The list of panels and panelists for AWP13 is out.
Here’s why I’m not on it:
Even though I had a fantastic time moderating a panel at last year’s conference, even though I’ve had a least a halfway entertaining/educational experience every time I’ve gone, I’m not planning to go to AWP this year.
Nothing against Boston. I’ve been to Boston, and it was lovely. I’d go again in a heartbeat.
But here are some ugly words to consider.
Vacation time accrual. Travel budget. Accommodation expenses.
I have to be as careful as anyone with my resources, but there’s a larger truth, too. When I (some day!) have a book out, it’s more likely to get me on panels at mystery writers conferences than at teaching writers conferences.
Which is why I am making the commitment to Bouchercon 2012. And Bouchercon 2013. And so on.
I’ve only been once, but going to Bouchercon the first time was like going home. While it was overwhelming in the same way AWP is overwhelming—wait, there are this many people who want to do the exact same thing I’ve always wanted to do?—it felt, to me, more welcoming, more friendly. Less about “networking” and more about having fun. Maybe it’s because Bouchercon is a reader con, where anyone who’s interested enough to pay the entry fee can come and listen to their favorite authors talk, but the atmosphere seems more relaxed. It’s still a con; it’s still about, eventually, selling books. But in the mean time, all the writers hang out and joke around and bowl and figure out where to hide the bodies.
I would recommend AWP, certainly. I see a lot of great names on the list for 2013; it’s not too late for you to sign up to attend. I think the conference is especially great for MFA students or MFA graduates who are committed to finding an academic job. If you’re looking for a small press for your literary book or want to research lit journals to submit to, AWP is definitely a good investment for your time and money.
But none of these things describe me at the moment. Maybe that will change, or maybe I’ll find a renewed desire to go back to AWP for a reason I can’t name yet. I can guarantee you I’m going to be sad and lonely watching all the #AWP13 tweets pass me by in the spring.
Or maybe I’ll be too busy writing. That, at least, is the plan.
(Notice the number of times I said this is *my* decision for *me. Your mileage may vary.)
Edited to add: I think it’s worth noting that last year, when I moderated a panel, I did the leg work to write up and propose the panel, fill the panel, set up the panelists, etc. It was a lot of work. I’m totally willing to do it, but I’d much rather do it for the right audience. We had a great but small attendance at my panel last year. Part of the problem was Cathy Day’s rocking panel next door. (Thanks for putting the genre panel and Midwestern Gothic panel opposite each other, AWP.) But genre isn’t that established at AWP. It could be, and maybe this is where I should just keep proposing mystery and genre panels until AWP is known for commercial publishing panels as much as literary. See again: vacation time accrual.)