What Jane Wants to Do Most at AWP 2017

“If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it.” —Anaïs Nin

2014, pre-blog, found me as a contractor without paid-time off, boobs-deep in credit card debt (seven pieces of plastic to be exact). 2015 found me unemployed on an island in the most isolated archipelago in the world. 2016 found me unemployed on the same island. Three makes a pattern. It’s 2017, my third year of the what-Jane-wants-to-do-most posts, and I’m employed (knock, knock, knock on all of the wood). I’m working for a temp agency (more on this later) in a new state (more on this later), but I’m, again, missing AWP, a conference I once-upon-a-time lived for.

After five faithful years, AWP is a stranger to me. The 5oth anniversary is in DC, where once I watched Junot Díaz, a glass of cab warming me from the inside. That has to be the biggest compliment for a writer—that a reader went offsite in the fresh air, booze abound, and returned to the sea of cardigans, spectacles, and totes for literary love.

Here’s what I will be missing this year. Please live-tweet everything, take a bookmark, yank some chocolate, buy a book and lit mag, scribble some notes, and swig some wine in the back of a conference room for me.


8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. – 4th Annual Rock and Roll Reading. 12 writers, including Danielle Evans and Porochista Khakpour, will read song-length pieces inspired by rock-and-roll. Swoon.


9:00 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. – Say Yes to the Press: How Effective Small Publishers Do What They Do featuring Brent Cunningham, Juliana Spahr, Martin Riker, J. K. Fowler, and Sunyoung Lee. The stuff of my entrepreneur dreams.

4:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. – Whereas, Standoff, Cinder, Rapture: Graywolf Poets featuring Jeff Shotts, Susan Stewart, David Rivard, Sjohnna McCray, and Layli Long Soldier. I have been counting the minutes to March, Whereas’ publication month, and, duh, Graywolf.


12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. – The Shape of Fiction: A Look at Structuring Novel-Length Prose featuring Christian Kiefer, Jeff Jackson, Esmé Weijun Wang, Janet Fitch, Kirstin Chen. Hello, ladies I love, ladies I have read, ladies I want to read, ladies whose organizational skills and planners I admire, ladies whose thoughts on structure I want to witness.

1:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. – A Reading and Conversation with Alexander Chee and Valeria Luiselli moderated by Lisa Lucas. I’m still not over the shoes Alexander Chee wore on Late Night With Seth Meyers and his essay with the Chloë Sevigny-cameoThe Story of My Teeth is on my TBR list. Have you heard Valeria Luiselli on Between the Covers with David Naimon?

4:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. – A Reading and Conversation with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Ta-Nehisi Coates hosted by E. Ethelbert Miller. Because I’m reading Between the World and Me. Because Purple Hibiscus, because Half of a Yellow Sun, because Americanah, because We Should All Be Feminists, because Beyoncé. I haven’t read That Thing Around Your Neck just so I would have some unread Adichie in my near future.


8:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. A Reading by Rita Dove, Terrance Hayes, and Ocean Vuong with introductions by Jennifer Benka. I love Terrance Hayes and Ocean Vuong in a buy-their-book-the-second-it-publishes. And Rita Dove. Are there words? Tuesday afternoon I read her conversation with David Masciotra in Salon that sent my soul vibrating. And her words, and this reading, are a perfect end because now, more than ever, we need poems: “Poetry pulls us back into a focus of our impressions as we move through the world. These are things that are unremarked upon because they are too sensitive, or they are considered things that we experience every day, like how the air feels as you walk along on a spring day and the wind catches the hairs on your arms.”

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