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
writes on the page
I am free
fighting for freedom—
eclipsing the sun
on your drum—
drunk with God
the protest of
I am a comet
in my wake
is what I wear
to walk through
To be here
I left my name
out of papers
split faiths and colours
Torn between lands
I pledge allegiance
to the sky
to the lava
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/