Here’s what Karolina Gajdeczka has to say about her trip to this year’s conference:
This year, the AWP Annual Conference (aka America’s largest congregation of that special breed of nerd known as writers) was held in Seattle, WA. I’ve gone to AWP in years past (I went to the one in DC, and even presented in Boston), and enjoyed it, so coupled with the opportunity to head out to the West Coast, I couldn’t resist.
I flew in to Seattle early, so I could have a day of sightseeing—which was well worth it. Never underestimate a bit of adventuring to spark your imagination.
Aside from the stunning Puget Sound waterfront views of the Olympic Mountains, there were plenty of inspiring moments. For instance, there was an awesome tiny-yet-jam-packed bookstore in Pike Place Market, with books stacked and crammed every which way, reminding me of the corner of my apartment that I claim as my personal space. Overflowing with books, but still comfortable. I also checked out the Chihuly Garden and Glass “art experience,” at which I lingered much longer than I expected because each piece was so intricately beautiful. Not to mention writer sightings, cool cafes, and the bustle of an unfamiliar city.
Having been to other AWP conferences, I knew my limit. With so many writers and panels and magazines and presses and people to see and things to do—I decided to be kind to myself this year and choose wisely. I made it to a handful of panels (very informative), one off-site reading (quirky and fun), and spent a chunk of time meandering around the book fair—which left me wholly satisfied, but did involve some planning ahead. Though they give you a thick program when you register and pick up your fancy name badge, the program (or most of it) is available in advance on their website.
Like other AWPs, it wasn’t too difficult to pick and choose what to see and do. I narrowed first by my areas of interest (fiction writing, “the writing life,” MFA-related-things). Sometimes general topics were repeated, with perhaps slightly different focuses, so fitting certain things in was not too difficult. When I got my Official Program, I made sure what I wanted to see what still at the same times, and wrote down the rooms and times, around which I coordinated plenty of time for the book fair (which is really the coolest part).
At the book fair, I got to walk-and-talk with our lovely editor-in-chief, Julie Wakeman-Linn, with whom I chatted with other editors, writers, magazine and presses. We picked up our fair share of “swag” (business cards, flyers, magazines, and even temporary-tattoos). I also spent a bit of time chatting with folks who stopped by the Potomac Review table (thanks to everyone who said hello!).
Though this was an intentionally quieter conference for me than the hectic schedules I gave myself in the past, I think I liked it better that way. It left room to wander, to explore, and to let all those useful bits of information and interesting people sink in.
If nothing else, the conference left me re-invigorated in the writing life, the writing world, inspired with a few new short story ideas, and perhaps some ideas of which publication might be their future home.