LitBridge AWP Guide 2013

If you are a writer and have not heard about the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Conference, then it’s time that you do. AWP hosts hundreds of readings, lectures, forums, book signings and panel discussions. This is a great conference to network with other writers, hear about new books, meet faculty and students from other universities.  Thousands of writers and poets attend each year.  Although the AWP conference is a great opportunity for writers, for a first-timer the conference can be pretty overwhelming. Everyone’s experience will be different. The first couple of times a writer attends an AWP conference may be very difficult.

Here are some tips to help you out through this exciting but intimidating process.

1.    Plan your travels early. Book nearby hotels quickly and get your flight as early as possible. Delaying this process may put you at risk of paying a ridiculously high cost for a hotel or having to commute to the AWP conference venue. Current students should contact their programs about potential financial assistance. You might be surprised to know that your creative writing program grants money to writers traveling to AWP.

2.    Browse through the various panels at the AWP conference. Pick one or two panels to attend. You will want time for interacting at tables and booths, attending readings, and so on. Consuming your time with panels may result in you feeling overwhelmed and potentially disappointed at how you utilized your time at the conference. Make sure that you pick a panel that is interesting to you and helpful.

3.    Prepare to network and meet fellow writers.  Use the conference as a tool to meet other writers, read new work, establish new connections, and find other venues for your work.

4.    Attend readings at the conference. This is a great chance to hear new work.

5.    Last but not least, make time for outside travel. It’s not atypical for writers to book their travels a few days after the AWP conference ends. Actually it’s often a smart idea! You already paid for the flight. Stay with a friend or book a couple of nights extra at the hotel and enjoy the city. Take some time to relax after the conference and discover new places.

What should you not expect?

1.    Do not expect to find time for catching up on work or writing. Although the conference may give you ideas for new material, you will likely be too busy doing other things to write. If you aren’t actually at the conference, you may be touring the city or networking with a writer instead.

2.    Do not expect to be able to get a feel for the conference the first time you go. There are so many things you can do, that is is overwhelming. You could spend your entire time participating in panels or spend that time circulating tables and books, and networking with writers. It is not atypical for a writer to even skip the reception at the end. There will be many readings going on during this time and you will likely be missing someone you have been dying to hear read. There is too much going on at the conference.

3.    Do not expect that you can plan everything you want to attend at the conference. You can technically plan and do everything on your list but that may not nearly be as fun and as beneficial as you would hope it will be. You will likely be meeting new writers and be invited to different panels and readings. You do not want to feel restricted by forcing yourself to stay on a prearranged schedule.

4.    Do not expect to feel lonely. Some of you attending this conference for the first time may not know anyone who is even attending the conference. This is frequently the experience of a first time visitor to AWP. Remember that the attendees are there to meet other writers.  Reach out!  The main thing to do at the conference is network and speak with fellow writers. You will be far from lonely, and may end up making some great friends along the way!