Ten Reasons I am Grateful for AWP

This week I attended my second AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) annual conference in Washington, D.C.  Here are ten reasons why I am grateful for this experience:

  1. Meeting writers and editors in person who I only knew through blogging and social media such as, Allison K Williams (read my post about her amazing book, Get Published in Literary Magazines) and Kim Brown, aka The Confident Writer, who is also the Founder and Editor of Minerva Rising Press and Donna Talarico, the founder and editor of Hippocampus Magazine that will be publishing an essay of mine in March.
  2. Getting great advice. Like, if you get a personal rejection, be grateful. A personal rejection means your work was read and considered. Don’t follow up on that personal rejection, though, by asking for more feedback. Editors are too busy for that. (Whoops.) Also, wait three days before emailing the editor you met at the bar. I got this piece of advice just in time. Otherwise overeager, stalker-Teri would have emailed the editor seconds after returning to my hotel room. SO GREAT TO MEET YOU!!!! #willyoupublishme?
  3. Learning about amazing women in literature you should know but whose words simply haven’t graced your path like Adrienne Rich and Audre Lorde. Read Lorde’s poem “Power” and Rich’s poem “What Kind of Times Are These.”
  4. The chance to get to know editors, strike up conversation, and realize they are not just critics who reject your work, but real people who have hopes and dreams too. One editor I met invests her own money to keep the dream of her independent journal alive (which, I realize, is probably not uncommon.)
  5. The chance to pass out the super cute cards you made on MOO.com with your contact info and blog address.
  6. AWP discounts that help you subscribe to new journals such as Under the Gum Tree, Fourth Genre, Kenyon Review, and Rock & Sling. I also subscribed to the Journal of the Month to familiarize myself with new journals.
  7. Inspiring readings that give you the itch to write.
  8. A few hours to write in a quiet hotel room.
  9. The chance to be a good literary citizen and blog about an AWP panel for Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies. I’ll be blogging about the panel “Following the Thread of Thought” moderated by Steven Harvey (The Humble Essayist). It was an excellent panel about reflective essay writing that included wise words from Phillip Lopate, author of “To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction.
  10. The chance to get your picture taken with Phillip Lopate.

    Teri (excited fan girl) with Phillip Lopate

    Teri (excited fan girl) with Phillip Lopate

Deleting Unnecessary Words

282256324_bebc9621db_oI came across this article, 43 Words You Should Cut from Your Writing Immediately, on Twitter and found the author’s advice helpful.  She hits on many of the mistakes I commonly fall prey to in my own writing.  The following advice was particularly helpful for me because I struggle with dialogue.

Dialogue tags slow your pacing and distract readers from the conversation. You can keep these tags for the first couple sentences of dialogue, but once you established who says the first couple lines, readers can follow the conversation back-and-forth for themselves. Also opt for surrounding dialogue with action instead of dialogue tags. Action will let us see what the characters are doing besides talking, and offer character trait information as well. For example:

“I don’t know where I’m going,” said Derek.

“You have a map,” said Ramona. “Figure it out.”

“Haven’t you been here before?” asked Derek.

“It’s been twenty years,” said Ramona. “How am I supposed to remember?”

could be:

Derek frowned at the street sign overhead. “I don’t know where I’m going.”

“You have a map.” Ramona took a drag from her cigarette. “Figure it out.”

“Haven’t you been here before?”

“It’s been twenty years. How am I supposed to remember?”