Home > e-phemera > PRISM at AWP: Literature, Starbursts and #pizzapug

The editors have been working hard to put the international into PRISM international. We were lucky enough to go all the way to Minneapolis for AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference and Bookfair), where we attended panels, met writers, editors and publishers and unveiled our Spring Issue 53:3… and #pizzapug.

AWP had big love for pizzapug. Lots of people were into the cover (literally) and tweeted some amazing pugshots to win some coveted t-shirts. Here are some of our favourites…


Proud t-shirt winner Brad Kelly, one half of Color World Books.



PRISM 53.3 contributor Todd Boss



Here’s Todd Boss, contributor to 53:3. He is both outside and inside the issue. What a poet. What a pug.



Our 2015 Poetry Contest judge, Ken Babstock.


Our esteemed 2015 Poetry Contest judge, Ken Babstock! He has confirmed that this will be his new author headshot.



Chris Tarry, author of "How To Carry Bigfoot Home"



Chris Tarry: MFA Creative Writing alumni, bassist and author of “How To Carry Bigfoot Home.” If you want too check it out, you can watch the animated trailer here.



Bix Gabriel, one of the longlisted authors of our 2015 Fiction Contest


Bix Gabriel, whose story “Old City” was placed on the long list of our 2015 Short Fiction Contest.




Andrew MacDonald with unidentified pug accomplice.


Andrew MacDonald with a pug accomplice that has now been identified as none other than Melissa Carroll. Melissa was one of the long listed authors for our 2015 Creative Non-fiction contest. They won t-shirts for this dramatic tableau.





Look who it is! Paul Vermeersch, poet and editor at Wolsak and Wynn. Rob Taylor interviewed Paul recently, so if this photo intrigues you (and it should), you can read it in full here.




Want to read issue 53:3? Take a pugshot? Win an incredibly cool t-shirt? Then come to our launch party, May 8th at Lost + Found Cafe. For more details and to click attending, visit our event page here!

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When the editors weren’t taking photos, giving away t-shirts and spreading the word of PRISM, we were attending as many panels as we could. What were our favourites? Let us tell you…


Nicole Boyce: Prose Editor
I really enjoyed the creative non-fiction panels at AWP. One of my favourites was “Other People’s Privacy: Secondary Characters in Nonfiction,” hosted by Debra Monroe. CNF ethics are a complex subject, and the panelists offered experience-based advice on what it means to portray someone honestly and fairly, and strategies for navigating these portrayals on and off the page. I took away some valuable tips, and found myself reflecting on the session for days afterward. I also really liked “Fashioning a Text: Discovering Form and Shape in Literary Non-fiction,” hosted by Michael Steinberg. Each of the panelists had interesting, specific strategies for structuring non-fiction narratives, and Elyssa East’s Starburst-based structuring method made me feel like it’s alright to work candy into my writing routine.

Jen Macdonald: Executive Editor, Circulation 
This was my first AWP, and I was blown away by the enthusiasm of the presenters and the quality of the panels. There were so many interesting panels I wanted to attend, and at times it was painful to choose only one! I thoroughly enjoyed “Growing up in a Magical Space: Magical Realism in Contemporary YA”. Listening to the authors describe their passion for the genre and hearing them outline some of the practical techniques they use to blend magical elements within the realistic environment was inspiring for my own YA writing. I also took in “Narrative, Lyric, Hybrid: Crafting Essay Collections into Books”. I’m currently working on a collection of essays and grappling with the overarching structure and organization of the book as a whole. As each panelist shared the influences and decisions that shaped their collections, I came away with new directions for my own work, and a wonderful reading list.

photo 2Rob Taylor: Poetry Editor
I felt a little bad for the non-poetry fans at AWP 2015 – they missed out on so much! A highlight was Robert Bly’s brief reading at the end of “Keeping Our Small Boat Afloat: A Tribute to Robert Bly” in which he concluded many of his poems with a note along the lines of “I have no idea what that meant, but it sounded pretty nice, didn’t it?” My favourite event by far was “Teaching: The Life of Poetry and Muriel Rukeyser.” Poets and teachers such as Tim Seibles (whose collection we recently reviewed) and Jen Benka spoke generously about Rukeyser, her life, her poems and her essay collection The Life of Poetry. Rukeyser’s writing has always meant a lot to me – as a birthday gift years back, my wife made me a painting which included the text to Rukeyser’s “Islands” and it has hung beside my desk ever since. In the middle of all the endless self-promotion that comes with a 700+ booth trade show and speaker after speaker opening with their “look-how-many-grants-I-got-last-year” bios, the selflessness with which these poets gathered together to celebrate one of our own was refreshing and grounding – it reminded me why I fell in love with poetry in the first place.

image1Sierra Skye Gemma: Executive Editor, Finance
One of my favourite sessions was “Let the Body Speak: Sex in Literary Nonfiction.” Moderator Devin Latham and panelists Peter Selgin, Barrie Jean Borich, and Sean Ironman read excerpts from their own work and discussed how descriptions of graphic sex can still be “good.” The other session I really enjoyed was “The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing but Your Speculations: The Use of Speculation and Other Imaginative Techniques in Creative Nonfiction”  with Sean Prentiss,  Nancer Ballard, and Robin Hemley. This session described all the many ways you can use speculation (provided it is clearly indicated to the reader) to flesh out missing information in literary nonfiction, including using alternate outcomes, or imagining what might have been. High on inspiration from these sessions, I’ve already started a new essay that incorporates sex and speculation to explore desire.

pizzapug_claraClara Kumagai: Executive Editor, Promotions
AWP always has a lot to offer children’s and YA authors, which is just perfect for me. One of my favourite’s was “Representing Responsibly: We Need Diverse Books – Authors on the Challenges of Writing Diversity for Kids and Teens,” which included Torontonians Kristy Shen and Bryce Leung on its panel. We Need Diverse Books is an awesome organization that works to further diversity in children’s and YA writing and publishing. (This panel also happened to be at 9am Friday morning, and I was truly proud that I made it there. Another highlight of AWP? The nightly dance parties.) The panelists discussed the need for diverse characters with gripping stories and how to responsibly write about cultures outside one’s own. The panel also had the most passionate and dedicated audience I saw at AWP. (That’s children’s writers for you…)

‘Til next year, AWP. See you in Los Angeles!