The AWP Writer's Conference: The Hope And Possibility Of A Post-Pandemic Life

Who hasn’t dreamed of attending a writer’s conference? For some, it is just another dream. But for others, like the members of AWP, this yearly event provides community, opportunities, ideas, news, and opportunities for writers and teachers of writing. This year, the writer’s conference also provided hope and the possibility for a post-pandemic literary life. Again, the diversity and inclusion at this year’s event were evident. With accessibility options, ASL interpretation, and the influx of new faces, it was clear that the desire for building a career in writing is universal. 

Those of us who have been working for years to get a literary agent and publishers realize it isn’t easy—and it probably never will be easy. So, we need lots of encouragement along the way and at every step of our careers as writers. The AWP Annual Writer’s Conference is an essential conference for writers. It provides contacts that might change your life by helping you land an agent, publisher and helpful insight into writing a remarkable book. Below are three takeaways from this year’s conference.

Hope and Possibility of a Post Pandemic Literary Life

Despite the recent uptick in public health disasters, the world is still filled with some hope. Speakers include noted authors, poets, and faculty from MFA programs. The AWP Writer’s Conference was a fantastic experience. After walking around the book fair, stopping at tables, and smiling with my eyes so vendors could see my joy, I was happy to connect. I had the opportunity to experience informative panels, and I found a plethora of MFA programs and literary journal options. There were hundreds of attendees and dozens of panels. The conference had a range of topics, from publishing to professional development. Still, the most important thing for me was the access to panels and breakout sessions, especially those about writing styles, publishing options, and dynamic readings. There was a lot of hope for a post-pandemic life, which made me happy because it seems like we are on our way to surviving this pandemic.

Energizing Off-Site Events

One of the benefits of the location of AWP this year was the access to some offsite events. I had the opportunity to attend the TriQuarterly Books and TriQuarterly magazine Friday, March 25 at 6:00 p.m. ET for an offsite reading at The Notary Hotel, Autograph Collection. Parneshia Jones, the director of Northwestern University Press, emceed the event, which features Amina Gautier, Kien Lam, Colleen O’Brien, Cynthia Dewi Oka, and Talin Tahajian. Books were available for purchase, and attendees were welcome to enjoy complimentary appetizers, soda, and bottled water. Registration is encouraged to provide an accurate headcount.

Meeting New and Old Friends

Then there are the genuinely transformative moments, the opportunities to accidentally connect with strangers from across the world. While engaging in conversation, you can understand the importance of relationships, community, and intellectual discourse. I met great world-renowned poets, and their wisdom exuded through the simplicity of their words. Then there was my friend, the founder and creative director of Front Porch Arts, an Art Institute of Chicago Poet in Residence, and author of Small Alters, Keli Stewart. During our time at AWP, we had the opportunity to weave our literacy narrative of friendship, loyalty, womanhood, and growing pains, which didn’t seem possible two years ago. Just a decade ago, we attended AWP Boston. Present-day, we are both published authors, yearning for our next adventure while making peace with our journey. 

Row House Publishing 

One of the highlights of attending the conference was connecting with Row House Publishing. According to their website, they are committed to raising the volume of voices that matter. I had the opportunity to meet one of their energetic poets at the booth. LindoYes echoed their mission and expressed a passion for creativity and the mission of Row House Publishing. Its mission is to create an equitable publishing model that represents the values and diversity of the authors and audience we embrace. In 2020, it became clear that there was no publisher equally committed to supporting authors while also honoring antiracist and inclusive principles. Row House has been a revolutionary model that supports authors from diverse backgrounds from day one.

Next Steps 

After a global pandemic, our lives will change again, and we must adapt to the new world as it is. This is an essential message of hope for all writing students and authors. Writing is a difficult thing to teach and learn, but now more than ever, it is an important skill. What will happen to all of the writing that we have learned so far? The world will not be the same after a pandemic, which means that our task as writers has become even more critical.

It is clear that AWP has listened to writers, and though things have evolved differently over the last couple of years, I am hopeful about the future of writing culture, publishing, and the literary scene.

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