Networking at the AWP Conference
The AWP conference is one of the major ways you can network your writing career. AWP or the "Association of Writers and Writing Programs" is a group that focuses on helping out the careers of writers and writing programs across the country. They support 34,000 writers, 500 writing programs and 100 writers conferences and centers.
Their conference, held in Chicago this year, brings together both amateurs and major names in the literary world. Past attendees include John Irving in 2008 and Tim O'Brien in 2006. It focuses on finding outstanding authors, teachers, writing programs, literary centers, and publishers, and is one of the best means of networking outside online forums or masters degree programs. Participation requires registering to exhibit your work. The cost of registration varies but costs anywhere from $40 for students to $225 for non-members who’d like to exhibit works, and you can buy tickets now to save as much as $40 per person.
Events include readings that give writers a chance to hear the writing of professionals. Hearing this published writing helps writers understand what is publishable and gives them tips on where to publish. Panel discussions focus on a wide range of important writing and publishing ideas.
Panel discussions are one of the major sources of networking available at the AWP conference. Speaking at the panels and expressing your opinion can show that you are an intelligent writer with a solid understanding of the business. Bring business cards!
Meeting with publisher representative and getting names, numbers and other contacts is another way to network. These names help expand your network of possible contacts. Make sure to reciprocate networking information with others as this expands their network and makes you a trusted source of information in the writing world.
Another major way to network at the AWP conference is through reading your own writing. Buying a ticket gives you an exhibition table. Reading your writing to interested passerby may spark an interest in your work. Ask them to pass your name around and to tell others about your work. Reciprocate this action by listening to other writers and passing their names.
Simply chatting with people in the cafe during a break is a great way to network. The casual nature of dining will help people relax and be more willing to open up about contacts and networking information. The AWP conference has a large dining hall that makes this a much easier task.
Writing can be a lonely business, without the same 9-5 camaraderie you can find in another position. Visiting the AWP conference can help to foster both business contacts and friendships for years to come!
Emily Matthews is currently applying to masters degree programs across the U.S., and loves to read about new research into health care, gender issues, and literature. She lives and writes in Seattle, Washington.