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.
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:
- Write for good friends first and, then, the rest of the world.
- Write “your” book, not what is currently in vogue.
- “I have a turtle tattooed on my back” was what one writer said about the pace of her process.
- If the door is stuck [in the plot of your book], don’t bang your head on it, go around and jimmy a window.
- What is the “river” that is pulling your book forward? In other words what is the book really about.
- Failure is part of the process!
- 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!)
- Several presenters had taken 10 years to complete a book, although they may have had other things published along the way.
- 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
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.