AWP17

I won’t lie. I wasn’t too eager about going to D.C. for the writers’ conference this past February. I had whiplash after November, and hadn’t processed all of the stages of grief. I spent very few days in denial, not that recall if fear is part of the stages, but I will admit to being afraid and since I am not a thrill-seeker, I don’t do well with uncertainty.

 

I enjoy going to AWP for all of the right writerly reasons. I like the community, the workshops, the engaging talks and if I’m lucky I see old friends and make new ones. Normally, I wait too long to make reservations, the hotels are all sold out but this past year, I acted quickly. The conference hotel option was gone but I managed to score a deal in a nearby hotel on Embassy Row.

I unpacked my bags,  got organized and decided to let D.C wash over me without any orange crumbs and to make the most out the conference.  It turns out that AWP soothed my uncertainty  and I had a blast.

 

Highlights

Lodging

Hotel: The Fairfax hotel on embassy row: Not too close to the venue, but the price was right, the hotel room super big and the metro ride was super easy. My stop was in  Chinatown which was super vibrant at all hours

 

BTW- What I vowed to never do again: Rely on Apple’s maps! Having said that, I also vowed to spend less time trusting any map other than a paper map. I walk way too fast and sometimes the corrective response of the map doesn’t go as quickly as I want it to. Next time I am grabbing one of these crumpled maps

palomar-crumpledcity07-1200x1090

Sessions

Here is a common problem for me: Cool sessions happening at the same time.  Since I haven’t figured out how split myself in half, I normally pick my top 2 and go to my first choice. If for some reason the first one doesn’t work out the way I thought it would, I duck out quietly and make my way to choice number 2.  I’m mentioning my favorite ones.

Solo en Español

Wow! how it gave my heart alegria to hear only Spanish read in the literary form. The essay read by Lupita Vargas-Strathman, about identity, language and place,  was nicely relevant during this political climate.  Right before the conference I watched a series based Sor Juana Ines on Netflix . I was especially inspired and still in my mother tongue’s language embrace when I sat in the audience for this session. When I was younger I read  Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz’s poetry only to have the memory languish with the sediment layers of my daily english speaking life. Guess what I have on my endless to read book pile? I am going to read her plays

 

The panel’s readings and conversations unearthed for me Spanish words and terms that were not permanently lost by any means,  but suppressed.

Solo en Español: An All-Spanish Reading and Craft Discussion. (, , , ) This reading and craft discussion celebrates work of the Spanish-language, multi-genre anthology, Corazon y Una Lengua Peregrina. It features work by Latino Writers Collective members living in the Midwest who have roots across the Americas and Spain. Esta lectura y discusión celebra el trabajo de la antología en Español y múltiples géneros, Corazon y Una Lengua Peregrina. Nosotros presenta la letra de miembros del Colectivo de Escritores Latinos con raíces a través de las Américas y Espana

 

Powerhouse Conversation

Reading and Conversation with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Ta-Nehisi Coates, Sponsored by the Authors Guild.

I had missed the opportunity to hear Ta-Nehisi Coates in person, when a Harvard conference (Universities and Slavery: Bound by History) booked up quickly. I taught his book and his essay A Case for Reparations, last semester and was motivated to join a packed house (no hyperbole) for this important dialogue. I managed to get in before the previous session ended and caught the tail end of the Emma Traub and Ann Pachett session so I secured a seat and got to hear a delightful conversation about independent bookstores and advice on reading and writing characters.  I had a great seat, and as the venue filled out and more people tried to come in I was relieved to stay put. The reading by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was amazing and I seem to be the only person in the country who hasn’t read Americanah. So, guess what’s waiting on my endless to-read- book- pile?

 

Writing the Dual Self

Every once in a while you happen on a session where you find yourself saying “get out of my head!” over and over. This was one of these sessions. Writing about self when so much of the outside world has expectations of who you should be has been a specific challenge for me. Once, in AWP Boston I attended a session of writing across diasporas. At the time, although the authors were all East-European I latched on to the vocabulary and language of the experiences of those, who like me, call other countries home.  This session had solutions and honest perspectives. In this panel all the speakers were intuitive and articulate. Props to Sonya Larson from Grub St. who makes everything she touches radiate pleasant clarity.

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So the photo isn’t great folks

Writing the Dual Self: Opening Spaces for Hybrid Identities . (, , , , ) Writers with dual ethnicities or hybrid backgrounds often struggle to find ways to tell a nuanced story of identity and community. Five writers with diverse racial, ethnic, and gender identities share experiences of the struggle and strategies for forging a space for the dual, hyphenated, multiple self—one that does justice both to our art and our ancestors, working through the liberatory possibilities of writing and to resist the urge—or to market’s demand—to self-stereotype.

On essays

The Assay Journal has a nice comprehensive recap of the session. I am particularly interested in the form of the speculative Essay because of it’s open-ended form. The ideas of a speculative essay, far from being wavering, ask pertinent questions and invites the reader to inquire along with the writer. Just like a solid essay in the speculative form, the session peered into questions of author’s responsibility for voice and for truth, ideas of self and belonging through Emerson and Thoreau’s writing, origins and intent of the essay and impressions of the form. I came out of the session with a nice reading list, and while trying to find the subterranean location for the session,  met the super-cool author Michael Tager.

 

The Speculative Essay

Many essayists have employed speculation throughout the form’s history, relying wholly on speculation (relating nothing verifiable) rather than engaging “fact.” Virginia Woolf’s “Death of a Moth,” for example, does not require a verifiable moth to achieve its power. But what are the limits to speculation? Must essayists always signal their speculative intentions? Can an essayist delve into the traditional realm of the fiction writer, overturning traditional notions of point of view in the essay?

Immigrant perspectives

An important panel exploring the responsibilities and perspectives from the immigrant writer’s voice and experiences. The timeliness of the session in the midst of conversations about the freshly instituted travel-ban gave the panelists plenty to discuss.

Immigration: Cultural Binding, Creative Chaos, and the Survival of International Writers

How does immigration affect a writer’s creative pursuit in another country? There are many success stories of immigrant writers, but there is yet another side of their stories to tell their challenges after migrating to another country, either by choice or in an event that forces a migration. Immigration not only results in binding of cultures, but also leads to a creative chaos in want of proper opportunities, recognition, and an environment to be creative and productive. A much-needed debate!

Also

Around Bookfair

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Randos

 

About the pieces in the Convention Center by artist Donald Lipski

Also

The Latino X Caucus Meeting-  Check out the FB page. The Latino X Caucus continues to develop and expand. New initiatives, ideas and focus need your help. Get involved!

Off site

Wonderful authors reading great work  but none best than my dear amigote and talented  Chicano Noir writer Ito Romo. His reading was the most entertaining and engaging I’ve seen-ever- . Seriously. Check out his exceptional work.
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Join the editorial staffs of Grist and Iron Horse Literary Review as they present several of their recent contributors at the 2017 AWP Conference. The Mulebone offers regional Southern-American food with craft cocktails. Their appetizers: corn maque choux, Texas shrimp & buttermilk biscuit, pickled fried green tomatoes, and the “script board” with Virginia ham, biscuits, deviled egg, pickled veggies, and pimento cheese.

Writers Resist

Candlelight vigil in front of the Whitehouse:
Excellent recap here from Ivoh.org
I was glad to be there, a brief moment standing on my tiptoes trying to get a glimpse at the speakers. I couldn’t see well, but the signs, the tempo of the voices and the candlelight reaffirmed messages of love, determination and the beauty of words.

 

Article in Publishers Weekly

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Just planning ahead

Future Conferences

So that’s it until we meet again in AWP18. I think we’re going to a sunnier spot.

Tampa, Florida

  • March 7 – 10, 2018 | Tampa Convention Center & Marriott Tampa Waterside

Portland, Oregon

  • March 27 – 30, 2019 | Oregon Convention Center

San Antonio, Texas (Hooray!)

  • March 4 – 7, 2020 | Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center

Kansas City, Missouri

  • March 3 – 6, 2021 | Kansas City Convention Center

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

  • March 23 – 26, 2022 | Pennsylvania Convention Center

 

 

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