12,000+ writers gather. Enthusiasm, confusion, inspiration and drinking ensue.

AWP Bookfair booths: candy, pens, buttons, postcards, discounts, lures, conversation and books!

They came by the thousands: students, professors, marquee names, aspirants, hobbyists, hopefuls of every ilk, hair color, age, race, sexual orientation and skill level. This year’s AWP (my 6th) provided a panel for every tribe imaginable, including mine. (The Sense of An EndingWriters Over 60 Discuss Death — a very well-attended panel, I might add!) This recognition of specific needs is important, but made it impossible to get a seat (even on the floor) in general craft sessions all writers need like revision.

Still, there were readings, panels, and signings galore with remarkable writers, teachers and professionals (Colson Whitehead! Paul Beatty! Janet Burroway!) You could meet up with (or avoid) former classmates, colleagues, workshop participants, and program leaders. The book fair offered hundreds of places to sign on for graduate programs, lit mags, and destination writing trips and it showcased thousands of books. You could read or you could party!

This three-day, once-a-year event is an opportunity to be social, inspired, and surrounded by people that speak your language. But most importantly, it’s an opportunity to be seen. Attending AWP is an admission: I write. And nobody gives you any shit about it. How great is that?

An article about the conference from Evan Allgood and Boris Kachka at Vulture:


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Karen Engelmann

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