Thoughts and Inspiration for Creative Writers

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AWP: props just for showing up. dot dot dot.

Posted on | April 14, 2010 | 1 Comment

Just returned from a long three days at the AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) conference in Denver. Each day is filled with hundreds of writing panels to choose from, readings to attend, and thousands of people to meet. For my assistant, Amanda, all of these experiences were new. Here is her take on the conference half-way through!

well, it’s a huge nerd gathering here. i’ve never seen such a condensed population of messenger-bags and plastic-framed glasses. the people who sport such things (me included) have been shuffling from panel to panel all day, further shredding the bottoms of our jeans beneath the heels of our graying Converse sneakers and lace-up loafers.

it’s not like i imagined it would be. from the way all the writers back home talked it up, i got the picture that this would be a huge party…that there would be explosions of ideas and expressions of writerly camaraderie not to mention sex in the convention center bathroom stalls and french kissing in iambic pentameter. maybe i’m not hanging with the right people, but it’s been quiet. really quiet. as i wandered the book fair, though the room had hundreds of tables and four times as many people, i was even able to make phone calls without plugging my opposite ear with a forefinger. for people who work with words, they sure don’t use many of them.

instead it feels to me like everyone is watching everyone. before the last panel i attended, i took a moment to survey the people around me, and was met with the gaze of four other people who appeared to be doing the same thing. you walk down the street here and you’d be able to pick out attendees even without the green lanyards we hang around our necks–awp attendees’ eyes follow you like those of a horror movie painting. however, instead of looking at your face, they’re staring at your midsection, trying to read the name and affiliation printed on your badge. for that reason, it feels like we’re sizing each other up. everyone is looking for the next person they want to meet. and a lot of people keep themselves busy pretending that they are that person.

the panels themselves are okay. a little odd. i attended one on writing in prisons, and one about “ellipsis–using negative space in fiction” which basically just involved a man shouting “dot dot dot dot dot” at the audience for a half hour. in one a girl the row behind me was clipping her nails. i learned early on that the chairs near the doors are the most valuable. i’ve slipped in and out of up to three panels in one session, which felt sort of like trying to see more than one movie on a single ticket, and gave me a bit of an adrenaline rush. so far the information has been rather shallow, and i’ve started wondering whether the money people pay is not for these sessions, but rather for the permission to label themselves as Writers, capital W. even people like me (unpublished, new to the field) look legitimate just for showing up.


One Response to “AWP: props just for showing up. dot dot dot.”

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    November 3rd, 2016 @ 6:20 am

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