The Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference, or AWP, is a game-changer for any student even remotely interested in publishing. I went into the conference with the mindset that I would simply be helping with the Rock & Sling booth at the book fair and possibly starting to network with some important people in book publishing. How wrong I was. I completely underestimated the AWP Conference. Although I did help at the Rock & Sling table and I did network, AWP was so much more than that. I’ve come away from AWP feeling much more accomplished than I expected. During my short time at AWP, I met with knowledgeable editors, asked pressing questions and received intelligent answers, learned about hundreds of different publishers, and attended interesting panels, all while exploring the exciting city of Chicago.
I didn’t expect the conference to be as big as it was. Between the two Hilton locations, there had to be hundreds, if not a thousand people or so. Even though the locations were fairly large, it was still hard not to feel a bit overwhelmed, much like a small bee in a busy hive. Large groups of AWP members could be seen roaming throughout the city of Chicago, touting their red AWP canvas bags. The best part is that all of these people had one thing in common: a passion for the English language.
My main goal for AWP was to introduce myself to some of the 400+ book publishers. It was nerve-wracking at first, but an entirely different side of me took over, and I found myself chatting easily with publishing giants like the Harvard Review, Paris Press, and Penguin. AWP created a welcoming environment for writers, publishers, and students alike. It was great to have the chance to simply talk to a publishing representative about my questions and goals. AWP brought this chance to me in a way unlike any other. With three entire exhibition halls dedicated to the book fair, I was never at a loss for publishers to speak with. As a result, I’ve come back with a number of business cards and some realistic contacts in the publishing industry.