Writers conference offers insights, inspiration and good books

Over 10,000 writers are descending on the Washington State Convention Center this week, February 26-March 1 for the largest literary conference in North America.

Called AWP (an acronym that stands for Association of Writers and Writing Programs), attendees include graduate students in Masters of Fine Arts writing programs and aspiring graduate students exploring M.F.A. programs, plus M.F.A. faculty, authors, publishers and editors.

I've attended two of these conferences now, the first in Chicago, and last year in Boston, and find them energizing, inspiring, and at times, exhausting. Writing can be a solitary profession, so when thousands of writers assemble in one place, the atmosphere hums with excitement. With all of the hundreds of things to do and learn each day, the brain starts to buzz as well — in a wonderful way.

Featured presenters this year include Annie Proulx, Chris Abani, Ursula K. LeGuin and Erik Larson. Each hour of each day is packed with workshops and panels on all aspects of writing, from how to write a 10-minute play to how to assemble short stories into a collection to how to plan a blog book tour or plan book launch.

Around Seattle during the conference there are numerous offsite literary events offered as well. Where I generally spend the most time, however, is browsing the book fair, which features over 600 displays hosted by M.F.A. programs, university presses, literary magazines, and all things related to writing. And unlike most other writing conferences, AWP celebrates poets and poetry, a tremendous boon to that important, commercially overlooked genre.

For complete information about the conference, both on-site and off-site literary events this week, visit


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