Monday, February 27, 2017

ISO Poets to Read in DC

The Joaquin Miller Summer 2017 Poetry Series is accepting submissions for its Sunday readings in Rock Creek Park. Small honorarium.

Send 5 poems, a paragraph bio, and an SASE for reply only to:

Rosemary Winslow, Co-director
Dept. of English
Catholic University of America
Washington, DC 20064.

Postmarked by March 31. No emails please

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Survival Tips for #AWP17!

Survival Tips for AWP17!

Welcome, writers, to our nation’s capital! You will fit in here, with our town’s culture of perfectionist strivers and intellectual conversationalists. DC is a city that reads (the nation’s third-readingest city, according to this study)…though some may prefer wonky policy books to lovely volumes of poetry. We dress in black or Ann Taylor, are verbal with excellent punctuation skills, freak out at a flake of snow, don’t mind being thought of as “the East Coast elite,” have a chip on our shoulders about New York City, and celebrate our diverse community. We welcome newcomers and tourists, as long as they stand to the right (never the left!) on our Metro escalators…and we don’t like you-know-who either.

So, twelve thousand? Fifteen thousand? A LOT of writers surging into town for #AWP17! You won’t be wearing matching T-shirts like the spring school groups, and don’t want to look like tourists, I know, but take that moment to soak in what tourist DC does best: grand old monuments of glimmering stone, most beautiful in dusky twilight. They have endured, our democracy will endure (fingers crossed), and you can endure and prevail at AWP! Here are my tips for success based on my experience at past conferences:

Wear comfortable shoes, at least most of the day. There’s lots of traipsing around long hallways and the long (sometimes uncarpeted) aisles of the book fair. It’s also inevitable that the one panel you really, really, really want to see will be in a teeny-tiny room and you’ll have to stand in the back…or sit on the floor; see the following tip:

Wear comfortable clothes, preferably taking a layer approach. Wherever you go, you will end up either in A) an incredibly stuffy room that will make you melt, or B) a room with an arctic blast directed at you. Bulk up and strip down as needed. Also, as noted above, the AWP conference staff has a knack for consistently misjudging the size of room required for a subject matter/speakers (i.e. Famous Writer in room with 30 chairs; grad student panel on Use of Dashes in Obscure Ancient Greek Poet in room with 300 chairs), so you may find yourself scrunched into a 2’x2’ square on the carpet; see the following tip:

To avoid being stuck sitting on the floor, arrive early to panels you really, really want to attend. If you are stuck on the floor, hold your ground with a big bag and/or coat to get yourself some extra space. Whatever you do, do not be nice and squeeze over…those panels can seem VERY LONG when someone’s knee is wedged in your ribs. (Any resulting bad karma will be worth it.)

If a panel is bad, ditch it. Yes, it’s rude. Yes, everyone does it. (Be better than the rest by at least waiting for an appropriate break, but if you must go mid-word, GO.) I can’t tell you the high caliber of presenters that I have walked out on, but think Very High. Remember that there are a thousand other options, and you have choices. The only time you have to stick it out is if A) the dull panel participant is your personal friend or B) the dull panel participant is/was your teacher or C) the dull panel participant is your editor/publisher. Those people will notice (and remember) that you abandoned them mid-drone and punish you accordingly (i.e. your glowing letters of rec will instead incinerate). Undoubtedly this is why I have never been published in Unnamed Very High Caliber Magazine, having walked out on the editor’s panel.

There are zillions of panels: When you pick up your registration badge, you’ll get a massive tome with information about all of them, and also a shorter schedule that’s easy to carry around. Take some time right away to read through the tome and circle the panels you want to attend on your master schedule. Then ditch the tome. Better yet, go to the AWP website now and scroll through the schedule tome and decide now where you want to be when. And best of all, use the “my schedule” planning feature on the online schedule to mark the events you’re interested in and keep that stored on your favorite technology (mine is a sheaf of printed paper…which may be smart since I often forget how/where to re-access “my schedule,” which requires logging in and somehow finding “my account”).  Anyway…no point waking up early on Friday if there’s nothing you want to attend. I checkmark panels I might go to if nothing better is going on and star those that I will make a supreme effort to attend. Give yourself a couple of options at each time slot so that if a room is too crowded, you have an interesting alternative.

Someone will always ask a 20-minute question that is not so much a question but a way of showing off their own (imagined) immense knowledge of the subject and an attempt to erase the (endlessly lingering) sting of bitterness about having their panel on the same topic rejected. Don’t be that person. Keep your question succinct and relevant. Maybe even write it down first, before you start to endlessly ramble. If you are “that person,” everyone will mimic your annoying question to their friends in the bookfair aisle, and your career is over.

Don’t say anything gossipy on the elevator, unless you want the whole (literary) world to know it. Do listen up to the conversations of others on the elevator, and tell your friends what you’ve overheard over your offsite dinner, embellishing as necessary.

Same advice above exactly applies to the overpriced hotel bar.  Also, if you happen to get a chair at the bar, or, goodness, EVEN A REAL LIVE TABLE, hang on to it!!  People will join you if they see you’ve got a spot!  Famous people!  I mean it: the only reason to ever give up a table in the hotel bar is because the bar has shut down, you’ve consumed every bit of liquid in the clutter of glasses, and a beefy bouncer is headed your way.

Speaking of famous people or former teachers or friends…do not say something like this in one long breathless opening sentence right after hugging hello: “Great-to-see-you-can-you-write-a-blurb-letter-of-rec-piece-for-my-anthology?” Ask for favors AFTER the conference! I mean, unless you enjoy that uncomfortable moment and awkward triumph of trapping someone into saying yes.

Support the publications at the bookfair. Set a budget for yourself in advance, and spend some money on literary journals and books and subscriptions, being sure to break your budget. Do this, and then you won’t feel bad picking up the stuff that’s been heavily discounted or being given away free on the last day of the conference. But, please, do spend some money! These journals and presses rely on OUR support.

Just because something is free, you don’t have to take it. Unless you drove, you’ll have to find a way to bring home all those heavy books/journals on an airplane. Or you’ll have to wait in line at the hotel’s business center or the UPS store at the convention center to ship them home. So, be as discerning as you can when you see that magic markered “free” sign on top of a pile of sad-looking journals, abandoned by the grad students with hangovers who didn’t feel like dealing with their university's bookfair table.

Try not to approach the table of each journal at the bookfair with this question:  “How can I get published in your journal?” Also, I recommend avoiding this one: “How come you didn’t publish my poem/story/essay/screed?”  Try instead: “What a beautiful journal. Please tell me more about it.” Even better: “I’m thinking about subscribing.”

It may be too late for some of you, but it’s inevitable that you will see every writer you’ve ever met in the aisle of the bookfair at one AWP or another…so I hope you were nice to all of them and never screwed anyone over. Because, yes, they will remember, and it’s not fun reliving all that drama as the editors of The Georgia Review gaze on.

Pre-arrange some get-togethers with friends/teachers/grad student buddies, but don’t over-schedule. You’ll run into people, or meet people, or be invited to a party, or find an amazing off-the-beaten-track bar.  Save some time for spontaneity! (Yes, I realize that I’m saying “plan” for spontaneity.)

Don’t laugh at this, but bring along Purell and USE IT often.  For weeks after, post-AWP Facebook status updates are filled with writers bemoaning the deathly cold/sore throat/lingering and mysterious illness they picked up at AWP.  We’re a sniffly, sneezy, wheezy, germy bunch, and the thought of 12,000 of us packed together breathing on each other, shaking hands, and giving fake hugs of glee gives the CDC nightmares.

Along the lines of healthcare, don’t forget to drink a lot of water and pop an Advil before going to sleep if (haha…if!) you’ve been drinking a little more than usual. (Also note that AWP offers a daily 12-step meeting open to all in recovery. Please take care of yourself!)

Escape! Whether it’s offsite dinners/drinks/museums/walks through park/mindless shopping or whatever, do leave at some point. You will implode if you don’t. 

This is a super-secret tip that I never share, but I’ll share it as a reward for those who have read this far:  there will be a bathroom that’s off the beaten track and therefore is never crowded. Scope out this bathroom early on. Don’t tell anyone except your closest friends the location of this bathroom.

Finally, take a deep breath.  You’re just as much of a writer as the other 11,999 people around you.  Don’t let them get to you.


If you're interested, I will be on the following panel. I’ll be reading from “Slut,” a story included in my collection THIS ANGEL ON MY CHEST, that first appeared in Cimarron Review and which I rarely read.

4:30 pm to 5:45 pm
Liberty Salon I, J, & K, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Four

Cimarron Review: 50 Year Anniversary Reading. (Leslie Pietrzyk, Adam Clay, Brenda Peynado, Yun Wang, Toni Graham) The Cimarron Review brings together four previously featured writers from across fiction and poetry to celebrate fifty years of publishing the finest stories, poems, and essays from working writers across the country and around the world to celebrate their 50th anniversary.


And if you'd like to let you-know-who know what you think about's an overview of some planned protests:


Finally, for the best drinks in town, here's my spot (more suitable for an intimate twosome ro foursome, not a giant crowd): The Columbia Room, not too far from the Convention Center. Splurge on the full-out tasting if you've got the $$ and time or enjoy a drink or two in the Tasting Library or Punch Garden. I promise you will thank me!!

And I wasn't kidding about that Metro escalator. Stand to the right and walk on the left.

And this very important P.S.: Check out what DC writer/poet Sandra Beasley has to say about navigating AWP and DC. Her restaurant tips are spot-on!


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.