Notes from Minneapolis – An AWP Interview

Welcome back students and faculty from your trip to the 2015 AWP Conference held in Minneapolis, Minnesota!  Thanks so much for representing our department and The College of Saint Rose!

We asked students about conference, and here are some fun facts, photos, and thoughts from the trip!
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What was your favorite part about AWP? 

Sarah Sherman: The Write Bloody Super Poetry Party Showcase of Sweetness. Specifically, hearing Sarah Kay.

Amber O’Sullivan: The poetry readings and getting to talk to the poets after and get better acquainted with their work and writing process and selves.

Alyssa Cohorn: So many samples of literary magazines to take home! Not only are they great for airplane reading material, but you can really get a sense of where your writing could fit in and where it definitely doesn’t.

Samson Dikeman: The bookfair and the chaos of it.  I love that people will jump out at you and offer you free books and pens.

What was your least favorite part about AWP?

Sarah Sherman: Hearing uncontrollable laughter from a writer when she was told my thesis was a collection of essays written in the second person. (This was also a great moment, too, because it gave me a needed push to show people that maybe I can do this…and do it well. But, in reality, I’m sensitive, and it scared me.)

Amber O’Sullivan: Too much happening. Panels, booths, ahhh writers!

Alyssa Cohorn: Bar tabs.

Samson Dikeman: The weather.  It got much better, but a few of us walked to the conference in the rain one day.  It snowed another day.

Did you get to meet any authors that have inspired you?

Sarah Sherman: I met Sarah Kay, a poet, who is inspiring as a female writer.

Amber O’Sullivan: Yes! I met Joy Harjo and Simon Ortiz and got their autographs while my heart exploded a little from the inside out.

Alyssa Cohorn: Several. And I met some new authors that are now great inspirations.

Samson Dikeman: I got to hear some really amazing poets at the Write Bloody reading.

What were some of the panels you attended?  Thoughts on those?

Sarah Sherman: The most helpful panel I went to was called “Yes, Writing Is a Job: People Who Get Paid to Write.” It opened my eyes to different opportunities after getting an MFA and panelists provided helpful resources for finding these jobs.

Amber O’Sullivan: I went to “Character IS Plot, Plot IS Character” which was okay. The writers had a lot of varying advice that was sometimes contradicting though. I went to Post MFA tips as well which was worse since it was basically four people saying that you won’t have anything post MFA unless you get a residency, grant or fellowship. Thanks guys.

Alyssa Cohorn: I attended one on what to do after getting your MFA, and it amounted to an extended infomercial for people’s grants or weird artist colonies. I suggest finding out where your inspirations are talking and going from there.

Samson Dikeman: I made it through 14 minutes of one panel which was a record for me.  I don’t know what it is about the panels but I have a tough time staying focused while I’m there.

Favorite booth/journal?  Why?

Sarah Sherman: No Tokens Journal.  They were my favorite because they engaged with me the most. I got to speak with the nonfiction editor and asked her specific questions about my own work, which was encouraging. I plan to submit to them asap.

Amber O’Sullivan: Write Bloody because they were super fun to chill with and visit and they publish some of my favorite poets.

Alyssa Cohorn: Barrelhouse  was really cool and gave me a tiny plastic monkey.

Samson Dikeman: My favorite booth was the Write Bloody/University of Hell press booth.  I really enjoy the authors they put out.

What are your thoughts on Minneapolis?

Sarah Sherman: Unlike some of the others I traveled with, I wasn’t too impressed with Minneapolis. I’m sure a lot of it had to do with the day after day grayness in the sky (we got sun on our final days, thank God.) I always enjoy traveling to new places, though, so I don’t regret coming. I did have some tasty meals, so I guess that’s a plus.

Amber O’Sullivan: I love this city. Friendly, happy, interesting people, lots of dogs, weather is wild, fun bars, great restaurants, loving it.

Alyssa Cohorn: I LOVE THIS CITY. It’s weird, the weather is bizarre, and I’m still not sure I understand what a light rail is, but it was a good time and the people are overly friendly.

Samson Dikeman: Minneapolis is an interesting city with a seemingly inordinate amount of sex shops.  Other than that observation, I found it to be a charming city with some extremely kind and generous people.

Any tips or tricks about surviving a 3 day conference filled with writers and publishers?

Sarah Sherman: Be brave. Don’t let the intimidation of being around 11,000 people trying to do the same thing you are stop you from enjoying yourself.

Amber O’Sullivan: Deep breaths, network your ass off. Talk about your writing to these people, make an impression, and talk to these writers about writing!

Alyssa Cohorn: Bring comfy shoes; get ready to ask the same questions a lot, and pack enough concealer to hide your exhaustion.

Samson Dikeman: You have to take breaks and give yourself space in order to survive AWP.  There is so much energy (creative and otherwise) that you’ll get worn out if you don’t take naps.

Lee Geiselmann: Take it really slow. Don’t try to do everything in one day. Only go to 2 panels a day, but have a few backup panels to attend in case the ones you want to go to aren’t really what you want to see. Go to the readings at night.

Describe AWP in one word.

Sarah Sherman: Overwhelming

Alyssa Cohorn: Overwhelming.

Samson Dikeman: Dynamic.

Lee Geiselmann: Inspiring.

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