AWP – Blue Mesa Style

With AWP starting Thursday, we’ve been planning how to best spend our time, aside from nightly dance party and open bar. When not tearing up the dance floor or working our table (T338), the Blue Mesa Review staff shares the panels they’re most looking forward to attending.

Steve Howe, Editor in Chief

My MFA experience is wrapping up this spring, and I’ve been working on an essay collection for my final manuscript. I’ve felt the nature of the project has left me too steeped in traditional form. Once this project is done, I’ll need to reinvigorate my interest in atypical forms of the essay, so I’m looking forward to the Friday morning session, SpeculativeNonfiction: The Act of Invention in the Context of Reality.” The panel promises to “define speculative nonfiction as writing in which actual or verifiable material is not at war with material invented/extrapolated/speculated/fantasized.” I’ve read the work of most of the panel and have been moved by the chances they take, so this one is a “can’t miss” for me.

Lydia Wassan, Managing Editor

This AWP, I’m going for panels that dig into the nitty-gritty of getting a book published: manuscripts, the editing process, agents, contracts, and all that. I’m thinking a great place to start is “How Do I Know When This Thing Is Done? featuring some high-level editors (also writers in their own right) and literary agents. I’m expecting savvy insights about editing nearly-finished manuscripts. I also be attending “Writing Before You Write: How to Write a Book Proposal,” which discusses shaping a Nonfiction book proposal so publishers will bite. Oh, and I’ll be up early for Yoga for Writers, too.

Fiction Editor, Tatiana Duvanova

I’m looking forward to “Structuring the Novel: Methods, Approaches, Ideas,” featuring Janet Fitch, Lindsey Drager, Christian Kiefer, Matthew Salesses, Derek Palacio, because I should really be working on my first novel right now instead of procrastinating with the help of short stories and essays. I hope this panel will help me figure out where to start and how to approach a project that quite frankly seems unwieldy as of now. Most importantly, I am looking for a kick in the butt. And I just want to see Janet Fitch—I loved White Oleander in my time.

Ruben Rodriguez, Poetry Editor

I’ve been going to AWP for the last five years. This year, I am excited to see some of my friends present at the conference. I wholeheartedly suggest getting up early on Saturday to see the panel “Re-defining a Writer’s Success Through Intuition, Vulnerability, and Community Service.  I am most interested in the “Community Service” aspect of the discussion. I would like to see more writing programs, including my own, become the bridge between the academy and the community inhabiting university locals. I believe that this panel with offer some insight on how to do just that.

Hayley Peterson, Nonfiction Editor (incoming Editor-in-Chief)

The panel I’m most looking forward to is In Search of Our Essays’ Mother(s): Women and the History of the Essay.” Although most of my contemporary reading list is made up of female writers, I find that in my coursework and in my own personal research, it’s difficult to find the same presence even going back only 50 years. How does the female essayist fit into the canon? How has she changed the canon? I want to know.

Tori Cardenas, Graduate Reader, MFA in Poetry (incoming Poetry Editor)

This AWP is going to be my first, and there are way too many panels that look super interesting. However, I’m proud that a lot of panels are following a theme of resistance. “Writing Resistance: LGBTQ Writing as a Platform for Change” looks particularly cool, and specifically features “LGBTQ writers known for their politically driven content, who use their writing as a platform for activism and change.” I mean, I’m in. Duh. And “This Pussy Fights Back: Poems of Witness and Resistance” would go well with “Stranger and Truthier Than Truth: Fiction in the Age of Tr*mp” but they’re at the same time. So, I’m going to have to decide between these two at some point. I’ll definitely be at the LGBTQ Caucus, so I can talk with my fellow queers about issues of the day, like body politics and why I can’t find a tailor to fix the extra-small men’s suit I found on ThredUp.

Mitch Marty, Graduate Reader, MFA in Fiction (incoming Associate Editor)

It’s safe to say I still have far too many panels I’m interested in attending, but the one that stands out is “Writing Dementia: How We Give Voice to Fragmentation and Decline with Erin Coughlin Hollowell, Brendan Constantine, Kate Carroll de Gutes, Sarah Leavitt, and Tina Schumann. I spent a substantial amount of time in the nursing home with my great grandma who lived with Alzheimer’s disease when I was a child. And as I’ve seen dementia creep into the lives of aging family members, I’ve been reflecting more on how my identity and relationships have been shaped by this over time. This panel offers a unique perspective on how to write about these experiences through the lens of the panelists’ recent works.


Remember to stop by table 338 to visit with BMR staff, see our latest issue, and learn about the truly amazing judges we have on tap for our summer contest. Really, we’re blown away and think you will be, too. See you in Tampa!