AWP Conference 2022: Several Eastern students attended one of the largest national conferences for writers.

From March 23rd to the 26th, the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) met for their first in-person national conference since 2020. This year, AWP’s national conference met in Philadelphia—the first time it’s done so. 200 events were offered at the conference, along with a book fair with “editors, small presses, publishers, and literary magazines” from all over the country. It took place at the Philadelphia Convention Center. In addition to its in-person conference, there were also more than 100 events available online since they had “a successful virtual conference in 2021with over 6000 attendees.”

This year, a number of writing students from Eastern attended with their Professor Rebecca Gidjunis, who also is Managing Editor of a journal called Saturnalia Books. Saturnalia was present at the book fair all weekend. When  asked to speak about the conference, which Gidjunis has attended multiple times, she said “I love that I can connect with my community of writers and friends from grad school.” This is a large yet tightly-knit community, and many attendees know each other from school, just like Gidjunis,  and they come to the conference every year and recognize faces and names, or interact with well-known writers and publishers on social media. 

A number of the journals represented at the conference this year were from universities with undergraduate and master’s level audiences. Some of these universities were Rutgers, Wilkes, NYU, Columbia, UChicago and the University of Arizona. There were also larger organizations like American Poetry Review, Pen America, The Writer Magazine and Poetry Foundation. Representatives from each journal or publisher came with their most recently released books for sale, along with free merchandise, and set up their booths in enormous rows for attendees to meander through for hours. 

Most of the journals and publishers at the conference focus their material on poetry, essays and short stories, but some housed photographers and nonfiction/fiction authors as well. A few more advertised genre-bending material. On the opening day of the conference, the 23rd, AWP hosted Toi Derricotte— the “celebrated poet”—for their keynote address, and the other events throughout the three days featured talks and panels on a broad variety of subjects like “Ask an Agent Anything,” “Exorcising our Demons: Mental Illness in YA” and “Poets Theater.”

In attendance, one could clearly sense the atmosphere of creativity and community throughout the massive book fair and in the myriad events and panels. Most attendees were young, in their twenties and thirties, as were most of the representatives from journals and publishers. Though some genres found there are not generally regarded as art forms by the general public, like non-fiction or essays, one could be convinced of the artistry in all kinds of writing disciplines just by taking a few steps into the main room of the conference center. It was certainly a gathering of creatives, artists who are on the front of society, pushing it forward and stretching our minds. There was also a discernible spiritedness hovering over the whole three days. “After successfully reimagining the conference as a virtual-only space for 2021, returning to an in-person gathering this year brings a new sense of excitement and anticipation. The AWP staff has worked hard to achieve a safe in-person conference while still providing that wonderful, interactive virtual offering for those who join us online,” said AWP executive director Cynthia Sherman. 

If you’re interested in submitting to any of the above-mentioned journals or publishers, please find them online, as their timelines for submissions update regularly and often. Visit the AWP website for more information about the annual conference.

Sources: AWP 2022 (press release), Rebecca Gidjunis