Tag Archives: AWP

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.

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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