AWP: your yearly chance to spend too much money on too many journals you’ll never read; to drink in proximity to C.K. Williams (who more or less travels with the AWP Conference, moving from camp to camp and collecting potable rainwater in discarded totebags); to make sure the editorial board of the journal who rejected your story or poem three times is at least fairly unattractive, physically; to, above all, not feel quite so weird telling the person next to you that you are, in fact, a writer.
The Association of Writers & Writing Programs’s annual conference, the largest of its type in the country, pulls writers of all ages and genres away from their laptops, notepads and typewriters (ugh) and toward a new city every year. This year saw the return of The Conference to Chicago, site of the 2009 conference and an all-around welcoming city for artists. This year was the biggest yet for AWP, with 10,000 writers descending on Lake Michigan for four nights of panels, readings, and business-card-handling. But the (not-so) secret of AWP is its ability to feel at once overwhelming—it becomes hard to tell, when surrounded by so many, which mustache is sincere and which is ironic—and entirely intimate, as if you’re surrounded by 9,999 potential lifelong friends.