California Waiting: An AWP 2016 Recap

I flew back from LA on Sunday and am more over less over my jet lag and more or less feeling like a human again. Whoa, convention life is crazy. This was my first time at The Association of Writers and Writing Programs’ annual conference. It differed from my experiences at Book Expo America and Brooklyn Book Festival in that it was less about business and book sales and more about writers hoping to connect with potential writing programs, journals, and publishers. Since I’m not an editor, my time spent at the Feminist Press table was a bit awkward–I had to turn away more than a few writers pitching me their manuscripts. We split a table with Chicago publisher Featherproof Books–if you’re not familiar with them, do yourself a favor and look them up. They are publishing some weird and wonderful books right now. They also happen to be the publishers of Jessica Hopper’s The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic, which I’ve gushed about before.

FP Staff
My colleague Jisu and I wo-manned the FP’s table for the whole conference. Who knew sitting and talking about books could be so tiring?

The Feminist Press hosted two panels, one on memoir writing and the other on last year’s anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. I attended a few panels as well: one on publicity at small presses made me realize this conference is directed at people newer to the industry (sample nugget of wisdom at the panel: “be organized”); the other was on queer YA, which is right up my alley and featured the amazing Michelle Tea. One of the highlights of the conference was connecting in person with Michelle, whose book Black Wave comes out from The FP in September. She kindly stepped in at the last minute to take over moderating duties for both of our panels. She is a burst of positive energy, which is much needed when you spend three eight-hour days inside a convention center.

FP Authors
Feminist Press authors (from left to right) Michelle Tea, Ana Castillo, and Chef Rossi appeared on a panel about writing memoirs.

The offsite events were easily my favorite. I was lucky to hear Michelle read at VIDA’s reading and party, which featured the most diverse group of readers I’ve ever seen as well as a performance by the first LGBT mariachi band, Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles. So much fun! At Tin House/Literary Hub/Grove Atlantic’s post-AWP party on the roof deck of the Ace Hotel, I toasted to surviving the conference and had the great pleasure of connecting with some of my favorite people in the industry.

The highlight of the offsite events (and of my life) was the reading “Fierce Verse: Feminist as Fuck.” I went for the incredible line up of writers: Roxane Gay, Eileen Myles, and Lidia Yuknavitch, and my role model/idol Amy Poehler. I was very happy to discover a new voice whose work I’m now dying to read, author Randa Jarrar. It’s always a joy to find a new writer, especially one who can stand out in a crowd that includes so many literary/feminist/comedic dynamos. But, BUT the moment that made my heart burst open with joy was when Carrie Brownstein joined Amy Poehler on the stage as a surprise guest. I can’t even.

Carrie & Amy

All in all, working at a conference was exhausting, but the connections I made, the chance to see friends and colleagues from the West Coast, and the moments that I didn’t expect (the aforementioned Carrie Brownstein performance, seeing Martin Starr aka Bill from Freaks and Geeks and all the other sitcoms I love outside the Ace Hotel) made it worth it. See you in DC next year, AWP.

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