Last week, I attended my first writers’ conference, AWP 2012. This is a big-deal conference in the writing world, and I just lucked out that it happened to be held in Chicago this year. It was overwhelming and inspiring, so I thought I’d share a few things that I learned:
- Once I am published, I will need to obtain a wardrobe of chic, artfully draped, long cardigans in dark colors. (Corollary for men: If you’re under 30, the cardigan must be Mr. Rogers-style and be paired with black-framed hipster glasses; if you’re over 30, you can just go with a sport coat—no cardigan required.)
- It’s really cool to hear famous authors read from their books. The national award-winning authors I saw at AWP include Bonnie Jo Campbell (American Salvage), Jennifer Egan (A Visit from the Goon Squad), Jane Smiley (A Thousand Acres), Darin Strauss (Half a Life), Isabel Wilkerson, (The Warmth of Other Suns), Jaimy Gordon (The Lords of Misrule), and Rebecca Skloot (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks). I know a lot of you loved Henrietta Lacks, so you’ll be pleased to know that Skloot seems like the kind of person who’d be fun to meet for margaritas.
- It’s also really cool to “discover” authors who I hadn’t heard of. If you’re looking for books that are not on the best-sellers lists (yet), check out Alexi Zentner and Alexander Yates for literary fiction; Kristen-Paige Madonia, Kat Falls, and Bridget Birdsall for young adult novels; Amina Gautier for short stories; and René Colato Laínez for young children’s books. Colato Laínez’s The Tooth Fairy Meets El Ratón Pérez looks especially fun (El Ratón Pérez is the Latin American/Spanish equivalent of the Tooth Fairy—in the book, the two characters accidentally meet at the home of an American boy with immigrant parents), and the author is an entertaining speaker.
- Translations aren’t just for Greek epic poems that you had to read in high school. A lot of publishers specialize in English translations of books from other countries. I picked up a copy of Children in Reindeer Woods by Icelandic author Kristín Ómarsdóttir. Amazon and B&N don’t even have it ready to sell yet, but I’ve got it! Muahahaha!
- Not all literary journals are full of relentlessly depressing stories and abstract poetry. There are some fun, unique journals that you might not always find on the bookstore shelves. Fairy Tale Review (variations on familiar fairy tales), Kugelmass (humor), and The Normal School (a blend of humor and other offbeat pieces) particularly caught my eye. I bought copies of those and will probably look into submitting too.
- My obsession with funky-colored pens is not uncommon to writers, even in this technological age. A lot of exhibitors were giving away cool pens. Score!
- A lot of them were also giving away pins—my favorites are the ones in the photos here.
- Wait until the last day of the conference before buying anything—the exhibitors don’t want to carry all those books and journals back home, so they’re selling them at a discount or giving them away!
Have you ever been to a book-oriented conference? Have you ever met a favorite author? Tell me about it in the comments!