Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Faculty Voices: Claire Rudolf Murphy

Writing Conferences - What's in It for You?
AWP April 2015 Minneapolis

It's always a tug, isn't it, dear writers? Writing or out in the world, promoting, going to conferences, working to pay the bills, sharing one's writing, responding to other writers, teaching . . . The list is endless and it's easy to come up with ways to avoid BIC - butt in chair. But there are times when it is an excellent idea to attend a conference - to get filled up, stretch one's boundaries, listen to those in your chosen genre talk about their craft, suss out an agent or attend a session on a topic way far from your own work.

All of you reading have attended one conference or another, most likely an SCBWI one, a great resource for children's writers. I have another one to suggest - affordable, packed full of intriguing sessions and, for some of you, right in your back yard:

2015 AWP Conference 

Minneapolis Convention Center
Hilton Minneapolis Hotel
April 8 - 11, 2015

AWP stands for Associated Writing Programs and next year our esteemed leader Mary Rockcastle will be one of the co-chairs and Hamline University one of the co-sponsors. The conference offers a discount for current MFA students and alums. More will come out on that in the months to come. But put this date down on your calendar.

Two weeks ago Emily Jenkins posted on this blog about her adventures at the Seattle AWP. Check it out if you haven't read it yet. Emily and her cohorts were terrific, just what you want a panel to be - vibrant, knowledgeable, funny, and each offering a different perspective. Current MFAC student Judi Marcin was also there and it was great to share notes and talk about our hopes for a Hamline presence next year in Minneapolis.

Come one, come all. Not only am I encouraging you to attend, but to consider putting in a proposal to present if you are ready for that. In Seattle there were 15,000 hungry writers in attendance from all genres and all levels of experience, and hundreds of presentations over three days. This was my first AWP conference, but I've been told that the children's and YA panels are growing in number every year. The ones in Seattle were packed. So the interest is there.

I am hoping to see even more next year, especially on illustrated books, graphic literature, fantasy, YA LGBTQ literature, the structure of an MFAC program, and life after getting one. The panels I most appreciated had excellent, varying content and strong presenters across the board. They didn't always agree, but rather each took a different approach to the topic. Presenters often came from different programs, different parts of the country and for some topics - different genres.

Here are some of the intriguing session titles:
  •  Pushing Boundaries in YA Literature: Civil Disobedience, Violence and War
  •  Never Grow Up: Building a Life in Children's and Young Adult Fiction (one of Emily's panels)
  •  What We Talk About When We Talk about Subtext
  •  Building a Space for Literary Comics in MFA programs ( I was happy to raise my hand and mention Gene Yang and the growing interest at Hamline.)
  •  Crafting Heartbreak – Handling Grief and Loss in YA/MG Novels
  •  Not What I was Looking For, But What I Found: Deploying Research in Creative Writing
  • Getting Your Foot in the Door: Alternatives to Traditional Children’s Book Contracts –A
  • This is Not Your Country: Creating Characters Outside the Landscape of Our Lives
  • Lives Not our Own: The Ethics and Practice of Assuming the Voices of Others 

To propose a panel for 2015, check out the guidelines. Writers of all sorts gave presentations, long published ones, faculty on MFA programs, current students, alums, writers publishing online and in many publishing forums. Think about it, and remember these key dates:

  • ·        March 19, 2014: event proposal submissions open
  • ·        May 1, 2014: deadline for #AWP15 Minneapolis event proposals
 I bought Ron Koertge's new poetry book at the Red Hen Press booth and met his lovely wife. He attends every year. Let's join him in Minneapolis and bring Hamline MFAC to 2015 AWP conference in a big way. Ricki Thompson, Emily Jenkins and several of our faculty have presented at AWP before. Talk to them or get in touch with me if you want to bat ideas around. I know that Mary Rockcastle will be sending out info, too. It will be an exciting time indeed.

Now back to writing.


  1. I agree, Claire: AWP conferences are stimulating and a great way to connect with other writers from around the country. Boston's AWP was fun for those of us in New England; I've also enjoyed Chicago and Vancouver. It will be exciting to have the conference in the Cities.

  2. I've never been to an AWP conference, but I'm definitely going to next year's.

  3. One of the other co-chairs is Jerod Santek, who was very friendly to kidlit-types while he was at the Loft. We should absolutely storm this thing, you guys, as both panelists and attendees. Let's make 2015 the year kidlit took over AWP.

  4. I'm there! Thansk for the call to adventure, Claire!

  5. Thanks, Claire, for this very helpful suggestion!

  6. Thanks, everybody. I hope you will consider putting in a proposal and attending April 2015. Exciting times.