I'm not there yet, but I soon will be on my way. Tonight--as in late tonight--I will hop on an Amtrak train at the station in Little Rock, Arkansas and take that train to Chicago, the site of this year's AWP conference. AWP is always a wonder--and a madhouse. I've blogged about this before. The largest creative writing conference in the world, it is also the most maddening and perhaps the most depressing. My high expectations for certain sessions always seem to end in disappointment, and with so many many many writers and aspiring writers around, the endless market talk--who's trying to sell what to whom--can become disheartening. In certain quarters of the conference, there's a distinct smell of desperation. But AWP always brims with energy too, and a real, palpable optimism. And a real, palpable love for the written word. AWP is also an unequaled place to revisit old connections and forge new ones. It 's a place to see everyone you've ever known in your creative writing life and a few you've always hoped to know. (And maybe a few you wish you didn't know.) So it's not really a conference one can miss.
This year, I have extra incentives to attend AWP. For one, I am part of a panel on creative writing exchanges; that is, the growing phenomenon of undergraduates at different universities traveling to each others' campuses to give readings, attend readings, and--that's right--forge connections. It's a great idea. My students had a wonderful time exchanging with the University of Kansas last year, and this year we are in the middle of a so-far-successful exchange with Auburn University. (They just came to Arkansas; we go there in April.) So I'm excited to talk about, and promote, the idea of these exchanges. It's also my very first AWP panel presentation! Second, and more importantly, I'm there to represent Toad Suck Review at the giant AWP bookfair. As many people will tell you, the bookfair is probably the most useful aspect of any AWP conference. Just by walking around, a writer can learn about hundreds of literary magazines, small presses, and graduate programs. I've spent many a valuable minute browsing the bookfair, talking with editors and readers from various journals and presses. Now I get to take a turn on the other side of the table, talking up Toad Suck Review. I serve as Associate Editor of the magazine, and I can honestly say it's a terrific literary endeavor. Not only is it beautiful, but it's full of lots of provocative writing, from both well knowns and unknowns. I'm flat out excited to tell people about this Issue #2 that I, along with editor-in-chief Mark Spitzer, worked so hard on. Hopefully, we'll sell a few copies too.
I hope to put up a few posts about the conference while I'm there, as I have in the past. So keep tuned--and wish me luck!