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by Kelly Chastain

AWP 2014 Silk Road Review

Our Co-Editors in Chief ready to take on AWP.

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.

awp2014schedule

The staggering number of panels to choose from.

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

Participants in the postcard project

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.

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Our Super Staffers. They’re so awesome they should have capes!

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.

Keya, weighing in on her panel.

Keya, weighing in on her panel.

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.

AWP 2014 Ursula LeGuin

Rebecca and Ursula LeGuin chatting about literature.

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.

By Kayla Cardeiro

We’re so excited it’s February. Why, you ask? Because in Seattle from February 26 to March 1, we will be attending the AWP conference for the first time. We are psyched! For those who haven’t heard, AWP, the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, is the largest literary conference in North America with over 12,000 writers and readers attending its conference in 2013, according to AWP’s website. AWP is also famous for its book fair, which attracted more than 650 exhibitors last year, and which we are absolutely stoked to be a part of.

The reason we’re so excited to attend is that this conference is big. AWP has been around since its foundation in 1967, when it was created in order to advocate for new creative writing programs in higher education and to provide more publishing opportunities for young writers. As its influence and prestige grew, AWP began hosting national conferences, the first of which took place in 1974 at the Library of Congress. Since then, AWP has held its conferences in a different city each year and has developed its own writing contest, the AWP Award Series, with cash prizes up to $5,500.

Since AWP is coming to our very own West Coast this year, Silk Road Review has the amazing opportunity to get to know our local readership in our own backyard. And did we mention the guest list? In attendance will be such award-winning authors and poets as Ursula K. Leguin, Sherman Alexie, Robert Hauss, Chang-rae Lee, Sharon Olds, and many, many others. If that wasn’t great already the celebrated Annie Proulx, recipient of the Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award, is the keynote speaker. We can hardly imagine so much talent in one place!

Silk Road is also delighted to announce that it will be bringing the Postcard Project to AWP after its spectacular success at Wordstock 2013. Thousands of writers and readers from across the nation will be in attendance so we’re setting the bar high. Five-hundred postcards, perhaps? A thousand?

We can’t wait to see you there!

Silk Road Review Postcard ProjectThis year, as the special projects team gathered around our big conference table, it became clear that we all wanted to do something fun, inspiring, and new. We wanted to give back, to find a way to involve more writers with our magazine, to create a community of encouragement for our fellow writers, and do something nice all around. With those goals in mind we stared into our supply closet and the bulging boxes of postcards hoping for inspiration. It showed up like a flash and the postcard project was born. We officially launched it at Portland’s Wordstock Festival in October to great success.

Here’s how it works: Attendees chose a postcard, and on the left side they wrote an anonymous love note to a fellow writer. The festival-goers filled that side of the postcard with words of encouragement, praise for work they had never read but hoped to in the near future, and offered poems and insights to keep each other going. Sometimes they wrote the things they most needed to hear themselves. We don’t have a lot of rules for the project, only that you have to address the note to “my favorite author” and you have to sign it from “your biggest fan.”

Participants placed their mailing address on a sticky note on the right side and dropped them into the Silk Road caravan trunk. Wordstock buzzed with enthusiasm over our project. Afterward, we gathered around the table and dumped out the notes, swapped the addresses and mailed them out knowing the right words would reach the person who needed to hear them most. We were excited, and a little teary as we read some of the amazing things writers had to say to each other, and within a few weeks we started getting feedback:

Dear Silk Road,
I just wanted to let the Silk Road staff know that I recently received one of the postcards from your Postcard Project, and it really made my day. I’d been having a tough week, and the inspiring message written by “My Biggest Fan” helped pull me through. Thank you for running this project, I hope I can contribute again in the future!
Sincerely,
A Silk Road Fan

And this one.

Dear Silk Road,
Today, I was pleasantly surprised to receive an inspiring postcard in the mail that told me to “drive through the writer’s block and keep my chin up.” I must admit I have been struggling the last couple of weeks with my writing and this little message from a fellow author warmed my heart beyond words.
Thank you so much for doing the Post Card Project! I can’t wait to take part in it at AWP.
With love,
A Portland Writer

You can imagine how thrilled we were! From boxes of beautiful blank postcards to helping our fellow writers through the slump, we’re realizing the goals we set for ourselves in the beginning of the year. It’s been a wonderful community building experience and because we had so much fun, we hosted another event on campus for fellow students to encourage each other through their upcoming finals. Our response was overwhelming.

The Portland Writer is correct, we will be at AWP in Seattle this February, and you can count on seeing the Postcard Project there. Please stop by, drop a note in the trunk, and say hi. We’d love to meet you and send your postcard from the Silk Road.

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