In a few weeks, Portland will play host to an expected 12,000-or-so literary-minded visitors — editors, publishers, agents, teachers, and yes, lots and lots of writers — all gathering for the annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference, otherwise known as AWP. For both uninitiated and veteran attendees, the many lists of events, readings, offsite readings, panel discussions, and sponsored happy hours can feel overwhelming. To do our part in lowering literary-related stress, we’ve streamlined the three days of events and compiled our own list, which includes events featuring past contributors, former editors and alumni, and members of our wonderfully widespread community.
By no means have we attempted to create a “best-of” list or even a comprehensive one. More than 500 events will take place at the Oregon Convention Center, and there will be just as many ‘unofficial’ events happening throughout the city. The beauty of AWP is stumbling into a reading, panel, or discussion that you’d never expected to find. However you partake, we hope to see you at the bookfair (find us at booth #4012-4014) or at one of the following events.
Thursday, March 28
The first full day of the conference is reminiscent of the first day at school. Prepare accordingly with writing supplies, snacks, water, good shoes. And take breaks for air. For real — it’s not a metaphor.
Creating the Literary Future You Want: Writers on Community Organizing: Amy Shimshon-Santo, Lawrence Minh-bui Davis, Hiram Sims, Luis Rodriguez, Traci Kato-Kiriyama (E145, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1), 9-10:15. Literature has always been a catalyst for social change, but it doesn’t come from writing alone. Writer-activists discuss how literary organizations can create sustainability in their communities. -Karina Briski
Crafting the Capital of the Modern Chapbook: Levis Keltner, MC Hyland, Dan Mahoney, Kevin Sampsell, Allison Tobey (F150, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1), 9-10:15. Past contributor Kevin Sampsell joins other seasoned indie publishers for a discussion on producing and promoting these small but special literary objects. –Thea Prieto
Indigenous Fiction: Intersections in the United States & Canada: Erika Wurth, Eden Robinson, Carol Lindstrom, Daniel Justice, Alicia Elliott (B114, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1) 9-10:15. Indigenous writers from Canada and the United States explore the connective ideas shared across literary traditions, genres, and geographies. –Peter Zikos
A Glimmer Train Reading: 28 Years of Stories: Lee Martin, Carrie Brown, Matt Bondurant, Danielle Lazarin (D131-132, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1) 10:30-11:45. This year, the Portland-based literary journal will publish their final issue, and former contributors are gathering to bid adieu. –Peter Zikos
Writing On the Line: Daniel Chacon, Nelson Cardenas, Silvia Aguilar, Alessandra Narvaez, Andrea Cote-Botero (E143-144, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1) 10:30-11:45. The University of Texas, El Paso is the only writing program in the country to offer a bilingual MFA. Writers and instructors from the program discuss what it’s like to function “on the line” between countries, languages, metaphors and realities. -Peter Zikos
The Oh Shit Moment: Issues of Social Justice & Identity in the Writing Classroom: Rachel Simon, Olivia Worden, Seth Michelson, Melissa Febos, Syreeta McFadden (B110-112, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1) 10:30-11:45. Past contributor Melissa Febos joins educators in a discussion on handling offensive student writing in the classroom and offering practical steps, texts, and assignments to promote critical thinking. –Thea Prieto
Let’s Talk About Race, Baby; Let’s Talk About You & Me: Jean Kwok, Mira Jacob, Mitchell S. Jackson, Irina Reyn, Devi Laskar (C123, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1) 12-1:15. As writers, we must regularly contend with how our work reflects and represents the world at large. These five writers, including Portland State alum Mitchell S. Jackson, will talk about how to better teach, write, and publish racially-aware work in complex times. –Thea Prieto
Show Me the Money: Making Ends Meet in the Literary World: Marisa Siegel, Jennifer Baker, Ashley Ford, Michele Filgate, Emily Gould (E141-142, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1) 12-1:15. Ever wonder how your beloved multi-hyphenate indie lit moguls fund their endeavors? This panel promises to lift the veil on financial realities in literary publishing. –Jennifer Cie
Page Meets Stage: Taylor Mali, Mark Doty, Anis Mojgani, Shayla Lawson, Seema Reza (D137-138, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1) 12-1:15. A reading that takes its cues from the Bowery Poetry Club in New York City, this event gathers award-winning poets (past contributor Shayla Lawson is one) for a “popcorn style” poetic conversation. – Thea Prieto
Light is the Left Hand of Darkness: A Tribute to Ursula K. Le Guin: Alexander Lumans, Emma Eisenberg, Alice Sola Kim, C Pam Zhang, David Naimon (B117-119, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1) 1:30-2:45. So many favorites in this tribute to one of Portland’s most beloved authors and who contributed to Portland Review in 2011 and 2017. Le Guin’s words and legacy will carry potency and meaning for many years to come. –Thea Prieto
Revelation or Resistance? Form and Narrative at the End of the World: Roy Scranton, Hilary Plum, Mark Doten, Eugene Lim (F150, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1) 1:30-2:45. A past contributor (Eugene Lim) and the author (Hilary Plum) of one of 2018’s most under-hyped books (Strawberry Fields) are two of the conversant in this discussion on what the fictional form has to offer during uncertain times and how it can be bent to better illuminate them. –Karina Briski
Still Here: Writing Against Gentrification, Displacement and Erasure: Jess Row, Sterling HolyWhiteMountain, Samiya Bashir, Jen Fitzgerald, Mitchell S. Jackson (Portland Ballroom 251, Oregon Convention Center, Level 2) 1:30-2:45. How can writing be used to reclaim places, communities, and histories lost or altered by gentrification? This panel features writer-activists from Portland and beyond to discuss the literary implications of geographic erasure. -Thea Prieto
Anxiety, Envy, and Other Deadly Sins: Mark Neely, Beth Nguyen, R.O. Kwon, Marcus Wicker, Nick White (E147-148, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1) 3-4:15. Writers are famously prone to negative neuroses, and for those of us who consume the toxic cocktail of social media, we’re only made more vulnerable. Why not cool the anxiety jets that will be on in full force at a “writing conference” and treat yourself to this panel? -Peter Zikos
#MeToo, Girlhood: Writing and Subverting Childhood Sexual Violence Narratives: TaraShea Nesbit, Wendy Ortiz, Amy Jo Burns, Angela Morales (E145, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1) 3-4:15. For anyone interested in subverting common victim narratives, this panel promises some inspiring methods. -Thea Prieto
Afrofuturism and the Future: Joseph Thomas, Sheree Thomas, Reynaldo Anderson (D139-140, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1) 4:30-5:45. Considering the implications of mainstream attention brought by projects like Black Panther, these writers and scholars will discuss the future of Afrofuturism. –Peter Zikos
Tipping the Scales: Writing Women’s Lives in Biography & Historical Fiction: Margot Kahn, Elise Hooper, TaraShea Nesbit, Hannah Kimberley, Megan Marshall (C124, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1) 4:30-5:45. Portland Review‘s 2019 contributor Margo Kahn will be joining four other writers to discuss the challenges and craft of representing a real person on the page, through fiction or biography. -Thea Prieto
If you’ve still got energy to burn…
Offsite events are the perfect opportunity to relax and unwind. Check out Platypus Press Presents: Wildness at Mother Foucault’s Bookstore, featuring two-time National Poetry Slam Champion and Portland poet Anis Mojgani, National Book Award longlistee Chen Chen, and Anisfield-Wolf fellow Leila Chatti.
Friday, March 29
Midway through the conference means a lot of action in a lot of places. Highlight your must-see events, pack some good snacks, and maybe even plan an afternoon cat nap to recharge before hitting the offsite happenings.
Having it All: Writing and Solo Parenting: Debra Monroe, Sophia Shalmiyev, Alison Stine, Melissa Stephenson, Emily Withnall (B115, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1) 9-10:15. Discussing everything from productivity to the ethics of writing about your own children, this panel with former PR editor Sophia Shalmiyev promises a frank and truthful exploration of writing and parenting. -Kari Davidson
Transmogrification of the Transgender Narrative: Cunting-up Trans Nonfiction: Cooper Lee Bombardier, Brook Shelley, Colette Arrand, Ryka Aoki, Grace Reynolds (B117-119, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1) 9-10:15. Formatted as an homage to Dodie Bellamy, this conversation will take an expansive approach in exploring possibilities for the narrative while challenging questions of expertise and authorship. -Thea Prieto
MFA to 2YC: Creative Writers Navigating Community College Teaching Careers: Blake Hausman, Rebecca Aronson, Jessica Johnson, Ramiza Koya, Christopher Rose (B114, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1) 10:30-11:45. Koya, the Director of Youth Programs at nonprofit Literary Arts, joins four other creative writers and educators to discuss the practical aspects of this growing sector of instructional labor. -Kari Davidson
The Sexuality of Textuality: Garth Greenwell, Carmen Machado, Lidia Yuknavitch, Alexander Chee (Portland Ballroom 253-254, Oregon Convention Center, Level 2) 10:30-11:45. If the title itself doesn’t grab you, perhaps the lineup of all-star writers (including Yuknavitch, a former PR contributor) will seal the deal. -Kari Davidson
Real Women Talk Dirty: Feminisms of Sex in Fiction: Merritt Tierce, Debra Monroe, Mary Ann Mohanraj, Nalo Hopkinson, Claire Vaye Watkins (Portland Ballroom 251, Oregon Convention Center, Level 2) 12-1:15. A look at where feminism intersects with realism in all its unglorified glory, with some of the realest female writers out there. -Peter Zikos
Teaching Unteachable Books: Brian Blanchfield, Leni Zumas, Prageeta Sharma, Sara Jaffe, Jonathan Lethem (E145, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1) 3-4:15. This panel, featuring PSU faculty Leni Zumas, promises some brilliant insights into incorporating “difficult” texts, and the value of bringing books that defy classification and convention into the classroom. -Thea Prieto
Literary Podcasting: The Good, the Bad, and the Books: Whitney Terrell, Tanzila Ahmed, Zahir Janmohamed, David Naimon, Connor Stratton (E141-142, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1) 4:30-5:45. Does everyone have a podcast these days? Maybe not, but here’s where to be if you’ve ever considered it. Past contributor and Between the Covers host David Naimon will join fellow writers (and host of the awesome Racist Sandwich podcast, Zahir Janmohamed) to talk about the possibilities, pitfalls and pleasures of everyone’s new favorite medium. -Karina Briski
A Reading & Conversation with Tarfia Faizullah, Tess Gallagher and Ilya Kaminsky, sponsored by Graywolf Press: (Oregon Ballroom 201-202, Oregon Convention Center, Level 2) 4:30-5:45. Past contributor Tess Gallagher joins fellow poets for a reading of work and discussion. Plus, it’s Graywolf. Enough said. -Thea Prieto
Unrealism: The True Art of Fantastic Fiction: Ethan Nosowsky, Kathryn Davis, Mark Doten, Carmen Maria Machado, Lucy Corin (Oregon Ballroom 201-202, Oregon Convention Center, Level 2) 4:30-5:45. If you’re into playing with linear chronology, subverting notions of a unified self, or incorporating surreal elements into your work, this panel promises a bounty of insights. -Peter Zikos
Saturday, March 30
The final day of the conference can feel like the tail-end of a dwindling party. But with so many offerings still on deck, there are reasons to stick it out. It’s also typically the best day to visit the bookfair; many attendees are already flying home, and publishers often discount their stock.
Trust Falls: The Editor/Author Relationship: Vivian Lee, Matthew Salesses, Kristen Arnett , Tony Perez, Erin Calligan Mooney (D131-132, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1) 9-10:15. Past contributor Kristen Arnett joins this panel of editor-author duos for an honest discussion and demystification of the publishing world’s often mysterious concepts. -Thea Prieto
You’ve Got This: Finding & Sustaining Self-Reliance While Writing A Novel: Vu Tran, Brandon Taylor, Julia Fierro, Lan Samantha Chang, Gabriel Packard (A106, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1) 9-10:15. Is there such thing as endurance training for novel-writing? If so, this sounds like the first step. –Karina Briski
“You’re Already Doing It!”—Tips and Tricks for Small Press Authors, Sponsored by SPD: Trisha Low, Andrea Abi-Karam, Knox Gardner, Laura Moriarty (E141-142, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1) 9-10:15. Publishing with a small press has its advantages and anxieties, and it often means that you’re doing a lot of the heavy lifting to promote. This panel will explore creative strategies and motivations for promoting your work through independent means. -Karina Briski
True Story: Revolutionary Creative Nonfiction: Anjoli Roy, Lizz Huerta, Nicky Loomis, Lara Stapleton, Krys Lee (B113, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1) 10:30-11:45. When a work takes on an event of historical importance, what is the responsibility to factual vs. actual depiction? This panel will look at the impacts and ethics of writing along intergenerational histories. -Karina Briski
The Plot to Kill Plot: Practical Alternatives to “Plotting” Fiction: Joseph Scapellato, Matt Bell, Allegra Hyde, Ling Ma, Thirii Myint (D131-132, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1) 10:30-11:45. Fellow adversaries of conventional plot will know what we’re talking about. Everyone else: move along. -Karina Briski
Agents of Change: The Activist Protagonist: Susan DeFreitas, Rene Denfeld, Julia Stoops, Aya de Leon, Cari Luna (D136, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1) 12-1:15. How can fiction writers render characters who are politically engaged without seeming overly didactic? Past PR contributor Susan DeFreitas and the rest of these skilled, local authors have some thoughts. -Thea Prieto
Back to Basics: Untangling Environmental Stories: Ana Maria Spagna, Sharman Apt Russell, Stephany Wilkes, Marlenia Myers, Summer Brennan (E141-142, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1) 12-1:15. A panel of nonfiction writers explores conventional tropes and their limitations in environmental narratives, offering ideas on research, structure, and the role of the writer. -Karina Briski
How to Design a Novel Workshop: James Hannaham, Leni Zumas, Matthew Salesses, Chelsey Johnson, Susan Choi (B113, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1) 1:30-2:45. Novels often get the shaft in workshop settings, but there’s a handful of reasons for accommodating them, and this panel offers to outline many. -Thea Prieto
Hoopoes and Dybbuks: Immigrant and Refugee Voices: Anne Walker, Gazmend Kapllani, Meaza Petros, Ewa Chrusciel (D135, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1) 3-4:15. These four writers promise to deepen the conversation on borders and barriers in the literary landscape. –Karina Briski
The Other Side of the Story: The Trouble with Writing About Real People: Sophia Shalmiyev, Chris Kraus, Melissa Febos, Lacy M. Johnson, Kiese Laymon (C123, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1) 3-4:15. Some of our favorite nonfiction writers gather to discuss the thorny aspects of capturing their loved ones in prose. -Thea Prieto
How to Cuss on the Page & Get Away With It: The Katherine Dunn Formula: Chris Abani, Kellie Wells, Debra Gwartney, Kwame Dawes, Tony Perez (B113, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1) 4:30-5:45. Katherine Dunn gained the literary equivalent of a cult following after her novel Geek Love was published, but she’s also the unsung hero of literary cursing. If you’ve ever admired the flexing syntax of a truly well-crafted cuss, this might be the late Saturday-afternoon panel you’ve been looking for. -Thea Prieto