AWP15: A Reflection

This might just be a me thing, but I definitely felt out of place at Association of Writers & Writing Programs 2015 (AWP15). This year, it's a land of resolving unlikable characters, MFAs, Lit Mags, and Chap Books. As a genre writer who has been doing this for ten years, I felt like I was the minority to which there were few reprieves.

LitReactor, Lazy Fascist, and Eraserhead Press were a few of those during the Bookfair. Other than that, I felt like I had nothing to contribute.  Those few that took the time to talk about their writing undoubtedly tripped into their degrees, where they were teaching and that they failed to have anything completed. At some point, as a self-made author, I wanted to plea with them to write, but it'd come off as . . . well, questionable. I don't know these people, but it just seemed to be a recurring theme.

Even though I was there to learn, to get a different look into the writing perspective, I ended up walking out of several panels, where they were offering nothing but naval-gazing diatribes about their writing or what horrible things they've done to get there. Most panels were supposed to be round table discussions, but some of them were hard to tell that was the plan, if there was a plan at all.  In one panel, they opted to have the authors talk for 15 minutes each, with no interaction with each other, then pass off the mic. So, instead of an interesting discussion, we got to listen to multiple essays about characters who are miserable, but you should respect those choices, damnit! While I agree with that sentiment, this format was tedious.

There has been a few highlights. The Chekhov's Gun panel featured two short story writers, a playwright, a novelist, and an author of a memoir. As such, they were able to give unique perspectives on the use of suspense vs surprise in their different formats. I ended up really liking the panelists on the Sympathy for the Devil panel,  but further exposure to them left me disillusioned.

Overheard conversations left me wondering if the writers here spent more time comparing themselves to obscure writers, then saying that their style was facade in comparison to said writer. More time is spent talking about how they wanted to make things tough for readers but, in order to make a character more likable, they gave them a dog.  It's just that simple.

I'm wondering if OWFI 15 will be the same way. If I've just reached that point in my career where I no longer need an outside source to tell me things I've known.  Or maybe AWP15 was for me and, in future years, I'll find more stuff that can apply to my writing.

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Justin D. Herd

Justin D. Herd is a purveyor of the weird and strange. He occasionally squawks at friends and family, but does so only under the cover of night. Okay, that's not true. He squawks in full daylight. Drinking games have been built around his peculiarities, but the truth of it is this: he is a loving husband, with two wonderful dem--children. One growls at things he likes, including pretty women. The other has started to learn hand-eye coordination. Neither had made it to the tender age of three. From there, things will only get more interesting. He spends most of his writing time either at a coffee shop or sitting at one of his many desks around his house. Any other place makes it nearly impossible for him to write. He uses horror movies and rock music to help get the juices flowing. His favorite authors are Jeremy Robert Johnson, Alan Campbell, Terry Pratchett, Justin Cronin, and Patrick Rothfuss. He consumes most of his books through audiobooks, but still loves his personal library and getting lost in the printed word.