Living the Writing Culture: Writing Students Travel to AWP Conference, Boston

By Ariel Jicha
Elm Staff Writer

A group of students got a taste of the writing life outside Washington College at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference in Boston. two weeks ago. Seniors Tim Marcin and Zoe Woodbridge, junior Aileen Gray, and sophomores Bond Richards and Julie Armstrong accompanied by English professor and Rose O’Neill Literary House Director Jehanne Dubrow, and Lit House Administrative Assistant Owen Bailey. More than 11,000 writers gathered to attend lectures, forums, panel discussions, readings, and signings by some of the country’s most distinguished authors. Dubrow selects students who have “expressed professional interest in writing after college” to attend the event. By taking student-writers to AWP Dubrow hopes to show them that “the larger literary world is also a small knit community,” she said.

The sheer size of the gathering is remarkable in itself. The venue changes every year: 2013’s conference was held in the expansive Hynes Convention Center. “AWP is literally every journal, magazine, e-zine, anthology, quarterly, etc., you’ve ever heard of funneled into two very large rooms,” said Richards.

The conference also offered an exhaustive array of programs representing every genre and niche imaginable; from the ins and outs of writing, publishing and marketing a book to quirky hybrids like “Yoga and the Life of the Writer,” which promotes the use of yoga as a means of inspiration to readers and writers of every level.
Students chose from the myriad of panels and readings according to their interests.

Woodbridge attended “This is Not a Cigar: The Uses of Therapy in a Writing Workshop.” “That one was useful since my thesis is about writing therapy,” she said.

Armstrong also found the programs enlightening; “I learned a huge amount from the panels I attended, specifically about how to turn writing from a hobby to a career, a livelihood, and how to love what you do.”

Students could also attend readings and lectures by esteemed writers such as Seamus Heaney, Anne Carson, Don DeLillo, Alice Hoffman, Sharon Olds and Robert Pinsky.

For the English-averse, established writers are the rock stars of the literary world, their presence often eliciting the same sense of awe and excitement from fans as one might encounter in a Ravens fan meeting Joe Flacco in person or a teenage girl hearing a One Direction song.

“The most significant and exciting thing for me was seeing Don DeLillo read from his first novel, ‘Americana.’ DeLillo is the best living writer of the televisual generation. He can make a tourist’s excursion to see ‘the most photographed barn in America’ seem uncanny and terrible and mystical all at once,” said Richards.
English professors Bob Mooney and Kathy Wagner and VP of College Relations and Marketing Meredith Hadaway also attended the event.

“We all lead a hectic life that makes it easy to lose sight of our dreams and our passion. It’s wonderful to spend a few days in the company of people who share a belief that writing is important work that can change lives,” said Hadaway.

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