Lessons from the AWP

Lessons from the Association of Writers and Writing Programs

The FOLD team is back returned from the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference, and we thought we’d take a little space to share some of our, and some of our panelists’, favourite moments from the conference and our time in Washington. From poetry to prose, here are some of our thoughts on panels, feature events, candelight vigils, and what went down at #AWP17:

 

 

Amanda, Author and FOLD Communications Coordinator

 

This was my third time attending the AWP conference, and as always, it was a whirlwind of discovery. This visit I was particularly struck by the strength of the panels I attended, both on my own and as a representative of the FOLD. A panel on disability and writing entitled “Invisible Illness, Tangible Craft” hit me on a very personal level and (no shame) had me in tears by the end of it. (I was also pleased to note some of the quick adjustments that AWP made to its Accessibility Services in response to feedback from conference guests.)

 

I was also thrilled to see Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie live, in conversation with Ta-Nehisi Coates and E. Ethelbert Miller. And I will be forever grateful to Jael Richardson for saving me a seat at the event and braving her way through the crowds to grab me and get me past the ushers at the door!

 

It’s always interesting to see the American literary scene from a Canadian perspective, and this time was no different. The FOLD panel, “Creating Space for Marginalized Voices: How to Curate a Diverse Programming Lineup”, generated some interesting questions from audience members in regards to what makes CanLit CanLit, and I like to think that the answers which were given – something along the lines of who even knows, anymore – helped to hint at the wide breadth of stories that lie in wait across Canada.

 

Also, people liked our accents, which I felt super chuffed aboat. Naturally.

 

 

Nailah King, from Room Magazine

 

This year was my first year ever attending the AWP Conference and it was an incredible event to attend. I’m new to attending writer’s conferences and I had never been to a conference on this scale. One of my favourite things about AWP is how it fostered such an inclusive space. I got to hear writers of colour talk about the state of publishing and listen and learn how publishers and editors can be more inclusive of writers living with a disability. Diversity was a huge focus at the festival which I loved, though there were some accessibility issues that I hope future AWP conferences address.

 

I got to meet one of the contributors to the issue I edited, the Women of Colour issue, in person and it was great to hear her thoughts about the issue. I got to know another editor, Kathleen Fraser from Plenitude, and hear more about the magazine’s efforts to foster more inclusion. Ultimately, as I continue on my own journey as an emerging writer, it was really empowering to hear the different thoughts and stories coming from the conference. There is something truly in the ether in this moment of political and social distress as advocacy, resistance and in some cases protest, culminated at the conference. Throughout the festival I was challenged to do better as an editor to centre underrepresented communities, a challenge I accept, both as a publisher and a writer.

 

 

 

Bänoo Zan, from Shab-e-Sher

 

The Vigil*

 

My candle

cries fire

 

and marks

the ground

 

The flame

writes on the page

of night

 

I am free

fighting for freedom—

 

a vigil

eclipsing the sun

 

I beat

on your drum—

 

a Sufi

drunk with God

 

My pen

the protest of

peoples

 

I am a comet

Stars blaze

in my wake

 

The light

is what I wear

to walk through

the snow

 

To be here

I left my name

out of papers

 

split faiths and colours

denied rainbows

 

Torn between lands

I pledge allegiance

to the sky

 

My candle

is witness

 

to the lava

in you

 

February 14, 2017

 

* On February 11, 2017, hundreds of writers and readers attending the AWP Conference attended a candlelight vigil for freedom of speech outside the White House. http://blogthisrock.blogspot.ca/ , https://www.facebook.com/events/660670117436306/