The Sampler Platter: Saturday at AWP

1. My first panel discussion at Chicago Hilton had people sitting on the floor near the back. 2. Lori Ostlund discussing her experience ordering her collection of short stories, Bigness of the World. 3. Anthony Varallo recommends reading your story collection aloud to help discern order.

On the morning of the last day of AWP, there were zero lines for badge pick-up and no tote bags or lanyards left.

I gave myself an extra hour of sleep and arrived in time for the Preparing Short-Story Manuscripts for Contests and Publication, which included panelists who recently won the Drue Heinz, Flannery O’Connor, University of Iowa, and Grace Paley prizes. No big deal there.

1. Pam Houston mentioned being excited to read with the brilliant and handsome Mat Johnson during the Charting Unmarked Terrain: Fiction at the Borderland panel. She signs books while chatting with Jodi Paloni and Cynthia Martin. 2. Jamaal May signs books outside the Wilford A. He likes the way Chicago vibrates and was wearing a heart-shaped Lego pin.

1. Series editors Laura Furman (PEN/O’Henry) and Jesse Nathan (Best American Non-Required Reading) discuss the role of annual anthologies in contemporary literature. 2. Rob Russell and Jeff Pfaller of Midwestern Gothic were energized as hell.

I grabbed a cappuccino and headed up the elevator to Wilford A for the Anthologizing the Canon: Five Editors Discuss the Role of Annual Anthologies in Contemporary Literature panel.

  • Laura Furman: Believes in her reactions as a reader and keeps her eyes open by reading widely and her mind open to avoid cynicism. For 2013, online publications will be considered for the O.Henry series if the editors submit a printed copy of the story.
  • Jesse Nathan: San Francisco High School students work together weekly to pick what they feel is worth reading that year. People publish in all kinds of places for different reasons.
  • Jeremy Davis: Best European Fiction submissions are sent by publishers, translators, and authors. All entries are read in English and translators are found for works submitted in other languages.
  • D. Seth Horton: Best of the West explores the relationship to culture of the American West. He broke this relationship into three models: Old (Anglo men become heroes by confronting otherness), New (West as a Place of Convergence), and Post-West (Geographic Cross-roads of local/global dialectic).

1. Joni Wallace, a poet in the coffee line with me, loves Electric Literature and recommended that I take a look at Catch Up magazine. 2. Jeremy Davies (Best European Fiction) and D. Seth Horton (Best of the West) agree to stand for a picture with the amazing chandeliers of Wilford A. 3. Steve De Jarnatt with Allyson Williams stand on the brink of the book fair.

1. Jeff Hipsher of Catch Up, a journal focusing on poetry and comics. 2. Ian Epstein, Circulation Manager, and Kathleen Ross, Assistant Editor, of n+1, said it was amazing to meet subscribers. 3. Palmer House Hilton entrance with the El tracks over Wabash Street.

After attending two panels, I was ready to face the enormous book fair on the lower level of the Chicago Hilton. I picked up some special last day free and combo deals on lit journals. I also let A.N. Devers and Isaac Fitzgerald talk me into paying $10 to get my Polaroid taken in Edward Gorey’s fur coat. Pulled the guy from the BookForum booth into the picture because I couldn’t imagine wearing the heavy fur coat out on my own.

I stopped to drink a glass of water near the book fair exit and heard someone say to someone else, “How are you? I am so done.” I felt a little tired of being in the hotel and joined a few friends for lunch at Exchequer Restaurant. I meant to start drinking at this point, but I forgot to order a drink with lunch. Oops.

1. A.N. Devers with Isaac Fitzgerald of The Rumpus. 2. Kristen-Paige Madonia and Angela Ledgerwood talk before the Men from Venus, Women from Mars panel begins.

My friend talked me into checking out a gender panel at the Palmer House instead of going back to the other Hilton for the Orion 30th Anniversary Reading, with super amazing readers Benjamin Percy and Luis Alberto Urrea. I figured that I had already witnessed some very amazing readings by these authors while at the 2011 Tin House Summer Writer’s Workshop, so it would be hard to out-do.

1. State Ballroom at the Palmer House Hilton was total swank. Surprisingly, there wasn’t a live orchestra playing softly in the corner. 2. Co-panelists Kevin Minor, Kyle Minor, Alan Heathcock, Reese Okyong Kwon, and Jennine Capo Crucet. 3. Alan Heathcock signs Sabra Wineteer’s copy of his novel, Volt.

The Men from Venus, Women from Mars: Writing from the Perspective of the Opposite Sex panel was my first introduction to Reese Okyong Kwon, Jennine Capó Crucet, Alan Heathcock, Kyle Minor, and Kevin Wilson. Crucet started off the conversation with her Saturday AWP voice. Each of the panelists read a sample from their work, and discussed how preparing for the panel made them think more about their assumptions and experiences writing in another gender.

  • Jennine Capo Crucet: Works outside the story in first person to get a character and determine the way they observe things.
  • Alan Heathcock: Discussed gender as part of the humanity of an individual.
  • Reese Okyong Kwon: Inhabits the body of the character.
  • Kyle Minor: The starting point might be a continuation of the empathy of reading. Tip: Reach out into empathy and find out what it’s like to live within another consciousness.
  • Kevin Wilson: All stories begin as conceits. The voice of character comes later.

I meant to go back to the Chicago Hilton for the Literature and Evil panel. Instead, I got a venti cappuccino and caught a cab to relax at my friend’s house. AWP is a conference for writers who are willing to wander, stay flexible, and be in the moment. I’m not sure how I would have felt after two more days plus parties, but I know that I would never tire of meeting other writers throughout the journey.

— Judith Ossello currently lives and writes in Portland, Oregon. Find her at

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