This week in Tampa, Florida is the 2018 AWP Conference and Bookfair, the largest gathering of writers and writing-related university programs, presses, and non-profits in North America and probably the world. Usually attendance is around 12,000-14,000 people. Given that most of us are introverts, this multi-day conference is simultaneously exhausting on a physical, mental, and emotional level, while also often being a wonderfully uplifting experience which reunites old friends and former colleagues, brings contributors and journal editors together, and, yes, even draws an odd assortment of characters onto the dance floor of the weird tradition that is the AWP dance.
Although De-Canon does not have a formal presence at AWP this year (that is, we didn't invest in a table), we will still have a presence of sorts. If you'd like to chat about the project, discuss past or future post topics for the blog, or want to learn more about how to have your own books included in the archive, you can find me (Neil Aitken) at Table 1136 in the bookfair where I'll be representing Boxcar Poetry Review and Have Book Will Travel. Dao Strom won't be at the conference, but her books will be available at Press Otherwise (Table 1451). My books will be at Sundress Publications and Anhinga Press.
We're excited about next year's AWP Conference which will be here in Portland, OR -- the physical home of the De-Canon project and archive -- and we look forward to having opportunities to share what we're doing and the resources we're building to those who come out for AWP in Portland.
For those attending AWP this year in Tampa, here's a short list of suggestions to make life a bit easier.
1. Drink lots of water. Staying hydrated is key part of surviving what often feels like an overwhelming gauntlet of voices, conversations, and panels. You'll be excited to talk to so many people, but if you don't care for your voice, you'll be wiped out before the week is through. I often pack cough drops /throat lozenges with me as an added means of warding off laryngitis. I also recommend keeping a water bottle that you can refill at the water fountains -- it'll save you a lot of money.
2. Bring your own snacks. Nuts, dried fruit, jerky, or whatever else is lightweight, filling, and packs enough calories to keep you going. Save your money for books and for dinners with friends. Expect lines and inflated prices for conference food offerings everywhere.
3. Take breaks. Rather than packed your daily schedule, give yourself permission to wander the bookfair (which really is one of the best things about the conference) or find a quiet sofa or chair to take a nap in. Or retreat to your hotel room if it isn't too far. Don't burn yourself out - physically or emotionally.
1. Attend panels sponsored by groups and organizations that support POC communities of writers. Not only does it show support and solidarity, but it's a great place to track down your friends and literary heroes within your community.
2. Volunteer to help out at booths and tables run by those organizations. Again, it's a good way to make friends and get to know more POC writers.
3. When browsing the bookfair, look over the offerings at different publishers' tables and note which ones tend to publish POC writers. Some presses are doing a terrific job. Others have a long way to go. It's good to get a sense of where each press and literary journal is at currently.
4. Buy books and support the writers of color (and their presses). It's a tough world out there, and presses that publish writers of color could use the love -- and authors are thrilled when their books sell out (especially if they're doing a book signing).
5. Attend the caucuses and meetings for your community. AWP is a great place to meet and network -- for me, attending the Asian American Caucus has been a wonderful way to learn about other projects, programs, and writers who are working out there in different parts of the country. In those caucuses, people share resources, experience, and opportunities.
If you're at AWP, be sure to stop by Table 1136 to chat with Neil about De-Canon.