So: the conference is prohibitively expensive for some, the lines in the bathroom are agonizingly long, there’s often no space in the popular lectures and readings, and the social climbing and kissing-up — if you are the type to notice it— can be excruciating. But for many people who attend, AWP is also a real chance to feel like a writer, among peers, to reconnect with old friends, mentors, and students, talk about manuscripts and stalled stories, and discover what interesting new projects are afoot in the literary world.
Like Coachella, South by Southwest, and other festivals and conferences that have blown up and become major “scenes” and modern-day pilgrimages, all the flutter and noise obscures a kernel of integrity and shared artistic value. As Sasha Weiss wrote last year, “AWP feels like a giant reunion of English majors thrilled to be back at school. ”
But there’s something gently parody-worthy about the whole phenomenon, too: