We are and we’re stoked about it! We’re sharing a table with local presses Six Gallery and Low Ghost, and authors Daniel McCloskey, Elwin Cotman, and Robert Isenberg. (558, in the back corner with the cool kids.) We’ll also be debuting the first Rahnd Table Anthology at the conference, because it’s about damn time we made a book happen.
This isn’t my first time going to AWP but it’ll be my first time with a table of my own to sit at, and the extra level of preparation that takes is a new adventure. I spent some time table-sitting for the Fourth River (Chatham’s literary journal) during my grad school days and it’s a completely different perspective on the bookfair. I’m excited to get to spend more time doing it this time around.
I’ve done AWP before, so I’ve got some idea of what to expect. This year, I’m hoping to smooth out some of the mistakes I’ve made in previous years by doing some advanced preparation. Aside from the details like travel plans and getting the final polish on the Rahnd Table anthology, there are three things I’m going to do before leaving for the conference that (I think) will help me get the most out of my time there.
1: Check out the panels and pick the ones I really want to attend, because I always say I’m going to do this and I always end up huddled over my program at lunch on Thursday with a highlighter, overwhelmed and not sure what I’m doing next. Having at least an outline of each day’s schedule in mind will hopefully keep me from running around like a crazy person trying to see it all, like I was my first AWP. I think I went to a panel during every time slot the first day that year, and by halfway through Friday my head felt like mush and I hadn’t spent a single minute in the bookfair—arguably the coolest thing about the conference. My plan this year: Pick out 3-5 panels that are “definites,” 3-5 “maybes,” and make a point of saving energy to go to the off-site readings after hours.
2: Practice my elevator pitch, because that’s something else I’m notoriously bad at: selling myself to potential publishers or agents. In past years I’ve been too intimidated by the idea to even approach the people who might open up new opportunities for my writing. I also don’t want to be that person who spends the whole conference talking about myself—not only are those people annoying, but you don’t learn as much when you’re talking as when you’re listening—and I might never be in a situation during the conference where I need to give my elevator pitch. But on the off chance somebody asks me that dreaded question (“So what do you write?”) whilst mingling, having a concise answer ready could be the difference between them being interested and not.
3: Know who’s going to be there. Putting in an hour or two of quality time with Google search can help me map out which tables at the bookfair I really need to swing by, which readings will be the most up my alley, and which panelists might have things to say that most directly relate to my own writing style and career. Not that a poet has nothing to teach a fiction writer, but with so many people in one place it’s impossible to meet even a small fraction of them. Knowing who at least a few of the agents, publishers, and fellow writers are before I go will (hopefully) help me pick the right small fraction.
Granted, I don’t claim to be an expert at the AWP experience. If you guys have some pre-planning tips I’d love to hear them! Either way, I hope to see you at our table in L.A.