We’re back from AWP—the Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference—feeling exhausted, exhilarated, and grateful to work in such an amazing industry. Here’s a list of some of our favorite things that happened during the conference.
Hugo House Literary Series All-Stars
Event organizers take note: the equation for Best Reading Ever = time management + booze + Jennine Capó Crucet + Natalie Diaz + Roxane Gay + Jess Walter. Any one of those authors at your reading would be a stellar night, but Seattle-based Hugo House knocked it out of the park with one of the best readings of the conference. Diverse in tone and genre, the readers were biting, intelligent, and funny all at once (Crucet read from her piece, “Facts About Neil deGrasse Tyson”). Each reader was asked to choose a piece they were prompted to write, and the result was one of our most memorable readings (fiction, essays, and poetry!) of AWP.
Poet and critic Claudia Rankine brought the house down with her keynote speech. Her talk touched on “what keeps us uncomfortable in each other’s presence,” namely the continued marginalization of faculty and students of color at MFA programs. Rankine shared necessary and hard truths about calls for diversity and inclusion. She made it clear that while some administrators profess difficulty in building diverse writing programs, it takes just as much effort to maintain the status quo: “The investment in whiteness takes work. A white majority faculty takes work. The inability to hire and retain diverse faculty takes work.” Rankine’s talk was an eloquent call to action for those in MFA administrations and workshops, and the answer is not mere tokenization. Rankine, whose 2014 book Citizen: An American Lyric garnered numerous accolades, read an unpublished poem called “Sound and Fury” in which she grapples with the disenfranchisement she imagines many supporters of Donald Trump feel. (more…)