Survivors Guide to Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) As a Student

By: Faith Krech


The AWP Conference and Bookfair is the largest literary conference in North America. Each year this four day explosion of authors, publishers, and independent presses is contained within a different city. This year the Conference was held in Minneapolis, and I was fortunate enough to attend with Robin Miura of Carolina Wren Press as an intern. The 2015 conference featured over 2,000 presenters and 550 readings, panels, and craft lectures. The book fair, the second facet of the Conference, hosted over 700 presses, journals, and literary organizations from around the world.

To say that stepping onto the book fair floor on Thursday morning at 9 a.m. sharp was an overwhelming experience is the understatement of the century. The constant roar of chatter and laughter echoed throughout the massive dome shaped building. Peering around, my eyes were thrust with adjusting to the myriad of tables representing different presses and literary journals from all around the country. These tables exhibiting different presses and literary journals stretched from the front entrance of the Center and covered the entire width and length of the Minneapolis Convention Center.

For three days, I advocated for Carolina Wren Press at the designated table, meeting authors of the presses publications, networking with fellow independent presses, and utilizing my salesmanship skills to sell publications and raise awareness about the press to anyone who passed by.

Arriving in Minneapolis for the conference as a college student, I had no idea what to expect, and I certainly did not know any strategies or tips to make my conference the most successful. To help the next AWPers on their first adventure, I have crafted a list that highlights and suggests the top ten essential items to bring to AWP 2016 which will be held in Los Angeles, California!

AWP 2016:  10 Things To Bring

  1. Pen/Pencil

These writing implements are crucial to have on hand at the conference whether you are attending a panel and want to write down notes or networking at the book fair and need to solidify the transaction by scribbling down contact and other pertinent information.

  1. Comfortable walking shoes

These are essential items to obtain because walking through the book fair and to and from panel discussions in two-inch heels will bring pain and misery to anyone who dares. Bring those comfortable sandals or sneakers. Your feet and ankles will thank you after spending a whole day trekking through the AWP jungle.

  1. Business casual attire

Although the styles of dress run the spectrum at AWP, if you are a college student looking to professionally network, the best advice I could give is to dress how you would like to represent yourself in a professional setting. Have a goal in mind to visualize your ideal appearance on the conference day.

  1. Backpack or large tote bag

One of the many perks of attending AWP is that many presses and journals are giving away free publications, pens, and candy to drum up awareness for their press or journal. Bringing a backpack or tote is an essential item to help carry around all those freebies!

  1. Reusable water bottle

Before going to AWP, it might be a good idea to practice some throat clearing exercises because there will be an immense amount of conversations to be had. Whether it is networking for an internship or fawning over your favorite literary magazine, a water bottle is key to hydration for all that yammering that is bound to happen!

  1. Notebook

Like the pencil or pen, a notebook or journal is essential to bring to AWP to record amazing insights shared in panels, advice from literary editors, and to remember presses to look up later in the tranquility of your hotel room after all the literary chaos has died down.

  1. Business cards and/or sticky notes with personal information inscribed

Bringing along business cards or other contact information to AWP is not only important to have accessible for job or internship networking purposes but is also important have handy. AWP is an amazing opportunity to meet potential employers but to also meet friends and literary colleagues who share your same interests. Don’t let these connections dissipate after the conference, follow up on them. You never know what might occur from them!

  1. Money

Even at AWP, money makes the conference go round. Most presses and literary magazines at the book fair will be selling their wares for the full four days of the conference. Most presses accept all major credit cards and cash. On the second to last day of the conference, most presses and publishers slash their prices by at least 30% in hopes that they can sell off most of their publications before having to lug them all back on the plane.

  1. Map of surrounding city where AWP is located

One of the joys of AWP is the location changes every year. This provides amazing traveling opportunities and chances to see new parts of the country. That being said, it is essential to obtain a map of the surrounding city so you can be aware of the best places to eat and stay during your AWP experience. In addition, there are always off-site readings that happen after the official conference day is finished. This is when the real AWP magic happens. Poets and writers come together in harmony at different city locations to share work and be in community together. You don’t want to miss these spectacular moments! Get a map!

  1. Your confidence

As a college student entering into the vast wilderness of AWP, it may be intimidating and overwhelming at first. It will take guts to walk into the book fair and see over 7,000 presses. It will take heart to bravely ask a question in a panel discussion. However frightening or immense AWP may seem to you now, I personally guarantee that with a little confidence you can have an amazing and successful experience as long as you put yourself out there to embrace all that the conference has to offer.

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