So, it’s that time of year again: the annual orgy of drinking and books that is the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference and bookfair, where writers emerge from our writing spaces and squint in the light as we greet each other with, “Oh, I know you on Facebook!”
This year is going to be a bit different for me, though. Usually, I introduce the conference to my writing students and have them select panels and readings to send me to. But this year, I am going to have exactly one class period — the first of the term — before hopping a plane to Los Angeles, and I’ll be doing good to introduce my course, let alone the conference. So, for the first time since I started attending AWP back in 2005, I am my own man.
That means a (slightly) more relaxed conference for me, in which I can focus on panels related to my teaching (and panels my friends are on), and it also means more time for offsite events and bookfair browsing.
That latter part — the bookfair — is going to be different for me this year, because while I’m affiliated with four different publishers now, only one of my publishers is going to be at AWP. When I first started attending, I was working for American Literary Review and spent a lot of my bookfair time hawking the magazine. And a few years ago, when I first returned to AWP after a few years overseas, I spent a lot of my bookfair time at the sunnyoutside press table, promoting my then-new chapbook, Box Cutters. But this year, sunnyoutside is missing the conference, and Columbus Press (publisher of my novel, Hagridden) isn’t going to be there either. Later this year, I’ll have a new chapbook coming out from Red Bird Chapbooks, but they’re not on the bookfair list this year, either.
That leaves Blue Skirt Productions, where I spent a lot of time last year because they’re awesome and where I plan to spend a lot of time this year because they’re publishing my novella. But that book won’t be out til later this year, either — I’m still working on edits — so I’ll mostly just be hanging around with their amazing writers and publishers and plugging all the other great books they put out.
So if you’re looking for me in the bookfair, try the Blue Skirt Productions table, #657:
I’ll also be helping out at the Literary Arts booth, where you can learn about the Portland Arts & Lectures Series, the Oregon Book Awards and the Oregon Literary Fellowships (I was a recipient in 2013), Writers in the Schools, and the Portland writing scene in general.
The Literary Arts booth (#1639) is also a good place to pick up copies of my two books: I’ll have them with me. After all, Hagridden was the book whose early drafts helped me earn an Oregon Literary Fellowship. So come see what that fellowship helped me finish!
Also, my first book, Box Cutters, is nearly sold out, so if you want a copy of that, come find me at the bookfair. The publisher has a handful left that you can order direct or pick up at bookfairs back East, but I have all the rest — a dozen copies! — and chances are, after AWP, they’ll all be gone. That’s the last of the print run. So get yours while you can!
You can probably also find my lurking around the Sewanee Writers’ Conference table (#904) from time to time, because I’m eager to plug that program and would love to run into some of my new friends from last summer’s conference. (In fact, some of us are threatening to break into impromptu readings right there in the bookfair, so stop by and see if you can catch the fun!)
I’ll also be stopping by all the Portland publishers, too. Like the Atelier26 Books table (#119, with my loudest congratulations to them and their author Margaret Malone on her debut story collection being named a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award!). And Future Tense Books (#106), home to Monica Drake’s acclaimed new story collection. And Small Doggies Press (#1036), run by superheroes Matty Byloos and Carrie Seitzinger. And Ooligan Press (#1307), which published a war memoir by my friend and the future mayor of Portland, Sean Davis. And Tin House (#728), of course, home to one of my favorite books, Alexis Smith’s beautiful Glaciers.
And I’m sure I’ll be hanging around the American Literary Review table (#416) a bit, too. And the One Story table (#541), a favorite since my first AWP 11 years ago. And the Press 53 table (#530), home to a handful of my favorite writers (Liz Prato, Grant Faulkner, James Claffey, Bonnie ZoBell, Clifford Garstang, and on and on); I hung out there last year in support of Liz Prato and the release of her book, and I met a lot of the press’s other writers and wound up having drinks on the last night with publisher Kevin Morgan Watson.
And . . . I could practically copy the whole bookfair list here, frankly. And probably should, because I’ll certainly be making the rounds of all of it — in fact, since I am on my own schedule this year, one of my goals will be to spend a few minutes at every table. I don’t know if that will actually be possible — with more than 800 exhibitors and less than 30 hours of actual bookfair time, I could spend two minutes at each table and do literally nothing else at the conference — but I’m going to give it a shot!
So if you’re in LA at the end of March/beginning of April, you’ll know where to find me. See y’all there!