LOVE & Writing in Philly – 2022 AWP Writers Conference

AWP 2022

Last week I was fortunate enough to attend AWP 2022 – the annual conference hosted by the Association of Writers & Writing Programs. After 3 days I headed home with an overwhelming number of new ideas, inspiration, tips, and techniques I am dying to put into practice. I also left with a huge pile of new books, subscriptions to half a dozen new writing podcasts, a list of literary magazines to submit to….now just need to find the time to get to it all!

I met so many wonderful writers at the conference who were kind enough to share their experiences. They ranged from publishing poetry in tiny literary magazines to writing multiple best-selling novels with the biggest publishers in the world. Everyone’s stories were different, but there was a common message at the heart of what everyone said. No matter what, no matter how hard, no matter how down or tired or rejected or unsure you feel about what you are doing…just keep writing. 

If you’ve ever had the urge to write, then you know it’s a constant battle. So often the words are inside of you — it just everything else in life that gets in the way of writing them down. It can be painful to let those words go unwritten, even on the days when you struggle to find exactly the right ones. But just hearing the reminder across the entire conference population to keep going was pretty awesome.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

Maya angelou

Woman – Mother – Writer – Me

I attended a number of sessions with panels of mother-writers. They covered a few different topics, but all inevitably ended up touching on the theme of “how-do-you-fit-it-all-in”? And boy, do I feel that.

In the end, the answer is the same for any art form, passion, or hobby – finding time to write is absolutely critical to keeping yourself sane. I think the same is true for whatever it is you do to feed your soul, whether that is dystopian paranormal romantic poetry,  yoga, kick-boxing, getting lost in a book, competitive roller-derby or hiding in your car with a latte and a candy bar while scrolling social media – you gotta make time to do your thing and be you.

One Angry Mother

One of the best panel of the conference focused on writing about women’s rage. In particular, the panelists talked about how unacceptable it is to write angry female characters. Angry men are allowable as characters because their anger is understood – we get that they have stuff to be angry about. But angry women are not only unlikeable, they are also thought to be unreliable, overly sensitive or insane.

It’s a ridiculous double standard. Anger is a perfectly normal human emotion, especially for a group of people who have been historically undervalued (coughWOMENcough). Just thinking about it makes me, well, kind of angry! And then makes me want to write some very bad women. (Pause here as new book ideas start to formulate….) 

“Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”

—Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

Writing can often be a solitary and even lonely pursuit. Likewise, publication is an exercise in learning how to accept repeated rejection and criticism. But finding a supportive community of other writers and learning about what has kept them going through their writing careers can be game changing.

Having the time and space to connect with other writers, even for a few days, was far more valuable than I could have imagined – even if it’s just realizing there are so many others out there who understand how terrifying empty pages are, how hard it can be to find the right words, how incredible it is to see your name in print, and how cathartic it can be to get to THE END.