The Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference is three days of craft talks, panels, workshops and presentations at Arizona State University. With more than 50 sessions from over 25 faculty members in multiple genres and fields, the goal is to provide writers with opportunities to make personal and professional connections, advance their craft, and deepen their engagement with the literary field. View the full conference schedule here.
About the conference from the host, The Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing:
“We are committed to creating an accessible and inclusive space for writers of all backgrounds, genres, and skill levels. Conference faculty and programming encompass many genres which can often go under served in the literary field, including Young Adult, Science-Fiction/Fantasy, Crime Fiction, Translation, Graphic Novels, Hybrid, and more.
Special topics like climate change, social justice, and other contemporary issues also feature prominently.
Publishing, editing, agents, and other aspects of the business of publishing are included as well.
Beyond sessions, attendees can also participate in receptions, discussion groups, after-hour socials, and other opportunities to connect with fellow conference-goers, develop relationships, and build community.”
The 2018 Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference will take place from Thursday, February 22 through Saturday, February 24. Writers of all backgrounds and experience levels are encouraged to attend. Register here.
AWP won’t come around again until next year, but if you’re thinking of attending, it is never too early to start preparing. We’ve compiled a few survival tips to help you navigate and adjust to the dizzying pace of your first AWP conference.
1. Wear comfortable shoes. AWP is the biggest writer’s conference in the US, meaning it will be sprawled across an enormous venue. You’ll be doing a lot of walking between panels – and possibly some running if you’re lost or trying to see more than one panel per hour. Leave those fancy shoes, high heels, or dress shoes that pinch your toes at home.
2. See more than one panel per hour – at least on your first day. It’s perfectly acceptable to leave mid-panel (although to be polite we suggest you do it during applause or between speakers). Take advantage of the multitude of offerings to see and learn as much as possible. Using this strategy the first day will give you a good idea of what kind of panels are useful to you and which ones are way over your head or just too basic.
3. Find overlapping topics in order to narrow down your panel list. Dying to see that panel on political poetry that conflicts with the one that offers advice on submissions? See if there are other panels that deal with politics in literature. Finding overlap is a good way to narrow down your list to those panels that you just can’t miss.
4. Wear pants. This mainly applies to women (though gents, it’s probably not a good idea to show up without your pants). You’ll most likely end up sitting on the floor, walking up stairs, or as we mentioned earlier, running (there is a lot of running), so if your heart is set on wearing a skirt, make sure you can still sit on the floor comfortably.
5. Sit on the floor. Popular panels get crowded fast, but don’t let it discourage you. You don’t necessarily have to see the panelists’ faces to absorb their great advice. Plus, it’s easier to leave between speakers when you’re not trapped in the front row with all eyes on you.
6. Try not to step on the floor-sitters’ appendages. Take it from me — having your foot or your fingers stomped on hurts.
7. Scope out nearby diners for coffee and affordable food. Chances are, the prices at your hotel are going to be high. Even the servers treat their prices like a joke. “Will you be ordering off the menu, or would you like to try our sixteen dollar breakfast bar?” one waiter asked us with an ironic smile. A little bit of walking will keep you from emptying your wallet just for a bottle of water.
8. Bring snacks. With all those panels, there may not be time for lunch, and with those amusingly high prices, keeping supplies with you can end the temptation to buy that $16.00 bottle of water. We writers aren’t exactly a wealth-soaked group, so no one will judge you for pulling out a sleeve of Ritz crackers during a panel. Just remember to clean up after yourself and try not to make a mess.
9. Go to the dance party, especially if you’re over 21. Nowhere else in the world will you find so many half-drunk writers shaking it like a Polaroid picture on the dance floor. Make a game out of it. See how many poets & fiction writers you can find doing the Macarena or the Robot. Remember to tip well at the bar and ask for two drinks at a time in order to avoid the long lines. Use whatever time you do spend waiting in line to make new friends.
10. Hang out with the friends you made at events and panels. See where they’re going for dinner and tag along. Visit their tables at the book fair. Don’t be shy. Being at AWP, you already have a lot in common.
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.