AWP Hot Panels: Philadelphia 2022

One of many boxes of books headed to Philadelphia!

Who else is excited for AWP in person this week? All of us on the Ecotone/Lookout team are busy packing and preparing to see familiar and new faces alike in Philadelphia! Our schedules are jam-packed with plans for the bookfair and compelling panels featuring our staff, authors, and contributors—including many from Lookout’s forthcoming anthology, Bigger Than Bravery: Black Resilience and Reclamation in a Time of Pandemic.

To help make your schedule a little less hectic this week, we handpicked five events each day that we’re most looking forward to, all featuring people and topics near and dear to our indie­-publishing hearts.

Catch us at the events below and at our bookfair tables 828/830. We’ll be slinging our signature bag-of-snakes tote, our full catalog of Lookout titles, the new Ecotone “Climate issue,” and plenty of magazine back issues. Can’t wait to see your faces and to talk about all things Ecotone, Lookout, writing, and publishing with y’all!

Thursday, March 24

9–10:15 a.m., T125
2022 Debut Authors Discuss: How to Prepare for the Book Deal
(Jonathan Escoffery, Daphne Palasi Andreades, Xochitl Gonzalez, Cleyvis Natera, Jean Chen Ho)
You’ve workshopped, revised, and even saved a “final draft” of your book-length work of fiction—so now what? Five debut authors discuss when and how to acquire a literary agent, considerations for going on submission to publishers, navigating auctions, international book sales, and shopping film rights, and what happens between the book deal and publication. Panelists from a diverse array of writing communities speak on their experiences to demystify the journey from writer to published author. 

10:35–11:50 a.m., T137
Socializing the Nature Poem: The Nonhuman World & Identity
(Derek Sheffield, Chaun Ballard, Michael Wasson, Elizabeth Aoki, Brian Teare)
As Audre Lorde said, “Our visions are essential to create that which has never been, and we must each learn to use all of who we are to achieve those visions.” The “nature poem” was never just about nature. When we look at anything, we put ourselves into that gaze. Five poets of diverse backgrounds share poems that engage with the more-than-human world in ways that are accurate, ethical, nuanced, and surprising, connecting gender, race, geography, sexuality, and culture.

12:10–1:25 p.m., T175
A Form for What Haunts You: Using Fixed Forms to Write About Trauma
(Melissa Crowe, Stevie Edwards, Rachel McKibbens, Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, Meg Day)
Many poets feel compelled to write about painful experiences, but we may approach such material with a mixture of urgency and hesitancy. Finding the right language to convey trauma can be liberatory, but the process is often painful. A fixed form—whether that be a villanelle, a golden shovel, or a grocery list—can provide a strong container for writing about trauma and, more generally, memories that haunt. This panel features five poets discussing their usage of fixed forms to approach trauma.

3:20–4:35 p.m., T223
In This Together: Teacher-Poets Building Community Within & Beyond the Classroom
(Donna Vorreyer, Leah Umansky, Ashley M. Jones, Matthew E. Henry, Joan K. Glass)
Community is integral to a poet’s work, development, and identity. Poets who are K–12 teachers often struggle to access the larger literary community and must find new ways of building support networks and seeking creative opportunities, often doing so through their teaching practice. Five poets discuss how to cultivate strong connections to the larger poetry world while using poetry to foster more caring communities for their students, many of whom carry literary aspirations of their own.

5:00–6:15 p.m,, T244B
A Reading & Conversation with Elizabeth Acevedo, Dawn Lundy Martin, and Deesha Philyaw, Sponsored by Blue Flower Arts
(Elizabeth Acevedo, Dawn Lundy Martin, Deesha Philyaw)
Join Blue Flower Arts for a reading and conversation featuring Elizabeth Acevedo, Dawn Lundy Martin, and Deesha Philyaw—three phenomenal women of color working across mediums to give voice to the most urgent stories of our time. From novel-in-verse and YA lit, story collections and poetry, TV pilots, essay, and memoir, these writers truly do it all, challenging the limits of genre and reflecting a diversity of stories through a wide range of storytelling methods.

Friday, March 25

9:00–10:15 a.m., F119
Debuting with a Small Press
(Jenn Bouchard, Khristeena Lute, Maan Gabriel, Rachel Mans McKenny, Joy Lanzendorfer)
Five small press authors will speak to their experiences debuting in 2021 with small presses. They will cover the benefits and challenges of their individual publishing journeys so far, as well as their own tips for a successful book launch.

9:00–10:15 a.m., F125
Four Women: Black Experimental Women Writers on Interdisciplinary Craft
(Rochelle Spencer, Shay YoungbloodOpal Moore, Chantal James, Kyla Marshell)
Why would a writer choose to experiment with different forms and work in multiple new and emerging genres? Are there possibilities for newer technologies deepening stories we tell about social justice and change? How can we encourage greater participation from writers with fewer resources or technological access? Four writers will discuss their own daring, insightful work, along with the work of innovative writers Rachel Eliza Griffiths and Duriel Harris, and the ways we build brilliant futures.

12:10–1:25 p.m., F162
Milkweed Presents: Landscape and Literary Culture
(Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Kazim Ali, Elena Passarello)
Milkweed authors discuss the intersections of literary culture and the natural world: Aimee Nezhukumatathil, author of World of Wonders; Kazim Ali, author of Northern Light; and Kerri ní Dochartaigh, author of Thin Places. Deep attentiveness to the environment—with its diverse landscapes, wild creatures, and shifting climates—provides these writers with dynamic pathways to explore regeneration, identity, and wonder in their work. Moderated by Animals Strike Curious Poses author Elena Passarello. This event will be livestreamed. ASL interpretation and live captioning will be provided.

12:10–1:25 p.m., F169
Signifyin’ & Shade: Black Queer Writers’ Interventions into the Black Canon
(M Shelly Conner, Marci Blackman, Cheryl Clarke, Darnell Moore, Mecca Jamilah Sullivan)
Toni Morrison implores us to write the books that we want to read. No more is this true than for Black queer writers searching for ourselves in the Black literary canon. The works that we create talk back/signify (Gates, Jr.) to the very books that shaped us as writers while ostracizing us as community members. In this reading, five Black queer writers share excerpts of their work and the specific interventions or engagements that they make in Black canonical texts.

12:10–1:25 p.m., F171
The Best Apology Is Changed Behavior: An Editorial Call to Action
(Adrienne Perry, Monica Prince, Somayeh Shams, Julia Brown)
The permanent impacts of COVID and the Black Lives Matter movement on the publishing industry have yet to be determined, but the early ripples prove a need for a top-down reassessment of editorial practices. Small presses and literary magazines must reckon with patriarchal white supremacy if they plan to survive this social justice moment. Writers/editors discuss how identity impacts editorial biases, while offering strategies such as apprenticeships and training, to create lasting change.

Saturday, March 26

9–10:15 a.m., S114
The Teaching Press as an Agent of Change
(Emily Louise Smith, Neelanjana Banerjee, Robyn Crummer-Olson, KaToya Ellis Fleming, Irene Yoon)
Teaching presses and apprenticeships in the art and craft of publishing prepare student writers to submit and publish their work. They also provide the foundation for a more inclusive, innovative, and accessible publishing industry. Join panelists from Kaya Press, LARB Books, Lookout Books, and Ooligan Press as they discuss their respective publishing models and demonstrate how their work as publishers, editors, and teachers empowers future generations to lead meaningful change.

12:10–1:25 p.m., S159
The Art of Pitching Nonfiction: How to Sell Your Essays, Reporting, & More
(Caleb Johnson, Irina Zhorov, Jenny Tinghui Zhang, Latria Graham)
The first impression a writer makes on an editor happens in the pitch. But what exactly does a successful pitch look like? How long should one even be? What elements should a pitch contain in order to get that coveted assignment? Four writers with experience publishing reportage, essays, profiles, and other nonfiction discuss how to grab an editor’s attention with a pitch that tells a compelling story and how to pivot if a pitch gets turned down.

12:10–1:25 p.m., S167
Research as Survival: On Archival Research as Creative Practice & Reparative Act
(Sophia Stid, Kathryn Nuernberger, Chet-la Sebree, Jennifer Loyd, Josina Guess)
“I do not intend to speak about, just nearby,” Trinh T. Minh-ha says in her film Reassemblage, critiquing the documentary genre. What does it mean to speak nearby, as women writers who practice archival research and make work in conversation with difficult histories? How do we reclaim and remake the act of research itself? How do we speak with, without speaking for? Join us for a conversation on the joys, challenges, ethics, and possibilities of research as creative practice and reparative act.

3:20–4:35 p.m., S210
Strike a Chord: The Lyric Essay Forms of A Harp in the Stars
(Randon Billings Noble, Heidi Czerwiec, Angie Chuang, Sayantani Dasgupta, Laurie Easter)
This panel features craft talks by essayists whose work appears in the University of Nebraska Press anthology A Harp in the Stars, which Aimee Nezhukumatathil calls “a fascinating look into the bright heart of what the lyric essay can be.” Contributors will read brief excerpts of a segmented essay, a braided essay, a hermit crab essay in the form of a word search puzzle, and a hybrid lyric craft essay, then discuss practical strategies as well as theoretical concerns when writing in these forms. 

3:20–4:35 p.m., S214
Black MuthaWriters: The Politics, Protests, & Prose of Black Motherhood
(Deesha Philyaw, Kelly Glass, Nefertiti Austin, Doreen Oliver)
Surviving as a Black woman in the world is an act of protest. Thriving as a Black mother and artist can be revolutionary. How does this revolution appear on the page, on the stage, and in the difficult act of getting published—and paid well? In a genre dominated by white women, can the breadth of our stories be acknowledged and lauded? Writers of fiction, memoir, reportage, and plays will discuss the wide artistic terrain of Black motherhood, including health, disability, sex, adoption, and more.