As a first-time attendee of AWP, the conference of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, what I loved most about the conference in Minneapolis this year was the bookfair, the sheer number of panels (at least ten per time slot!), and the Skyways.
At the bookfair, the minnesota review was represented by some of our finest (including Mariana and Lisa in the picture above). For me at least, it provided the opportunity to explain to many inquisitive Minnesotans that we are not in fact a Minnesota journal. We are based out of Virginia, particularly Virginia Tech’s MFA program, with only our birthplace being the cold land (at least in winter) of Minnesota.
The panels were plentiful for all three days of the conference. I got the chance to see Maria Elvira, a fellow MFA student, present on the importance of diversity in higher education and her workshop experience as a Latina student. Of all the panels I went to, this one sparked the most passionate responses from the audience and kept attendees long after the time was up.
I was also able to see Ed Falco, one of the MFA instructors from Virginia Tech, present on a panel about small presses vs. large publishing houses. As a reader for the minnesota review, I concurred with Ed that small presses certainly care for their writers and the manuscripts they receive in a way that Ed, and the other panelists, suggested larger publishing houses may not. I know that often the readers for the minnesota review grieve to each other about submissions and submitters who were so close to making it in the journal, but which we ultimately cannot take. We often send out kind rejection letters, and we certainly mean the kind part of them.
Minneapolis itself is a thriving city with lots of great places to eat, like Gluek’s pub, but what makes the city most unique is its extensive Skyways. I found the Skyways fascinating and slightly disconcerting, almost in the vein of a dystopia. But the above ground tunnels that connect basically all of downtown Minneapolis functioned in a couple memorable ways. Since the weather was snowy and cold the first two days of the conference, AWP attendees used the tunnels to get from place to place, so that I was constantly running into people with badges even when I wasn’t close to the hive of activity. The tunnels encouraged and extended the sense of community present at the convention center.
The tunnels are also full of food. The best discovery I made there was the frozen kefir—similar to frozen yogurt, but creamier and much better for you. Why doesn’t every city serve this? That stuff is amazing! With blueberries and almonds, it was the perfect thing to pick up after a long day of panels.
Both the minnesota review and I are looking forward to AWP 16 in LA. We hope to see you there!