My Biggest Takeaway from AWP 2015



I spent the last four days in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for the annual Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) conference. It was my first time at the conference and in the city, but time well-spent connecting with classmates, meeting other writers, having conversations about craft, listening to readings, etc.

I did enjoy a few panels, especially “Rejection! Everything You Always Wanted to Know but Were Afraid to Ask” (Jill Bialosky, Rob Spillman, Melissa Stein, MB Caschetta, David Baker), “In the Middle of Everything: Independent Publishing in the Midwest (Naomi Huffman, Ben Tanzer, Jeffrey Gleaves, Kathleen Rooney, Jason Sommer), and “Bravery and Bearing Witness: The Power of Vulnerability in Nonfiction” (Sarah Wells, Bonnie Rough, Kate Hopper, Marilyn Bousquin, Brenda Miller).

As a writer, I need to participate in these conversations because they sustain me in this unforgiving discipline, day-to-day, week-to-week. Though I’m confident I learned in Minnesota, I learned things that aren’t super clear to me immediately. I’m still processing, but I’m confident that a few ideas and approaches etched their way into my consciousness, ready to be pulled from later on when I need a particular insight.

There are moments when this feels dissatisfying because it’s tempting for me as a “young writer” (or at least an emerging one) to approach an event like AWP as a search for the secret or secrets of the writing craft and profession. Instead, I think my biggest takeaway was this: there is/are no big secret or secrets. (And yes, of course networking matters, too.)

So I get to keep ploughing away, keep sitting my ass in the chair and punching the keys. Keep finding ways to pay the rent. These are the acts I can control. The rest will take care of itself as I go or later on, or who knows, maybe never. Most of what I write won’t make it to publication, but then again most of what I write probably shouldn’t be published. These are the unsexy realities of the life I choose, so I better be in this because I love writing, because I can’t not do it.

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