Friday, January 25, 2008

AWP Rant

Well the annual AWP conference starts up next week in NYC.

Even though I let my membership lapse more than a year ago---I just can't afford it right now with the cost of classes---I've gotten more invites to things than when I actually was a member. Individual emails and snail mail fliers about specific lectures and panel discussions. Notices from different publishers about their booth number in the sales room. Invites to readings and parties off-site. There's even a sub-conference going, a quasi-protest to AWP that some writers and small publishers are holding on their own in nearby bars, restaurants and meeting room so they can discuss things they feel AWP doesn't include.

It looks like a great conference. I'd love to hit things like "Breaking Lines on the Battlefield: Poetry of Wartime", moderated by Sandra Beasley. I'd like to here what Jennifer Egan and Lydia Davis have to say about Wit and Social Commentary in Contemporary Fiction. And the various pedagogy forums would be fun, because I'd really like to develop a way to work in fiction writing sessions at whatever library I end up working at. But it's not in the cards for me this year, both because of time and money.

I do wonder, though, why we keep having these conferences related to books and literature in NYC and other similar cities. Over the next few years AWP is hitting Chicago, Denver, D.C. and Boston. Oh, I understand why. All of these cities host a large number of publishing houses and schools with writing programs. It's easier to do and gives the local venues a chance to show off. But aside from the one in Baltimore a few years ago, these are all obvious choices. How about a city like Kansas City, which has a very strong performance art tradition and a growing writing community? Or Boise? Or Spokane, which has a really strong indie press scene? I worry about the writing community a little when it becomes too clubby and too inward looking.

Bah. Ignore me. I'm probably just extra grouchy because I'm not going this year and because the little man in my head is pounding a hammer on the inside of my skull, giving me a deliciously painful headache. If you're going to AWP and you blog, share some stories so us poor saps not attending can live vicariously through you. And have a good time.



Madam Mayo said...

Hola Heb, Sorry you're not able to make AWP this year. I quite agree with you that Kansas City, or, say, Spokane would be a great venue for the mega powow. For that matter, I'd vote for Charlottesville. Blog on!

Hebdomeros said...

Charlottesville would be a great location! They certainly have enough of an infrastructure (hotels, meeting spaces) to support the number of people. And it's different from the sites AWP is at normally.

I'm also realizing my gripe isn't just with the AWP conferences, but conferences in general. The American Library Association does the same thing, and Book Expo is even worse.

I do hope you have a good time, though, if you're going.