My AWP 2017 Experience
When I declared an English major my freshman year, I had no idea the department could offer me the opportunity to attend a writing conference. This AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs) event offers bookworms, like myself, the opportunity to celebrate the written word. I went to Washington D.C. with almost no expectations; I wanted clarity and amazement, and that’s exactly what I got, a vivid and enriching experience. I explored a seemingly endless book fair, attended unusual and fascinating panels, networked with strangers, and used the quiet room--often. My SUNY-Plattsburgh troupe spent two full days at the conference, allowing us to explore from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The days whizzed by, each spent either staffing the Saranac Review table or traversing the conference center, nourishing our literary selves.
Washington D.C. is a charming city. We spent our first day as tourists, walking the city, visiting monuments (to the left is the "Study The Past" monument outside the National Archives), and poking around museums. Navigating a new city was a challenge at first. Everything looked the same! Big old buildings next to big modern buildings. A bit scattered, we implemented a game in which we identified a landmark by something ridiculous. We kept mistaking the Capitol Building for the White House: we were obviously tourists. With every outing, our surroundings became more clear. Although this was a small part of a big and fantastic trip, it prompted our group to problem-solve and, in turn, bond as travellers of a “foreign” City.
Below are my travelling buddies/the SR promotion team, from the left: Gabrielle Westcott, Tanicha Miranda, Timoty Murphy
This was one of my favorite parts: I tabled with Gabrielle most of the time, bouncing off each other's spiels, handing out copies of the SR, meeting fascinating people, discussing our future goals. I enjoyed interacting with people from many walks of life. I’m a talker, so this duty suited me well.
When I wasn’t communing at the table, I was attending panels: Creative Writing & Addiction and Coming of Age: The Blurry Line Between Adult and YA Literature. Each augmented my interest in mental health, particularly for younger age groups. I was surprised and delighted to know that I can combine my adoration for writing and my budding interest in mental health. I hope to further research writing as a form of emotional therapy, as it benefits many who suffer from addiction and other mental health issues. Each of my peers found a panel they connected with, and each returned with smiles and stories to tell. There was something for everyone at AWP 2017.
What made this trip truly special was something as simple as people-watching. A handful of times I just sat on the floor, off to the side, and watched writers, publishers, students, teachers, editors, and other professions come together to connect through their mutual love of storytelling. It doesn’t matter if you are a person of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or a combination; you are part of a family based in words, based in narrative. Not once did I feel out of place during this conference. Even though I do not identify as a serious writer, sometimes I don’t even consider myself a writer at all, I do consider myself part of this family.
-- Skylar Hunyadi