What I'm Looking Forward to at AWP

Today I’m headed to the Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference. I’ve been going to AWP since 2004, and it is one of the largest events I attend—more than 8,000 writers, professors, and professionals.

When I worked full-time at Writer’s Digest, I had to stick around the Bookfair hall at the Writer’s Digest table exhibit. Not so this year!

2011 is the first year that I proposed panels, and I was fortune enough to have both accepted. (See below).

So, I’m planning to spend most of my days attending others’ panels. As a new media professional and writing professor, I have divided interests, but my choices below reflect a little of both roles (plus a personal interest in becoming more community oriented in all the work I’m doing).

Thursday, 9 a.m.
Tearing Down the Town/Gown Divide: Taking Writing Off Campus and into the Community. (Tim W. Brown, M.L. Liebler, April Naoko Heck, Gary Glazner, John Domini) 
How to traverse the town/gown divide by taking literary and organizational expertise into the community. Strategies for faculty and students alike to gain exposure for their writing, grow their audiences, and obtain real-world experience.

Thursday, 10:30 a.m.
Beyond Print: Digital Directions in Literary Publishing. (H. Emerson Blake, Michael Archer, Jeffrey Thomson, Ram Devineni, Steven Lagerfeld)
Digital media is often presented as a challenge for literary magazines and journals—an obstacle to be overcome. But digital media also presents dynamic opportunities for the world of good writing.

Thursday, noon
Filling the Void: Growing & Sustaining Literary Communities. (Jill Pollack, Christopher Castellani, Alix Wilber, Kyle Semmel)
What is the beating heart of a city’s literary community? Writing centers across the country are doing more than filling a void: they are building vital links and opportunities to serve writers at all stages of their careers.

Thursday, 1:30
Marketing Your Literary Community: How to Make Sure Your Organization is Heard. (Kyle Semmel, Art Taylor, Jill Pollack, Chip Cheek, Gregg Wilhelm)
So you’ve started a literary center or festival in your community. Now what do you do? How do you market it? Which strategies work? Which don’t? How do you get the best return on investment on a limited advertising budget?

Thursday, 3:00
The Art and Authenticity of Social Media: Using Online Tools to Grow a Community. (Jane Friedman, Tanya Egan Gibson, Dan Blank, Bethanne Patrick, Christina Katz, Caleb J. Ross)
Social media is easy to disparage as meaningless socializing, undignified shilling, or time better spent writing. Yet sharing information online and having conversations with readers is critical to spreading the word about what you (or your organization) does. Online community building can help develop a long-term readership, plus open up new opportunities.

Thursday, 4:30
Why Don’t They List Agents on Match.com? Demystifying the Author/Agent Relationship. (Britta Coleman, Matt Bondurant, Alex Glass, Marcy Posner, Jenny Bent, Ann Cummins)
Finding the perfect agent takes more than a pithy profile or even a well-written query.

Friday, 9 a.m.
The Good Review: Criticism in the Age of Book Blogs and Amazon.com.
(Jeremiah Chamberlin, Charles Baxter, Stacey D’Erasmo, Gemma Sieff, Keith Taylor)
This panel examines how criticism is changing in a literary landscape increasingly dominated by new media. In this era, who is a critic? What is a good review? Whom does it serve? And what is the impact of criticism on literature and culture?

Friday, 10:30
How to start a literary center and thrive through the decades
. (Jocelyn Hale, Andromeda Romano-Lax, Gregg Wilhelm, Eve Bridburg, Sue Joerger)
Have you realized that your region needs a literary center and wondered how you might get one going? What are your first steps and what will follow as your vision takes hold and your organization grows? Learn about the lifecycle of nonprofits from leaders of literary centers at all stages of development from Idea and Start-up.

Friday, noon
Love at First Query: Agents and Authors Share Strategies for Falling in Literary Love.
(Catherine Cortese, Bret Anthony Johnston, Paige Wheeler, Matthew Gavin Frank, Gordon Warnock, Michelle Brower)
Searching for the right agent or author is complicated. Some forge tight bonds from their first collaboration, while others break up only to reconnect with new, more appropriate counterparts. Is there a formula for a perfect relationship between an artist and his or her representation, or is it all luck of the draw?

Friday, 1:30
Thinking Beyond the Book: The Future of Authorship and Publishing in a Transmedia World.
(Jane Friedman, Kevin Smokler, Al Katkowsky, Christina Katz, Andy Hunter/Electric Lit)
According to publishing futurists, we are now experiencing the late age of print. Publishers are beginning to see the print book as the last stage of author development, rather than the first step. A new model is emerging for stories and content distribution, with publishers and authors experimenting with mobile apps, podcasts, and multimedia approaches.

Friday, 3:00
Ask Not What the Internet Can Do for You: Shifting Our Perspective on Internet Publishing as an Alternative to Major Market Publishing.
(Ralph Pennel, Justin Maxwell, Ravi Shankar, Anmarie Trimble, Lizzie Stark, Max Magee)
This panel will discuss electronic publications as central to the needs of 21st-century writers and readers, and not as entities serving as secondary iterations of preexisting publications.

Friday, 4:30
F220. Building the Literary Robot: The Lit Journal as New Media.
(James Engelhardt, Scott Lindenbaum, Jurgen Fauth, Zach Dodson, Zachary Schomburg, Travis Kurowski)
Lit has gone viral, adapted to fit Twitter feeds, iPhone apps, and social networks, and fashioned into flash animation for posting on YouTube. How do literary journals step into these new, far-reaching modes of publishing? What role will e-literature have in contemporary publishing and the teaching of creative writing? What will this mean to the traditional short story, poem, and essay?

For any others who are attending AWP, leave your suggestions/tips in the comments!

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About Ben Sobieck

Benjamin Sobieck is a Wattpad Star and 2016 Watty Award winner. He’s best known on Wattpad for Glass Eye: Confessions of a Fake Psychic Detective, the Watty Award–winning sequel Black Eye, and When the Black-Eyed Children Knock & Other Stories. Four of his titles have appeared on Wattpad Top 100 Hot Lists, all at the same time.

4 thoughts on “What I'm Looking Forward to at AWP

  1. Jane Friedman

    @Pat – Unfortunately, AWP is a little behind the curve in terms of recording/webcasting (or even live-blogging) their event. However, I’ll try my best to write up informative recaps of the sessions I attend.

    Caleb J. Ross, on the social media panel, has plans to audio-record the entire thing, so if he makes that available, I’ll post the link here.

  2. Pat Foulk

    Are any of these sessions being recorded or transcripts made available

    Like those from RWA . Seems to me that more writing conferences could make money for scholarships by making these resources available

  3. Susan Cushman

    I’m interested in what the panels have to say about building literary communities and the "town-gown divide." It’s disappointing to me that in a city the size of Memphis, we don’t have a thriving literary community. The University of Memphis has the "River City Writers Series" but that’s just a couple of lectures and book signings. Once when I asked someone in the MFA program there if they had anything for emerging writers the answer was, "enroll in our MFA program." Period. Anyway, I’ll be watching for reports on these panels.


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