How To Do AWP 2015
Another year, another AWP conference—this one taking place April 8th thru the 11th at the Minneapolis Convention Center & Hilton Minneapolis Hotel. If you’ve attended AWP before then you already know what to expect. For those of you that haven’t, let this be your beginner’s guide. You can almost think of it like ComicCon, except for publishing-centric folk. AWP touts over 2,000 presenters, and their book fair plays host to over 700 presses, journals, and literary organizations. It is far and away one of the largest literary conferences running, but that doesn’t mean everything worth doing will be on the schedule.
List of things to do immediately:
1.) Make an account on the AWP website so you can stay up to date on everything going on. It’s free.
2.) Register for the conference. This gives you access to the book fair, panels, conferences, readings, and receptions. Unfortunately, this late in the game, it’s going to be a bit pricey. Get full details on that by going HERE.
3.) Figure out how you’re getting there. Again, because this is last-minute, a flight is going to be pricey, but I know plenty of people who are coming in their own cars or by train. Lodging might be trickier. If you don’t know a local you can crash with, the AWP site has a long list of hotels in the area you can check out by going HERE.
Things to do during AWP:
Attend panels: I’ve been on writers’ forums for going on seven years now, and if there’s one thing I’ve noticed it’s that writers (especially the beginning ones) have questions. Lots of questions that range from how to do social media to finding an agent to picking out the right press for their work. Unfortunately, the Internet isn’t always the best place to get these answers. You could be getting misinformation or advice from someone who has no damn clue what they're talking about. The beauty of AWP is that it’s chalk-full of reputable sources discussing pretty much any topic you can think of. By now, you should have already made an account. If you simply go HERE you can see the entire schedule of panels and the topics they are going to cover. If it looks like something you’d want to attend, mark the checkbox and the panel will be added to your schedule so you can keep everything nice and organized. The reason AWP costs a pretty penny to attend is the vast amount of resources and knowledge you’ll have access to via the panels. Take advantage of them.
Visit booths: At AWP there is going to be a huge area in which the individual booths are housed. You’re going to see representatives from lit mags, publishing houses, and yes, writing-related sites like LitReactor (booth 1814, people!). The first cool thing about this is all the swag you can get. Be prepared to drop a proverbial shit-ton on books…and it’s not uncommon for the author to be on hand ready to pen their signature. The other cool part about the booth displays is you can visit the reps of some of your favorite presses and lit organizations and strike up a conversation. Now, the room can be a little overwhelming, so here’s the complete list of who has booths just in case you want to plan an agenda…go HERE.
Network: I can’t stress this enough—do some networking. Shake some hands. Kiss some babies. AWP is one of the few places where so many literary peeps are going to be in the same spot all at once: authors, editors, publishers, literary agents. Don't be afraid to ask questions or buy these people a drink. This is just as much about learning as it is about cutting loose.
Attend readings: There's not going to be any shortage of readings. If you've browsed through the AWP schedule, you already know that. The best readings (in my opinion) are the ones that are held off-site. I'm talking bars and restaurants and places where you can get a stiff whiskey. Come nightfall, it's going be nearly impossible to walk the streets of Minneapolis without stumbling upon some kind of author event. Make sure to check those out and see how it's done. Everyone tends to bring their A-game during AWP.
Local fare: Just because it's AWP doesn't mean you should spend all your time there. Get out and explore the city. Check out the Walker Art Center or the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Take a bike ride around Lake Calhoun. Do some restaurant touring. Hit up a nightclub. Don't exhaust yourself on shop talk. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. And don't feel bad about having to Google "fun things to do in Minneapolis" because I'm sure you're not the only one doing it. Those tourism sites exist for a reason.
Finally, you can stay up to date on things by visiting the AWP Facebook event page.
Hope some of this was helpful. It is encouraged that you post the best readings/events/bars/restaurants/whatever in the comments section.
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