The 2011 AWP Conference

I’ve had about a week to digest the 2011 AWP conference, sort of. As with others years that I have gone, the offerings are overwhelming; I find numerous panels that I want to hear during every session, including the noon-hour one, which would leave no time for eating or for visiting the Book Fair at all. So I spend time before the conference mulling over the possibilities to achieve a good balance of subjects.

The five panels that I attended on Thursday were:

  • Teaching in a New Landscape: Integrating Multimedia Expression into the Writing Classroom
  • Traveling Stanzas: Promoting Poetry and Design in the Community
  • Writing: What to Teach, How to Teach It, and Why
  • Does School Kill Poetry? Can It Be Poetry’s BFF?
  • Managing Unusual Personalities and Unexpected Situations in the Creative Nonfiction Classroom

The three panels that I attended on Friday were:

  • The Future of Creative Writing in the Academy
  • The Future of Authorship & Publishing in a Transmedia World
  • Shifting Your Perspective on Internet Publishing.

I went to the Book Fair on Friday, too.

The four panels that I attended on Saturday were:

  • How Everybody is Doing Everything: Writing and Teaching in Art Schools
  • Teaching At-Risk Teen Writers
  • Undivided: Poet as Public Citizen
  • Poetry & Social Justice in the Classroom & Community.

The Book Fair is easily the most overwhelming part of the conference. The sprawling rows of display tables for literary magazines, independent presses and MFA programs go on for what seems like miles. I rarely engage the people there, because having come from independent press publishing before I taught, I feel like the presses and magazines are there more to sell books and interest subscribers, and less to parlay with the throngs of people who appear to discuss possibilities for publication. Second, with a family to support and a teaching job that I enjoy, pursuing an MFA is not on my radar at all, so I usually avoid those tables just to avoid their sales pitches.

So what did I stop to look at? I bought an autographed letterpress broadside of a Ted Kooser poem from a book arts program in Washington. I also visited my friend Joe Taylor at University of West Alabama Press and my friend Kathleen Rooney at Rose Metal Press. I must have given off some kind of vibe to the random people I did talk to, since all of them asked, “Are you a poet?” No one asked if I wrote fiction or creative nonfiction . . .

About the panels I chose, I am very interested in the possibilities within new media for literary writing, especially poetry, since I think that reading on-screen seems more viable options for shorter works like poems than for longer works like novels. I think that too many literary writers have viewed new media as an end not a means; after all that is what “media” means: a mechanism (a medium) for conveying art/writing to the viewer/reader. What if the movie industry had resisted VCRs and DVDs, saying that movie are meant to be seen in theaters? The other panels I chose, for obvious reasons, involved teaching or social justice.

Now that I’m home, the task is to use what I have learned and seen.


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