We’re back in the editorial saddle after spending the weekend in beautiful Portland, OR for AWP19, the largest literary conference in North America. And it looks like this year’s conference may have been the biggest in the conference’s history: AWP director Cynthia Sherman reported that pre-registration numbers were the highest the organization had ever seen.
Reporting from the ground, it certainly seemed like a superlative show, attendee-wise: Endless registration lines snaked throughout the convention center for most of Thursday, leaving some latecomers frustrated. (Pro tip: If you can ever arrange to arrive in time to register early on Wednesday, do so.)
Nearly every panel our editorial staff attended was jam-packed, with participants sitting on the floor on the sidelines or standing in the back. The bookfair floor was filled with writers from opening until close, and we met so many incredible readers and writers at our table. Given that last year’s event in Tampa suffered from both low attendance and an unfortunate snowstorm that delayed or canceled many east coast flights, this year’s event felt especially rejuvenating.
Many contributors to The Writer spoke on panels throughout the conference.
Contributing editor Melissa Hart led a panel on encouraging empathy and understanding in young readers via books, a session inspired by her upcoming release Better with Books: 500 Diverse Books to Ignite Empathy and Encourage Self-Acceptance in Tweens and Teens.
Frequent contributor Anica Mrose Rissi spoke at a packed panel on incorporating personal experience in YA fiction, which included a reading from her latest novel, Always Forever Maybe.
And our “From the Front Lines” columnist Yi Shun Lai spoke at two back-to-back panels that incorporated her experience both as an author and co-owner/prose editor of the Tahoma Literary Review.
We gave away hundreds of free copies of our March and April issues at our table, where we asked each visitor two questions: What do you like to write? and How’s your AWP going so far?
We heard dozens of answers to the first question, ranging from fiction to nonfiction to poetry to micromemoir.
But every attendee had the same answer for the second query: It’s been great, they all said. From the friendly attendees and knowledgable panelists to Portland’s book-friendly culture and friendly Lyft drivers, every single writer agreed it’d been a terrific conference – and we couldn’t agree more.