AWP Conference, Part II

Filed under: News — marcia at 9:19 am on Monday, April 19, 2010

AWP conference Besides learning and inspiration, another thing I gained at AWP was the worldwide beard game championship title. (At least, I think I was the winner of the beard game.) If you think yelling beard in a public place is strange, you haven’t attended a dance for writers. Now that is strange. When we saw this on the agenda, we didn’t think anyone would show up. But the place was hoppin’, and writers actually had some pretty sweet dance moves. Most of them also had social skills. A few of them did not … to the point of creepiness. Giving socially maladjusted people free alcohol may not be a good idea.

Speaking of ideas, one thing Michael Chabon said in his keynote that I really liked: Why would you try to be a writer if you weren’t full of ideas? The panels sparked so many ideas for me, but one of the reasons is that they weren’t trying to. The panelists all seemed to assume we were full of ideas and wanted to hear more about how to get those ideas out and arrange, share, and perfect them.

The panel on flash fiction was particularly inspirational. At first I didn’t like how the panelists were constantly referring to the form as a commercial, but that didn’t stop me from having an idea a minute for a new story, an old one that could be saved, and some writing prompts. And the idea of a flash as a break in between some longer ones started to grow on me.

Discussions of craft and technique were also complimented by practical panels such as the popular “Editorial Dos and Don’ts” led by editors from The Believer, Graywolf Press, Milkweed Editions, Orion, Soft Skull Press, and Tin House. A lot of the advice can be boiled down to “Don’t be rude.” But it was good to hear them talk about what worked, what didn’t, and what was cliche. (Hint: If you are writing a story about how the death of a child tears a couple apart, you might want to reconsider.)

I was impressed by the conference and the city of Denver. Both were much better than I expected!

(Another blog with some in-depth coverage of specific panels can be found here.)

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