BY KATE KYSAR
What is AWP?
AWP is short for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs. Based at George Mason University in Virginia, AWP is not only the professional organization that oversees all of the creative writing programs in the country, but it is also the umbrella organization for writing centers, writing conferences, and individual writers.
Can you tell us more about the conference?
The annual conference is AWP’s main event. It rotates though the major American cities to highlight different regions. This year the registration closed early, as it reached capacity nearly two months before the conference. There are now more than 10,000 writers swarming the two hotels, the Hilton and the Palmer House in downtown Chicago, where 450 panels, readings, and featured events are taking place. The keynote speaker on Thursday night, the first of the conference’s three days, is Margaret Atwood. In addition, there will be over 400 off-site events and readings in bars, restaurants, and universities in the surrounding Chicago area. The conference is indeed the SXSW of literature.
Why do so many Twin Cities writers go to AWP?
As one writer recently said to me, “I cannot afford not to attend AWP.” Not only are the panel discussions enlightening and the readings illuminating, but the conference also features a book fair this year of over 560 exhibitors. Writers can talk face-to-face with editors, read and purchase magazines and books, and network with potential publishers.
What is the purpose of going to AWP?
Schmoozing is the most important unscheduled event at AWP. With 1,620 presenters and over 10,000 attendees, there are thousands of interesting writers, editors, and readers to meet. People see their old professors and classmates, editors, and friends. As more and more writing work is done long distance and on the Internet, this is the one time each year when the national writing community can be in one place. Ironically, it is also a time to see people from your own area. The Twin Cities writing scene is so rich and busy that writers and publishers are scattered at various events; AWP is a chance to eat, drink, and hang out from with hometown friends as well as look for publishers, promote one’s book, and meet contacts for future speaking engagements.
What is Minnesota’s connection to AWP?
Minnesota has been prominently represented on the Board of Directors lately: Richard Robbins from the University of Minnesota-Mankato and Jerod Santek from the Loft Literary Center serve on the board, and Santek is also the conference chair for Chicago’s 2012 conference. We are also thrilled that AWP will be coming to Minneapolis in April 2015 to the Minneapolis Convention Center.
Where can I learn more about AWP?