I had never been to an AWP Conference before, but I enjoyed it. It was held in the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, which has a statue of a giant blue bear trying to get inside the building:
Roughly 9,000 people attended AWP this year. Even factoring in that many of those people are academics or wannabes, that’s a lot of writers. While some panels were standing-room-only, I was able to see everything I wanted to see.
There’s something for every type of writer at AWP–panels on fiction, poetry, nonfiction, publishing, teaching creative writing, playwriting, young adult writing, literary readings, etc. In my typical gung-ho style, I went to lots and lots of panels, pretty much non-stop panel hopping every day. The first day, we went to seven panels and the keynote speech, plus we found time to tramp all over downtown Denver. I later learned that many people only go to one or two panels a day. One woman said that she would be exhausted if she went to as many panels as we did. Why is sitting in a room listening to people talk exhausting, exactly?
There were a lot of men with beards at this conference. Marcia and I started playing a game where we said the word “beard” every time we saw one. Whoever said “beard” last was winning. A typical conversation went like this:
“I liked that panel–beard–especially the second speaker–beard. Did you catch his name? Beard.”
I can’t remember who won the game overall. I think it was Marcia?
The panels were run by intelligent folks who knew what they were talking about. It’s not so much that I learned that much–although I did learn some things, like how to put together a poetry book or the benefits of the 10 minute play form–as that the conference generated inspiration for me. I came away with a notebook full of ideas for short stories, articles, poem, Word Pirates prompts, and so on. That alone was worth the trip.
At the end of each panel, there was the Question and Answer period, which are always painful to sit through. Does anyone like Q&As? Here is Marcia’s breakdown of a typical question people tended to ask:
I was relieved that Michael Chabon, who gave the keynote speech, did not hold a Q&A because of the size of the audience. I don’t know how many people were packed into the ballroom at the Hilton, but it looked like hundreds, maybe even a thousand people. To appease those who love asking questions, Michael Chabon wrote the speech in Q&A form, where he asked questions of himself and then answered them. It was pretty funny.
Michael Chabon is so charming.
End of Part I. Over and out.