BY HANNAH RIDDLE
Staff and students represented the University of Mary Washington last week at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference.
Three professors from the English, Linguistics and Communication department and two undergraduate students attended the conference, held from Wednesday, April 8 to Saturday, April 11 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Approximately 12,000 people attended the event.
While at the AWP conference, the UMW contingent had the opportunity to attend panels, presentations and readings. These events, according to the AWP website, were all for the purpose of experiencing “insightful dialogue, networking and unrivaled access to the organizations and opinion-makers that matter most in contemporary literature.”
“It’s getting exposure to the literary world,” said Bailey Meeks, a junior double major in English and gender studies, who attended the conference.
Meeks, along with senior Moira McAvoy, were the UMW students in attendance.
According to Meeks, leading up to the event, she looked forward to the opportunities for networking, especially as she considers graduate school for a Master’s in creative writing.
“I’m very interested in how memoirs and personal narrative can be told in such a way that people who have never had that experience, or anything close to that experience, can still find something to resonate with,” said Meeks, explaining her passion for the non-fiction genre.
Meeks worked before with professors at UMW on preparing pieces for publication, but getting started is hard, she said.
“What’s kind of stressful is that there’s so many places to potentially get published,” said Meeks. “It’s overwhelming to figure out, okay, what journal actually fits my style? Where would this piece best fit in?”
Meeks was hopeful that the AWP conference, with its opportunity to meet representatives from the publishing industry, would be a good step forward.
Her professors at UMW were equally excited about the opportunity for connection making.
“It’s a chance to talk to other professors of creative writing, to hear about what they’re doing in classrooms and exchange ideas about how to teach,” said Colin Rafferty, a professor of English. “It’s a chance to have a lot of the writing world come together.”
Rafferty presented at the conference on Wednesday in a panel on research and non-fiction entitled, “Everyday Oddities: Natural Fact in the Lyric Essay.”
Other UMW faculty presentations featured Jon Pineda’s collection of poetry, “Little Anodynes,” and Elizabeth Wade’s work on the student run literary magazine The Rappahannock Review.
Other highlights of the conference included a book fair hosting more than 700 exhibitors this year, according to the AWP website.
“You hear a lot these days about the death of the book,” said Rafferty. “And then you go to this book fair and there are hundreds of publishers and hundreds of literary magazines, all of whom are deeply committed to publishing the latest in fiction, poetry and non-fiction. It’s a really wonderful place.”