I didn’t even have to travel for that conference. For AWP, I literally crossed the county.

IMG_4594At AWP, there was a FUSE caucus for students both who had attended FUSE and who were interested in attending future FUSE forums. The caucus helped unite undergraduate student editors and students who had become old friends at this point. Undergraduate student editors interested in FUSE should check out their website here! Additionally, FUSE members took turns tabling in the book fair, a huge expo for creative writers. Though the conference was a business venture, being able to run a table made me feel like I was even more a part of AWP.

Though I knew AWP was going to be massive and with a lot more to do and see than FUSE, I was unprepared for the size of the book fair. That blew my mind. There had to be a thousand vendors packed into one room—literary journals, MFA programs, the literary journals of MFA programs and so on. There were big presses, like Tinhouse Books and Penguin Random House, and small presses, like Cactus Heart. The New York Times had a stand, as did the MLA. My favorite part of the conference had to be the massive bookfair. I spent hours in that room at a time.

IMG_4596

While in the bookfair I got to discuss people’s literary journals, what people recommended, and how their programs differed than other places. I saw the moderator for a panel I’d attended about writing diverse characters. She and I struck up conversation, and I was able to follow up with her about what she’d discussed.

It was exciting to talk to people from other writing backgrounds as I explored the convention center. It was also wonderful to see so many writers in one place. As one Widener student noted, writers are such versatile and diverse people—you see all types.

Overall, this conference was larger than life. Besides being incredibly informative, it was also incredibly fun! If fellow student editors and writers are interested in attending, talk to your professors and see if there is a way. Next year, AWP will be in Washington, D. C., which is much closer to Widener than California, so you can bet we’ll be there again.

To learn more about AWP, check out their website here.

To read more in-depth about my AWP reflection, including some of the panels I attended and speakers I saw, click here.

Written by Kelsey Styles, ’17