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The AWP Conference and Choices

I asked my friend, Andrea Cumbo, to write a blog post after she returned from the recent conference hosted by the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) in Chicago.

Andi was sick when she came back from Chicago, but she tackled this post, anyway. Thanks, Andi!!


A Series of Choices – Reflecting on AWP

Not even a week later, and it’s already set in. The regret. The wishing I had done things differently.  Alas, this is . . . AWP.

There is no possible way I could take in all that the Associated Writers and Writing Programs conference has to offer.  Dozens of panels give every 90 minutes, all presented by talented writers and teachers from whom I can – without fail – glean at least one good nugget of wisdom.  And yet, I find myself wishing I could change what I had done – see panels I missed, grab a coffee with people I would like to know, get to a few more booths at the book fair.

That said, I am wholly pleased with what I did see – a great panel on truth in creative nonfiction followed by a chance to speak with two of the greats in the field – Philip Gerard and Joe Mackall; a powerful presentation on women’s writing with representatives from VIDA and The Women’s Review of Books and Hedgebrook; great readings by Nikky Finney and Marilynne Robinson; and amazing conversations with writers I’ve known for years and some I just met.  I couldn’t be happier with what I experienced.

Still, though, as I read the AWP round-ups on the web, I find out about panels I wish I had attended – a discussion on white people writing about race is something I truly wish I had been a part of – and find myself checking out other people’s reflections vociferously, trying to take in what I missed. I’m truly sad I didn’t get to talk with the folks from BeNu press; our paths just didn’t line up during my few hours at the book fair.

But then, this is how life works, right? We make choices – some we are pleased with, some we regret – and yet, there is sometimes little we can change about them.  We must make the most of the consequences of our choices . . . and try to improve on them if we have the chance.

Like next year, when AWP comes to Boston.


Andi Cumbo is a writer, editor, and writing teacher who is currently working on a book about the people who were enslaved on the plantation where she was raised and about her process of getting to know them and their legacy.  She blogs daily at

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