Monday, February 7, 2011

What I Learned at AWP

For those of you who aren't familiar, AWP is the Association of Writers & Writing Programs, and their annual conference was this past weekend in Washington, D.C. I had a great time and met a lot of wonderful people, and in the spirit of reliving the experience and imparting any and all wisdom I may have gleaned in the process, here's what I learned about AWP (and writers/conferences in general):

Check in early or late. I picked up my badge on the second day and completely avoided any and all lines. I hear the folks who arrived on the first day had to battle epic crowds (one of the few things that instantly gets me in a bad mood).

Introduce yourself to people. I thanked/spoke with editors who had published my work in literary magazines, chatted up folks running tables for journals I really admire, and mingled with professors, writers, and publishers who seemed cool. Who knows when a connection you make will turn into a career opportunity?

Exchange business cards. There were way too many names and faces for me to recall even a tenth of the people I met, and I'm sure everyone else felt similarly. Cards help refresh your memory and provide much-needed contact information.

Go to the hotel bar. Everyone worth talking to is there. Everyone not worth talking to is somewhere else. Everyone who doesn't want to talk to anyone is holed up in their hotel rooms.

Budget carefully. Many writing conferences have a lot of awesome books for sale, and the temptation to buy everything is pretty strong. If you're not paying attention, you could end up spending way more money than you intend (and will then have to lug 30 pounds of books home with you). That said—

Make sure you walk the floor on the last day. In this case, many publishers wanted to unload as many copies of books/journals/magazines/t-shirts/&c as possible so they wouldn't have to lug/ship them back. This resulted in a lot of great deals (and even free stuff!) on the last day of the conference.

Were any of y'all at AWP, as well? If so, please feel free to share your stories in the comments!


  1. I attended the San Diego State University Writers Conference a week ago and enjoyed how easy it was for writers to talk to agents and editors. We scheduled meeting with them, however, we also have a great opportunity to talk to each agent/editor during a wine and cheese event. Great conference.

  2. Great, wonderful advice :) One of the great benefits of the internet is that we can, in many ways, be in multiple places at once and get advice and information we would not otherwise have been able to get. So thank you for this!

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  3. This might sound like a dumb question, but as a newbie writer coming from a graphic arts background, I have to ask: what does a writer put on a business card? How does one differentiate oneself to be memorable among all the other writer business cards?

    I'd love to go to a Writer's Conference in the very near future and appreciate the tips.

  4. I went to the AWP Bookfair on Saturday. Man! I never knew so many small presses and literary journals existed. I mostly write genre fiction, and this certainly opened my eyes! Now I know how the other half lives :)

  5. Also a newbie writer and appreciate the tips you veterans are very generous to share. Thank you. I look forward to attending my first conference very soon.
    Funny Stuff I Write