You Again? (or: AWP Serendipity: It’s a Thing)

IMG_0154

Major Jackson speaking at the fantastic Folger Shakespeare Library panel on Keats and Countee Cullen.

Given the legions (10,000? 15,000?) who attend the annual AWP conference (Association of Writers & Writing Programs), it should feel like a faceless sea.

So how is it that, for every hour I spend there, I run into somebody I know? I’m not even especially well connected. I’m a very wee creature in the AWP zoo.

I think it’s just the AWP Serendipity Thing.

Consider this quote from Julia Fierro, on today’s panel “Second Time Around: On the Sophomore Novel”:

“I had to give up all hope of publication to write that first book [Cutting Teeth] in a pure way. I had a certain level of honesty. I enjoyed writing it.”

—Julia Fierro

This way-of-being that Fierro describes seems to me not only a good way to write, but a good way to approach AWP. I think many writers feel a kind of anxious urgency to Hurry Up and Network! here. And I understand that. It’s a huge conference, it costs money, and it’s brief. So you pick up on a lot of anxiety, observing people going booth-to-booth in the book fair or approaching Big Name Writers after panels.

That Hurry Up and Network! approach just feels to me like 1) a lot of pressure, 2) not fun, and 3) a surefire way to miss real, warm, human interactions….

Read More