by Kelly Chastain
We sat around our big conference table and debated on how we would tell you about our amazing experiences at AWP, and we decided the only way to do it justice was to give it to you by the numbers. If you’ve not gone to an AWP Annual Conference and Bookfair, put it on the bucket list. Next year’s event will be held in Minneapolis, April 8-11. It’s not too early to start planning. Really. We mean it. The sheer number of attendees, vendors, panels, and readings will knock your socks off. Here’s what we did over the course of four days in Seattle.
We loaded 1 van
with 2 Co-Editors in Chief
and 6 staffers
and drove 198.8 miles to AWP.
Boxes of books: 12
Booth Props: 22
Number of Panels attended: 70
Number of Panels given:3
Autographs procured: 8
Autographs given: 3
Hours of sleep we missed: 80 (8 people x 2.5 hours x 4 days. Phew! Michele Ford, our super cool managing editor, is a math minor.)
Postcard Project cards mailed: 185
Book launch parties attended: 1
Author readings: 9
Vendors: 500+ (really.)
Number of cocktails we wished we had consumed: 39
Authors we met: 7
And because we’re shameless name droppers who love to promote writers: Ursula Le Guin, Danika Dinsmore, Molly Gloss, Marianna Wiggins, Rolf Potts, Christina Baker Kline, and Abi Curtis.
Number of books purchased: 23
Subway sandwiches ingested: 19
Contributors who popped by the booth: 4
Drawings entered: 17
Drawings won: 1
Inspiring people met: countless
One of the biggest take-aways from AWP was how much the event motivated us to do our best work every day. We left with a reminder of how powerful literature is, why it’s important to keep creating art, and that even though writing can feel like a solitary endeavor that we are not alone. We heard words written by the brave women who risk their lives to participate in the Afghan Women’s Writing Project. To read their stories to a rapt audience and to participate in their writing journey was humbling and inspiring.
The highlights were numerous. One of our staffers, Rebecca Allen, presented the first page of a paper she wrote to Urusla LeGuin for an autograph. Once she explained that the paper was on the craft conventions used by LeGuin and Tolkien to create their fantastical worlds, and that it was accepted at a conference, Ursula asked Rebecca to send her a copy. Then she signed it. We managed to make it out of the booth before falling over, giddy with glee.
We listened to panel discussions by authors we love on how to infuse research into historical fiction without making your novel sound like a Wikipedia entry. With Hedgebrook we shared how and why we support under represented writers. We wrote pieces of flash fiction, learned how to teach travel writing, and how to apply for an NEA grant. And, of course, the readings. Oh, that long list of powerfully beautiful readings.
At AWP, we connected with hundreds of writers from all over the world, and shared with them what we love most about Silk Road: the collision of cultures, where place is a defining influence, and where stories are prized more than gold. We encouraged them to submit their work and to send an anonymous note of encouragement to a fellow writer via the Postcard Project. At booth 622, Silk Road Review, we watched complete strangers create a community. We wished it would never end.