>AWP 2011 Conference — DC


I can’t believe how long it’s been since I posted! My only excuse is that I was wrapped up with AWP in DC—panels, readings, parties—and have been recovering and catching up ever since. Even now I don’t have much to say, so I thought I’d make a few observations about the conference:
The 2011 running of the writers, also known as the Conference of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, is history. Although many had travel disruptions due to weather conditions in the Midwest and New England, my conference went very smoothly. I drove up to DC on Wednesday afternoon. The weather was beautiful and the counter-rush hour traffic was relatively light. It had been awhile since I’d driven in DC, but I managed to avoid wrong turns and managed to pull into the Marriott’s parking garage exactly 2.5 hours after I left home. Plenty of time to check in, register for the conference, and find the pubs where various groups of friends had arranged to meet (two simultaneous parties, right next door to each other, one for Zoetrope Virtual Studio members and one for alums of the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts).
Thursday and Friday were something of a blur. I’m not sure what I did when. I attended some panels and even took notes at a couple of them, one of which I’ll blog about separately. I also went to several talks and readings, including evening presentations by Jhumpa Lahiri (a keynote address, rather than a reading) and Junot Diaz, and a fantastic reading sponsored by the National Book Critics Circle that featured Elizabeth Strout (reading from Olive Kitteridge), Edward P. Jones (The Known World), Colson Whitehead (Sag Harbor), Jayne Anne Phillips (Lark & Termite), and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (reading new work—always a bold move). That’s a lot of fire power in one reading.
Then there were some nice dinners in area restaurants with friends, a noisy party for everyone, Queens MFA happy hour in the hotel bar, the Sewanee Writers Conference Alumni reception, drinks at the bar with various friends . . . typical AWP stuff. I never did make it to an offsite event.
Saturday, though, was the main event for me. First was a panel presentation called “Small Ships, Deep Oceans: How Independent Presses Keep Short Story Collections Afloat.” I had organized the panel and so moderated a discussion among five story-writing friends: Mary Akers, Laura van den Berg, Jim Ruland, Jason Ockert, and David Mullis. Despite our 9:00am start time, we had about 60 people, and by all reports the discussion was well received.
After that I had book-signing duty at the Press 53 table in the Bookfair. That was fun and we actually sold a fair number of books, plus we got to talk to lots of people who stopped by the table. I then tried to get to a couple of other panels, but they were packed, so I bagged it and hung around the Bookfair, although I did have lunch with the other panelists on my 3:00pm panel, which was the next part of the program for me: “Link it up: Working with Story Cycles, Linked Collections, & Novels in Stories” moderated by Anne Sanow and featuring Dylan Landis, Cathy Day, and me. The panel was in a room with about 100 seats and we were massively over capacity—I estimated the crowd to be 160, with people sitting on the floor behind the dais, in front of it, all along the aisle, and standing in the back, with some even standing out in the hall straining to hear through the open doors. Wow. Again, we heard good reports about that panel as well. (I plan to blog separately about both of these panels, so I’ll leave it at that for now.)
And then—another reading, more socializing, and the conference was over. But we’ll get to do it all over again next year in Chicago . . .

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