A Postcard from AWP Seattle!

AWP Seattle was bigger than ever. I heard varying numbers, but the official word is that over 13,000 writers attended the event. Yes! It was definitely overwhelming. There are so many panels, readings and parties going on simultaneously that one can quickly feel lost in the crowd. For example, here is a shot of about 1/5 of the book fair:
Happily, Sacramento and environs were well represented at this year’s event. Sacramento’s three literary journals–Tule Review, Under the Gum Tree (for which I am proud to serve as associate editor) and Farallon Review–all had tables in the gigantic book fair, along with our local literary book publisher, Roan Press. Here we all are, looking swell (Frank Graham for SPC’s Tule, Robin Martin for Under the Gum Tree, and Tim Foley holding down the fort for both Farallon and Roan Press).

One of many great things that happened was my long dinner chat with Kate Washington (below, with moi) of Roan Press. Though we’ve known of each other for a long time, I feel like we hadn’t really gotten to know each other much. I really enjoyed learning about the nonprofit press’s vision and passion and feel like I have a better sense now of how I can help support the press’s future success.

Another great thing that happened is that Under the Gum Tree hosted a wonderful mad-dash reading featuring thirteen past contributors. UTGT is starting to get some wonderful nationwide attention (the current issue was a featured cover on NewPages the week before the conference, too!). Here’s a pic from the reading:

On Saturday night, the last night of the gathering, I “no-host”-ed a cocktail hour at the conference hotel bar for all Sacramento-ish writers and friends. About fifteen people came and went through the evening, and it was wonderful to catch up with folks I don’t see much these days, and even more wonderful to watch ideas swapped and new connections formed. There’s a photo album from that event on my facebook page, if you’d like to see some familiar faces!

And now: answers to *your* AWP 2014 questions!
Thank you to the folks who sent in these wonderful questions! I have condensed them into two chunks here, so I can present a more cohesive response.Are there any trends you observe? Short stories ascendant while novels on the decline? Poetry more likely to be published than fiction? More self publishing? (Or whatever seems to emerge as trending while you are there, whether regarding genre or craft or some facet of publishing.)

This is a great question! In my personal experience at AWP, I saw the following hot topics (again, no particular order): -creative nonfiction continues to grow in its own identity as a genres and there are increasing venues for its publication;
-short prose in any/all genre(s) is hot;
-fabulism/surrealism/magical realism/fairy tale modes and craft tools are in;
-spirituality/faith and, and in, writing and writers’ lives is ascending in relevance;
-musical forms and musicality in writing, and, writers who are also musicians performing in both modes (sometimes at the same event)
-unique and experiential literary readings (akin to our very own Stories on Stage Sacramento, Stories on Stage Davis and TrueStory series) are super popular
-writing and technology/new media/design
-trending themes/writing contexts seem to me to be: place/regionality; sexuality and gender; faith; the natural/unnatural world; violence and conflict; translation; writing and healing

I know that I need to start trying to get published in reviews, online magazines, etc., but I’m not sure what to try to submit.  Should I submit portions of my larger project or completely different projects altogether? If I submit something from my larger project, will that pose a problem with future/potential publishers? If I submit something that I think is not in my current project, but then it turns out to be in a larger project, will that present the same problem?

Yes, nuts and bolts publishing right here! Rule 1: You should submit only YOUR BEST WORK, whatever that is. Rule 2: JUST JUMP IN AND DO IT!!

Now, let’s talk about submitting to literary journals/magazines first.  You’ve got separate projects? Great–send ’em out. Parts of a larger work? Also great–click send. Not sure yet if a piece is truly stand-alone or may end up in a larger work? If it is your best writing–if it is the best *it* can be–then out it goes. The way publishing in periodicals works is, in the vast majority of cases, you are granting the publishing entity First North American Serial Rights to publish that chunk of words. Translation: You agree that (a) the piece has not been published before (personal blogs used to be counted across the boardas “previously published;” this is changing, but even so, my own practice is still not to post anything online before it’s published); (b) no one else is going to publish this piece before this entity does; and (c) all rights revert to you, the author, as soon as this entity publishes your work and distributes that issue. All this means that you can do anything you want with your work up to the time you agree to have it published
and once again anytime after it comes out in that publication.

It is super common for chunks of larger works to appear in various journals before that larger work is picked up for publication. In fact, publishing these chunks as you are working on the book can be a great way to build your audience and win recognition for your writing, plus teach you the publishing process–all things book publishers like. Your book will simply list acknowledgements for all the places your chunks were published, and the titles under which those chunks were published at that time.

Thank you for your excellent questions. It’s my pleasure to be your AWP Ambassador!

(That’s me–with the best AWP roommates ever, Robin Martin and Janna Marlies Maron of Under the Gum Tree!)

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