Notes from AWP: Community Spirit in an Isolated Time
Why Finding Your People Is So Important
I participated in two panels at AWP, the annual giant writing conference, a week or so ago. It was my first time traveling for writing in more than two years, and was a powerful jolt of energy, community, and inspiration. I saw writer friends I haven’t seen since before the pandemic began, met new writers who inspired me with their stories of getting the work done, and had the chance to lead discussions about community-building and surviving second novels. More on that in the future, readers.
I ate giant, sloppy Italian sandwiches from historic eateries in Philadelphia. I walked back beautiful old buildings. I walked convention center hallways that felt like they were miles long. I met the editors of magazines that had published my stories, and heard their enthusiasm and was moved by their tireless efforts to put work out into the world. I reminded myself that I belonged to this community, and that I deserved to be here, which is something writers at all stages of their careers need to remind themselves of.
The main takeaways of my conference experience were how magical it is to be in a room full of (masked) people who love literature and are wildly excited by things like literary magazines, laughing together at inside jokes about books and the writing life and Bad Art Friend; and how incredibly important it is to find ways to re-connect with your writing community when you can. If your writing routine has stagnated, or you’ve begun to doubt the value of your words, then find a way to meet up (virtually or not) with people you trust or who have given you support in the past. I guarantee that those writers are hungry for connection too; everyone is these days, especially solitary artists who must toil in seclusion for so long. Events like AWP are a chance to remember why we do what we do. They’re a chance to return home with a notebook stuffed with bookmarks and new ideas. They’re an opportunity to tell ourselves that we will not accept our old excuses any longer.
I’ve jumped back into the Writerly Bites Podcast at full force, too. In recent weeks, I’ve talked about how to use
I’m also back to interviewing some incredible authors that I deeply admire, including Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, whose most recent publication is the very steamy, very excellent anthology ANONYMOUS SEX. Get it wherever books are sold, people.
I’m teaching a flurry of new online classes, so check my Twitter (@bhurley) for where and when to take a class with me next.
Your writing exercise
Too often, writers build their characters in a vacuum, instead of considering them as part of a network of relationships, all exerting pressure, pulling and pushing with their love, hostility, and emotion. This week, make a flow chart with your character at the center and the three to five most important relationships around them. Who is exerting the most pressure in their lives right now? What emotions are traveling between them, and can you write a scene that illustrates this?