AWP- A Community of Writers: Guest Post by Shane Zimmer

Haven’t had enough of the 2012 AWP Conference in Chicago yet? Neither have we! Following Jacqueline Maggio’s guest post on Tuesday, today we have another slightly different take on last week’s four-day writing conference from MAWP student Shane Zimmer. Thanks, Shane, for sharing your AWP reflections with Ex Libris readers.

I heard a lot of big talk about the AWP Conference for a couple of weeks before the event. Despite being skeptical of hype, I did attend, all three days in fact, March 1-3 at the Chicago Hilton. For me the conference lived up to its reputation.

It was educational and exciting. But the most surprising impact the conference had on me was that I suddenly felt part of a community.

Although the panels were interesting, I enjoyed the Book Fair much more. Each day I walked around the hundreds of tables and booths to peruse the overwhelming number of literary journals, publishing houses and presses. I filled my bag with about fifteen pounds of journals and talked to a lot of editors and publishers who were, it’s strange to say, not unlike me. They loved art, were presumably living modest lives, and were dedicated to the culture of literature.

It was inspiring to look beyond the bestsellers, the books-made-into-movies, and all the other popularized aspects of literature and instead to see a greater picture of our literary culture. To see it, yes, and to interact with it. I could actually talk with the editors of say, Tin House or McSweeney’s, or the many smaller publications that were just as cool, like locals Anobium and Artifice Magazine.

It was inspiring because so often I feel like I’m writing in a bubble. Sure, there is school and my few writer friends, but it’s a small group and they are sometimes eclipsed by the big, impersonal worlds of academia, the publishing industry and a global society in which a billion voices are crying out all at once.

Beyond school and my friends, there are the journals and presses, but really, who are these people? They seem to exist as abstractions in cyber space or as a mailed subscriptions two to six times a year.

But no. They are more than abstractions. They are everyday people like us. I’ve met them. They want to know what we’re writing. They want us to contribute to their projects and want, like we all want, to be inspired and to inspire others to create their best work.

Meeting these people, I found myself falling into a pattern that later I codified: 1. Talk to people openly. 2. Listen to them carefully. 3. Follow up.

Number three is important enough to repeat: follow up.

I talked with Courtney Davison, Editor at Paper Darts, who referred me to a story that “changed how [she] viewed short stories.” Later I met Christopher Wolford, Editorial Assistant at Bull who mentioned an essay in their latest edition that he proudly “championed and convinced the editors to accept.”

I read both pieces and went back to each person to share my impressions. They were delighted to be getting feedback and our resulting conversations went off in unexpected and satisfying directions.

A MAWP friend recommended I check out Open Letter, a publisher dedicated to translations. Because their books were only five bucks, I asked one of the staff, Chad Post to tell me which of all the books on the table was his favorite. He said that Scars by Argentinean author Juan José Saer “reinstated his faith in fiction.” I myself have had my doubts about fiction lately and so I bought it, got his email and told him that after I read it, I’ll write him with my reactions. And I will.

I believe that this one aspect of what people mean when they talk about building a community. Of course it doesn’t always have to do with reading recommended works, but it does always involve some level of engagement.

Engaging each other feeds the culture. Just like a culture of living organisms in a Petri dish needs its food, our culture of arts and literature needs to be fed by our efforts to talk and share, to encourage and help out, and to follow up.

The conference was synchronistic for me. I had decided about a month ago that late in 2012 I will start aggressively submitting to literary journals. This weekend I was able to collect a long list of places to submit. But much more than a list, much more than a collection of publications, I gained from AWP a sense that there is a larger world out there of writers and thinkers and artistic weirdos like me, and we are part of a living, thriving community.


On the AWP Conference: Guest Post by Jacqueline Maggio

If you didn’t attend the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference this weekend, you may be wondering what all the fuss was about. If you were there, you may be wishing you could re-live it…without the crowds. Fortunately for all of us, Jacqueline Maggio has written a reflection on her AWP experience and is sharing it here on Ex Libris. Jacqueline is a first-year MAWP student as well as a first-year Chicagoan (she hails from Rome, Italy). You can read more about Jacqueline’s AWP experience and more at her personal blog, Thanks, Jacqueline!

The AWP Conference consists of three full-immersion days in the world of writers and publishers. It is held in a different location every year and this year it was held in Chicago. Some of us were lucky enough to get a free pass to the Conference and had to work a shift at the DePaul table in the BookFair section.

It was held at the Hilton Hotel on Michigan Avenue and the notion in itself suggested that it was going to be a huge event. As I entered the hotel and joined the line for registration, I started realizing what it all meant: ten thousand people roaming the halls, but more than that, ten thousand people who, like me, were somehow attached to this particular community – because they were editors, agents, readers, writers, aspiring writers, journalists, translators, staff of publishing houses, fans of a specific writer, professors, aspiring teachers, students.

I saw approximately ten panels in three days, I shook hands with successful and professional writers, I talked with independent press editors and staff, I interacted with all sorts of people and as I went on, slowly but surely, I got elated by the feeling that they could all understand me because, in some way, they were like me.

As I listened to the panels and took notes, I also understood that we were all there – all of us with laptops, notebooks, pieces of paper and pens – to learn something, to share something and to enjoy what we love doing the most – writing, or teaching, or reading, or editing. And all the professors, editors, bloggers and authors on the different podiums never stopped stressing one fact in particular: that one should never give up what one’s doing, and one should always keep on doing what one does because it’s what one loves the most. That’s why we should continue putting our energy and efforts in all our writing, editing, teaching – even when it seems most difficult, even when we get blocked and don’t seem to go anywhere, even when one of our pieces gets rejected twenty times.

It was an incredible experience, especially for me. In Rome, every year we hold a Fair of Independent Presses and Publishing Houses, and it’s quite large, but I’ve never seen so many people as there were at AWP.

I enjoyed myself because I learnt a lot – I have twenty pages of notes and literary magazines stacked on my desk – and I networked. I met new people from my own program and I went to my professor’s panels, feeling proud at being given the chance to work with them outside the boundaries of the Conference itself.

I learnt Tech tips, I learnt how to put together a short story collection, I learnt how much of my own life episodes I should insert in my stories, I learnt about travel writing and immersion memoir, I learnt how to use technology and blogs to get better known in the Internet community, I learnt the difficulties about the first publication, I learnt about the editor-author relationship.

I passed those revolving doors knowing almost nothing of this particular world and I ended with a vaster knowledge for which I’m grateful. I was able to listen to Margaret Atwood give her speech at the Auditorium Theatre and laughed at the irony in her words. Three thousand people fell silent as she said that a writer has his own bag of tools which is, alas, a bag of tricks. That we, as writers, have the power to make things and events go forwards, but also have the power to make them go backwards.

I told every professor I encountered that I found all of it overwhelming. I still think it was overwhelming, even two days later. I wish I had been two different people, to go in different rooms and follow every single panel. I wish I had more time to raid the Book Fair. And I also think it was what I needed the most, to see with my own eyes that “no writer is an island” and that every day, even if what we do is difficult and we at some point we all wish we’d chosen another job, we have to remember we are not alone, and there are other thousands of people staying up into the night to get a speech, a story, a poem, a lesson to its perfect point.

Tech-savy tips on how to keep your and your work organized:

  • Find and use specific tools – such as Dropbox, Hoot Suite and Office Word for writing and keeping your work neat and organized. Learn how to use simple Web Platforms in order to share your work – Tumblr, Flickr, Typad and WordPress are perfect for blogging and networking.
  • In Blogs, try to be inspired: use thematic posts (once a week) and add visual posts to your blog. Also, differentiate your topics when you’re writing just a personal blog, so as keep the reader interested. One important thing is to always be authentic as a person, and not to write things just to attract audience.

Tips and advice for authors and writers going writing their pieces and thinking about putting it out for publication:

  • First of all, one shouldn’t have its story get out of their hands until it’s completely done
  • The important thing in a short story or a novel is the emotional pulse point, the golden thread which one has to always follow
  • The writer must think about the reader’s experience and how the reader would read/feel the characters and the story itself;
  • When the reader reads the story he should relax and enjoy him/herself, and he shouldn’t be fumbling with the eventual mysteries or relationships or events in the piece
  • Always be persistent in pursuing publication, don’t get blue because of the rejections received – those are normal
  • Always remember that an editor is a person like you, therefore has its own tastes even when it comes to writing and reading stories
  • Don’t think that an editor wouldn’t like to read your work, just keep in mind that they might like something Not Similar to what they themselves write
  • It’s always good to be critical to one’s own work, but never overdo it
  • Always keep in mind the basic concept of finding a voice inside a piece and try to follow that one
  • Don’t rush; don’t pursue the famous side of being a writer, but do it because it’s what you love doing

DePaul MAWP at the AWP Conference

Ten thousand people are registered for the sold-out Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference this weekend right here in Chicago. If you’re lucky enough to count yourself among them, stop by the DePaul Masters in Writing and Publishing Program table at the book fair to say hi! It’ll be located in the lower level of the Chicago Hilton, Southeast Hall, N-19. Current MAWP students will be staffing the table to talk to prospective students and other interested folks about what makes our program so special. Of course, we will be more than happy to chat with current students and alums as well!

Also, be sure to check out these great AWP DePaul Faculty Events happening along with the conference. Don’t worry, plenty of them are free and open to the public even if you aren’t registered for the conference!

Thursday, March 1

12-1:15 pm: Miles Harvey: The Scions of Studs Terkel: Creative Writers as Oral Historians. State Ballroom, Palmer House Hilton, 4th Floor

**6-8pm: DePaul Co-Sponsored Party. Roosevelt University’s Auditorium Building. 430 S. Michigan Avenue.

**7pm Hannah Pittard: Reading at Anderson’s Bookstore in Naperville as part of Ecco’s AWP Evening. 7pm.

**7:30-8:30pm: Susan Harris: Words without Borders Presents Bei Dao and Eliot Weinberger. Reading, Q & A, Signing. DePaul Loop Campus Bookstore

** Free and open to the public

Friday, March 2

9:00-10:15am: Amina Gautier: Behind the Book: Debut Authors Reveal the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Continental B, Hilton Chicago, Lobby Level.

Susan Harris: Words Without Borders: International Writing in the Workshop. Lake Michigan, Hilton Chicago, 8th Floor.

12:00-1:15pm: Miles Harvey: Why We Need a WPA for the 21st Century. Wabash Room, Palmer House Hilton, 3rd Floor.

1:30-2:45pm Michele Morano: Between Song and Story: A Reading from the New Autumn House Nonfiction Anthology. Wabash Room, Palmer House Hilton, 3rd Floor.

Saturday, March 3

10:30-11:45am: Christine Sneed: Preparing Short-Story Manuscripts for Contests and Publication. Continental A, Hilton Chicago, Lobby Level.

1:30-2:45pm: Susan Harris: War Is Not Lost in Translation.

4:30-5:45pm: Amina Gautier: Home Sweet Home: Short Story Collections and Small Presses. Lake Erie, Hilton Chicago, 8th Floor.

Off-site Events Sponsored by Kathleen Rooney’s Rose Metal Press:

  • Wednesday, February 29. Loren Erdrich and Sierra Nelson reading from Take Back the Sponge Cake and Tiff Holland reading from Betty Superman in an AWP Conference off-site reading at 9:00 pm. With co-readers from Hopewell, Lowbrow, and Paper Darts. Free and open to the public. Weeds Tavern. 1555 N. Dayton St. Chicago, IL
  • Thursday, March 1. John Jodzio and Sean Lovelace reading from They Could No Longer Contain Themselves in an AWP Conference off-site reading at 7:00 pm. With co-readers from Bateau Press, Slope Editions, Interrupture, Versal, and Burnside Review. Free and open to the public. Simone’s Bar (private area called The Lab) 960 W. 18th St. Chicago, IL 60608
  • Saturday, March 3. Loren Erdrich and Sierra Nelson reading from Take Back the Sponge Cake and Adam Golaski reading from Color Plates in an AWP Conference off-site reading at 7:00 pm. With co-readers from Big Lucks, Gigantic Sequins, Knee-Jerk, and Magic Helicopter. Free and open to the public. The Beauty Bar. 1444 W. Chicago Ave Chicago, IL

Pre-Register for the AWP Conference

By now, most Ex Libris readers have probably already heard about– and started getting excited for– the 2012 Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Annual Conference & Bookfair in Chicago. The conference will host more than 400 presentations, a keynote address by Margaret Atwood, and attract more than 550 publishers to the bookfair.

If you are interested in registering and have not already done so, take advantage of the pre-registration rates to save and to avoid long-lines at on-site registration. Prior to January 23rd, the student rate is just $40; after that it goes to $60. For more information, please visit the online registration site at

If you still have questions about the AWP Conference, here are a few useful tips and links:

Hotel and Travel Information

Featured Presenters, Schedule of Events, & Off-Site Events

  • If the 550 exhibits of the bookfair, and 400-plus events at the AWP Conference are not enough for you, please consider one of the many off-site events organized by attendees, sponsors, and local institutions

More Conference Sessions for Chicago

The 2012 AWP Conference & Bookfair in Chicago will feature events at both the Chicago Hilton and the Palmer House Hilton hotels. This arrangement will allow the AWP to offer more events and support the participation of more writers. Increasing the number of offered events enables more writers and teachers to serve as presenters, and by extension to secure travel funding from their institutions. Beginning with the 2013 gathering in Boston, all AWP conferences will be centralized around a convention center.

DePaul’s Masters in Writing and Publishing program will have a table at the book fair, so make sure to stop in and say hello!


And a few more things going on in the English department and on Ex Libris:

Current students should check their email accounts for information about applying for Partial Tuition Scholarships. The deadline for applying for PTS awards for the 2012 Winter Quarter is Friday, January 27, and the application forms can be found on D2L.

Also sent out via email was the application for the Sigma Tau Delta English Honors Society. Please contact Prof. James Murphy at with any questions about Sigma Tau Delta and how to apply.

Reminder: deadlines for application for Degree Conferral are coming up soon if you are planning on graduating in the Winter or Spring quarter. Visit the LA&S website for more information.

And finally, don’t forget to check the Spring 2012 class schedule on Ex Libris, as we are updating it almost daily as new class information comes in. Of course, all the information posted on this page is tentative and subject to change, but it’s a great way to get an idea of what to look forward to in the next quarter!