Writing Conventions: AWP 2017 (Thumbs Down)

Nine days have passed since I staggered out of the annual convention of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (#AWP) at the Washington, DC, Convention Center. Two long days at the gathering – Metroing in and out, walking the enormous exhibit hall, hustling from one disappointing panel to another – left me rung out.

But the detritus of the convention (see photo) still litters the floor, and I need to move on. Spring has interrupted my usually thought-filled February, and I have gardens to till and photographs to take.


Post-convention slush pile

Preliminary thoughts overall:

  • That’s a lot of concrete to walk on.
  • Metro actually worked for my writing colleague and convention partner, and me.
  • Exhibit Hall was worth the price of admission, or at least the senior citizen fare.
  • Whole lot of poetry going on. Good for them.
  • Panels extremely uneven, most poorly planned and executed and full of academic drivel.
  • Also, the panel titles reminded me of National Enquirer headlines. They contained enough truth to keep them out of court, but their representation of reality would qualify as fake news.
  • There was not a single big-name writer on the program.
  • Most – not all – exhibitors and panels operated without benefit of technology that was popularized more than a decade ago. A discouraging number of exhibitors collected email addresses with a pen, paper and clipboard. Does no one own a tablet?
  • Overall convention managed very poorly.
  • Convention Center is so big it made 12,000 seem like a few hundred. I was surprised at how few people I remember seeing more than once.
  • This is a low-cost convention compared with the pricey Thrillerfest I attended in New York three years ago, but I got my money’s worth at Thrillerfest; I did not feel the same about AWP, which cost a tiny fraction.
  • I would not return, even for all those wonderful exhibitors. I don’t do conventions and conferences too well.

Finally, why would anyone waste money getting an MFA? You want to write? Write! But first do some living. A little experience can enrich writing immensely.

Going forward, I need to revive and revise some of my short stories.

For more rants about AWP 2017, stop back for:

  • Kudos – It wasn’t all bad.
  • Books I Could Not Resist – I didn’t intend to buy; I don’t need more books; but some thing are too good to pass up.
  • Hitchcock: What to Tell the Reader – What?


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