Superstition Review Editors roamed the corridors and booths of the AWP Annual Conference and Bookfair to find both past contributors and literary legends. We found some familiar faces and made some new connections, and we wanted to give our readers a front row seat to the action. This AWP Recap comes from SR Intern Samantha Allen.
In her keynote address, Margaret Atwood talked about the old English root of the word “craft.” Craft, she noted, is the en vogue word for what writers do; chances are you have encountered the phrase the craft of writing many times in recent years. “Craft” comes from a word that means skill, implying a strength that comes from practice. Ms. Atwood reflected that craft is not something inherent, like artistic genius, but something you must work at.
This rang true for me as I attended the panels at my first AWP conference. As a creative writing student, I’ve always had a sense of how much work goes into being a writer. But it wasn’t until I sat among crowds of writers scribbling away at their notepads that I understood how devoted they all are to the craft. Around 10,000 people attended the AWP conference this year, 3,000 of whom were students. And almost every one of them is or aspires to be a writer.
Admittedly, in the weeks leading up to AWP, I was nervous. I worried I would be overwhelmed, or get lost, or lose the ability to form articulate sentences in front of important writers. The first morning of the conference, interview editor Erin Caldwell and I were so apprehensive we didn’t notice when the cab driver gave us the wrong change, fleecing us out of $10. Then we sat down at our first panel. After a few minutes of frantic note-taking, the anxiety disappeared. Everyone else was jotting down notes with the same level of devotion, laughing at the same nerdy jokes, flipping through the schedule of events with the same look of awe-struck frenzy. I had a sense of coming home; I was among my people.
Being among so very many of “my people” was an especially profound experience when a panelist would read a passage from a classic work aloud to make a point. During one panel on points of view in fiction, a panelist read a long excerpt from Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road. While he was reading aloud, I was utterly transported into the work, and when it ended, I could tell I was not the only one who felt as though I was waking from a dream. The communality of this experience – sitting among a crowd being entranced by a story – was moving in a primal way. The discussion of the technical elements that created that moment of transcendence was rendered far more impactful by the experience of being in a community. Moments like that made it easy to branch out and make friends. I learned that it’s a big world, but also a small and welcoming one.
Now that I’m home and have had a chance to think about my first time at AWP, I want to extend a heartfelt thank you to the supporters of Superstition Review. Of those 3,000 or so students at the conference this weekend, we encountered only one other publication run by undergraduate students. No other publication we met at AWP, however, gives undergraduates the same experience working with renowned writers and high-quality work that Superstition Review does. Seeing so many other publications represented at the seemingly endless bookfair reminded me just how unique we are. We are the first undergraduate-run magazine to publish a long list of nationally recognized authors, and every person we met who was familiar with our publication expressed admiration for our mission. If it wasn’t for our readers and contributors, I never would have had the incredible experience I was lucky enough to have this weekend, and for that I thank all of you.