–by Shannon Reed
In the weeks leading up to my first AWP conference, I heard a great deal of advice. Although much of it turned out to be helpful, the words “strategize” and “survive” were so often included, I began to think of my trip to Minneapolis as a minor campaign in a small, bloodless war. Get in. Get free bookmarks. If the battlefield is clear, maybe snag a free tote bag. Avoid the panels. And then, get out. As it turned out, I enjoyed the conference a great deal more than I expected – the free tote bags guy at the London Review of Books was really nice! – but I also came away more concerned about the inclusivity of the world that AWP gathers together.
Much has been written about the representation (or lack thereof) of writers of color and LGBTQ writers at AWP, and, from my limited perspective, the concern seems justified. Here, though, I want to point to another area I worry about, one that I am better equipped to speak to: the way the conference actually unfolds, which leads to a prioritizing of one kind of communication and learning over all others. Continue reading