AWP Nugget: Hey Writers, Let’s Meet Up in Person in Seattle in 2014!

BOSTON — One emotion I have always felt at the AWP creative writers conference is jealousy. Jealousy of the talent and success of the panelists and readers. Jealousy of the way so many writer attendees approach literary editors on the Bookfair floor without fear. But, mostly, jealousy of how so many attendees have made the Association of Writers and Writing Programs annual conference into their own annual creativity meet-up. Next year, in Seattle, I want to meet face to face with all of you, my online creative friends, as we start an annual tradition of our own meet-up piggy-backing on AWP. [Editor’s note: I have added a postscript to the bottom of this post.]

Maybe we can meet up atop the Seattle Space Needle! (Image courtesy Seattle Arts Commission)
Maybe we can meet up atop the Seattle Space Needle! (Image courtesy Seattle Arts Commission)

The AWP, at 12,000 attendees, is the largest literary conference in North America. We’ve taken over Boston; I was on the T (Boston’s subway system) yesterday, and you could spot us among the commuters based on our less-than-formal attire and well-loved books in hand. But what really dominates this scene are gatherings of writers at various levels of organization.

The origin story of the AWP conference, to borrow a term my comic-book-loving daughter always uses, is as a conference for creative writing programs. As such, BFA and MFA programs dominate the social landscape.

Yesterday afternoon I participated in a joint student/alumni reading organized by my Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing program and VCFA’s equally strong MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program. (I read from my essay “September 12th,” and it seemed to go well.) We met up again for a reception and dinner that lasted four hours.

My first two AWP programs I attended as an exhibitor. My third was as someone newly returning to an art-committed life hungry to find the right MFA program. Last year and this year, I feel like I’ve joined the AWP club. I even have a badge; a VCFA official gave me a big button to wear that has our logo on it above the words “ASK ME ABOUT VCFA.”

This is the view of Boston out of my hotel window this morning. They don't have many snowstorms in Seattle, right?
This is the view of Boston out of my hotel window this morning. They don’t have many snowstorms in Seattle, right?

But the fact remains that I am part of a writing community even larger than VCFA. It was a community I connected with before I started that program. It’s with all of you, the creatives I interact with online. Perhaps it’s here at The Artist’s Road, down below in the comments. Maybe it’s at your own blog (I know, I know, I should visit more often). Sometimes it’s on Twitter.

So why shouldn’t we have one time each year where we can support and encourage each other in person? Why not do it over a glass of wine or sparkling water? I’ll even figure out a way to offer at least one snack, for those who share my passion, that involves bacon. (Don’t worry, my vegan friends, we’ll take care of you as well.)

It’s just an idea right now, not even fully that. But next year’s AWP is in Seattle February 26-March 1. Hundreds of groups arrange offsite meetups around AWP, allowing them to see each other once a year and then take advantage of all this conference has to offer. I’m volunteering to be the organizer for the first of what I hope will be our own annual meet-up.

I’ll need your help with a good name for our group, however. I suck at titles; as a reporter, I always relied on the copy editor to write it.

So who’s in? Can I put you down for a “maybe”? And what should we call ourselves? Chime in!

POSTSCRIPT, MARCH 12, 2013: I wrote this post at the beginning of the 2013 AWP. By the end of it (as becomes clear in my subsequent posts) I found myself questioning whether I will attend next year’s conference in Seattle. It may be that five years in a row is sufficient; perhaps stepping away for a year or two will make it fresher once I return. I remain committed, however, to finding some way to have an in-person meeting of some of the great writers and creatives I’ve connected with online. I will continue to noodle that.

32 thoughts on “AWP Nugget: Hey Writers, Let’s Meet Up in Person in Seattle in 2014!

    1. I like it! Jeff, if I move forward with this, I’m definitely tapping into your head to get insight on organization. Folks, check out the great work Jeffrey does with real off-site programs.


  1. I lived in Seattle in the 80s and early 90s, when you could still buy Microsoft stock very cheaply (tho I didn’t–kicking self), There was also only one Starbucks. In the world. I miss the place and every year vow to return *this* year. Maybe 2014 will be the year…although it’s doubtful I could go in late February. But stranger things have happened! There are so many people who frequent The Artist’s Road that I would love to meet!


    1. And we could meet up in some other capacity. But it seemed like leveraging the offerings of AWP for folks who might not otherwise attend seemed like a good idea. You could be our tour guide around town!


  2. charlotterainsdixon

    I’m in! For absolute sure, seeing as how I live three hours down the road in Portland. I went to AWP regularly for years, but haven’t been for awhile now. I miss it. Thrilled it’s in Seattle next year. Can’t wait to meet everyone in person. And no, in Seattle and Portland there’s not a lot of snow. Do count on quite a bit of rain, however.


    1. Well, rain wouldn’t surprise me, but I can survive it. And I’ll bring my light to fight off the SAD that the Pacific Northwest triggers in me. But I love Seattle. Friendly people, very walkable, great seafood, and an overall good vibe.


  3. I’m a maybe! Seems like a hop from Minneapolis . . . right? 😉 But seriously, by then my kids will be in a better place for me to get away. Will seriously consider this, Patrick. Thanks for the heads up.


    1. Nina, it would rock to have you there. And there are a lot of Artist’s Road readers who admire you and would really enjoy it. And speaking as a parent who has gotten both of his kids into their teens, they survive short absences from their parents! 🙂


  4. Corey Barenbrugge

    Patrick, this is a great idea. A meetup would be a fantastic way to bring this community closer together. We’re much more inspired by people who we can imagine talking to, which is all the more easy when we’ve actually done so before!


    1. I can’t begin to describe how much deeper my connection has become with someone after one meeting, especially in an environment of trust and creativity. I’m committed to making this happen.


    1. Yvette… excuses, excuses! Be there or be… not there, but there in spirit, I guess, cuz it’s easy for me to say since I live just a two and half hour drive north of Seattle over the border, so of course I’d love to speed down and share a vino with Patrick and tribe. I love and hate those big crowds, because I’m your basic introvert who can however muster the mojo to approach the power people with a well honed pitch. I once laid my 20 second pitch on a movie producer in an elevator at a film forum and he bit hook line and sinker and I had a $20,000 check in my pocket on Monday morning to write a first draft. True story. It can be done! Speaking of which, I have a novel burning a hole in my patience. Can’t we move that convention up a few months?


      1. PJ, you absolutely have to be there. It won’t truly be a party without your energy. And the great thing is that while you might need an elevator pitch as you’re wandering the conference, you don’t need one at our party. It’s a no-sell zone, just creatives letting their guard down. Vino will help.


        1. Yvette Carol

          Whoa, guys, way to make a girl feel left out. Maybe we could Skype me in? ha ha. I’ll make do with the enthusiastic reports afterwards. 🙂


      2. Yvette Carol

        Wow, an introvert who can break out the mojo needed to sell his work by elevator pitch. Kudos where it’s due, PJ! I’m so bad of an introvert, that I just missed the launch to NZ Book Month where all my NZ writer buddies gathered this past Monday. Okay, I didn’t have a babysitter, but that was really just an excuse because I didn’t want to go. I could however make an exception for you guys, I feel. That’s going to be one fascinating party!!


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  6. Hi Patrick, it would be such an honor to meet you in real life, but I don’t think I’ll be able to make it to Seattle. As for a group name . . . how about “The Write Fusion”? Isn’t Seattle a hotbed of fusion jazz, blues, etc.? I hope your time at AWP13 is fruitful and I look forward to your upcoming posts!
    All the best,


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  9. Patrick – I just want to thank you for your thorough and informative posts about the recent Boston AWP meetings. Never been to one though I am a published writer who loves writing communities. Your enthusiasm and all that you have learned each time inspire me to consider one in the future. Meanwhile, I love your idea of gathering local interest and want to encourage your instinct to do so. Someday I may even be able to join you . . .


  10. Patrick, I believe most writers have those feelings you describe of the jealousy and watching others who seem more confident. You are just refreshingly honest with yours. 🙂

    As for a meet-up of writers – that sounds creatively stimulating and fun and something I’d be up for. You’ve probably had dozens of suggestions in the comments above, so I’ll throw mine into the mix. This is a shameless plug for the wonderful, soulful non-profit organization I now work for, but you might consider Vallecitos Mountain Ranch. It’s a wilderness retreat center in Northern New Mexico and the absolute best place I know of to unplug. The season runs from spring to fall (access is by snowmobile only during the winter, so no programs during that time). I would love to personally arrange for such an event . . . and attend it myself, of course!


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