Search website

Entries in AWP (2)


Three Reasons Why I’ll Remember 2013 AWP-Boston

This article originally appeared on Fiction Depot.March 13, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — I recently returned from the hustle-bustle of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) annual conference held in Boston March 6-9.

I will remember this conference for three reasons:

1. Snow, snow and more snow

2. Shutouts

3. Kindred souls

Yes. Snow. And lots of it. My two friends, Alida and Pam, and I flew from MSP to BOS Logan airport with a connection in Chicago. Including near misses, delays, switched flights, and eating on the fly, it took all day as we followed a winter storm from the Midwest to New England. The Berkshires of western Massachusetts received over 25 inches of snow over three days while AWP folks slogged through slush with 45 to 50-mile-per-hour gusts.

My solo trip across Copley Square at 7:45 a.m. on the first day of the AWP conference. Where are all the people in this bustling Boston? Riding the T (subway) beneath my feet.Confetti-like snow shrouded Boyleston Street layering mantels of white on the black rooftops, green copper turrets, and red-fired brick and stone buildings. I braved the snow for the seven-block walk from our hotel to the Hynes Convention Center via historic Copley Square. Like a good Minnesotan, I bundled myself in a down coat with a fur-lined hood drawn tight around my flushed cheeks as the snow blurred the city scape on either side of me. My three roommates, so much wiser than me, took the T (Boston public transportation a la the oldest subway system in the country) and arrived far drier and warmer.

Boyleston Street view from the third floor of the Hynes Convention Center.How is it that I made such a detailed study of snow falling on Ladder 15, Engine 33 with its 19th century stone arched garage doors that concealed its shiny red and silver 21st century fire trucks? I got shutout of three sessions and spent a good part of one morning on the third floor of the convention center gazing out the window overlooking Boyleston Street. In total, although arriving on time, I missed three fiction craft sessions with just as many people standing outside the room as there were crammed inside. Sessions I missed that required double or triple the space to accommodate conference goers included:

  • Keeping Track of Your Novel
  • The Art of Ending
  • A Point of View on a Point of View (Luckily, I got into this one!)
  • Knowing Nothing: What Novelists Figure Out Before Page One

Lesson #1:  Next year, plan to get to your sessions 20 minutes to a half hour before they open.

Lesson #2: Don’t sweat missing a session or two—or three. With the pressure off, I happily strolled the aisles of the book fair. Later, I was glad to have ended up sitting in on an Arab-American reading that included refreshing creative nonfiction, profound poetry and hilarious fiction.

New Rivers Press table at the book fair.By far the best and most memorable part of my AWP Boston experience was connecting with the thousands of kindred souls—12,000 writers and teachers who treasure literature and matters of the human heart. On a grand scale, listening to Jeanette Winterson in the auditorium was like a Sunday sermon in a great big church—but infinitely more meaningful and definitely much funnier. On a global scale I met writers from South Africa, British Columbia and the United States from California to Maryland.

The real and most memorable moments, however, didn’t happen during the official AWP readings, sessions or book fair. AWP topped all because of the three women who shared my hotel room—Kate, a poet; Pam, a memoirist/essayist; and Alida*, a fiction writer—all friends from Hamline University’s MFA program. Each evening we shared what surprised us, disturbed us, and challenged our thinking about writing. We processed the overwhelming amount of daily information and experiences and distilled them through conversation into a meaningful elixir for our hearts and minds.

Jeanette Winterson read from her memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?We asked questions and discussed possible answers, only to raise more questions:

  • What does it mean to censor your own work by submitting what you judge is a stereotypical women’s story to a women’s journal instead of another journal?
  • How do you network at a conference of 12,000 people, most of whom are probably introverts—including yourself? What does networking mean anyway? Does it mean more than selling yourself, and if so, then what?
  • How do you create work that stands apart from the slush pile and yet stay true to your own voice? Stretch it? Challenge it?
  • Work on craft, craft, craft—over and over I heard this, that it’s voice that appeals to readers (and thus editors) and the quality of sentence-level writing. Then, does your story hold up to the “So what?” question?
  • How are we ourselves biased against or in favor of male or female authors?
  • How can we form our own posse, support and encourage each other, and promote each other’s work?

Copley Square with Boston Public Library on the left.By Saturday, the Boston sky shone an intense azure without a cloud in sight. Sessions wrapped up by 5:45 p.m. and my roommates and I headed to the Little Italy of the North End neighborhood for an Italian dinner. With our wine glasses raised, we toasted to a fine writing and fine friends. As they returned to the hotel via the T, I parted ways and traipsed through old Boston, past the government center, a 1660s cemetery and across a snow-laden Boston Commons—with my hood down so I could see the stars.


*Relive AWP or experience it for the first time vicariously! For an extended version of the AWP experience as seen through the eyes of Hamline MFA graduate, Alida Winternheimer, read her post on Wordessential at


Three Reasons to Go to AWP in Boston went live last week. I wrote this article as my contribution to help it get kick started. Check it out, then submit your fiction and fiction-related work!


Three Reasons to go to AWP in Boston

Wendy Skinner

February 27, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — In less than a week, I’ll walk the Freedom Trail on the cobbled stone streets of Boston where the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) will host its annual conference March 6-9.  This will be my third pilgrimage in the last four years to this annual event that attracted over 10,000 writers and readers to Chicago last year.  Why go for a third time? Because  1) no two conferences are alike, 2) there’s something for everyone, and  3) it’s in Boston!

Each AWP conference reflects not only national literary issues and trends, but the artists and voices of the region in which it takes place. Four years ago in Denver, writers had their hay day with readings, tributes, and workshops imbued with the history and multiculturalism of the West. Last year in Chicago, the conference crammed into two of the grandest hotels in the Loop. Set blocks apart, after days of traversing between the hotels, I memorized Michigan Avenue and its urban streetscape right down to the cracks in the sidewalks and the timing of the crossing signals. Gritty Midwest gothic, urban poetry and listening to Margaret Atwood, the keynote, speak about voice are what I remember best. I’m looking forward to AWP in Boston because just by the looks of the hundreds of sessions—no kidding, somewhere over 600, I lost count—they’ll infuse the air with the rich literary traditions of the New England.

Whether you’re a novice writer, an MFA student, a published author, a teacher, an independent publisher or the host of an online journal—there’s something for you. Standard pillars of the AWP conference include the daily hugeomongus book fair, a maze of amazing literary journals, MFA programs, and services for writers (and really cool free stuff like bookmarkers, buttons, food and books!); Keynote event (This year’s keynote features Seamus Heaney and Derek Walcott with Rosanna Warren); author signings (from Seth Abramson, University of Akron Press to Michael Zapruder, Black Ocean, two out of over 400); and parties, parties, parties.

In addition to the conference standards, it’s the gazillion sessions that attract most conference attendees.  Sessions begin Thursday at 9:00 a.m. and close Saturday at 5:45 p.m. It’s impossible to categorize the multitude of varying offerings, so to get a taste, here are five random sessions offered this year:

  • Books in the Age of Reader-centric Publishing
  • The Art of Losing
  • A Cappella Zoo: A Reading of Magical Realism and Slipstream
  • WHIM Old School Indian Reading
  • Breaking Bones: Traditional and Nontraditional Structures in the Novel

And who couldn’t love Boston? 56 post-secondary institutions call the Boston-metro area home, including Emerson College and the universities of Boston, Tufts, Suffolk, Brandeis, Harvard and more. Boston’s role in American history is palpable when you walk on the 2.5 mile Freedom Trail past 16 historical churches, and meetinghouses and cemeteries as you learn about the American Revolution. And you can’t miss visiting Boston’s North End neighborhood where you can eat pappardelle and canolis in this “Little Italy” that dates back to the 1630s.

If you’re at the AWP conference next week, say hello. If not, in a few weeks you can read my post about the event as the sleet-street-beat reporter on Until then, check out the conference website to make last-minute plans for your literary pilgrimage to AWP in Boston.


Wendy A. Skinner writes from Minnesota and holds an MFA from Hamline University. You can read more about her and her writing at