So we at Blue Earth Review will be in Seattle this weekend, exercising our “literary citizenship.” It’s easy to be skeptical and critical about what’s going on this weekend; there are plenty of people who attend only out of a selfish desire to further their own “career”. But what good reasons are there for participating in events like AWP?
1) Market Comprehension. The writing world can be daunting to even the most experienced veterans of the market. It’s always shifting. AWP and similar conferences allow us to see the types of work that are being produced around the writing market. Knowing what markets there are for the type of work you’re producing is incredibly valuable and is one of the biggest reasons to attend.
2) Networking. Again, it’s easy to be critical about the level of brazen self-promotion that can happen sometimes. However, the proponents of networking acknowledge that there is plenty of outstanding work being produced that has little or no audience. Networking, at its best, isn’t about promoting an individual: it’s about promoting work that needs and deserves a boost. So consider your own position as you walk around this weekend; are you in a position to help work that needs it? Are you in the position of befriending other like-minded authors to help each other improve at the craft? If you are only out to get your career ahead, you are only hurting yourself and the level of work you might produce through helping others first.
3) Geeking out. Let’s be honest. We’re all fans here. There’s a great opportunity to brush elbows with the literary giants who got us started or who continue to inspire us. And for those who have produced the level of work that deserves to be praised, this is an opportunity to see some of the impact your work has had on those in the business of writing.
4) Community. Writing can be an incredibly solitary lifestyle. We spend huge amounts of time in our own heads. But there’s value in talking with like-minded people (as long as we don’t surround ourselves with them). Why? For one, it validates what we are doing. In my previous post, I talked a little about what outsiders tend to think about us. Knowing that other people doing similar work struggle in the same ways we do validates our experience and makes us feel less alone in a lonely profession.
Growing up as the son of a preacher, I remember hearing the Greek word “koinonia” being used regularly. The word translates loosely as communion, fellowship, a shared participation. If there’s something most Christians are good at, it is this (sometimes to the exclusion of the outside world). It also implies some sort of spiritual connection to each other and something larger. Being in a room with people like myself often feels this way for me; there’s a connection and an expanding that happens when we gather and break bread together (or drink copiously). So feel free to experience some species-recognition and share some drinks with the curious animals that are like you.
-Jake Little, Managing Editor
-Jake Little, Managing Editor