Summer 2019


AWP 2019: Snapshots from the Family Album

Hannah Comerford, Contributing Writer (Class of 2019)

AWP 2019: Snapshots from the Family Album

If you’ve ever attended the AWP conference, you know it can be a blur. Endless lists of panels and lectures, off-site parties and entertainment, an overwhelmingly large bookfair—it’s like Comic-Con for writers, except with more imposter syndrome. Do we really belong among these esteemed published authors? Should we pretend to recognize all these literary journals? Are we sure security isn’t going to come and escort us out the door for failing to write 10,000 words this month? At least we’re bolstered by the fact that nearly everyone feels the same way.

But one thing makes the exhausting experience worthwhile: community.

When we sign up for a low-residency MFA program, we know that we will have few—if any—chances to see our faculty and fellow participants during the year. Yet every August, when we return to PLU and spend practically every waking moment with other community members, bonds are formed that are hard to break. The transition back to the sometimes-lonely writer life can be difficult.

Because of these long gaps between seeing each other, attending AWP becomes a sort of family reunion in the dearest sense of the term. In the midst of the chaos of publishers hawking their chapbooks, readings at conflicting times, and back-to-back sessions seemingly a mile apart, we feel refreshed by seeing someone we know. And with AWP in Portland, Oregon, this year, it became an even bigger reunion than ever before.

Several of us had the chance to attend panels and readings from community members. Joannie Stangeland (2019), for example, found insight and encouragement from Molly Spencer’s (2017) panel on Laura Jensen’s poetry, and several of us in turn were moved by Joannie’s own work at her poetry reading.

The pinnacle of the week, however, was RWW’s 15th Anniversary Reception on March 29. The room overflowed with alumni, faculty, and their family—and even RWW founder Stan Rubin. As Lita Kurth (2009) said, “It was a most convivial gathering.”

Take a look at these photos to see some of the highlights of our RWW family reunion, both at the bookfair and at the party.