Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

Day Three

What was going on at AWP today? Here are dispatches from Kwame Dawes, Ted Wheeler, Claire Harlan-Orsi, and Wendy Oleson.

Kwame Dawes, Glenna Luschei Editor-in-Chief
"The danger of our art is that we labor so hard on our language, on the craft, on the shape of the telling--we question every sentiment the lingers in our telling, trying to test the integrity of what we say; we cut, rewrite, recast, rehearse, everything until soon the polished can feel so outside of us, so much an artifact of our imagination that we forget how we wept when this thing happened, and we tell of our work with the dispassionate ease of a professional talk show guest--the man, a father who abused me, the child we made, the deaths, the tragedies--a litany of subject matter. Here is to the woman I met in the crowded book fair who told me what her book was about, and how she told it as if it was someone else's story, and how she will, late tonight, wake up sweating, angry that the tears never go away, no matter what our art tells us. Thanks to her for reminding me of what a high price we pay to make our art, what sacrifice it is to so scrutinize ourselves to turn it all into art. Someone must have said before that a room full of writers is a roomful of people with open wounds that they won't let heal--instead we keep picking at the scabs hoping, perversely, to draw blood. Still we carry it well. Who is to know. AWP is thick with laughing people who say, shaking your hand, 'I just want to thank you for rejecting my work so well', with no small hint of resentment. But always laughing."

Theodore Wheeler, Web Editor
"I came in late to the conference today, flying in this afternoon to notice the glazed eyes of those who have been here since Wednesday. It didn't help too much to be a short-timer. I too was overwhelmed. There's nothing like being in a space with ten thousand of our peers to remind us that ours is a solitary art, ultimately made public, if we're lucky. Ran into a few old friends at the book fair today. Looking forward to panels tomorrow I hope to make featuring Dan Chaon and Marilynne Robinson on the Midwestern Gothic and evil in literature."

Claire Harlan-Orsi, Blog and Social Networking Editor
"Still reeling from Margaret Atwood's Monty-Python-esque pronouncement that she's 'not dead yet,' I had a very alive day. At the Novel Anxiety panel Laird Hunt gave us many reasons to believe the novel is 'not dead yet,' including the existence of 'atlas fiction,' 'character-free fiction,' and 'porcupine murder fiction.' Don't ask me about the last one--it wasn't entirely clear at the time. 'The novel adapts,' Hunt said. 'It does what it wants in spite of us.' In the next panel several 'alternatively gendered' people spoke to a packed audience. I was deeply moved by many of the sentiments expressed there. Finally, the 'Deconstructing Publishing Myths' panel encouraged me that my hope for publication is also, in fact, 'not dead yet.' Thanks for the life, AWP!"

Wendy Oleson, Senior Fiction Reader
"''Stacey Waite didn't disappoint. Waite, assistant prof at UNL and co-host of Air Schooner, curated the first ever AWP panel reading by trans and genderfuck writers, Gender Interrupted: Poetry of the Alternatively Gendered. The audience bloomed to what looked like 150 people--all smashed and cozied up in the Ontario Room, a space with fewer than 100 chairs. We created a fire hazard. And then, the poets lit us on fire. Thanks to the readers. Thanks to the presses--Tupelo, Main Street Rag, Barrow Street, and University of Wisconsin--for providing homes for such urgent and dazzling writing."

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Saturday, March 3

Homage to Édouard Glissant (1928-2011)
(4:30pm-545pm, Lake Michigan, Hilton Chicago, 8th Floor)
A panel with Glenna Luschei Editor-in-Chief Kwame Dawes.