Frank Caliri is a Dallas-based Fiction writer attending AWP for the first time. He is also a former Writing Workshops Dallas student. Check in each day for a recap from Tampa until the conference is over, and find Frank's AWP Day 1 Recap here and Day 2 here. Read to THE END of this post for a special discount code for 10% Off any seminar, class, or editing service that we offer.
AWP’s bookfair is the largest of its kind in North America, showcasing more than 800 presses, journals, writing programs, and other literary organizations. Navigating the Exhibit Hall is not for the fainthearted introvert, and requires you wear your best fedora or beret while smiling, shaking hands, and engaging others. It’s a unique opportunity for the writing community to network across disciplines. It’s also a place to discuss your favorite stories with the editors and staff of literary journals, such as Crazyhorse or Ploughshares, or review the latest selections from presses, such as Graywolf or Copper Canyon, or contemplate the newest trends in creative writing with professors from the best writing programs across North America. You know the names: University of Iowa, University of Michigan, University of California Irvine. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
The fair is huge, or as we say in Boston Yuge. Think two football fields set side-by-side, arranged into twenty or so broadways, where you pick and choose literary selections as though you’re at an oversized bookstore. I found myself first at The Paris Review booth, where I spoke with Jeffery Gleaves, the magazine’s Digital Director. According to Jeffery’s Twitter feed, he’s an aspiring junketeer, digital factotum, and platitude tweeter for @parisreview. And he fits the bill in person. Our conversation honed in on the presale of The Writer’s Chapbook: A Compendium of Fact, Opinion, Wit, and Advice from “The Paris Review” Interviews, published by Paris Review Editions. Gleaves eagerly shared the chapbook’s four points of focus: writer profiles, craft, form, and the writer’s life. The book amplifies subjects such as drafts, work habits, writer’s block, and writing prizes; and is engulfed in insights from well-known authors. Preorders of The Writer’s Chapbook ship in April and I for one am looking forward to reading it.
I also met with John Wang, publisher and founder of Juked magazine and editor-and-chief of Potomac Review. John was doing double-time, working both the Potomac Review and Juked booths, which were situated next to each other. Published since 1999, Juked has both an online presence and print issues. My conversation with John led me to read two recently published short-short stories by Alina Stefanescu—Long Flight and the Warlock vs. Cognitive Therapy. Both are entertaining and can be devoured post haste online. According to John, the Juked print version accepts prose submissions of at least 2,500 words, and, for poetry, they look for longer poems (four pages plus) or sequences of two or more linked poems. Check out Juked and submit!
MFA programs are interesting, aren’t they? At the Bookfair, you can learn about the various programs, their niche in the industry, and meet some of the faculty. Although there are a lot of full-residency programs to choose from, I wanted to see what’s going on in the growing domain of low-residency. Over the years, low-residency has become a strong alternative to residency, as program quality continues to grow using a more efficient cost structure; and, you get a great education without the need to uproot your family. So I strolled over to the Vermont College of Fine Arts booth and spoke with Evan Fallenberg, co-director along with Xu Xi, of their new International MFA in Creative Writing & Literary Translation program. This program offers low-residency for both fiction and nonfiction genres. The intent is to bring writers together from across the world, fostering a global perspective on language and literature through multiple 5-day international residencies. Over the next eighteen months, students will write while visiting Reykjavik, Iceland, Hong Kong, and Banff, Canada, among other places. Raise your hand if that sounds fun!
If you’re not in the market for an MFA but want strong program quality and coaching, consider the Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver, Colorado. In June they’re having their 13th Annual Lit Fest, which includes two-weeks of workshops, salons, parties, and seminars. Each year they bring in a wonderful selection of accomplished writers to teach at the event. For example, when I lived in Denver, I twice attended Lit Fest and took excellent workshops under the tutelage of Dana Spiotta and Jennifer Egan. The Lighthouse also provides financial assistance for emerging writers, which covers the cost of tuition for their Master’s Workshop Program. They also have four fellowships in fiction, poetry, dramatic writing, and creative nonfiction—a great option for those of you who want to continue to grow while surrounding yourselves with fellow writers and the Rocky Mountains.
As the Conference builds toward its Saturday crescendo, more and more people flow into the bookfair where…wait for it… you can win prizes and giveaways! I met with Helen Meservey, Managing Editor of Reed Magazine, the oldest literary journal west of the Mississippi River and also with Harrison Cook, an Undergraduate Ambassador for the English Department at the University of Iowa. You probably know Iowa’s literary production The Iowa Review. Both individuals were highly engaging and helped me better understand what they look for in submissions, such as quality writing and a unique voice, et cetera. Both journals also offered me a free issue, which I gladly accepted. And if that wasn’t enough, yours truly won a raffle prize from PEN/Faulker, where I took home the short story collection, The Dark Dark, by Samantha Hunt, which was a 2018 finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award in Fiction. Hunt’s work is haunting and funny. She writes for The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, and The New York Times Magazine.
Now that 2018 AWP Conference is done and gone, I look back and wonder if it was worth it. You know, the airports, the car rental, the hotel, the cost cost cost. The answer is an undoubted yes. From panel discussions, to readings, to the bookfair, I’ve learned a lot and will take home many fond memories, intend to cultivate my new friendships, and employ practical takeaways to help me continue on my writing journey. I also plan to attend future Conferences and hope to see you there. Portland, anyone? San Antonio?
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