AWP, Conventions & Conferences, Mount Mary College, Writing Programs

AWP 2012 Overview

Chicago 8
This looks exactly like some of the rooms where I spent last weekend! | Chicago 8 (Photo credit: penmanila)

I had to miss class Saturday morning to make it to the 2012 AWP Conference and Book Fair in Chicago. My Narratology instructor encourages students in our professional writing program to attend such events, so he was okay with a few of us missing class just this once. However, he asked that we each write a review of the conference and discuss what our biggest takeaways were so we could share the experience with our classmates who couldn’t make it.

I thought my review, with a few revisions, would make a good blog post for today considering I’m always short on writing time on Wednesdays (I teach 2 classes on Wednesdays.) Enjoy…

AWP 2012 Overview

Two of my biggest takeaways from the 2012 AWP Conference and Book Fair were 1) a huge to-do list and 2) a great big question mark about where my priorities should lie.

It seems there are so many different strategies you can employ when promoting yourself and your writing, so many different strategies you can apply to improving your writing, just so many things you can do in general, it’s hard to decide where to start. (And it’s possible that I just want to do more than is humanly possible and need to narrow my focus a bit or I’ll never accomplish anything.)

A few of the sessions I attended included:

  • Now That’s a Novel Idea: Marketability (Gasp!) & Creative Writing Programs
  • Out There and In Here: Creative Writing in the Real World
  • Connecting with Readers Via Your Website & Social Media
  • Preparing Short Story Manuscripts for Contests and Publications

I was amazed at just how many booths there were at the book fair. There are so many more literary journals out there than I would have ever imagined. I feel like I’ve been lead to believe that there are only a few major journals that I should be trying to get published in. For example, it seems like all of my classmates in the professional writing program at Mount Mary College are focused on trying to get a short story published in Glimmer Train, which is probably one of the highest paying literary journals on the market.

But I wonder if maybe we’re shooting too high or limiting ourselves too much at this point. It’s possible that one of us may someday get a story published in Glimmer Train, so I wouldn’t recommend that you stop submitting there. But at the same time, there are so many more literary journals out there that you could be submitting to. I also hadn’t really thought about submitting short stories to contests either, but now I think I might. I just need more hours in the day to get it all done!

I was also surprised to learn that, for many writers, the main purpose of submitting short stories to literary journals is so you have credentials to add to your query letters when you’re out looking for someone to publish your novel. You need to be able to point those agents, editors, and publishers in the direction of something you’ve already published if you want them to take you seriously.

Apparently, if you want to become a well-known writer, you shouldn’t focus on writing short stories for literary journals because the only people who read those literary journals are the writers who write for them. Who knew?

Overall, I enjoy attending conferences like this simply because listening to other writers talk about what they are doing sparks off so many ideas in my own mind. I came home with at least 10 pages of notes. The hard part will be sitting myself down to wade through the scribbles and figure out where to start.

Please keep in mind, this was just a general overview of the 2012 AWP Conference and Book Fair. I am planning more detailed posts in the individual sessions I attended in the near future. So keep in touch!

Do you write short stories? Do you publish them (or attempt to publish them) in literary journals? Tell me about your experiences in the comments below.

~Mandy Webster

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