Meet me at #AWP23

Next week, I’ll be headed to Seattle for the annual AWP conference. If you don’t know that acronym, it’s the Association of Writers’ and Writing Programs, an annual gathering of thousands (often over 10,000) writers, teachers, publishers, etc. Virtually everyone is a writer, but we all wear a number of hats.

I’ll spend most of my days at the table for Poetry South, Ponder Review, and Mississippi University for Women’s MFA program, talking to people about what we do. We’ll have brochures, sample copies of the magazine, swag, and candy if I can get out to buy some this weekend and fit it in my checked luggage.

I always save room to carry some magazines there in my luggage, along with many of the other things we give away. That way, I’ll have room to bring home some swag as well. The best advice I’ve heard about AWP is to wear comfortable shoes and save room in your bags for the books and magazines you want to carry home, which is great advice, but do beware of baggage weight restrictions for your return flight! Come get Ponder Review or Poetry South first, in other words!

I always love the conversations I have at our book table the most. Yes, I will get away for a panel or two — thanks to our graduate students who will take over when I need a break! — and I will wander the book fair myself as well. But if you’re also traveling to Seattle this week and want to stop by to say hi, you can probably find me at T1221. I’d love to talk about our program, our magazines, A Writer’s Craft, or my latest poetry projects — and yes, I’d also love to hear about your latest projects or whatever else you have going on.

Did you know that I teach a class in AWP? It’s one option for our Short Residency in the low-res MFA program. We have been studying the schedule, pouring over off-site events, comparing notes, polishing our elevator pitches, and this week, four of my students (Seattle is a long trip for most of us) and I will be at the conference. I’m there to support them and to take most of the hours at our table, and the students will spend their time going to panels, roaming the book fair, and also taking their shifts at our table, so if you want to meet some of our grad students, ask me when they’re planning to be there. I also know of at least 3 of our alumni who will be at the conference, and I’m sure they will stop by and maybe even pull up a chair for awhile.

This year, I’ll also have some flyers for a special issue of Delta Poetry Review that my friend Susan Swartwout is guest-editing. She won’t be at the conference, and I’m happy to help her get out the news about the call, so ask me about it, too!

AWP can be an intimidating place — what place wouldn’t be intimidating when 7,000 – 14,000 writers descend on it. I like to remember that all of the “important writers” mus feel equally overwhelmed, or even if they don’t feel that way now, they did the first time they were at AWP. I’ve been going so many times that it hardly phases me anymore. I’m used to being part of that flow, and I try not to take myself or anyone else too seriously, but it is a great place to catch up with old friends and to make new ones. It’s also a great place to make connections and learn a few things. Taken with a healthy grain of salt, AWP is invigorating and inspirational. If you think you have to conquer AWP, you will more than likely leave disappointed, but if you take it for what it is and accept whatever experience you have, then you will undoubtely leave rewarded.

The only way to truly win at #AWP23 is to stop by table T1221 and talk to us about our magazines and our program. If you haven’t done that, then you lose; if you have, then no matter what happens, you will win in my eyes. Of course, I’m joking, but I do hope you’ll find us and stop by for a moment.

Published by Kendall Dunkelberg

I am a poet, translator, and professor of literature and creative writing at Mississippi University for Women, where I direct the Low-Res MFA in Creative Writing, the undergraduate concentration in creative writing, and the Eudora Welty Writers' Symposium. I have published three books of poetry, Barrier Island Suite, Time Capsules, and Landscapes and Architectures, as well as a collection of translations of the Belgian poet Paul Snoek, Hercules, Richelieu, and Nostradamus. I live in Columbus with my wife, Kim Whitehead; son, Aidan; and dog, Aleida.

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