AWP: A Field Guide To and For the Dangerously Reclusive

It’s that time of year again, fellow scribes!

For anyone who loves books.

For anyone who loves writers.

It is time to heed the call…


Have no fear!

There is a party for everyone, and writers and book lovers are no exceptions.

It’s AWP, my zebras!!!!!!!!!!!

Dancing Zebra

They say it’s not a party. The party line is that it is a “conference” that brings together All Writers and Writing Programs (why it’s not called AWWP, I don’t know). I would say that AWP is a writers’ party with a conference problem.

Everyone comes to this.





(J.K Rowling hasn’t, that I know of, been to AWP, I just like her expression in this photo)

And, small (but, not for long),

Jamie Moore (headshot)

(This is Jamie Moore and she has a book, Our Small Faces, out with ELJ publications. You should buy it, just saying.)




Mostly, thank the heavens, it’s a lot of small presses,


[Hey Rhonda!!!!!]

Like Hawthorne Books





In a later post, we will talk about the pros and cons of the small press, but for now they represent the most flourishing part of the book publishing industry. These presses vary wildly in what they publish, who they publish, and when they publish. There are presses that have been around for a while and ones that are just starting out. And they will all, for the most part, be at AWP. This represents your best chance, as a writer, to talk to people who are in the business of publishing.

They represent the real American wild west attitude. They publish what they want, they do it themselves, and they don’t have a major conglomerate overlord to answer to. If the writing is good, they will work themselves to the bone to publish it.



AWP doesn’t just have a book convention. It also has panel discussions, and it has big names who come to give talks and be involved in discussions. Admittedly, the panels can be hit or miss. Some are run really well, and you walk away from them with some insight.



Other panels are not so good, and you find yourself more interested in the hairstyles of the people sitting in front of you than you are in the disembodied speaker who doesn’t go up to the podium because he is either too shy or too nervous which makes his voice warble like a wee song bird and causes you to check Facebook on your phone. One. More. Time.



AWP also has a lot of guest speakers, as well. These people tend to be the “big names” of writing. I guess you’re a big name if you sell over 100,000 copies of your book, or you win an award everyone has heard of, or they make a really awesome movie that wins an award that everyone has heard of.



I didn’t go to Cheryl Strayed’s last year because I wanted to go to see Jeanette Winterson. I waited in line. I got a pretty close seat. I talked to other fans of Winterson who love her work as much as I do. Winterson was supposed to share the hour with another author who got snowed in at another airport, so she couldn’t make it, but you would never have known it from the way Winterson handled it. She lectured on what made her a writer for an hour, and it was mostly off the cuff, and it was all awesome.

JeanetteWinterson(Jeanette barely cleared the podium)

AWP is also an excuse to go somewhere new. I am a West Coast person, from birth to death, but I wanted to go see Boston, where AWP was last year. I thought I was going to get out more, but it was snowing pretty heavily, and it made sightseeing seem like more trouble than it was worth.


Google maps told us that the place we were staying was “a short walk” to the convention hall. So, if urban hiking in the snow does not sound like your idea of a good time, stay at a hotel that is super close to the convention center, otherwise vaya con Dios.

I did get out a bit:




My friend and I yelled “Norm!!!!!” when we walked into the bar. The hostess did not bat an eye, and no one looked up from their conversations. We thought we were pretty funny. We had a beer and talked to a local bar tender who told us where to go if we wanted to have a good time in Boston, but we told him we really only had time for the beer before we had toPhoto:

So, we have all these people who don’t get out much together in one place, and what do they do? AWP kindly offers a dance that starts at 10.


This was either the best or the worst part, but they had an open bar with beer and wine until 12 AM. They had one bartender who could care less, and let me double fist it as fast as I could. And then this happened:


And then they started playing some 80’s music so this happened:


And, finally, this:


(Your guess is as good as mine.)

The moral to that story is that you should always be responsible with beer and wine, even when it is free. Anyway, the funny part to the whole thing is that at exactly 12 AM they turned the lights on and told everyone to go home, probably so people wouldn’t get too crazy. #whatweretheythinking.


I digress.

AWP is a quickie camp for writers. Come meet and mingle with your tribe. These are the people who love words as hard as you do, they are toiling with their own words and everyone there understands this struggle. You won’t have to explain yourself to anyone because we will all understand why you are here.

So, this year, the year of the horse, 2014,

come to Seattle,

be with your people.


Come see me and my people at the Antioch University LA booth. Not to brag, but we are pretty awesome. We work hard, and we are passionate about our program and will gladly talk your ear off about it. I’ll be manning the booth on Friday, I think. We are all going to have matching T-shirts, like a sports team, or Starbucks.


[Thanks Burnadette, you look good!]

You have the opportunity to make many new connections if you visit all the booths. Those connections, thanks to Facebook, can last a long time. If anything, it is three days to hang out with your people and enjoy their company.


[Thanks Marcia]

All joking aside, the best part of AWP is when you get to meet an idol. This is me and Jeanette Winterson. She hung around after her epic lecture to sign books and take photos with us little people. I got to ask Winterson a question: “What is the best part of writing?”

She answered: “Wrestling with myself and the world, and sometimes winning.”



 How about youdear readers? What is the best and worst part of AWP for you?

Comments? Concerns? Jokes?

Leave them in the discussion section!

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