On the Tiring Fun of AWP

I’m preparing to depart for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs’ Annual Conference, which will be held in Los Angeles. It’s an event I look forward to each year I’m able to attend, and each year the conference is larger and more overwhelming than the previous one.

I view AWP similar to the various races I’ve run. Baltimore (’03), Vancouver, BC (’05), Denver (’10), Washington, D.C. (’11), Boston (’13), Seattle (’14), & Minneapolis (’15). Rather than racing medals, however, there are the canvas bags, but unlike with my handful of racing medals, I have not kept all of my bags.

This will be my 4th year bringing Windhover: A Journal of Christian Literature to the bookfair, and overall, my conversations with people have been pleasant and meaningful. Because of those bookfair duties, I’m able to attend only a few panels during my time, but I’m okay with that.

I enjoy meeting current and past contributors, putting a face with the name. I enjoy meeting folks who are excited to discover the journal. I enjoy the challenge of explaining what we’re about and what we’re not about.

I enjoy walking around the bookfair before it opens, conversing with fellow editors, discovering new journals. At my first AWP, I went wild grabbing free back issues of journals or buying copies for $1 or $2. I returned with over 30 journals. (That was one heavy suitcase.)

Perhaps the best thing about AWP is not the journals or the books themselves, but the people. There are familiar faces: my grad-school and undergrad profs. People who were in my MFA or PhD program. Fellow writers and editors, many of whom I see once a year at this event.

I’ve met so many other people through attending the conference, as much as the conference overwhelms my introverted self. I’ve developed (and am developing) meaningful friendships with these fellow writers and editors, friendships that (through the wonder of social media and email) I am able to sustain between each conference. But for the 3-4 days that I’m there, I laugh more than in any other timespan of the year.

I return home exhausted, but inspired. New ideas to pursue, new journals to read, new people to maintain contact with. And then I’m already plotting for next year.