I attend the AWP conference every few years, depending on my workload, my financial situation, and my interest in traveling to other states. This year, it’s in Seattle, so it’s easy on all fronts. So, I’ll be there.
When I plan to go to a tradeshow/conference, whether it’s a writers’ conference, a sci-fi conference, or a technology conference, I perform a lot of preliminary actions. First of all, I check and double-check on when the conference starts. Some conferences start a few days before the exhibit floor opens, and may have some very important sessions to go see. Then I consider crowds. I like to get places early so that I miss the long lines.
Then comes the real work: going through the exhibitors list and the workshop/session list. There are always particular people I want to hear speak. For AWP, there are authors that I may never get to see again, or meet personally, so this is a big deal for me. I want to hear their viewpoints, know how they speak, act, behave. Sometimes I’ve read every book they’ve written, so seeing them at a conference like AWP is a thrill and a treat.
When I look through the exhibitors’ list, I’m looking for several things. I want to visit publication that have published my poems or short stories to say thank you, to shake hands with the publisher or editor who has often given up his or her weekends and evening to read other people’s works. I want them to know that I appreciate their commitment to great writing, and am proud to have been published by them.
Another reason to go through the list is to find magazines and publishers I’ve never heard of before. I want to see what’s new, who’s behind the presses, and talk with them about what they’re looking for, what they feel is missing in American letters, and how they plan to fill the gap. I like to hear how excited and committed they are to their project, their product.
And then there are the other writers you meet. Being around books and magazine and writers is the best thing for any writer. This is our tribe, our community, our family, and they all deserve respect and kindness. I want this industry to thrive, for my own pleasure in partaking in all the great writing, not just so that there are places for my work to get published. But it’s a balance. We must support the industry we’re in. We must keep our conversations open and honest. We must help one another along this path.
I try to remember that many small, independent publishers lives are similar to those of writers. They often either work along (for along hours after a day job) or in small groups. They love what they are involved with. They think about it, talk about it, and live it day in and day out. They are our publishers, and we must honor them as such.
For anyone going to AWP, if you see me wandering the halls, say hello. I may also be hanging around one of these booths: Northwest Institute of Literary Arts (booth 907), Booktrope Editions (my fiction publisher at booth CC23), MoonPath Press (my poetry publisher at booth CC7), or The Writers’ Workshoppe (my hometown bookstore/writers’ workshop and gathering place at booth 1307).
Terry Persun holds a Bachelor’s of Science as well as an MA in Creative Writing. He has worked as an engineer, has been the Editor-in-Chief of several technology journals, and is now marketing consultant for technical and manufacturing companies. Eleven novels, three poetry collections, and six poetry chapbooks have been published by small and independent publishers. His novels Wolf’s Rite and Cathedral of Dreams won ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Finalist Awards, his historical novel, Sweet Song won a Silver IPPY Award, and his fantasy novel Doublesight won a POW Best Unpublished Manuscript Award (it is now published). His latest science fiction space opera is Hear No Evil.