AWP can be an overwhelming experience, with many different choices for panels and off-site readings. While it’s often best to follow your instincts, go with the flow, and see where you end up, we’ve got some suggestions if you’re looking for ideas.
It’s important to consider your own tastes and goals for the conference and offsite readings, etc. Our choices below are obviously subjective, fed by our own interests and leanings. It helps to consider what you want to get out of the conference: Do you want professional advice on submitting, editing, and working with publishers? Are you stuck on revision? Are you thinking about process? Or are you interested more in conceptual things? A certain theme in your writing? Contemporary discussions around #metoo, race, gender, politics, etc.? The conference has panels on all of these, sometimes multiple panels on the same topics across different days. Figuring out what you’re after can help slim down your choices. Consider topics you like, names you recognize, or themes of interest. But also, don’t be afraid to just skip something, go to a random panel, or leave for some fresh air. Over-planning can definitely be an issue and sometimes it’s nice to go off track or follow a friend to something outside your schedule.
Too many choices! But since I’ve been so into the tactile and the physical and the image, I’d recommend Page Meets Stage (with Portland’s own Anis Mojgani), Ecstatic Ekphrastic (moderated by the seriously cool Bianca Stone), and Consequences of Silence (Samiya Bashir will blow your mind) for Thursday. On Friday, hear New Poetry from Omnidawn (moderated by Old Pal contributor Tyrone Williams), learn from Poets Writing Whiteness (with the indomitable Shane McCrae), or celebrate the astounding legacy of Lucie Brock-Broido. For Saturday: A Lewis & Clark College Poetry Reading
- 9 – 10:15 am: Indigenous Fiction: Intersections in the United States & Canada.
- 10:30 – 11:45 am: Shape-Shifting Lineages: Conjuring the Feminine Divine, Power, and Creation.
- 12 – 1:15 pm: Vietnam Is a 7 Letter Word (with Old Pal contributor Stacey Tran). Or Let’s Talk About Race, Baby; Let’s Talk About You & Me (with Portland born writer Mitchell S. Jackson).
- 1:30 – 2:45 pm: Light is the Left Hand of Darkness: A Tribute to Ursula K. Le Guin (with Kelly Link and Old Pal contributor David Naimon).
- 3 – 4:15 pm: New Poets of Native Nations (with the awesome Trevino Brings Plenty, and others).
- 4:30 – 5:45 pm: Queering Genre Boundaries: The Speculative and Fantastic in LGBTQ+ Writing.
- 9 – 10:15 am: Transmogrification of the Transgender Narrative: Cunting-up Trans Nonfiction (with the excellent writer and teacher Cooper Lee Bombardier). Or Indigenous Womanisms: Decolonization & Na(rra)tivity.
- 10:30 – 11:45 am: You Want It Darker: The Care and Feeding of Darker Narratives. or The Sexuality of Textuality (with Garth Greenwell, Carmen Machado, Lidia yuknavitch, Alexander Chee).
- 12 – 1:15 pm: The Strengths of Complexity and the Power of Limitations: Writers on Disability (with Sarah Einstein, an incredible scholar and nonfiction writer on disability).
- 1:30 – 2:45 pm: The Curtain, the Threshold, and the Door: Paratext in Book-Length Projects.
- 3 – 4:15 pm: Teaching Unteachable Books (with Leni Zumas, whose courses effectively utilize such books, and Sara Jaffe, Jonathan Lethem, and others). Or Monsters, Marvels, & Melanin: A Discussion of Black Speculative Fiction.
- 4:30 – 5:45 pm: Centro Mariconadas: Queering Central American Narratives (with local writer Olivia Olivia and others). Or Occult Poetics: Conjuring the 4th Voice to Compose Viable Futures. Or A Hybrid Panel on Hybrid Forms (with Shayla Lawson, Dao Strom, Stephanie Adams-Santos, and others, all of whom have created interesting hybrid/nontraditional forms and performances).
- 9 – 10:15 am: Native American Voices: A Reading from Recent Works in Native Letters (with Tommy Orange and others). Or Mind Meld: Reimagining Creative Writing and Science (with Will Alexander, who is an incredible poet and will be returning to read at PSU on April 19th).
- 10:30 – 11:45 am: Women of Pacific Northwest Science Fiction and Fantasy: A Reading. Or Latinx Speculative Fiction: What Sets it Apart?. Or McSweeney’s: Celebrating Innovative Fiction (with the impressionable Lucy Corin, whose short stories I’m a huge fan of, and others).
- 12 – 1:15 pm: Agents of Change: The Activist Protagonist (with local writers Susan DeFreitas, Rene Denfeld, Cari Luna, and others). Or Publishing Queer: What Was, What Is, and What Just May Be (also with local writers Kate Carroll de Gutes, tammy lynne stoner, and others).
- 1:30 – 2:45 pm: How to Design a Novel Workshop (another panel with the incredible writer and teacher Leni Zumas). Or The Art of Trauma.
- 3 – 4:15 pm: Sex at the Intersections: The Erotics of Queer and Of-Color Poetry. Or The Other Side of the Story: The Trouble with Writing About Real People (with an all-star line-up: Sophia Shalmiyev, Chris Kraus, Melissa Febos, Lacy M. Johnson, and Kiese Laymon).
- 4:30 – 5:45 pm: See Visions, Dream Dreams, Prophecy & Speak Parables: The Visionary Challenge (with local writer Alicia Jo Rabins, and others). Or The Gothic Pastoral: Poems from a Wrecked Eden. Or Unrealism: The True Art of Fantastic Fiction (with Carmen Maria Machado, Lucy Corin, and others).
Commonplace is a great podcast hosted by Rachel Zucker and they are having an offsite reading at Passages bookshop on Saturday from 6-7:30pm!
Wave Books is a very incredible small press who are taking over the Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC) all day on Friday. All of the readers are fantastic, but I would especially look forward to hearing Dorothea Lasky, Michael Earl Craig, Tyehimba Jess, Magdalena Zurawski and John Beer, to name a few!
This recommendation is kind of more about the location of the event, but I also am really excited about Emily Skillings’ book Fort Not, and Emily is reading at this event, which is at a great local brewery called Base Camp. Good beer, good poetry!
Last but not least, No Fair/Fair is a book fair taking place alongside AWP and featuring many small presses and a looootttttttt of readers! It will be going on for a long time, and the list of readers is truly extensive, so have a look at the website for more details!!!!
Before diving into my list of sellections, I’ll say that I highly recommend checking out some events based on venue, as there are some awesome venues that know their stuff and have put together some solid line-ups of readings over the next few days. In no particular order these include: Passages Bookshop, The Stacks Coffeehouse, Crush Bar, Powell’s, De-Canon Library, IPRC, Mother Foucault’s Bookshop, Rose City Book Pub, Cardinal Club, and Literary Arts. Look for other venues near you via our map and see if there are similar ongoing festivities.
- 6 – 7:30 pm: The Stacks Coffeehouse kicks off its AWP readings with a poetry reading!
- 6 – 8 pm: Passages Bookshop has a whole literary festival called Just Off-Site, and is only a few blocks north of the Convention Center, check out their Resplendence of Poets reading.
- 7 – 9 pm: Unchaste Readers Series is a solid ongoing series here in Portland and always puts together a great show. They’re hosting an event at the Jade Lounge.
- 7 – 9 pm: TC Tolbert and Kristen E. Nelson host a reading full of queer, trans, and accomplice writers at Dismantle, Change, Build Center.
- 7 – 10 pm: Milagro Theater hosts An Evening of Latinx Literature.
- 8 – 10 pm: Unlikely Stories and Rigorous start off a series of AWP readings at Ford Food & Drink.
- 8:30 – 11 pm: De-Canon Library Project hosts the Team Mashallah Reading, with Hanif Abdurraqib, Kaveh Akbar, Fatimah Asghar, Safia Elhillo, and Angel Nafis.
- 9 – 10:30 pm: Rose City Book Pub begins its AWP festivities with a reading from KERNPUNKT.
- 9 – 10:30 pm: Crush Bar closes out its night (the first of many reading nights here!) with the Big Gay Reading, featuring over 17 readers!
- 2 – 3 pm: As part of its Just Off-Site reading festival, Passages Bookshop hosts the first of two Spare Room readings. Spare Room is a Portland series that has been running for 17 years. This first reading features Peter Jaeger, Tim Atkins, Norma Cole, James Yeary, and Rob Schlegel, an Old Pal contributor who will also be reading later at Yale Union as part of Submission Reading Series’s event at 8 pm.
- 5 – 7 pm: Shane McCrae is reading with local and national writers at Dorsa Brevia.
- 5 – 7 pm: Old Pal contributor Genevieve Hudson reads with other local and national stellar writers, Chelsea Bieker, Aja Gabel, T Kira Madden & Kimberly King Parsons at Spartan Shop.
- 6 – 7:30 pm: Incite: Queer Writers Read is another solid local reading series, they’ll be hosting one at Literary Art
- 6 – 9 pm: The Portland Art Museum (PAM) has a solid line up reading, withTyehimba Jess and Ada Limón, among others.
- 6:30 – 8:30 pm: Tender Table is another local series that’s doing some amazingly cool stuff with food and storytelling. If you’re looking to grab dinner while hearing from incredible writers, check out their event at PNCA (tickets may not be available, but check!). With Diana Khoi Nguyen, Ashley Toliver, & Amy Lam.
- 7 – 8:30 pm: Leni Zumas and Christopher Merkner read with PSU students and alumni at Mother Foucault’s Bookshop.
- 7 – 9 pm: Local hub for writing Corporeal Writing has a solid line up with: Garth Greenwell, Carmen Maria Machado, Terese Mailhort, Alexander Chee, and Lidia Yuknavitch.
- 7 – 10 pm: A collection of local organizations and projects promoting diverse voices have put together an incredible line up of writers for Center Justify: An Offsite Extravaganza at the PSU Nativer American Student and Community Center. Readings, performances, food (dinner!), and socializing!
- 8 – 10 pm: Lana Turner hosts a poetry reading downtown with: Sara Deniz Akant, Rae Armantrout, Shane Book, Forrest Gander, Andrew Joron, Douglas Kearney, Rodney Koenecke, Joyelle McSweeney, Rusty Morrison, Diana Khoi Nguyen, Felicia Zamora, and Andrew Zawacki.
- 8 – 11 pm: The above mentioned Submission Reading Series event is worth checking out at the Yale Union. Submission selects readers via blind submission. This reading features PNW writers, including: Jamondria Marnice Harris, Quenton Baker, Jessica Mehta, Rob Schlegel, and Ally Harris.
- 6 – 8 pm: Old Pal contributor and amazing reader/performer Robert Lashley reads at Politics & Pints at Rose City Book Pub, with: Chiwan Choi, Meg Day, Jen Fitzgerald, Dena Rash Guzman, Robert Lashley, Faisal Mohyuddin, and Leah Umansky.
- 7 – 8:30 pm: The above-mentioned Samiya Bashir and a host of other talented writers read for the VONA 20th Birthday celebration at Literary Arts.
- 7 – 10 pm: Another Old Pal contributor Darcie Dennigan reads at The Cleaners at Ace Hotel downtown.
- 8:30 – 10 pm: Local and national poets gather at PICA for an interesting-sounding reading Diorama: Interior, with Lisa Marie Basile, Su Cho, Emily Kendal Frey, Brookes Moody, Alyssa Morhardt-Goldstein, Kiely Sweatt, and Julia Claire Tillinghast.
- 8:30 – 10:30 pm: A solid line up of Filipinx poets read at BAR Botellón.
- 9 pm – 12 am: Local writer and workshop leader jayy dodd hosts a pop up reading with Trans/GNC poets and artists at Chingada Gallery, with a live streaming component through DovesongLabs.net.
- 10 am – 6 pm: Along with the above-mentioned No Fair/Fair, there’s also the Northwest Micropress Fair at The Cleaners at Ace Hotel, with a large selection of presses and producers on hand.
- 11 am – 3 pm: If you’re looking to get away from the bustle and want to check out an awesome museum, the C.C. Stern Type Foundry and Museum of Metal Typography is holding an open house.
- 3 – 5 pm: Buckman Publishing, a very local publisher based out of the Southeast neighborhood of Buckman (just south of the Convention Center), hosts a reading at Tiny’s Coffee South East with local and visiting authors. Along with some really creative books, they also publish the beautiful Buckman Journal, of which I am a personal fan.
- 4:30 – 7 pm: Another personally biased suggestion is for a reading from my alma malter Ohio University at Cup & Bar, with Jennifer Pullen, Sarah Minor, Gary Thomas Smith, Claire Eder, Kat Saunders, Brad Aaron Modlin, and Katie Berta.
- 6 – 7 pm: If you want to check out some other bookshops around portland, Belmont Books is hosting a Small But Grand Reading, with Tomas Moniz, Martha Grover, Jeff Miller, Karleigh Frisbie, Ariel Birks, and Joshua James Amberson.
- 6:30 – 8:30 pm: Local journal Shirley Magazine is hosting a reading at The Stacks Coffeehouse with a collection of prose and poetry writers, including: Thea Prieto, Matthew Robinson, Alissa Hattman, Mary Milstead, Cat Ingrid Leeches, Laura Paul, Hugh Behm-Steinberg, Kelly Krumrie, Robert Long Foreman, Jonathan Wlodarski, and Old Pal contributor Lucie Bonvalet.
- 7 – 9 pm: Women Writers Against Trump is a local annual reading by poets Chrys Tobey and Allison Tobey, and this night’s line up is solid as usual at Ford Food & Drink, with Armine Iknadossian, Nikia Chaney, Carol Potter, Nicelle Davis, Autumn Konopka, Xochitl Bermejo, and Leni Zumas .
- 7 – 10 pm: If you’re looking for some great poetry, spoken word, and music, then check out Wordlights with Ken Yoshikawa, Sage Lilac & Kate Leddy, as well as a showcase of 10 performers at Rocking Frog Cafe.
- 7:30 – 11:59 pm: The NW Micropress Fair mentioned above is holding an all night after party with three hours of readers at The Cleaners.
- 8 – 9:30 pm: As part of it’s Just Off-Site AWP Festival, Passages Bookshop hosts an above-mentioned Old Pal contributor Tyrone Williams (who you can catch reading again if you miss this one!), reading with Sarah Campbell, Cole Swensen, Tim Shaner, & Rae Armantrout for Kiosk Magazine’s Reunion Reading.
- 7:30 – 10 pm: While not an AWP offsite event, I’m entrigued by TLÖN.com! a “cyber musical” inspired by the short story “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” by Jorge Luis Borges at Xhurch. I have no idea what this will be like, but it speaks to me.
Our best suggestion for the bookfair is to browse at your leisure, perhaps even over the course of several days, as the bookfair itself can be an over-stimulating and anxiety enducing affair to tackle in one day. Maybe make a pass through to get a lay-of-the-land, then figure out what appeals to you and go back into the fray to make connections and buy some books (or snag free swag). Usually by the last day of the bookfair publishers are looking to offload whatever merch is left to reduce their baggage claim and shipping fees. So, if getting a certain book isn’t important, but you want a big haul of discount, sale, or free stuff, you might do some last minute pass-throughs.
Here are some places that jumped out to us: Haymarket Books (10042), Wave Books (T8027, T8029), Fence (8020), CALYX (12094), The Accomplices (T2009), McSweeney’s (T8009), Microcosm Publishing (1068), New Ohio Review & Quarter After Eight (7061, 7063), Paper Darts (T1012), Portland State University (4012, 4014), Propeller Books (T14089), Spork Press / Future Tense (T2054), Tavern Books (6060, 6062), Unchaste Readers Series (T2060), YesYes Books / Vinyl (10084, 10086, 10088), and many more!
Some other handy guides that may help you:
- Entropy’s Guide to AWP
- The Rumpus Guide to AWP 2019
- Portland Review’s Partial Guide to AWP 2019
- PSU at AWP 2019
- Portland Mercury’s “Portland’s AWP Conference On the Cheap: A Guide to AWP Offsite Events”
- CutBank’s “BURN PILE: AWP around the corner!”
- Paulette Perhach’s “AWP Webinar” with an Essential’s Map and AWP Tips