AWP 2018 Schedule

Next week I’ll be attending the Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference in Tampa, Florida. Follow me on Twitter (@moodyjenni), and I’ll tweet photos and panel news when I can.

I’m super excited to participate in my first AWP panel, especially since it focuses on an issue close to my heart — crossovers between composition and creative writing pedagogies and identities. Interested? Here’s more information:

“Creative Writers, Composition Teachers” S241

Saturday, March 10, 2018   3:00 – 4:15pm

Marriott Waterside, 2nd Floor, Mtg Rm 4

Panelists: Shane Seely, Rachael Stewart, Jenni Moody, Jonathan Udelson, Tina Shen

Panel Description: Most creative writers who teach will, at some point in their careers, find themselves in the composition classroom. For many, first-year writing provides the first teaching experience. This panel explores the strengths that creative writers bring to the composition classroom, the struggles they inevitably face, and lessons from this teaching that can serve them throughout their teaching and writing careers.

cream city review Bookfair Booth #1735

Do you write fiction? Would you like to submit your fiction to cream city review? I’m currently a fiction editor for the journal and would love to meet you! I’ll be at the booth during these times:

Thursday, March 8 — 12:45 – 3:00

Friday, March 9 — 8:30 – 10:30 and 3:00 – 5:15

Saturday, March 10 — 10:30 – 12:45

Hope to see you in Tampa!

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cream city review @ AWP

Next week I’ll be at the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) Conference in Washington, D.C. I’m looking forward to attending some great panels (like “The Animal That Therefore I Am: “I”-ing and Eyeing the Animal), going to great readings, reconnecting with writing friends, and discovering great journals at the Book Fair.

If you’re at AWP this year, please stop by the cream city review table!  We’re booth#769. I’m currently one of the Fiction Editors, and I’d love to meet fiction writers in person. I’ll be at the table on Friday, 4:00 – 6:00, and Saturday, 12:00 – 2:00. If you’re interested in submitting to ccr and want to ask some questions about what we’re looking for, I’d be happy to chat!

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cream city review is also taking part in an off-site reading on Thursday evening. Here are the details:

The Magnificent Seven: A reading hosted by Pleiades, AGNI, American Literary Review, Boulevard, cream city review, Gulf Coast Journal, and PoemoftheWeek.org. 

Thursday, February 9th, 8:00PM – 10:00PM

Bayou: 2519 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC, 20037

I’ll be live-tweeting from the conference, so follow me @moodyjenni to see photos and updates, and check here later in February for an AWP wrap up!

In a Rush to be Famous

After I graduated from college, I got a job as an office assistant. I made pretty good money, had regular work hours, tons of opportunities to move up the ladder of assistantry, but I was incredibly lonely. Not physically lonely. I was living with my boyfriend and had a friend who gave amazing parties full of interesting people.

But I was writerly lonely. Which is a different kind of evil.

I read blogs by authors and reviewers, freaking out because I hadn’t gotten famous yet from writing. I reasoned that the only way to have writing friends was to become famous, and then I’d suddenly be hanging out with people whose stories I loved. 
I was twenty-four. A voice in my head whispered: it’s already beginning to be too late. Feeling the walls of the office building closing in around me, I applied to several MFA programs and by the end of the year I was on my way to Alaska. 
Flash forward five years.
I’m sitting in a hotel room at AWP, talking to Ashley Cowger. We talk for hours. About writing, about stories, about our hopes and fears for the future – both within our writing careers and in our other lives. She’s my kindred spirit. Her husband Damien comes in and we hang out together, playing games with their young daughter, Amalie. It’s wonderful. A happy nook of friendship amid the vast chaos of a huge conference. 
The next day I go down to the bookfair and Ashley’s at the Autumn House press table, signing copies of her short story collection, Peter Never Came. Damien’s behind the table for the New Ohio Review, where he’s the Managing Editor.

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Ashley Cowger signing her book Peter Never Came at AWP 2012

Damien Cowger at the NOR table at AWP 2012
At the bookfair there’s a sea of people, and I only know a few of them. But they’re good friends, amazing people, and very talented artists. 
I met Ashley and Damien while I was at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Ashley was a year ahead of me in the program, and her stories were more polished and well-written than I thought mine could ever be. And even though we’re both shy, we became friends. 
They invited me over for dinner before they left to move to the lower 48.
They came to my first public bellydancing performance.
We carted away their mattress and box springs when they moved away, thankful for the first real bed we’d have in Alaska.

At Clarion West, a Very Famous Author once came up to one of my classmates and ruffled his hair.

I was agog.

I had spent hours in bookstores reading Very Famous Author’s books because I was too poor in college to buy them. VFA’s stories changed what I thought was possible in fiction, and they made me feel like writing could not only be deeply affecting, but also fun.

“He’s just a guy,” my friend said.

And he’s right. Very Famous Author may be a very famous author. But he’s also just a guy. And once, long ago, he wasn’t very famous. But even then, he was still a writer.

I wish I could go back in time and talk to myself.

This is what I’d say:

  • Make writing friends however you can with people who are just starting out. 
  • Join an online writing group. 
  • Look up your city’s local literary association. They may not publicize stuff on the internet. Be brave. Call their phone number. 
  • Don’t be in a rush to be famous. That’s not what matters anyway.
  • Push yourself to talk to people about writing, but don’t push too hard. You’ve got a long time to take all the little steps you need. 
  • Write. Read. Live. Read. Read. Read. 
I’m not sure if younger me would listen. But maybe it would lessen the stress I felt every day, and the fear that’s still in the back of my mind of never being a good enough writer.

I’ll turn thirty in May. I’m still not a famous author. 

But I have writing friends. Amazing friendships I found through my MFA program, through Clarion West, and through my local literary association. I’m not a lonely writer anymore, and that makes the writing so much easier.

They’re just guys and girls and people. Just like me. 

Young Adult Literature at AWP 2012

“How Far is Too Far? Facing Self-Censors and Publishing Censors When Writing about Coming-of-Age for Young Adults”

Laura Otto (Moderator), Ann Angel, Daniel Kraus, Penny Blubaugh, Ricki Thompson
When writers work to capture the emerging adult at the end of the young adult journey to independence, they find their characters exploring the forbidden adult world. These stories often depict experimentation with drugs, alcohol, and sexuality. How do writers, compelled to tell the truth of the adolescent’s journey respond to the interior voice that warns, “You can’t write that”?

This was one of the best panels that I attended at AWP. It was also held in the smallest room, and had only about fifty people in attendance. There were quite a few YA panels during AWP, and I lucked out that this is the one that worked into my schedule.

The Art of Reading Aloud and One Good Reason to Self-Censor
Ricki Thompson, author of City of Cannibals, spoke first.

The thing about AWP is that a lot of panelists come with typed up essays to read. I can understand the compulsion to do this. If I were going to be speaking in front of a room full of writers, I would want to be prepared, too. But at so many of the panels I attended, the speakers had written their essays as if they were going to be printed, instead of read aloud. This distinction has an enormous impact on the take away for the audience members. Long, elliptical sentences and badly set-up quotes can send the audience into zone-out mode.

But the panelists at the YA Censorship discussion were all extremely adept at delivering a prepared essay in an engaging way.

Ricki Thompson gave the best talk at AWP that I attended. Her speech had a clear, tight focus, and it was easy to follow. She referenced YA novels and gave short summaries that helped me understand their context to the panel and made me excited to read them. In short, her skill as a panelist made me want very much to seek out her books.

I hope that Ricki publishes her essay on the internet or in a journal, because it is wonderful.

Here are some of my notes from her speech:

  • Writers have a responsibility to help young readers navigate the truth, not to protect them from the truth. 
  • Art has the capacity to change the world order. 
  • Our culturally-shaped subconscious can do the censoring for us. 
  • “Play and the Theory of Duende” by Lorca
    • mysterious power in art
    • the shiver that runs through us
  • Ricki censors herself when her stories are losing all hope. Teenagers need hope. 
  •  80 year old dancer – won contest – Duende
    • Death isn’t the whole truth. 
    • There is a balance of light and dark in life. 
  • Books mentioned:
    • In Trouble by Ellen LevineYA about abortion. Very hard to find a publisher. 
    • Rainbow Party by Paul Ruditis – YA about anticipating a party with BJs. 
    • Living Dead Girl – Despair overshadows hope at end. 

Where Lives Happen
Next to speak was Ann Angel, the author of Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing. Ann spoke about her personal relationship growing up loving Janis Joplin, and her journey to write a teen biography about her. Ann also had some great points about censorship and writing YA:

  • Teens need to know they can be okay. 
  • This is where lives happen (in the scary parts of the world). 
  • Books mentioned:
    • Shine by Lauren Myracle
Fantasy Stories and Unfinished Business
Penny Blubaugh writes fantasy YA (squee!). I’m very excited to read her collection of YA fantasy short stories, Serendipity Market. She told us that one of the stories, “Love and Flowers”, is about puppets and Fae. Could a short story collection get any cooler? 
Penny made one of the most interesting comments during the panel. She said that she feels like all YA authors are stuck at one age, somewhere between 14 and 17. Another panelist (I think it was Ann, but I was far in the back and couldn’t see very well), responded that she agrees. And that the age a YA writer is stuck at is the age where they have unfinished business. 
Visible Darkness
The last author to speak at this panel was Daniel Kraus. He was sick and had had travel emergencies that kept him from arriving until just before the panel, but he still gave a really engaging talk on violence in YA literature. 
He began by explaining that he doesn’t have that part of the brain that says “You can’t write about that.” 
Kraus described some of the scenes from his book. I think one had a young boy’s intestines spilling through the hole where his arm had been. They were pretty intense scenarios. But what was really interesting was that Kraus said he had read all of the reviews of his book Rotters, and none of the teens were offended by the violence. He said that from an editor’s POV, it is harder for a book to talk about sex than violence. 
He also referenced Meghan Cox Gurdon’s article “Darkness Too Visible” that was published in The Wall Street Journal
Kraus said that his job is to unsettle young minds, and he doesn’t worry about telling kids scary stuff. Teen readers, unlike adult ones, seem most able to see both sides of the story. The gruesome and the good. 
The Audience Takes the Stage
After the panelists had presented their ideas on censorship in YA literature, Laura Otto opened the panel up to questions from the audience. 
Two guys in front of me were a bit huffy at the end of the panel. They referenced Living Dead Girl, and said they had misgivings about a YA novel based on abduction. Wouldn’t that unnecessarily scare young girls? Isn’t it too much violence to put in the hands of a young teen?
And something really cool happened. The women in the audience, writers and readers of YA lit themselves, began to speak up. Politely, after they’d raised their hands and been acknowledged by the panel moderator. But with passion. 
Their answers? 
  • All relationships are a form of abduction, in some sense. You get caught up in love, you get carried away. 
  • Many people feel the threat of abduction every day. Books allow young people to explore and understand that fear from a safe distance. 
Another guy sitting in front of me asked about life imitating art. He cited that “studies have shown” that children replicate the violence they see in movies and play in video games. 
One of the panelists responded that characters in stories who do bad things experience natural consequences that arise from their own choices. For example, a girl who smokes pot may discover that the boy she has a crush on doesn’t like the smell of pot on her breath. Another panelist said that her daughter told her, “Mom, I read these books because I don’t want to do these things in real life.” 
Hunger Mountain: YA Short Story Market
The panelists mentioned that Hunger Mountain, the literary journal through the Vermont College of Fine Arts, is currently publishing YA short stories. They have two issues out that contain YA short stories, and one even has a middle-grade short story. I swung by their table at the bookfair, and picked up a copy of the most recent issue. 
Issue #16 of Hunger Mountain
It’s a lovely journal. I like that it is a bit larger than most university-run literary journals. It has a great heft and clean, readable formatting. 
Two more resources for those of you interested in writing YA fiction:
  1. Hunger Mountain holds four annual contests. One of them is geared towards YA writers: the Katherine Paterson Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Fiction Writing is open for submissions until June 30th, 2012.
  2. The Vermont College of Fine Arts has an MFA program in Writing for Children & Young Adults

The Discussion Continues
The discussion surrounding Meghan Cox Gurdon’s article began in the summer of 2011, but I think it may be revived when the first of the Hunger Games movies is released later this month. If you haven’t read the trilogy yet, I would highly recommend it. Set aside a few days and start reading. Warning: you’ll get sucked in. There’s no way not to.

By the third book, I felt overhwelmed with the death and violence. But I appreciated and respected Suzanne Collins for not pulling her punches. And if I were a teen reading these books, I think I’d appreciate her honesty even more.

Speculative Fiction at AWP 2012

The Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) Annual Conference is primarily a literary conference. It’s like World Con for literary writers.(Heck, there were even some costumes.) Many of the attendees either have earned or are currently earning their MFAs in Creative Writing.

I went in with the expectation that most of the panels, readings, and book fair booths would exclude genre writing completely. So I was very excited to find a small but active knot of genre-focused events.

Panel: “Beyond Pulp – The Futuristic and Fantastic”
My first genre panel at AWP was “Beyond Pulp – The Futuristic and Fantastic as Literary Fiction.” The panelists were Anjali Sachdeva, Kate Bernheimer, Kevin Brockmeier, Brian Evenson, and Matthew Williamson. This panel took place at the Palmer House, which is beautiful but not a place I’d like to be trapped in all alone at night. It has the kind of opulence that couldn’t have been pulled off without creating a few ghosts in the process.

The Red Lacquer Room at the Palmer House in Chicago

Fellow Clarion West classmate Maria and I sat at the panel, taking in the crazy splendor of the Red Lacquer Room. There were maybe ten or so chandeliers, each mounted in ornate appliques on the ceiling.

Chandelier in the Red Lacquer Room

At one point, the panelists started talking about Clarion, and how they knew people in the Iowa Writers Workshop (the most prestigious MFA program) who were graduates. Maria and I were practically bouncing in our seats. We wanted to wave our hands and go, “Hey! We got your Clarion Westies right here!”

The panelists each read a prepared statement or gave a brief talk on the relationship between the literary and the fantastic.

Some interesting points:

  • Writers should practice free love when it comes to literary/ genre writing. Write everything. Love everything. 
  • The artificiality in genre distinctions has more to do with marketability than content. 
  • In genre fiction, online magazines have more prestige and better stories, while the print magazines are mired in nostalgia.  
Reading: Apocalyptic Literature
The next genre event at AWP that I attended was a reading of apocalyptic literature. The readers were Brian Parker, T.R. Hummer, Pinckney Benedict, Judy Jordan, and Kevin Brockmeier. 
At this reading I learned two things:
  1. Kevin  Brockmeier is amazing and I must read all of his books. 
  2. Apocalypse tales are better when they have a sense of wonder amid the horror. 
After the panel, Kevin Brockmeier announced that he had some copies of “Ten Great Novels of the Apocalypse“, an article he wrote for Oxford American. The one moment of out and out kindness from a stranger that I experienced at AWP happened at this panel. I was waiting in line to get a copy of this article, and they ran out right before me. I walked away feeling a bit dejected. Then a young guy came up and handed me his copy. “Here, my friend got one. I’ll share with him.” 
After the Thursday morning elevator insanity, where people fought over a ride down, this small act of giving completely surprised me. I like to think that people who write or read about apocalyptic events are more likely to be kind in the days before the world goes crazy. 
Bookfair: Genre Journals
The panelists from “Beyond Pulp” mentioned two print markets for fiction on the borderlands of the genre/ literary divide:

Both of these journals had booths at the book fair. They’re beautifully printed and bound. 
Fairy Tale Review and Unstuck

The small white square in the center of this photograph is a music CD, full of songs inspired by fairy tales. I can’t wait to listen to it.

In addition to these journals, Western Colorado’s MFA program was also there. They had a little sign listing all of the different courses of study, and one of them said Genre. Two of the people at the table were genre writers, and they were really enthusiastic about the program. 
Keynote Speaker: Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood was the keynote speaker this year at AWP. She was witty and funny and brief, and I loved her for taking hands with the sign language interpreter for a joint bow at the end of her speech. 

Margaret Atwood speaking in the Roosevelt Theater, Chicago

Atwood was asked to speak about the craft of writing, but she explained in her speech that she had never formally studied writing. In the end, she learned by reading and reading and reading, writing and rewriting and beginning all over again.

There was a book lottery for people to have up to two books signed by Margaret Atwood. I entered. I didn’t win. But it was amazing just to be able to be in the same giant auditorium with her, and to hear her speak about working tirelessly to craft stories in an encouraging but realistic way.


The Ultimate AWP Event: Hanging Out

On Saturday, the book fair was open to the public for free. Westie classmate Nick Tramdack came over to the Hilton, and we spent hours hanging out in a hallway outside a ballroom, debating the virtues of past and present tense. 
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Clarion West 2011 Classmates Maria Romasco-Moore & Nick Tramdack
Maria also introduced me to Meghan McCarron, the Clarion West alum who suggested that Maria apply to Clarion West. We spent a good twenty minutes in a busy aisle of the book fair talking to Meghan, who was super friendly and full of great stories and advice.

Missed Opportunities: Panels & Events I Didn’t Attend
There were several genre events that I didn’t attend. AWP is like that – there’s always ten interesting things going on at the same time.

Here’s some of the genre events that I missed:

  • Readings & Parties:
    • Wag’s Review & Unstuck Reading, with readers Noam Dorr, Lucas Mann, Rachel Swirsky, and Julia Whicker. 
    • Unstuck Reading, with readers Gabriel Blackwell, Ian Richard Jones, Meghan McCarron, Joe Meno,  Kiki Petrosino, Dan Rosenberg, Zack Savich, Francesca Thompson, and Matthew Vollmer.  
    • Literary Rock & Roll with Audrey Niffeneger
  • Panels:
    • Women in Jeopardy: Crime Fiction
    • Fallout & Facts: Creative Nonfiction in the Nuclear Age
    • I’d Take Stephenie Meyer’s Royalty Check: What Should We Be Teaching Our Students?
    • Midwest Gothic: Dark Fiction of the Heartland
    • Vampire by Vampire: Genre Writing and the Creative Writing Workshop

If you write genre/ weird/ fantasy/ science fiction stories and you’re thinking about going to AWP next year, then you’re likely to find a good number of events to attend and journals to discover.

For me, the best part of any convention, literary or genre, is hanging out with your writing friends. The genre people were especially open to speaking with the crowd after panels, talking about their journals at the book fair, and being introduced to genre friends. I was a little worried that I’d feel marginalized and lonely as a fantasy writer at AWP, but in the end it was a wonderful experience. 

AWP Conference

I’m leaving soon for Chicago and for AWP! I’m excited to see my friends, learn from other authors, and wander the gigantic bookfair.

I’ll be tweeting from the conference with photos and happy moments. If you’d like to follow me, you can read my posts on:

I’ll post more photos and a convention roundup when I get back. Yay!! 😀

I’m going to AWP!

Looking Down on the World’s Fair, 1893

This year I’ll be attending the Association of Writers & Writing Programs Annual Conference for the first time. The AWP conference is the big literary conference. Margaret Atwood will be giving a keynote address, there’ll be three days full of panels on writing and teaching writing, and a mammoth book fair.

But what I’m most excited about is seeing my friends. It will be the first time I’ve seen my MFA friend Ashley Cowger in several years. And I’m going to get to see Clarion West classmate Maria Romasco-Moore, too. In fact, the only reason I’m going to be able to attend is because of the support and encouragement of these friends.

The passes for AWP are completely sold out this year. Usually, they offer at the door memberships. I was one of the lucky people who bought one of the last 200 tickets when they went on sale. They sold out in 8 minutes.

Here are a few of the panels I’m looking forward to attending:

  • A Writing Life, After the Workshop 
  • The Long and Short of It: Navigating the Transitions between Writing Novels and Short Stories
  • Selling Out Everyone You Love: The Ethics of Writing Nonfiction
  • Villains and Killers and Criminals, Oh My: Representing Evildoers in Literary Fiction
  • Beyond Pulp – The Futuristic and Fantastic as Literary Fiction
  • NPRU Kidding Me? It Can Totally Happen
  • The Image, Written: Using Photography and Mixed Media to Teach Creative and Composition Writing
  • Pleasures and Perils of Drawing Fiction from Life
I’ll be tweeting from AWP and I’ll blog about the experience when I get back. The conference will be at the beginning of March, but I’m already getting excited and packing my suitcase. I can’t wait to reunite with my writing friends, and to spend a few days immersed in a world where writing is what matters most. 
And I’m excited to go to Chicago for the first time, and to daydream about the White City of the World’s Fair.