AWP is the place to be.

I attended the AWP Conference held in Atlanta, GA and learned five things.

1. Some panels have amazing presenters with a passion for what they’re speaking about, and a few panels have people reading a script with no presentation skills. You can imagine which panels caught my attention (and the most notes jotted down in my notebook).

2. The Hilton is tall, but the Marriott is taller. Like “Darth Vader throwing the Emperor down the shaft” tall.

3. A taxi will drive you to Thelma’s Kitchen, but it won’t pick you up. Sorry, it’s just not gonna happen.

4. There are amazing people in my MFA program. All right, I already knew this, but now I know it more thoroughly.

5. There are people out there who are passionate about writing. Some highlights:

Charles Jensen from Arizona State University is working on a community outreach writing program, and had good advice on starting out (start small, use a phased rollout, anticipate low enrollment at first with solid standouts to spread the word, etc.). He emphasized service to the community, and using constant, consistent opportunities for feedback and structured evaluations. That’s a concept I dig. “They” say people never let you know when something is working, only when it goes wrong. Here’s hoping one can get people to say what’s on their mind more frequently.

Ben Moorad is doing tremendous work in Seattle writing with people in need. He says, “Community writing gives a sense of belonging, a sense of self.” He gave an example of a working-class mother with children transferring from bus to bus just to make a writing workshop – for him, it put a lot into perspective. Here’s someone who has to go through so much, just to get to a writing workshop they love; seeing that can change your own definition of self as a writer and the seriousness of the stakes involved. I found that wonderful advice, the kind of advice to make you sit down and spill out as many ideas as possible on the page.

An instructor at Marietta College named Janet Bland has her students play The Sims and write short stories based on what happens in the video game. Now that’s what I call progressive classroom learning. She also suggested a writing exercise book called “The 3 A.M. Epiphany” by Brian Kiteley; I immediately ordered an examination copy upon returning home to see if it’s right for the “Intro to Creative Writing” course I’m teaching next fall.

Bev Hogue says to think of blogging as “a challenge to write something suitable for public consumption everyday.” That’s a challenge I’ve not yet embraced, but it’s a good one, nevertheless.

I spoke with Rob Spillman and subscribed to Tinhouse magazine. It’s wonderful, near as I can tell.

Great quote from Tom Bligh: “Saying to learn the rules before you break them is like a dad telling his son he has to learn to drive the car before he can wreck it.”

I could go on and on, but there’s a good sampling for now. I’m planning on attending AWP next year in NYC, and am considering applying to present, as well. Finally, to link my attendance at AWP with learning about starting up Scrawlers, I attended several panels on community writing and online writing and found one thing clear – people are looking for an online writing workshop opportunity. Well, fancy that. 🙂

See a photo of me reading at an AWP open mic and another take on my “Five Lessons Learned” at AWP.

-nm

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