Con Report: AWP 2017

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Photo credit: Jennifer Barnes; Photo bomb: D. Harlan Wilson

I had a great time yesterday spending the day at the Raw Dog Screaming Press booth at AWP 2017 in Washington, DC. While my official book signing time was from 1-3 PM, I ended up enjoying a full day chatting with people who stopped by, answering questions about the press, and talking about my books and the other excellent stories published by RDSP.

I’d never been to AWP before, and it was a bit…intense. Lots of people, lots of booths, lots to take in. Most of the vendors there were representatives of writing programs and literary journals, so RDSP doesn’t stick like a sore thumb so much as a breath of fresh air for people who are looking for something a little different.

Though I have my MA from Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction program (now an MFA program), I stopped by the booth for another writing program during my wanderings of the convention center (name withheld intentionally). I had attended an information session for this program shortly after graduating from SHU because I was interested in their science writing track, but obviously I had to ask about genre fiction while I was there. The answer was…a delightful mixture of discouraging and offensive, which turned me off from the program. For kicks and giggles, I asked the same question when I stopped by yesterday, and the conversation ended up going something like this [paraphrased intentionally for humor].

Me: How accepting is this program of genre fiction?
Program Rep: Super-accepting! A bunch of our current students are genre writers.
Me: That’s so cool! I looked into this program about 10 years ago and got a much different answer.
Program Rep: Well, I mean, all writing has to incorporate elements of literary fiction. You have to show that you still understand literary-ness and its importance to writing.
Me: Huh, that’s…interesting.
Program Rep: If you’re still interested in pursuing writing, you should totally submit a writing sample.
Me: Oh, I actually ended up going with a different program, which did focus on genre fiction.
Program Rep: Um, that’s nice. Are you here with them?
Me: No, I’m here with my publisher. I’m signing my fantasy novels in a little bit if you’re interested in stopping by.
Program Rep: Oh, um…Congratulations.

I took pity on her at that point, thanking her for her time and wandering along down the aisle to grab free candy from another booth. Later that afternoon, my editor and I brainstormed an alien abduction story that included “elements of literary-ness.” That totally means the person abducted by the aliens has to be an upper-middle class white chick with relationship problems, right?  And the alien abduction has to be a metaphor for her feelings of displacement about her position in society?

See, here’s the cool thing about speculative fiction. We already do that. Except the person getting abducted by aliens doesn’t have to be an upper-middle class white girl, she can be a POC, or he can be queer, or they can be from another planet entirely.

My first experience at AWP was a great time. But I’m much more excited about attending Cleveland ConCoction next month. Because speculative fiction conventions are where the real discussions about the future of literature are happening.

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If you’ve read Steel Magic, you already know that the skulls can be real and metaphor at the same time.

Published by steelvictory

By day, J. L. Gribble is a professional medical editor. By night, she does freelance fiction editing in all genres, along with reading, playing video games, and occasionally even writing. Her debut novel, STEEL VICTORY, was her thesis novel for Seton Hill University's Writing Popular Fiction graduate program in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. Previously, she was one of the co-editors for FAR WORLDS, a speculative fiction anthology. She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland, with her husband and three vocal Siamese cats. Find her online (www.jlgribble.com), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/jlgribblewriter), and on Twitter and Instagram (@hannaedits). She is currently working on more tales set in the world of Limani.

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