12 Dos and Don’ts for the AWP Newbie

Taking a page out of Carolyn Kellogg’s article, now that we’re no longer newbies, we thought we’d share our vast AWP knowledge with you.

  1. Do share a room with other writers. It’s cheaper, you’ll get all the scoop, and you’ll always have someone to walk you home after a late night.
  2. Do buy snacks (such as cliff bars) to feed your unexpected hunger during long sessions when you don’t have time to go out to forage.<
  3. Don’t be afraid to say hello to a panelist or featured author.  Be gracious and understand they don’t have a lot of time to spend with you, but they usually will humor a short introduction.
  4. Don’t go to every panel.  We found three per day was about the most we could handle (two in the morning, one after lunch, or vice versa).
  5. Do go on Thursday.  It’s a bit smaller, more manageable (read: not all 8,000 people are there), and you feel less like an ant among ants.
  6. Do make time to see your friends, local and otherwise, while you’re there.  Take time for dinner with your college roommate, sister, colleague, or mentor; it’ll be a nice change of pace.
  7. Do go to the book fair. Thursday’s a good time because it’s less crowded. Be sure to pick up the books you want early, as we saw and thought about getting Matthew Zapruder’s Come on All You Ghosts, but the next day when we went to pick it up, it was gone. Also–for 2015 we’ll be at booth 1512! Come say hi!
  8. Do make reservations for dinner ahead of time.  With lots of chatty writers, tables take a lot longer to clear and lead to long waits.
  9. Do go to the open bar parties. Enjoy watching, if not participating.
  10. Do have your MFA program rent out a hotel suite for a party with previous MFA grads. (But make sure not to be broken up by the hotel security.)
  11. Don’t be afraid to leave a panel early if you’re bored—just do so quietly and respectfully. If you’re not sure you’re going to enjoy the panel in the first place, pick a spot near the door where you can discretely make an exit.  There are too many good things going on to spend an hour doodling all over your Moleskine.
  12. Do make sure you have a rest day after the conference. We didn’t want to see anyone for at least 36 hours.

Results will vary.

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