Write on Wednesday: Association of Writers & Writing Programs

Last year, in February, I attended the American Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference. AWP. People had been telling me about this conference for years – that if it ever came close to my geographic area, I had to go. Last year it was in DC. I could stay with my brother in Georgetown, so I registered. The conference welcomed between 12K and 14K people in the Washington Convention Center and the Marriott Marquis Hotel. Just a few more than the 200 plus at the Bay to Ocean Writers Conference at Chesapeake College, in Wye Mills, Maryland that I attended in March.

You have to be a member of AWP to attend the conference. One of the benefits of membership is their bi-monthly magazine, The Writers Chronicle. It’s an excellent writing resource.

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All the sessions I attended were panels  with four to six participants. These folks had impeccable credentials, MFA (Master of Fine Arts) degrees and multiple publications. MFA’s seem to acquire a special language with that degree. I had to think hard about fictive culture, breaking the fourth wall, distant third and character maps. Most of the authors who spoke about fiction, wrote literary fiction. A couple of sessions I attended had authors who wrote Middle-grade and Young Adult fiction, but there was not a Paranormal Romance (or any kind of romance genre for that matter) session to be found.

I did think I was going to get close with the session titled “Writing Female Desire.” But my notes only indicate the title of that session, not that I got anything helpful from it. A week later, I couldn’t remember anything about it. Maybe I bailed and went to lunch.

For the most part the presenters were accessible and self-deprecating and regardless of the topic listed in the program, they talked a lot about their writing process.

Here are some of my favorite take-aways about process:

  1. Write for good friends first and, then, the rest of the world.
  2. Write “your” book, not what is currently in vogue.
  3. “I have a turtle tattooed on my back” was what one writer said about the pace of her process.
  4. If the door is stuck [in the plot of your book], don’t bang your head on it, go around and jimmy a window.
  5. What is the “river” that is pulling your book forward? In other words what is the book really about.
  6. Failure is part of the process!
  7. Be prepared for multiple rewrites of drafts. Not three or four but sometimes as many as forty. (That made me want to take a nap!)
  8. Several presenters had taken 10 years to complete a book, although they may have had other things published along the way.
  9. On the panel about women publishing after age fifty, one of the presenters said the pub date of her first novel was a week before she was eligible for Medicare. The room erupted in applause. This session was packed, standing room only and part of the discussion was how women find time to write with career, kids, family, aging parents, etc. #womenwritingafter50

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All in all, I’m glad I went to AWP last year. It won’t be close to me again until 2022 when it will be in Philadelphia. But truthfully, I get more that is helpful to me in terms of writing craft from the Bay to Ocean Writers Conference at Chesapeake College. And that’s just half an hour away. And at that conference no one turns down their nose at those of us who write romance.

 

Write on Wednesday – April 18, 2018

It was a trip to Key West that made me begin to wonder about what is considered writing. I was taking my daily early morning walk from one end of Duval to the other, skirting the guys out power washing the sidewalks from the drunken excesses of the night before.

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At least that’s what I thought they must be doing. My husband and I don’t do Duval after 8pm so maybe Key West shop owners just like really clean sidewalks in front of their stores.

It was the t-shirt shops that caught my attention. There are words on most of those t-shirts and somebody has to write them.  I tried to imagine when I would wear a shirt that proclaimed “Don’t Be a Pussy, Eat One.”

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Okay, maybe that’s a gender specific t-shirt (or maybe not), but you get the picture. And that was tame compared to some. You’d have to be pretty drunk to buy these shirts and even drunker to wear them in public. My question is “are t-shirt slogans writing?”

That made me think of greeting cards. Okay. Maybe not literary, but it is writing, right? Romance novels? You betcha! My first novel was paranormal suspense. Definitely not literary, but I’ll stick up for Romance Writers. Writing doesn’t have to be literary. Blogs. Sure, blogs are writing. But, what about texts with abbreviated words? Twitter?

I rarely read literary ficiton any more – still getting over being an English major in college, although I am recently dipping into poetry. I read almost solely for pleasure and relaxation so thinking too hard when reading doesn’t work for me any more. That said, being reduced to reading  t-shirt slogans on my Kindle would be a special kind of Hell. However, reading autocorrect fails is hilarious.

I suppose it all comes down to words and intention. One word, written with intention is writing. Even if it’s on a t-shirt.

Note: This post was originally published on April 30, 2012.