Whenever I’m lucky enough to go to an academic conference, I always have my students assign me homework. I go because I love the intellectual and social exchanges — hearing so many brilliant panels and literary readings, meeting so many fellow writers and finding so many new publications, and drinking with old friends and colleagues: these are among the highlights of any given year. But I also go for my students. These conferences exist (in theory for some but in practice for me) to bring academics and creative types together to share their ideas so we can then bring these ideas back into our classrooms and share them with our students. That’s not exactly the case for everyone at the Association of Writers & Writing Programs, of course, but for the many of us who teach writing, it ought to be.
So I always share the conference schedule with my classes and ask them to pick some panels or events they want to know more about. I add these selections to the panels and events I want to attend myself, and this becomes my itinerary.
The problem with such a scheme is that AWP is such a huge conference (11,000 attendees, according to news making the rounds yesterday!) that all these selections tend to overlap, and of course there’s always the competition with the bookfair, which honestly is one of the main reasons any of us turn up at AWP — it’s where a lot of the connections happen. So I wind up overbooked and have to miss half of what I wanted to see.
Which is to say, if you’re at AWP and you don’t see me at your event, I know you’ll understand. (Thanks to the always-amazing Roxane Gay for permission to skip things: “Don’t try to attend everything,” she writes in her “How to Swim in a Sea of Writers” advice piece at the AWP website. “It’s not possible. Instead, pick a few panels and offsite readings to attend and leave the rest to possibility.”)
But for anyone paying attention to this blog (and I’ve invited my students to do so), here’s a small list of places I’ll probably be during the conference. I’ll definitely be attending more things than this, but because of the overlap, these are the only ones I’m (fairly) certain to be at:
Wednesday, February 26
5 – 10 pm
2014 Festival of Language, Rock Bottom
Thursday, February 27
11 am – 12 pm
Bookfair: Sunnyoutside Press table (Q9)
I’ll be hanging out with the publishers of my chapbook, Box Cutters — stop by, say hello!
2 – 3:30 pm
Bookfair: Vermont College of Fine Arts table (207)
Nance Van Winkle is doing a booksigning here, and if I can catch her between panels, I’d like to stop by — I love her poetry
4:30 – 5:45 pm
Panel R278.: The Literary Legacy of Nirvana and Kurt Cobain
This is a must-see panel that ALL my students insisted I attend, even though I was already planning on it
9 pm – 12 am
Some reading somewhere. Seems like half the off-site readings at the conference are happening on this one night. If they’re close enough, I might even reading-hop. Find me somewhere.
Friday, February 28
10 am – 12 pm
Bookfair: Curbside Splendor Publishing table (H3)
Ben Tanzer is doing a booksigning. I’ll probably be at a 9 am panel so I might stop by the table closer to 10:30, but it’d be cool to shake Tanzer’s hand. Besides, Curbside Splendor publishes amazing work.
Bookfair: Mammoth Magic Future Genius table (Q24)
Writers doing brunch. I actually don’t know if I’ll get in to the actual brunch (this is just the staging area and space at the brunch location is severely limited), but I know a ton of amazing people who plan to be there, so I’ll at least be lurking in the vicinity of the Mammoth Magic Future Genius table to say hi to folks.
1 – 3 pm
Bookfair: a whole mess of signings (these overlap, so I’ll be making the rounds; keep an eye out)
- Michael Seidlinger will be at the Lazy Fascist Press / Eraserhead Press table (L16)
- Gabriel Blackwell will be right next door, at the Civil Coping Mechanisms / Broken River Books table (L15)
- Kevin Sampsell will be at the Tin House table (1704)
- Chuck Palahniuk will be at the Norton table (1505)
3 – 4:15 pm
Panel F259: When Genres Collide: Teaching Prose Poetry and Flash Fiction
A pet subject of mine, and a panel popular with my creative writing students
6 – 7:15 pm
Panel F302: Art School Writing Faculty Caucus
I teach at an art college. Also, one of my colleges there, the author Monica Drake, is on this panel. Colleague support!
7 – 10 pm
Reading: Hot Pillow (location is secret)
I’ll be reading fiction at this, but space will be tight at the location, so it’s strictly by word of mouth. Ask around and see if you can find us.
Saturday, March 1
9 – 10:15 am
Panel S131: Never Grow Up: Building a Life in Children’s and Young Adult Fiction
Assuming I can actually wake up in time to make it to this, I’m looking forward to it
12 – 1:15 pm
Panel S168: Strange Families: Domestic Stories Illuminating Social Issues
This was a popular panel among my students, and it had already caught my eye, too
1:30 – 2 pm
Bookfair: Civil Coping Mechanisms / Broken River Books table (L15)
Robert Vaughan is doing a booksigning
5 – 6:30 pm
Seattle Six-Press Release Reading, Rendezvous/Jewelbox Theater
Six small presses — Sunnyoutside Press, Calamari, Hyacinth Girl Press, Magic Helicopter Press, Mammoth Editions, and Future Tense — are celebrating the release of their new books at AWP. The first press, Sunnyoutside, is the press that published my chapbook, and the first book on their list is Rusty Barnes’s Reckoning, which I’ve been looking forward for a long time.
10 pm – 1 am
Sweet Fanny AWP, Georgetown Liquor Company
This reading is all Sunnyoutside Press, and I’m on the list. Come hear me read from Box Cutters and celebrate making it to the end of AWP!