To DC and Back Again: AWP 2011

This weekend, we spent three days at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs in Washington DC. The convention took place at two hotels, which were bustling with writers from every corner of the nation, publishers, agents, editors, writing program directors, and professors. Snow blanketed the streets and sidewalks of DC, but convention-goers were occupied with more important things – reading, writing, and dialoging about the written word.

The bookfair was filled with booth after booth of literary journals representing their own brands of poetry, fiction, flash fiction, criticism, creative nonfiction, and/or memior. Small presses were seated across from larger publishers. Hand-crafted zines were hawked along with thick copies of Tin House magazine. Universities and art schools decorated their booths with college banners and handed out free pens along with brochures on the now-ubiquitous MFA writing programs from Iowa to Los Angeles.

We attended panels on “The Art and Authenticity of Social Media: Using Online Tools to Grow a Community” as well as “Thinking Beyond the Book: The Future of Authorship and Publishing in a Transmedia World. We went to a keynote address by author Jhumpa Lahiri and a reading with Mary Gaitskill.

The convention, which was overwhelming at times, was a trove of information. The spirit of camaraderie filled the air as we trolled the aisles, circled the mezzanine, sat in the grand ballroom, and plucked fliers and brochures off of booth tables while elbowing fellow writers and occasionally stargazing at internet writing celebs and editors.

With this year’s convention already in the past tense, we are already nostalgic for it. We look forward to next year’s AWP convention, which we hope will be located in a warmer and more pedestrian-friendly city.

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