By Elizabeth Donald
I’m honored to share that I’ve been awarded an AWP Community Scholarship to attend the 2024 conference in Kansas City.
I was lucky to attend last year’s conference in Seattle, and I absolutely loved it. AWP is one hell of a conference, with about 25 panels per hour aimed for writers and writing programs. Think Dragoncon, but all books. It’s got a heavy literary bent, but there is also programming for commercial and genre writers, tons for poets and a LOT for the teaching of writing. And unlike the very white-cis-male spaces we find in publishing, AWP has more diversity in all forms than just about any other space I’ve seen.
A few of the panels I’ve got my eye on:
- Social justice on the page: How writing and activism feed each other
- Writing practices for neurodiverse and disabled writers
- Mapping the creative and pedagogical terrain of community colleges
- Breaking the rules on chapbooks: New approaches to an old form
- Women of new fabulism and speculative literature
- Be Shameless: Everything you need to know to nail promotion
- Writing life post-MFA: Unearthing the realities
- A turn of the page: From journalism to creative writing
- Greater than the sum of its parts: Writing and structuring essay collections
- The fine art of the craft talk
- Writing the literary sex scene: Dethroning the male gaze
- Show (Me) Don’t Tell: Missouri writers grappling with the state of their state
- Ableism off and on the page
- How do you eat? Writers talk plainly about funding their writing lives
And about two dozen others among the hundreds available.
In addition to the daytime panels, AWP really comes alive at the evening off-site events. Readings are everywhere, wine-and-cheese receptions and gatherings in dozens of locations every night until the wee hours. I made the grave mistake in Seattle of skipping the nighttime events for the first couple of days, thinking it was like a con room party: fun but skippable. It was only on the third day that I realized it’s where so much of the creative energy of the convention comes from.
In fact, I wrote a column on ten tips for attending AWP, which you can read here. Tip No. 3 was “The real beauty is in the offsite events.”
I strongly recommend AWP for beginning writers, established writers, poets, librarians, students, editors, publishers, creative writing teachers, memoirists… basically if you put pen to paper and/or teach others to do the same, there’s something for you here, particularly in academic and literary circles.
Having graduated out of student rates, I was very afraid I could not afford to return even though it’s so close to me this year: Kansas City is a mere four hours according to Google Maps, which always means five hours for me. The scholarship makes a huge difference, and I’m incredibly grateful to AWP for its generosity and those of the donors who kick in to help underserved, disabled and low-income writers join in the fray.
If you’re interested, check out the website at awpwriter.org. And let me know if you’ll be there! All adventures are more fun with a fellowship. Didn’t Tolkein teach us that?