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Question of the Week: AWP

by Susan Henderson on February 19, 2007

What do you know about the annual AWP conference? Have you gone in the past? Are you going this year?

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Wednesday, we’re hanging with Jeff Lependorf before he leaves for AWP. In my opinion, there is no greater champion of literature and indie presses. So, if you are a poet, a short story writer, a reader or an editor of a literary magazine, an author or a publisher of a small press, this is the most knowledgeable and influential person you can possibly know. He’s a good egg, and I hope you’ll be back to join the conversation.

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One last thing. Back in September, when I started LitPark, I kind of tricked my amazing O. Henry Award winning webmaster, Terry Bain, into giving the first interview. But it wasn’t really an interview. It was more of a public pestering, and I’ve decided to add a proper interview to his link. So click here and read the new (and also the old, if you want to) and remember to thank Terry for doing all the hard, technical work of keeping LitPark running.

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Gail Siegel February 19, 2007 at 2:33 pm

I have been to AWP a few times. New Orleans, Baltimore, Chicago and most notably — sharing a room with YOU, Susan, in Vancouver. It’s a terrific conference if you have the right energy level to spend your time networking. It’s not a sit back and learn experience. No time for writing or workshopping stories. It’s an input overload-fest. It’s been especially nice for me to meet some of the editors who published me, to meet people like Kim Chinquee and Tom Jackson for the first time. It’s also been a pleasure to hear so many icons speak and read in such a compressed space. The Warren Wilson instructors (from Charles Baxter to Michael Martone) always give a great presentation.

Unfortunately, although I planned to be there this year, I can’t go. I’ll be in Italy and One-Story’s Sirenland workshop in March, and because of my job, I just can’t make two trips that close together.

By the way, is anyone else going to Sirenland? I’ve been trying to find out who is going to be there and have come up empty.

I’m sorry to be missing AWP because there will be a lot of great friends and writers there — notably the Hotpants short-short writers. I also think i have a conflict next year, when it’s in New York. But I HIGHLY recommend it to you, if you can go.

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Robin Slick February 19, 2007 at 3:07 pm

Oh man, I wanted to go but it was in conflict with another conference I was supposed to attend and then pulled out of at the last minute. Now it’s too late for me to get my act together and fly to Atlanta. Although…hmmm. Next year is in New York? Well, that’s a no-brainer for me. It sounds awesome.

Let’s talk about Terry Bain for a minute. You Are a Dog is an amazing, amazing book. It’s a permanent fixture in our bathroom library. Don’t laugh. Ever since we went wireless, my daughter Julie has made the bathroom her private library complete with laptop and a special shelf for her books. She disappears in there for hours at a time and every time I hear her giggling from behind the closed door, I know she’s re-reading a chapter from You Are a Dog.

And Terry is dead-on about how an author needs to practice narration and go out into the world with a proud, booming voice. I first fell in love and bought the book hearing him read the vacuum segment at the Night Train reading in Kings Park, NY. You Are a Dog is a must read for anyone who loves/lives with one (and we’re not talking men, though I suppose many of the chapters could be interpreted as such har har).

Damn that Kings Park weekend was a fun time.

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Gail Siegel February 19, 2007 at 3:21 pm

Yes, Kings Park was terrific. If there was a cage match between Kings Park and AWP, Kings Park would win, hands down.

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Juliet February 19, 2007 at 4:13 pm

Yes, Kings Park. Yes.

Public pesterings are my specialty.

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Carolyn Burns Bass February 19, 2007 at 5:10 pm

My confession. I’ve always felt undereducated for AWP. I joined enthusiastically and loved the journal, but fell into that comparison thing when I didn’t have an MFA. In fact, the only degree I have is 98.6 and most of the time it falls below the body standard. This is on me, folks, and I know it. AWP is an awesome organization and they put on what looks like an amazing–and affordable–conference.

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mikel k poet February 19, 2007 at 5:38 pm

Never heard of the AWP. Not much of a joiner. Good luck to those going to it; whatever it is.

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Kim Chinquee February 19, 2007 at 6:55 pm

Sue, I was sorry to miss meeting you at the AWP in Vancouver. That was the only AWP I’ve missed in years! AWP, to me is very inspiring, and I really love the environment of the conference, spending time with so many great writers. Love the readings, the talks, meeting up with friends and meeting new people, and those I’ve known from correspondence; it’s great to finally meet them in person. I’m going this year, yes, and am talking about flash fiction.

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Lori Oliva February 19, 2007 at 7:10 pm

I will be there. I won’t make it everyday, but Friday and Saturday for sure. From what I hear, the energy is infectious and the panel discussions are very insightful. Since I’ve had my nose buried in my rewrite, my conference planning has been slack to say the least…but this is right down the street and serendipity is calling…

A side note: Trader Vics’ Lounge inside the Atlanta Hilton offers a quirky atmosphere that’s a bit “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” meets “Brady Bunch goes to Hawaii”. For those looking for inspiration on the creation of setting, it’s a must see.

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Juliet February 19, 2007 at 7:13 pm

Trader Vic’s is the best. Lori, you are so right.
I can’t make it at all, but shall live vicariously.

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Terry Bain February 19, 2007 at 7:32 pm

What I know about AWP is that I’ve never had any desire to go. Nor do I now. This might be another weakness of mine, and will likely mean that I can never hold down a steady job… but who the hell said I wanted a steady job?

Hey, Jack, aren’t you supposed to be painting the kitchen?

(Oh hell. I’ve been caught.)

Back to the rollers, y’all.

Blessings, and thanks for the comments on that dog book I wrote. They mean more than you can possibly imagine.

Expeliarmus,
Terry

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LaurenBaratz-Logsted February 19, 2007 at 7:57 pm

I’ve never been to AWP.

Thanks, Terry, for everything you do!

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Marcy Dermansky February 19, 2007 at 9:35 pm

I went to AWP once. I was a culture deprived grad student in Hattiesburg, Mississippi at the time and got sent by the program on what felt like a free trip to DC. I have to admit, I was so thrilled to go out for Thai food and wander bookstores in Dupont Circle that I had little time for the actual conference. I remember going to see “Breaking the Waves” and crying through almost the entire film.

In my one major networking coup, I did manage to dance with an editor of one shall not be named literary journal at the closing party. This editor, unfortunately, continued to reject my stories.

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Lori Oliva February 19, 2007 at 9:49 pm

Terry, my appologies for not thanking you for your web-savvy efforts! Litpark holds a special place in my heart. So many creative minds come here every day and it wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for you. Oh, and I love how you’ve customized the look…very cool.

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Susan Henderson February 19, 2007 at 10:15 pm

Gail – Italy and One Story – now that’s my kind of workshop! (My favorite part of AWP/Vancouver was Gail! You’ll hear the rest of my impressions on Friday.)

Robin – I’d gone so far as to book a room in Atlanta, but I couldn’t justify the cost, knowing it would be in NY next year. I adored the Kings Park reading, but next time I go to the best reading ever, I don’t want to be the one organizing it. That was the one big strike against it.

Juliet – I’m pretty good at pestering, too.

Carolyn – Ha! There are certainly those types walking around, the ones who feel superior and give me something to giggle about.

mikel k – Woops, you’ll have to click on the link to see what AWP stands for. I always forget. Basically, it’s the largest grouping of literary magazine editors and small press editor/publishers you could ever imagine. It’s other things, too, but that’s the bulk of it. And it’s more introverts and non-joiners than anything else, which makes a very funny social dynamic.

Kimmie! – I’m so sorry I’m going to miss your panel. Want to tell everyone more about your panel – who’s on it and what the focus is?

Lori – Take photos of that lounge! And don’t forget to celebrate after finishing that manuscript. If anyone finds Tom Williams down there (Arkansas Review) and buys him a scotch for me, I’ll pay them back.

t – Would you paint that kitchen already? Then come back and play when you’re through.

Lauren – We’ll have the anti-AWP party here for everyone who’s left out next week.

Marcy – Thai food and bookstores in Dupont Circle would draw me, too!

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Susan Henderson February 19, 2007 at 10:24 pm

Speaking of indie presses (and there will be lots of talk about them here on Wednesday), I found this cool snippet over at n.l.’s Noveltown blog:

An Argument for Writers’ Taking Charge by Johnny Temple, publisher and editor of Akashic Books of New York, while written in 2005, is an article that captures the spirit of Indie Presses and Noveltown to this day.

“Today’s indie publishing community is in some ways reminiscent of American punk rock in 1982. In that era, bands took it upon themselves to carve out networks that would connect the punk scene in San Francisco to the one in Phoenix, the one in Lawrence, Kansas, to the one in Washington, D.C., to Amsterdam’s, to Belgrade’s, to Israel’s, to Bangkok’s, and beyond. Working closely with indie labels, bands did the dirty work of booking their own tours and driving in decrepit vans and sleeping on floors and in parking lots—hammering out a vibrant (and, yes, highly flawed) new underground culture where one didn’t exist before. A similar grassroots approach to local- scene building—and to the networking between those scenes—is under way in indie literature.”

to read the rest, you have to go here:
http://www.nlbelardes.com/blogger/2007/02/indie-presses-and-writers-reminiscent.html

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Robin Slick February 19, 2007 at 10:31 pm

Susan, both Gail and I agree that Kings Park was the best time ever and I bet if we take a poll among those who attended, everyone else will say the same. So I’m guessing the “strike” is that you had to do the legwork? But hard work is your speciality! I know a lot of influential people and I’d bet my house not one of them could have found us a Bed & Breakfast with no owners/hosts in sight who left us totally to our own devices and in complete charge of their beautiful establishment. And who else could have booked me in a honeymoon suite complete with chocolate, a four poster bed, and two gorgeous writer men? Okay, so one of them snored and I kept the other one awake with the t.v. on trying to drown out the snorer, but still…

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Lance Reynald February 20, 2007 at 1:17 am

ok. I’ll admit I’m pretty twisted right now but that bit over at noveltown made me weepy…
(revolution is underway kids…and I think all the litpark-ers are it.)

no AWP yet, and not this year (can’t step away from what I’m doing to go). But…next year looks perfect.

oh yeah, Thanks for helping the Park Terry!!!

xoxo- L.

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Daryl February 20, 2007 at 6:31 am

Well, I’m looking for inspiration now for a way to enter this writing/publishing world in a different way. I know the odds of my becoming another Stephen King are pretty slim, and I’m all for creating things fresh and crinkly. Being a rather alternative fella myself, I can’t see any reason why I wouldn’t choose to submit my own manuscripts through ~indie presses~. Heck, and why not create a YouTube/homemade-video press interview sensation of some sort to hype up the underground fever! I’m more interested in actually being read than making mega-bux.

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Susan Henderson February 20, 2007 at 12:48 pm

Robin – Yeah, that b&b was kind of too funny to be true!

Lance – I’m a definite for AWP in NYC. I’m sending you something today.

Daryl – I think the only thing that makes people scared of going indie is the marketing. But maybe the internet has begun to level the playing field. Indies have always won the battle of being the most passionate.

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Alexander Chee February 20, 2007 at 8:48 pm

I’m in. My friend Melanie Fallon and I are making a road trip out of it, which means it’ll be a little like that Tennessee Williams story “Two on a Party”. I haven’t been before now but I’m very curious.

I’m glad to see you’re going, Susan. Save a dance for me.

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Bruce Hoppe February 21, 2007 at 1:35 pm

Went to AWP in Austin last year. For me it was a mixed bag.

Pluses

There was a generous conference fee waving program, without which I wouldn’t have been able to afford going. A couple of hours of volunteer work (hall monitor, handing out conference badges to new arrivals etc.) and the rest of the time was my own.

I got to sign copies of my novel at my alma mater Antioch U. booth at the book fair.

Minuses

I couldn’t seem to make the networking thing work for me. The interaction atmosphere felt rather strident–like peer/camaraderie possibilities (bs ing at the bar) were subverted by the need to prowl for publication possibilities i.e., “should I be yakking with you if you’re not on my career track radar screen?” But then I’m a notoriously awkward schmooser.

Was disappointed to find so many presentors reading from a prepared paper. Seemed to squelch interaction with the audience. I could have sent my nephew (an Austin resident) down with a tape recorder.

Not going this year due to a schedule conflict–possible book signing at a joint Mountain Plains and New Mexico Library Associations Conference.

Might consider New York next year, but I’ve always wondered if the New Yorker Book festival held every October might not be a better bet, if one is to make the trip to NY.

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J.D. Smith February 21, 2007 at 3:55 pm

I’ve been to the AWP a few times now, and I’ll be going next week. This time I’m required to be there, as I’ll be moderating a panel (“The Impersonal Essay” on the morning of March 1).

It’s a great way to see who is publishing what and meet editors with whom one has corresponded, but by Saturday afternoon I’m in sensory and social overload.

The Vancouver AWP is my favorite so far, as there I proposed to the woman who is now my wife.

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Susan Henderson February 21, 2007 at 4:17 pm

Alex – I’m not actually going to the Atlanta AWP, but I’ll be at AWP-NYC next year, and I’ll save a dance for you for sure.

Bruce – The New Yorker Book Festival is wonderful if you go to see presenters. I’m still swooning after sitting so close to Seamus Heaney and hearing him read about digging potatoes with his gorgeous lilt. If you need to network (I say NEED because who really WANTS to), then AWP’s a better bet. But NYer puts on the better show and pulls out the really big guns.

JD – You better come back and give some details about the proposal!

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J.D. Smith February 21, 2007 at 7:27 pm

Thanks for asking.

I proposed at the Chartwell, one of Vancouver’s better restaurants, on the Thursday night of the conference. I had purchased a ring with a Canadian diamond in the U.S. and was in the funny position of bringing it back into Canada. Fortunately I didn’t have to answer any questions at Customs.

Less fortunately, on the way to the restaurant we were accosted by an illing junkie whose appeals for money became continually less logical. With the ring in my breast pocket, I was wondered about getting mugged.

Once we passed that hurdle the dinner went very well indeed,and the management sent us on our way with little pastries in honor of the occasion.

That was a good trip.

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