Photo by Caitlin Abrams
Remember when reading was fun? Those "just one more chapter, pleeeeeeease, mom" days? Well, for a few days at least, you can step back into that enchanted world of reading thanks to the Association of Writers and Writing Programs’ annual AWP Conference coming to town April 8-11. Authors, MFA candidates, publishers, and readers galore will head to the Minneapolis Convention Center and surrounding venues for a weekend of panel discussions, readings, and parties that explore and celebrate literature as it stands today.
"How is a professional writing conference like swashbuckling bedtime tales of chivalry?" you ask. Simple. You just have to look at it all from the perspective of you as a kid.
OFFICIAL EVENTS AS THEY RELATE TO WHAT YOU READ AS A KID
If you read Roald Dahl, see keynote speaker Karen Russell
I was well into my teens when I really realized what horrors Matilda and her fellow schoolchildren endured under Miss Trunchbull. Even James and the Giant Peach explores dark territory. Traveling with a group of commandingly large insects in a non-preserved piece of fruit is an alarming situation. Now there’s a Roald Dahl for the adult in us. Karen Russell’s characters, frequently children, face dark situations and then make light of them—or, at least, trick the reader into growing fond of worlds that are equally terrible and wonderful. Hear her speak at AWP’s keynote address. Thursday April 9, 8:30 p.m., Main Auditorium. Must register for the conference to attend.
If you read Dr. Seuss, Eragon, Inkheart, or any other book made into a movie, attend Adaptation:
Most of us have lived through the horror of seeing a beloved book trampled into cheap fodder for the popcorn crowd. And most of us have been delighted by film’s ability to visually represent a good novel. This panel invites writers whose works have been adapted to film to speak about the experience of giving their stories over to the screen. Thursday, April 9, 12-1:15 p.m., Room 200 H&L. Must register for the conference to attend.
If you read The Magic School Bus, attend Nerd Novels: Exploring Worlds of Knowledge in Fiction. Maybe you marveled at how the pattern of Ms. Frizzle’s dress matched the book’s theme (guilty). But maybe the books peaked your interest because the bus showed you stuff that was really happening, right now! Turns out Ms. Frizzle had a knack for combining science and story, a skill not easy to replicate. This subject is tackled by three writers who’ve produced works—and entire university programs—where science and scholarship lead the fictional tale. Friday, April 10, 10:30-11:45 a.m., Room 200 D&E. Must register for the conference to attend.
If you read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, attend Re: Searching. Or: Don’t Write What You Know.
Alice’s general education is in-progress when we join her on her adventures. But does that stop her from declaring that mustard is a mineral? No! Panelists discuss the effects of researching unknown topics for stories and how knowing little about a subject can sometimes be a boon when building a story around it. Saturday, April 11, 9-10:15 a.m., Room 208A&B. Must register for the conference to attend.
If you read Where the Wild Things Are, attend Wild vs. In the Wild: X and Y Chromosomes in Travel Writing:
Max’s adventures settle him in a new world where creatures turn from enemy to friend, and new lands are explored and tamed. We feel triumphant at his conquests. How would the story have changed, had a girl gone down the same path? Turns out we generally see a marked difference when men and women chronicle their travels. This panel explores how gender affects expectations in travel writing. Saturday, April 11, 1:30 p.m. Room L100. Must register for the conference to attend.
Loft Literary Center. Photo by Anna Minn.
ANCILLARY PARTIES THAT WILL MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE A KID
Awesome AWP Party: Open Book is our hub of literary arts, so it seems just right that they’re hosting a party. Co-hosted by the Loft, Milkweed Press, Graywolf Press, and the MN Center for Book Arts, they’ve set the stage not for any performance, but for an evening of relaxed conversation for those who think books are the bees’ knees. Thursday, April 9, 7-9:30 p.m. Loft Literary Center. Free and open to the public.
Bust Magazine and the Loft Present Roxane Gay and Others: When Roxane Gay tweeted about her search for a reading venue, the Loft’s name came up immediately. The result is an evening of readings about the real female experience, co-sponsored with BUST Magazine, a publication that works to challenge the stereotypes women face, and co-hosted by Amber Tamblyn. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and the line-up outside the doors starts much earlier. Friday, April 10, 7-8:30 p.m., Loft Literary Center. $5 suggested donation. Open to the public.
Pints and Prose. On Friday the Poet’s Corner stage at Kieran’s will be appropriated by Think Piece Publishing, a three-year old Minneapolis publisher whose goal is to re-focus our perceptions of those struggling with mental and physical health issues. Three authors and one musician are gathering from locales as varied as San Francisco, Chicago, and St. Paul to share their works. Sit down with a beer, meet the artists and publisher, and hear their experiences explained through memoir and music. Friday April 10, 5-8 p.m. Kieran’s Irish Pub. Free and open to the public.
Dance Parties: There are also dance parties at AWP. We suggest checking out Girl Friday: A Reading and Dance Party at Honey, presented by Twin Cities female poet collective Our Flow is Hard, Weird Sister (a website that connects feminism and literature), and Dancing Girl Press. The evening begins with readings by women poets from across the U.S. Readings 7-9:30 p.m., dance at 10 p.m. April 10, Honey Mpls. Free and open to the public.
If you’re in more of a St. Paul mood, head to the Dubliner on April 9, where Sarah Fox, locally published poet and advocate of Great Goddesses everywhere, has organized a “poetry dance party,” NO THOUSANDS: An Indie Press Event: Reading and Dancing. Come at 7 p.m. for the poetry. The party to follow has a records-only lineup, and word on the street says a food truck will be there. April 9, 7 p.m. The Dubliner. Free and open to the public.
Mizna & the Cedar present: Arab American Soundscapes: The Cedar Cultural Center and Mizna, Minneapolis’s community for Arab-American art and literature, have planned an evening of poetry and music. Local and visiting writers provide a less frequently heard narration of the Arab and Arab American experience, set against a film of the Euphrates River that was originally commissioned for last year’s Northern Spark. Thursday, April 9, 7:30 p.m. Cedar Cultural Center. $5 for AWP attendees/$10 for non-attendees.
Admittance to the full four-day conference is $255-$285 ($60 for students and seniors). The pass includes access to all panels and the keynote address. You can purchase passes online or on-site, but it’s recommended to get them in advance before the conference hits capacity. Also available are $40 passes for Saturday’s Bookfair: with more than 700 literary exhibitors, there will be books you can’t find on Amazon, and lots of free book swag, too. Buy on-site.