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Association of Writers and Writing Programs AWP

The PRISM staff is back from the biggest writing conference in North America!

Association of Writers and Writing Programs AWP

The 2014 Association of Writers and Writing Programs annual conference (abbreviated—for some unknown reason—to AWP)  was held in Seattle and it was a wonderful opportunity to learn from established writers and to meet editors and publishers from around the world.

We each wanted to briefly share with you our favourite moments at AWP:

Zach Matteson, Poetry Editor
I think the best takeaway I got from AWP was the reminder of just how many of us writers are out there adding to the global conversation of letters. I met passionate writers from all over the world of every shape, size, and persuasion, and it reminded me that although the writing process is often very lonely, I am never alone in my passion or dedication.

Sierra Skye Gemma, Executive Editor
I went to a panel entitled “Plotting the Realist Novel,” with Leah StewartMarjorie CelonaBrock ClarkeLan Samantha Chang, and Amanda Eyre Ward. I went because of the interesting questions posed in the brief write-up on the panel, namely: “What are the mechanics of plot in the realist novel, and what do they have in common with those of genres? How do you decide what kind of story you’re writing? What should happen on page 100?” I quickly realized that none of these questions would be answered. These accomplished writers had seemingly bumbled their way through their first novels, just as most in the audience were probably now bumbling through their own. However, the panelists—all of whom were very smart and funny and engaging—had other interesting bits of advice. Some of my favourite tips:

“Start a novel with a pretty clear question that you want to answer by the end of the book.”—Leah Stewart
“Writing a novel is not about perfectionism; it’s about plowing ahead.” —Marjorie Celona
“Get in your character’s way to happiness. If happiness is impeded, characters do interesting things.” —Brock Clarke

Jane Campbell, Prose Editor
I saw Tobias Wolff, one of my literary idols, read, which was amazing of course. He also talked about how one of the happiest times in his life was when he was working on his first book, before he was a literary superstar. He said, (I’m paraphrasing) “becoming is the best part.” It was a nice reminder to stop feeling sorry for myself because I’m not famous and appreciate the fact I actually get to do what I love every day.

Jeffrey Ricker, Contest Manager
As a writer of gay fiction, YA fiction, science fiction, and (occasionally) literary fiction—sometimes all four at once—I was intrigued by the title of the panel “Queer Double Agents: Writing & Publishing Between Communities,” with David Groff, Carla Trujillo, Sarah van Arsdale, and Ellery Washington. I often find myself fluctuating between these genres, not always fluidly, and at times wonder which hat I’m supposed to be wearing. It was reassuring and encouraging to hear from other writers dealing with the same issues, as well as to hear Carla Trujillo offer some advice that she learned from author Sandra Cisneros: “Write what you’re absolutely afraid of.”

Andrea Hoff, Executive Editor
The panel “Outlaw Aesthetics and Publishing: LA Indie Presses Changing the Face of Publishing” was a highlight for me at AWP 2014. Neelanjana Banerjee moderated the discussion between some of LA’s most innovative small press publishers: Chiwan ChoiLuis J.RodriguezLisa Pearson, and Teresa Carmody.

“Working to create a vibrant literary metropolis from inside the sprawl,” these writers are as impassioned about their city as they are about publishing. “I could be doing this anywhere,” stated Lisa Pearson of Siglio Press, “but I love doing this is in LA.”

Not often thought of as a literary town, the outlier status of LA provides a “no boundaries” creative freedom in how these publishers are building their literary communities.  They host events such as literary walks, hybrid music-reading-theatre-art festivals, and other forms of performance publishing (check out Les Figues Press: Writing as Event and Writ Large Press’ Literary Alchemy) throughout LA neighbourhoods in studios, parks, independent bookstores, bars, street corners, and parkades.

“What matters is how we create spaces, and how we fill them,” stated Luis J. Rodriguez. I left the panel feeling truly inspired by their ideas on connecting people, writers, publishers, and community—and I started planning my own small press tour of LA.

For a list of current LA literary events, follow @LALitScene on Twitter.