Is this your first AWP? Or maybe you’re a veteran. Whatever your experience is with the AWP conference, here are my Top Ten Tips for enjoying yourself.
1. Authors – peruse the list of authors that you enjoy as a reader, approach them as a fan first. Then look for the people you respect, and try to go see them read or host a panel. Most of the time it will give you a bit of a boost, some inspiration, to find out that these men and women are really very smart, extremely talented, and will take the time to talk to you personally.
2. Panels - you will have overlap, times when you cannot be in two places at once, or maybe you have a long way to go. So plan out your schedule so you that can make as may as possible. Take a moment to see where you are in your career and what panels will benefit you the most. See a variety – on craft, on subjects that relate to your writing, go to readings, and support the presses and authors that you like. Don’t book yourself solid, allow time to eat, take a breather and hang with friends too. There is a ton of information here, you may get to ask a question too, meet an agent, get an e-mail. See as many as you can.
3. Book Fair – you may need a couple of trips to really soak it all up. It is HUGE, but it is finite. Keep an eye out for signings and authors. I saw Steve Erickson just sitting at a booth, had a nice chat. Met Emma Straub @ Avery for the first time this way, and Aaron Burch @ Hobart. This is an opportunity to talk to authors, talk to editors, and to find out about new presses, new journal, or to do more research about places you already know and love. You know how every journal out there says to read their work before you submit? Do that. You can pick up copies much cheaper here, reduced rates. Also, sneaky tip – if you wait on some borderline purchases until the last day, or last hours, they may practically give them away.
4. Money – bring some. This is the time to put your money where your mouth is. Support small presses, buy that copy by an author you’ve always been meaning to read. Spend the cash, whatever you can afford. I bring an extra suitcase that is almost entirely empty just to bring back books and magazines, journals and chapbooks. $100 easy. If you start saving now, put aside a couple bucks a week, your coins, an extra $10 or $20 from each paycheck, you’ll have it.
5. Be nice - don’t come up to an editor and say “Why the hell didn’t you publish my brilliant story?” Be aware of the time restraints that others have, authors and editors, and try not to monopolize an author when there are others standing around. Don’t get greedy – share your love of writing, meet new people, and just use common sense. This is supposed to be fun, not a task, not a chore. Be generous with comments. “Loved your last issue, the Outdoors one? Great design and that story by Stephen Graham Jones” was awesome.”
6. Hotel – book it early, NOW. Book it as close to the event as possible. Share a room, splurge a little.
7. Be social – go to readings, talk to old friends, meet new friends, buy a buddy a beer, get that nice editor a glass or wine, thank her for supporting you, eat meals, take an author out and pay for it.
8. Take notes – bring a notebook or journal and take notes, jot down web sites, authors, books, magazines and then…ACTUALLY RE-READ IT when you get home. This is valuable stuff, pay attention, and maybe it will turn into something really exciting.
9. Pace yourself – take breaks, spend time with friends, don’t make it into a flashback to school or some other business conference that you hated. Get a coffee, relax, and don’t feel like you have to see EVERY SINGLE PANEL. If it doesn’t excite you, when you read the synopsis, find one that does. If your buddy is into something you aren’t, and there is something at the same time, go see the one that will help you the most and then you’ll have something to talk about later.
10. Build community - we’re all struggling out here, so while you should definitely promote your work, look at ways that you can help others. Can you contribute a story? Is there an event coming up that you can Tweet, Facebook, or promote on your blog? Find other authors that are in you hometown or area. Hand out cards, connect, take cards, take promotional items, and drop people e-mails later. Talk about the events later that blew you away – what reading, what new journal looks really cool, who was giving away shots of bourbon at their booth, what editor was really nice to you, what new author did you discover? Spread the word about what you did and saw and enjoyed. We’re all in this together.
Have fun, and I’ll see you there.