AWP 2011 Wrap-Up

Last week I made my triumphant return to my hometown (of course, I hate how people from the suburbs claim to be from DC, so technically a location pretty close to my hometown) for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Annual Conference, better known as AWP.

I made the decision rather last-minute (only about a week before the event) based in large part on the sheer number of tweets and blog posts in the litosphere promoting various events surrounding AWP.  With an attendance of about 8,000 people, so many literary journals and literary websites and authors were going to be there I figured in order for our tiny fledgling journal to one day hatch into one of the big dogs (birds?), we needed to be there as well.  Fortunately, sold out hotels were no barrier and my mom was really glad to see me.

I’ve been to really big conferences before with a somewhat higher cool factor (notably SIGGRAPH and SXSW) but I was really blown away by the quality of the discussions and ideas being put forth at AWP.  With minor exception, I was truly impressed and even enlightened by the sessions I attended and the people who I met.  Good, good stuff!

My focus was on the more techy future-of-publishing sessions and unlike some web and tech conferences I’ve attended, the information presented at AWP was neither too basic and elementary nor too high level.  It’s all still being figured out and while some predictions were made, most people acknowledged that we’re all kind of along for the ride – trying to head in the right direction and not be tossed on the waves.

The floor of the book fair was literally overflowing with publishers, journals, writers, students, teachers.  It was like an explosion of possibilities!  Readers still exist – even if they’re all writers 🙂

Now I’m wondering whether I will brave February in Chicago to attend next year’s AWP.   I wonder how much will have changed in the literary world in one year, how many new journals will have started, how many will have shuttered their doors?  In one panel I attended, a speaker talked of a friend who had sent out a story over 200 times before getting published and became so discouraged with the process she stopped writing altogether.  A lot can happen in a year, you could write a novel, become published or, like the speaker’s friend, you could move on to something else.

We’re all still figuring it out . . . what will you do?