The Complete Guide to "What the Heck Should I Do at #AWP19?"

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Every year it’s the same struggle: three days, hundreds of panels, SO many amazing booths at the bookfair, and a whole host of offsite readings. Quick! Someone print the schedule and grab a highlighter… except who really has the time for that?

Do you love small press publishing? Or, our amazingly talented GMU alumni and extended network of writers? Or, are you just trying to chart the perfect path down the myriad of aisles at the bookfair?

Worry not, we’ve got just the line-up to ensure your #AWP19 success.


Wednesday

Reading: Tupelo Quarterly & Fordham University Press: A Reading & Party
Featuring professor Peter Streckfus
Wednesday, March 27, 7-9 p.m.

Taborspace, 5441 SE Belmont Street, Portland, OR
A celebration of Tupelo Quarterly’s contributors and Fordham University Press’s most recent authors, featuring original poetry and prose by Victoria Chang, Kara Candito, Mary Biddinger, Rebecca Hazelton, Karyna McGlynn, Jennifer S. Cheng, and others.

Thursday

EVENTS

** Stillhouse Press Reading & Reception **
4:00 - 6:00 pm
Rose City Book Pub

In honor of five amazing years of publishing Stillhouse Press will host a reading and reception, featuring authors Anne Panning (Dragonfly Notes: One Distance and Loss) and Anita Felicelli (Love Songs for a Lost Continent).

In Memory of Robert Bausch: A Reception & Celebration
6:30 - 8:00pm
Broadway Room, Portland DoubleTree, Level 1

Join George Mason University in paying tribute to the life and work of Robert Bausch, a three-time Mason alum, award winning novelist, and beloved teacher.

PANELS

** Cheating on Poetry: On Writing Nonfiction, Too **
9:00 - 10:15 am
C123, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Join Stillhouse author Anna Leahy (Generation Space: A Love Story) and fellow poets for a conversation on what it means to adopt a second (and very different) genre: nonfiction. Discussion includes craft, form, syntax, literary influences, MFA limitations, and what exactly led these poets to creative nonfiction.

A Woman’s Rites of Passage
9:00 - 10:15 am
E141-142,  Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Led by Mason alums Emily Heiden (MFA ‘15), Rajpreet Heir (MFA ‘14), Jessica Szalay (MFA ‘15), and nonfiction professor, Kyoko Mori, this panel seeks to acknowledge and highlight key topics in women’s writing which are often ignored, such as periods, bras, babies, and more.

Creating Discrimination & Harassment Policies in the Era of #MeToo
9:00 - 10:15 am

Portland Ballroom 252, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

The leaders of several literary centers, including Mason Creative Writing director and professor, Gregg Wilhelm, come together to discuss their own policies, how they were created and implemented, and how we can all strive to create safer literary spaces for women.

Behind the Curtain: The Editors Speak
10:30 - 11:45 am
Portland Ballroom 253-254, Oregon Convention Center, Level 2

As writers know too well, getting past the submission stage can be incredibly frustrating, difficult, and confusing—especially when it results in a pile of rejection letters.What went wrong? You wonder. And, How can I make it better? Join Emily Nemens, editor of the Paris Review, and five of the top literary magazine editors in the country to get those questions answered and learn more about the submissions process.

How Literary Magazines Cultivate Meaningful Inclusivity
3:00 - 4:15 pm
B116, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

If you’re wondering how to go about welcoming and publishing a more diverse array of literary voices, this panel of editors will discuss how best to adjust your branding, staffing, opportunities and editorial choices to actively support and attract authors of color.

A Reading of Free Verse Edition Poets
Featuring Tracy Zeman, MFA ’05, and professors Jennifer Atkinson and Eric Pankey.
5:30-7 p.m.
The Lab @ The Jupiter Hotel, 800 E. Burnside Street, Portland, OR

Free Verse Editions is proud to sponsor a reading by an exciting array of talent: Jennifer Atkinson, Matthew Cooperman, Elizabeth Jacobson, Ger Killeen, L.S. Klatt, Peter Kline, Chris Kondrich, Eric Pankey, Brittany Perham, Ethel Rackin, Siobhan Scary, Cole Swensen, Jon Thompson, and Tracy Zeman.

Tar River Poetry's 40th Anniversary/Iris Press Reading Featuring Mason alum Lana K.W. Austin
6:15 p.m.

Celebrate Tar River Poetry's 40th anniversary and Iris Press's continued publishing success at a reading featuring featuring Luke Whisnant, Tina Barr, Michael Spence, Susan O'Dell Underwood, Amy Wright, Karen Head, Dan Veach, and Lana K. W. Austin.

#AWP19 Keynote Address by Colson Whitehead
8:30 - 10:00pm
Oregon Ballroom, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Listen to the annual AWP Keynote Address by the #1 New York Times Bestselling author of The Underground Railroad and winner of the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, Colson Whitehead.


The #AWP19 Book fair, complete with some of our favorites highlighted!

The #AWP19 Book fair, complete with some of our favorites highlighted!

Friday

PANELS

** Going Long: Editors & Writers of Longform Nonfiction in Conversation **
9:00 - 10:15 am
E146, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

A panel of editors and writers, including Stillhouse’s Anne Leahy (Generation Space: A Love Story), discuss concerns and possibilities when editing, publishing and selling the longform nonfiction genre in a time of quick reads and short attention spans.

** Dystopias and Utopias in Contemporary Asian American Literature **
9:00 - 10:15 am
B116, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Four female writers, including Stillhouse’s Anita Felicelli (Love Songs from a Lost Continent), combine brief readings, a Q&A, and an audience writing exercise to draw attention to the overlooked sub-genre of dystopian and utopian visions in Asian American works.

Writing Outside the Big 5: Practical Tips for Authors Working with Indie Presses
10:30 - 11:45 am
B117-119, Oregon Convention Center

With the benefits of working with an intimate indie press, there are also challenges. This panel of writers provides insight and advice to authors working with the resources of publishing houses with limited staffs and budgets.

She/He Said: Resisting, Dealing with and Benefiting from Editor’s Suggestions
12:00 - 1:15 pm
D131-132, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Sometimes it feels as though the editor knows best; other times, it feels like the editor they don’t understand your piece at all. This panel of book and journal editors as well as writers of diverse genres discuss how to find a balance. If you’ve experienced working with an editor, you are encouraged to speak up and share what you’ve learned and discovered.

**Felicelli and Panning Book Signings 1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. Stillhouse Booth 2051, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Meet Stillhouse author Anita Felicelli at 1 p.m. as she signs copies of her book “Love Songs for a Lost Continent.”

Then, meet Anne Panning who will sign her incredible “Dragonfly Notes” at 2 p.m.

New Poetic Visions of the West
1:30 - 2:45 pm
E143-144, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

What role can perspective play in re-envisioning the romanticized vision of the west in poetry, as it’s been featured for the past 200 years? A panel of poets, including Mason alums Alyse Knorr (MFA ‘12) and Kate Partridge (MFA ‘13), discuss how they explore themes of identity, immigration, language and intimacy in their work.

Elements of Small Press Success
3:00 - 4:15 pm
E141-142, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

For small emerging presses, there several pieces to achieving success in the wider publishing sphere. A diverse group of publishers and editors discuss some of these pieces, from submissions and editing to production and marketing of works. They will also discuss building a brand, the role of social media, and acquiring staff, volunteers, and interns.

AWP Open Mic & Old School Slam
10:00 pm - 12:00 am
B113, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Are you looking to share a piece of poetry or prose? Read your original pieces (three minutes or less, no props) at the Slam. Sign up at the Wilkes University/Etruscan Press booth either on Thursday, March 28, or Friday, March 29.


Saturday

EVENTS

** Offsite Reading Feat. Stillhouse Poet Christina Olson **
5:00 - 7:00 pm
Beech Street Parlor

Kat Fallon, Christina Olson, Kate Gaskin, Caitlin Horrocks & Adam Schuitema will read poetry & prose. Featuring MC Ben Drevlow. There's a drink minimum, so come thirsty.

PANELS

Yoga for Writers
9:00 - 10:00 am
D129, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

It’s been a busy weekend. Start the last day of AWP with a gentle yoga session, focusing on mindfulness and stretching for writers.

Mining the Everyday: Using Real Life Experiences as Creative Research
9:00-10:15 am
A107-109, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Essays, memoirs, and stories are often inspired by everyday, some time mundane, experiences. GMU alums Emily Heiden (MFA ‘15) and Rajpreet Heir (MFA ‘16) consider how to mine one’s life for stories, recalling their own experiences and work, and discussing how to strike a balance between research and narrative, when considering the quotidian micro-moments.

Virtual Pathways: Publishing, Editing, and Writing Millennial Fiction & Poetics
10:30 - 11:45 am
Portland Ballroom 252, Oregon Convention Center, Level 2

The publishing industry is constantly changing—ever more so in the last decade, with the influence of technology and social media. This panel, comprised of publishers, editors, and emerging writers, investigate the “new wave of contemporary literature” and its many forms, and how the internet plays a role in current publishing practices.

Publishing Queer: What Was, What Is, and What Just May Be
12:00 - 1:15 pm
E143-144, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

In this panel about the development of queer publishing, a literary agent who represents diverse voices, and three published writers of LGBTQ lit share their personal experiences with publishing houses and agents.

** Different Strokes for Different Folks: Small Press Publishing Demystified **
1:30 - 2:45 pm
D131-132, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

Join one of Stillhouse Press’ founding editors and current director of media and market, Meghan McNamara, along with recently Stillhouse author, Anne Panning, and three small press editors to discuss the benefits of small press publishing, and how to creatively conquer and resolve the limitations.  

Beyond Publicity: Getting Your Book Out There in the Changing Media Landscape
4:30 - 5:45 pm
E141-142, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1

With the influence of social media, there are infinite avenues one can take to cultivate an audience—and it can be daunting. This discussion provides comfort, advice, and encouragement in navigating these waters post-publication, from traditional practices to internet marketing and knowing your audience.

Sleepless in Portland: A Reading
Featuring Robbie Maakestad, MFA ’17
7-9 p.m.
Rontoms, 600 E. Burnside Street, Portland, OR

Two lit mags and two presses—Boulevard, Cloudbank Books, Willow Springs Books, and Willow Springs Magazine—will bring a wide range of talented authors to read their work. The reading will feature Robert Long Foreman, Heikki Huotari, Amorak Huey, Holly Karapetkova, Laura Kasischke, Robbie Maakestad, Dennis Nurkse, Laura Reed, Dennis Schmitz, Dariel Suarez, and more.

** Of special Stillhouse interest.

It’s that time again…

#AWP18 (or, the Association of Writers and Writing Programs) is upon us! And just in time for some much needed sun, no less. But how do you tackle a daunting schedule and make sure you’re checking all the boxes? Fret not. At least as far as Stillhouse Press and its friends are concerned, we’ve got a few suggestions to ensure this year’s conference is an engaging, networking, and inspiration success.  


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Can't afford AWP? Don't buy into the hype? Happen to be stumbling around Tampa? Check out Whale Prom, the anti-AWP , where you can find our very own Bryan Borland, author of DIG and fellow small press publisher for Sibling Rivalry Press.  

Whale prom is free and open to all AND, if that’s not enticement enough, you can get your hands on an early release of Bryan’s forthcoming collection, Tourist, inspired by his book tour for Stillhouse Press’ 2016 poetry title, DIG

Catch Bryan and his partner in crime, Seth Pennington, at the Sibling Rivalry happy hour and have him sign your book! 

Happy Everything Hour, Sponsored by Sibling Rivalry Press

Red Star Rock Bar
Thursday, March 8, 2018  
5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. 

THURSDAY 

Beyond Queues and Fees: Poetry Books Outside the Contest Model

Are you a poet looking to get your collection published? Then this panel’s for you. Join former Stillhouse poetry editor and current art director, Douglas Luman, and several other talented editors for a fascinating discussion on how to circumvent the classic contest submissions model (and associated fees!), in favor of a more sustainable and inclusive approach. 

Grand Salon B, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor  
Thursday, March 8, 2018
9:00 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. 

Writing Resistance: LGBTQ Writing as a Platform for Change

With the safety and lives of LGBTQ individuals at stake now more than ever, the call for politically driven writing is even more urgent. Hear friend of Stillhouse, Seth Fischer and fellow LGBTQ writers discuss the importance of using their writing as a platform for activism and change.  

Grand Salon D, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor  
Thursday, March 8, 2018
10:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. 

Sound and Fury: Understanding Voice in Fiction

As a press in search of voice-driven works, we’re especially excited for this panel, which considers where voice comes from, and how to use it to play with narration, point of view, and style. 

Grand Salon C, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor  
Thursday, March 8, 2018
12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. 

Superconductors: Poets & Essayists Channeling Science

Catch Generation Space co-author, Anna Leahy’s panel on the connections between science and the literary arts. This panel discussion explores how key historical moments in science have helped shape the literary landscape of these writers’ lives. BONUS: Pick up a copy of Generation Space at the book fair and have Anna sign it! 

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Room 24, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor  
Thursday, March 8, 2018
3:00 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. 

GMU Creative Writing Programs & Stillhouse Press Host AWP 2018

Join Stillhouse Press and George Mason’s Creative Writing Programs for drinks and light bites, and catch our very own Dan Tomasulo, author of the forthcoming memoir, American Snake Pit, read from his new book! 

Bernini of Ybor
Thursday, March 8, 2018
5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

#AWP18 Keynote Address by George Saunders

Love George Saunders? Yeah, that’s a dumb question. Who doesn’t? Hear him read and discuss his work in this keynote address. 

Ballroom A & B, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor  
Thursday, March 8, 2018
8:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.


FRIDAY 

Strong Medicine: The Poetry of Addiction

The “milk of paradise” can lead to masterworks, while addiction deserts ambition and destroys lives. In this panel, five award-winning poets—including a few of our absolute favorites—explore the swerve from inspiration to ruination from different perspectives and diverse writing styles.  

Ballroom A, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor  
Friday, March 9, 2018
10:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.

Yoga for Writers

GET LOOSE! Stretch those limbs, clear out those toxins, and take a few [much needed & very deep] breaths with a mid-conference yogi sesh. We’ll see you there. 

Room 10, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor  
Friday, March 9, 2018
9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.

Challenges and Triumphs: Underrepresented Voices in Publishing

Diversity is key. At Stillhouse Press, we feel that it’s the work of small presses to represent ALL voices, all sexual orientations and identities, genders, and races. Come here these agents, editors, and authors discuss the challenges they face as part of communities underrepresented within the publishing industry, their approaches to overcoming these obstacles, and what we can do to foster diversity and inclusivity among both readers and publishing professionals. 

Grand Salon C, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor  
Friday, March 9, 2018
1:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.


SATURDAY

This Is Scary and Here We Go: Fear in the Driver’s Seat

For many in the literary community, these are terrifying times. But when fear strikes, we must write through it. Catch one of our favorite writers—and former Stillhouse fiction contest judge, whose 2016 pick debuts this fall!—Porochista Khakpour and a panel of epic women discuss how fear both holds them back and drives them forward, despite and sometimes because of it. 

Room 5 & 6, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor  
Saturday, March 10, 2018
12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m.

Writing the Pain: Memoirists on Tackling Stories of Trauma

Writing about traumatic experiences does not repair them. However, re-entering those memories, pulling them apart, and putting them back together can transform them into something meaningful, perhaps even beautiful, for both writer and reader. Hear George Mason’s very own Kyoko Mori and others discuss loss, illness, grief, or family dysfunction in poetry and prose. 

Ballroom A, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor  
Saturday, March 10, 2018
1:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.

Passing Into Pages: A Tribute to James Salter

If there’s one thing the last George Mason Professor Alan Cheuse instilled in his students (and there were many), it was a fervent love for James Salter. “Life,” Salter wrote, “passes into pages if it passes into anything.” Celebrate the brilliant short story and novel writer’s life at this panel, which includes George Mason’s very own, Tim Denevi.

Florida Salon 1, 2, & 3, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor
Saturday, March 10, 2018
4:30 pm to 5:45 pm

2017 Spring Conference Review

By Caitlin Herron


It’s spring conference season in the DMV, and it’s a great opportunity to connect with your literary community, grow your skills, and network with other local writers.  Regardless of your writing experience or genre, there are several upcoming events where you can hear some fantastic readings, socialize, and expand your knowledge of the writing world (and even catch some of our authors in the process!) These are events you won’t want to miss!


2017 NEW LEAVES WRITERS' CONFERENCE

Hosted by Fall For The Book, in coordination with George Mason University's Creative Writing Program.

George Mason University, Fairfax Campus
Monday, April 3 - Friday, April 7
Registration: Free
 

With no registration fee and no sign-up required, this conference is great for writers with changing schedules. This years’ conference highlights its first “Day of Translation” on Wednesday, April 5, presented by our friends at The Alan Cheuse International Writers Center and The Center for the Art of Translation. The day features acclaimed translators and writers presenting on “Translation as a Political Act,” “The Art of Translation,” and other topics. The rest of the week includes readings from established writers Laura van den Berg, Spencer Reece, Helon Habila, and the Loud Fire reading by Mason’s MFA students. (Several Stillhouse Press staff members past and present will be there, so don’t miss it!) On Tuesday evening, Mason MFA alum Mike Scalise will be reading from his memoir "The Brand New Catastrophe "(Sarabande Books, 2017). And on Wednesday night, be sure to check out Linda Chavers reading from her chapbook "(This Fucking Body Is) Never Yours," from our friends at Gazing Grain Press.


ARTOMATIC

Crystal City, Arlington, VA
March 24 - May 6
Entry: Free
 

Artomatic is a fun way to experience all of the performing and visual arts the D.C. area has to offer - in an old laundry building! That’s right, this space has been converted into a venue for writers and visual and performing artists to showcase and sell their work. With so many weeks to visit, there is plenty of time to get a taste of this unique event. Come April 1 for a reading by Stillhouse's Andrew Gifford, author of "We All Scream: The Fall of the Gifford's Ice Cream Empire" (forthcoming May 1, 2017), and get your hands on his exciting memoir a full month before its official release.


CONVERSATIONS & CONNECTIONS: PRACTICAL ADVICE ON WRITING

Hosted by Barrelhouse
George Mason University, Arlington Campus
Saturday, April 22, 9am-6pm
Registration: $70
 

This conference is the premier way to connect with writers and editors through a day packed with workshops, panels, and ending in a legendary boxed wine reception! Panel discussions include flash fiction, point of view, handling grief, and a myriad other topics.  There will even be a panel with Barrelhouse Magazine editors giving advice on how to get your work out of the slush pile and into a lit mag. This year's conference will feature our very own editorial director Marcos L. Martínez, Stillhouse friend and Editor of Smokelong Quarterly, Tara Laskowski, and Rion Almicar Scott, author of "Insurrections" (The University Press of Kentucky 2016), a 2016 Pen/Faulkner finalist. A highlight of this conference is its speed dating event, where attendees can bring their poetry, short fiction, or first few pages of an essay or story for a 10 minute critique with an editor. Lit mags attending include Barrelhouse, Smokelong Quarterly, Potomac Review, Gettysburg Review, and many more. This conference offers a great way to get feedback on your work from a range of editors in your genre.  The best part?  Your registration gets you a book by a featured writer and a subscription to a participating lit mag.  At $70, you get a lot of bang for your buck!  


KENSINGTON DAY OF THE BOOK FESTIVAL


Kensington, MD
Sunday, April 23, 11am-4pm
Registration: Free


The Kensington Day of the Book Festival is a lively outdoor literary festival for every reader in your family. Over 100 authors, poets, and artists will be lining the streets of this charming downtown for book sales, readings, and more! There will be tents with an on-the-spot poetry competition, an outdoor kid’s show, and even demonstrations from cookbook authors. Stillhouse's Andrew Gifford, ("We All Scream," May 2017) is a special guest speaker, so you won’t want to miss this event, rain or shine!


BOOKS ALIVE! 5th ANNUAL WASHINGTON WRITERS CONFERENCE

Hosted by Washington Independent Review of Books

College Park Marriott Hotel & Conference Center
Hyattsville, MD
Friday, April 28 – Saturday, April 29
Registration:
Mar. 2 – Mar. 31 $250
Apr. 1 – Apr. 29 $260
Student Discount rate: $130
 

If you have a novel, story collection, or idea that’s itching to be pitched, this is this conference to hit this spring! After Friday’s “How to Pitch an Agent” session, participants will have the opportunity on Saturday to meet face to face with up to three agents for five minutes apiece. Agents are looking for work in all genres: YA novels, memoir, sci-fi, fantasy and more. Not looking to pitch? There are still plenty of panels from publishing industry experts to attend, including the keynote address from Judith Viorst, best known the children's classic, "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day." This is a great event to meet established authors in your genre and get advice from industry experts!


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Caitlin Herron is the events intern for Stillhouse Press and a copy editor for George Mason's student newspaper, Fourth Estate. She will graduate with a BA in Writing and Rhetoric in December 2017.  She also works part time in Parks and Recreation for Fairfax County. 

#PowerOfThePen at AWP

Hello, from the other side of AWP! It was a long and amazing weekend of running between panels, readings, off-site events and the Stillhouse Press booth at the Bookfair. The Stillhouse team is thrilled to have had the opportunity to connect with so many great writers, readers, publications, and organizations—not to mention all the opportunities we had to show off our authors and their books! (We’ll take this one last chance to say: if you missed your opportunity to snag a book at the Bookfair, you can order online.)

In honor of the 50th anniversary of AWP and its presence in the nation’s capital this year, we wanted to do something special. If you were at AWP and stopped by, you might have noticed us hanging out with a whiteboard and asking people to participate in our social media project. (Maybe you even stopped by!) We collected all the photos and selected our favorites. 


We asked, “What is writing’s role in 2017?”

Here’s what you had to say:

1. “To remember who we/you are, remember who we/you were.”

2. “Bear witness and document history.”  

3. “To remind us of the scientific facts!”

4. “RESIST.”

5. “To fight the tyranny of ignorance.”

6. “To tell the stories from the perspective of the lion. #resist #minorityrepresentation”

7. “Speaking truth to power.”

8. “Be ever-moving forward and amplify those that have been/will be silenced. #resist #queeraf”

9. “To be not alone.”

10. “‘To reflect the times’ - Nina Simone + speak out against the sh*t!”

 

11. “Truth and beauty as always, and now...more than ever the will and grace to fight for it.”


There were so many more folks who participated and gave us their two cents. You can check out the other photos on our Twitter page, @StillhousePress, or search #PowerOfThePen. We had a fantastic time talking with everyone who stopped by to tell us what they thought. As writers and poets, we all have a lot of work to do in 2017. And we at Stillhouse Press look forward to working alongside you.

Want to participate? It’s never too late! Tweet @StillhousePress with your answer or comment on this post!


Alexandria Petrassi is the editor of Moonshine Murmurs, a reader for Stillhouse Press, Phoebe, and So to Speak, the Lead Editor at Floodmark (a blog devoted to providing eclectic inspiration for writers), and a first-year poetry student in the MFA program at George Mason University. She also has a day job in health care, where she works in Digital Communications.

Conference Networking: A Newcomer's Guide

    With conference season just around the corner, it’s time to prepare for all of the exciting networking and development opportunities ahead. The AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs) Conference is in Washington, D.C. this year, which means that many local writers and students in the DMV will have the opportunity to attend the biggest literary conference in the world for the first time. What’s the best way to use the conference to expand your network?  How do you avoid imposter syndrome as a first timer?  Michelle Webber, Communications Director at Stillhouse Press and resident conference guru, has some helpful hints about how to grow your network and get the most out of the experience.


Know Before You Go: Do Your Research

Spend some time investigating what writers and organizations will be there. This may sound simple and intuitive, but it can be more work than you think! One scan of the list of 2017 exhibitors will show you just how overwhelming your “to do” list could be, but don’t freak out!  Print out the list, grab a highlighter, and start annotating. Once you’ve done that, prioritize based on your individual needs. If you’re an author looking to make a personal connection with the editors of a literary magazine that you love, flag them. If you’re an undergraduate looking into MFA programs, make sure they are high on your list. This cheat sheet will help you craft a schedule that will take you everywhere you want to be.

The book fair floor at the 2016 AWP Conference in L.A. 

The book fair floor at the 2016 AWP Conference in L.A. 

Plan a Loose Schedule That Includes Breaks

Do the same thing you did with the exhibitor list with the conference schedule. Pick out the events that sound interesting, then the ones that you cannot miss. Prepared to be disappointed: the two panels you want to see most will almost certainly be at the same time. You’ll have to make a choice, but that’s okay: the conference is long and there’s always something just around the corner.  Scheduling breaks (even if it’s just thirty minutes for coffee) is absolutely essential.  If you’re a first-timer, you will be tempted to fill every single time slot in your day. DON’T DO IT!  It’s really easy to burn out, and if you over-schedule yourself, you’ll miss out on one of the most important parts of conferences: being there! It’s also a good time to make some notes for yourself and reflect on what you’ve seen.

Take Notes

Don’t be afraid of looking rude if you scribble notes in the middle of a presentation or panel. Write down quotes from authors you love, pieces of advice that you find particularly helpful, any books that you want to add to your “to read” list. After each day of the conference, go back to your hotel and do a little journaling. Write down your impressions from the day; make lists of the people you met and how they fit into your network.  You’ll collect a lot of free swag and pieces of paper—write on these too! Write deadlines on bookmarks, notes about the conversation you had on the back of business cards, throw away any fliers or inserts that you don’t need.  Culling one day at a time is much easier than trying to remember the details of a conversation you had three days ago.

Don’t Be Shy — Say Hi!

Introduce yourself to one person at every panel you attend. You may be surprised at how few degrees of separation there are between writers, especially at a big conference like AWP.  If you’re a member of a lit organization, invite them to swing by your table or come to your offsite event. Every face-to-face conversation is an opportunity to grow your network!

The same goes for presenters. Attend a panel that was helpful? Watch a keynote that really unlocked something for you? See a reading of an emerging writer you really admire? Stay behind afterwards and interact with them. Introduce yourself, ask questions, tell them what you enjoyed about their lecture. This may be difficult for the bigger events, but many presenters expect and even enjoy interacting with audience members after their events.  The same goes for the bookfair!

Authors, Agents, and Publishers are People, Too!

Last year, without meaning to and without even knowing who he was until he said it, I met Chuck Palahniuk’s agent at the LitReactor booth. I also had drinks with the Poet Laureate of New York at my hotel bar. These experiences taught me a valuable lesson: the best way to make meaningful connections is putting your respective literary positions behind and focus on the person standing in front of you. At AWP, you’re all on even footing. You’re writers attending an event to listen to and meet other writers. When you meet your literary hero at an after party or shake hands with the editor of your favorite literary magazine, remember that they’re people just like you. Conversations lead to connections; fangirling leads to restraining orders.

BONUS ADVICE: Don’t forget to keep in mind the context in which you’re meeting these people. If you’re at a panel and the agent mentions she’s taking pitches, go ahead and do it. But don’t be that guy who shoves his manuscript under the stall door or gets too drunk and pukes on Sherman Alexie’s shoes (true story from a friend of a friend—seriously, don’t do it).

Follow Up

After you’ve done all the networking legwork at the conference, meeting people, shaking hands, and exchanging cards, it’s absolutely essential to follow-up when the event is over. Believe it or not, most people who say, “I’ll shoot you an email,” never do. Pursue the leads you worked so hard to attain. If you said you’d send that editor a query letter, do it! If you talked to another literary organization about throwing a joint event, get in touch! Making a connection without follow through isn’t really making a connection. Once you’ve made contact, you have to maintain it. If you don’t have anything immediate that you need to address with someone, but your work may bring you to their doorstep later, send them a “nice to meet you, hope we get to work together” note. If you got an emerging author’s contact information, send them an email saying how much you loved their reading.  We all like a little affirmation that we made a difference. Going the extra mile is what will take these casual interactions from isolated incidents to nodes on your personal and professional network.


We want to know: what’s your best piece of conference advice?  Leave a comment or ask a question on our blog through February 8 and you will be automatically entered to win a signed copy of Christina Olson’s "Terminal Human Velocity."


Michelle Webber has worked as a reader, an Editorial Assistant, and Social Media Editor for Stillhouse Press and currently serves as the Director of Marketing and Communications.  She is currently working on a collection of linked short stories and will graduate with a BFA in Fiction from George Mason University in May.

 

The New Leaves Writers’ Conference: An Outsider’s Perspective

by Hailey Scherer

There are few things more enchanting than watching an author read his or her work aloud. They give voice to their narrator—something which Stillhouse Editor-in-Chief, Marcos L. Martínez defines as style, syntax, cadence, and tone, "but more like pheromones; something you know only when you feel it." The author fleshes out their work, their narrator's voice, with their own, making it sink into your bones. To hear the phrases fit the voices, to see the facial expressions, the unconscious body movements, is to experience their work on another level.

Mark Polanzak, reading from his debut hybrid memoir,   POP!   (Stillhouse Press, 2016).

Mark Polanzak, reading from his debut hybrid memoir, POP! (Stillhouse Press, 2016).

As a visiting intern at Stillhouse Press and a high school senior with little experience in the professional writing world, I felt excited but largely unsure of what to expect from a "writers' conference." Would the discussions be stiff and formal? Would I feel excluded or in the way? Would I get to meet an actual author, those superhuman beings behind all my favorite books? As the conference began, however, I was immediately swept up in the words of the very real, very human writers and their readings.

I watched authors affiliated with Northern Virginia's small publishing community read from their recently published and award-winning works. I sat in rooms filled to the walls with George Mason students, Stillhouse Press and Gazing Grain editors, and others like me—lovers of the literary world who just happened to be in the right place at the right time. The energy was palpable. It shifting in flavor from reading to reading, but was always charged with a positive, fascinating intensity.  

By reading from their work or answering questions, each writer had the opportunity to instill in the audience some message, about themselves, their work, the world, or all three. Gazing Grain's Nora Brooks infused emotion and personality into the practical affair of cooking, using it to explore things that make us uncomfortable, while Heidi Czerwiec discussed the socioeconomic, political, and environmental issues of western North Dakota in her work Sweet/Crude. Czerwiec's poems read like a report, but with lovelier words, poetic phrasing, literary organization, and curious anecdote, which serves to simultaneously further her points and to make her work all the more interesting and beautiful.

Gazing Grain authors Heidi Czerwiec and Nora Brooks (left to right).

Gazing Grain authors Heidi Czerwiec and Nora Brooks (left to right).

Mark Polanzak’s enthusiasm was particularly apparent, and rightly so, as part of the conference was dedicated to celebrating his first book POP!, a hilarious work about a decidedly un-hilarious subject, the death of his father. Polanzak described his book, quite fittingly, as “factually unreliable but emotionally true,” a work that really speaks to “the absurdity and integrity of memory," and his reading brought the audience to life. Listeners let out genuine, full-voiced laughs, sighing at the more poignant lines. Hearing him read from his book while the sun set on George Mason’s blooming cherry trees and the wind-rippled pond remains one of my favorite memories from the conference.

The collaborative, enthusiastic, supportive atmosphere of the New Leaves Writers’ Conference reminded me that writing is not as individual a career as one might think. Or if writing is an independent affair, the sharing of that writing—the part that makes it all worth it—is decidedly not. Authors may give a solo performance, may use their writing to untangle unprocessed trauma, like witnessing a devastating global event or experiencing the death of a parent, but it’s the collaboration between writer and editor, the interaction between author and reader, that gives writing its texture. This is where it all comes together, where you get to feel and see and hear a writer's work. It's in the exchange that the words take on meaning.


Hailey Scherer is an intern at Stillhouse Press and a senior at Flint Hill High School. As an aspiring author/poet, she aims to learn as much as possible about writing and publishing during her internship this spring. She will be attending Dartmouth College in the fall.

The Road Less Traveled: a Visit With Porochista Khakpour

by Leslie Goetsch

Khakpour currently lives in New York, where she is Writer in Residence at Bard College.

Khakpour currently lives in New York, where she is Writer in Residence at Bard College.

Born in Tehran and raised in California, the enigmatic and seemingly enchanted Porochista Khakpour has crossed the country and beyond in pursuit of the writing life. As she says in her essay, “My Life in the New Age” (Virginia Quarterly Review, Summer 2016), “I always liked the road less traveled.” One of Khakpour’s latest stops was Fall for the Book’s New Leaves Writer’s Conference March 21, where she spent the day and night as a visiting writer.   

The Last Illusion , Bloomsbury, 2014

The Last Illusion, Bloomsbury, 2014

Khakpour kicked off the first day of the conference with a reading from her latest novel, The Last Illusion (Bloomsbury, 2014). She began her reading with a discussion about the medieval Persian epic, the Shahnameh, which serves as the inspiration for The Last Illusion. Khakpour’s retelling of the legend centers on the character Zal, a child of the “wrong color,” whose mother raises him in a cage, along with her other “darlings,” birds. These two passages from Khakpour’s novel demonstrate her range as a writer. The first offers a daring, poignant scene in which Zal is cursed by his suicidal mother; the second a humorous view of Zal as he approaches adulthood in early 2000’s New York, where he takes a job at a pet store and falls in love with a canary.  (Zal’s story is also the inspiration behind the three striking feathers tattooed on Khakpour’s right hand and wrist, and although she makes it clear her mother would prefer the tattoo removed, it’s hard to imagine her without this physical reminder of how writing has directed her life.)

As part of her visit, Khakpour also spent time conferencing with MFA students about their work, offering suggestions and a personalized reading list, as well as advice on how to navigate the writing world. Despite battling a recurrence of Lyme Disease (precipitated by a car accident late last year), Khakpour’s energy never flagged. She was funny, smart, nurturing, and constructive as she discussed her writing, assuring students that there is, in fact, a life after the MFA and opened herself up to questions.

Porochista Khakpour appears 3 in from the left; Leslie Goetsch appears 3 in from the right.

Porochista Khakpour appears 3 in from the left; Leslie Goetsch appears 3 in from the right.

Khakpour’s struggle with illness is the subject of her next book, Sick (forthcoming in 2017). Sick is a real-time recount of Khakpour’s ongoing struggle with Lyme Disease, including her difficulty finding a diagnosis, exploring treatment options, and her determination not to let the physical symptoms of the disease interfere with her writing career.  While she has published many nonfiction essays and reviews, this will be her first full-length nonfiction work. During a question and answer session with the author, Khakpour explained that she first became interested in the project because she felt her experience could help others suffering from the disease. Interestingly enough, Khakpour says she originally wanted to publish a pamphlet that could be distributed to hospitals and doctors’ offices, though her publisher inspired her to turn her reflections into a memoir.

The subject and style of Sick are a significant departure from the magical, moving fiction of The Last Illusion, but as her reading at George Mason revealed, Khakpour is a storyteller whose spirit and insight marks all of her writing. There is little doubt that when the memoir debuts next year, it will make for a powerful and affecting read, and greatly add to the ongoing conversation about Lyme-related illness.


Leslie Goetsch is an MFA student at George Mason University. She is the author of Back Creek (Bancroft Press, 2008), a coming of age novel set in rural Virginia.


 

Tis The Season... For Writing Conferences!

It’s March, and the warmer weather marks not only the start of spring, but also the beginning of conference season for literary organizations all over the country. The Association of Writing and Writing Professionals, the largest literary conference in North America, is in Los Angeles this year. But fret not; you don’t have to travel across the country to broaden your writing horizons.

The D.C. area has some fantastic conferences to offer that will appeal to all writers, regardless of your experience, genre, or medium. Each conference has something unique to offer, with plenty of readings, panels, workshops, and networking and social opportunities to choose from. Take a look at our round-up of local conferences to see how you can get involved  in the D.C. area literary scene this spring.


NEW LEAVES WRITER'S CONFERENCE

Hosted by: Fall For The Book
Where: George Mason University, Fairfax Campus
Mon. March 21st- Thurs. March 24th
Registration: Free

 New Leaves’ events are all in the evenings, which makes it perfect for busy D.C. students and professionals. The events include readings by established authors Porochista Khakpour, Leslie Jamison, Jennifer Atkinson, Heather Green, and Tim Denevi, as well as the annual Loud Fire reading by George Mason MFA candidates.

Tuesday, March 22, Stillhouse Press will celebrate the release of its second book, the hybrid memoir POP! , from debut author Mark Polanzak. Fellow press, Gazing Grain will host a reading by Heidi Czerweic and Nora Brooks, the winner and runner-up of their recent chapbook contest.


CONVERSATIONS & CONNECTIONS: WRITERS CONNECT CONFERENCE

Hosted by: Barrelhouse Magazine
Where: George Mason University, Arlington Campus
Sat. April 23rd
Registration: $70 ($65 for students)

 

Conversations and Connections is a great place to meet local writers and improve your craft. The one-day conference features panels and workshops on flash fiction, writing ethnicity, and “late bloomer” authors, among others. Writers Connect is known for its relaxed atmosphere and emphasis on networking; with an “editor speed date” for lunch and a boxed wine happy hour, you’ll be hard-pressed to leave without a few new friends and contacts in the D.C. literary world.  Your registration fee also nets you a free book by by one of the authors speaking at the conference and a year’s subscription to a participating literary magazine. All proceeds from the conference go toward supporting participating small presses and literary journals.


BOOKS ALIVE! WASHINGTON WRITERS CONFERENCE

Hosted by: The Washington Independent Review of Books
Where: Bethesda Marriott at Pook’s Hill Road
Fri. April 29th- Sat. April 30th
Registration: $240 until April 1; $130 for full-time students

 

Whether you’re a new writer or a seasoned veteran, Books Alive! is a great way to learn more about the publishing industry and what’s going on in writing right now. 

The conference begins Friday evening with a relaxed social, followed by a panel on how to pitch an agent. Writers can then use the suggestions from the panel in the Agent Pitch sessions, which will take place throughout the day Saturday. This year’s keynote speaker is Bob Woodward, award-winning investigative journalist for The Washington Post and best-selling nonfiction author, followed by panels on everything from voice in memoir to adapting books to film.

Be sure to catch the Small Press Panel at the end of the day, which will feature Director of the Santa Fe Writers Project and Friend of Stillhouse, Andrew Gifford and our very own Editor-in-Chief Marcos L. Martínez!


Michelle Webber is the Social Media Editor for Stillhouse Press.  She is currently working on a science fiction novel and is a fiction candidate in George Mason University's BFA Program.