AWP Conference: An Equal Playing Field

AWP Conference photo 3B.J. Hollars, Assistant Professor of English, captivatingly described the annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference as a “smorgasbord of all things writing.” During a brief interview before the conference, which took place April 8–11 in Minneapolis, he explained how the AWP Conference consists of panel presentations that allow young authors the chance to share original works, network with publishers, and explore a book fair comprising more than 400 tables dedicated to global literary magazines. This year’s conference was especially exciting to Eau Claire students and staff since the national conference took place within driving distance for us. Since the conference moves every year, some AWP conferences have tended to take place far away (last year was in Seattle, the year before Boston). Having AWP in our area was a great chance to participate close to home. A number of Blugolds embraced the proximity of this opportunity to proclaim their passion for literature and pride in our gorgeous campus.

Student representatives, including both undergraduate and graduate students, hosted a booth promoting the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and highlighted the English and Art departments, NOTA, and the recently donated Robert Frost Collection. In order to spread the news about significant developments around our campus, students engaged their audience through a combination of informational brochures, bookmarks detailing each publication offered by UWEC, and friendly conversations about personal success stories.

AWP provides a unique experience for aspiring authors of all genres and, like all academic conferences, is a great opportunity for students. When asked why conferences, such as AWP, are of crucial importance to the furthering of student achievement, Hollars noted that AWP is “a high- impact practice: nothing beats experiencing professional interactions with some of the most prestigious writers in the country.” Through mingling and networking with the gurus of the industry, students begin to feel that their admired authors are approachable. There is a beautiful, humanizing effect when individuals speak to each other on an equal playing field and understand that everyone—published or aspiring—has valuable viewpoints to share. Conferences help students find themselves interacting comfortably with published writers and encourage a true sense of confidence as they strive to further their own literary goals. The English department is committed to helping students present at conferences, so keep an eye on The Foreword and our departmental Facebook page for info about future conferences.