That’s a whole lot of acronyms, so suffice to say the Blue Mesa Review staff is about to hit the airways for the Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference in Portland that starts next Thursday. In anticipation of AWP, the BMR staff has been scoping out the panels we’re most looking forward to checking out when we’re not working our table (T2057) at the bookfair.
Hayley Peterson, Editor in Chief
Just screen-shotted this panel to former Blue Mesa Review Editor-in-Chief Brenna Gomez and said “Holy shit!!! A thousand times yes to this one!!!”—so you could say I’m pretty excited for a panel on desire, sex, the body, and power with some of my favorite queer authors. As a queer woman writing a memoir about sex, I’ve heard all the critiques in the book. Creating space for this kind of bodily presence on the page makes some readers uncomfortable—it’s easy to dismiss as overly sensual, pornographic, or gratuitous. But how can we write about life and privilege and power without addressing the specifics of sex, the body, and desire?
Mitch Marty, Managing Editor (incoming Associate Editor)
I grew up in a rural Wisconsin town with a population of 626 people. When I was ten, I moved to the next town over in the same school district, a booming metropolis of 4,200. The more I’ve written about these places in recent years, the stranger and more eclectic they feel. In the panel, five novelists will “highlight small town ‘characters’ and the way rural fiction often includes nature itself as a character,” which seems ideal for addressing my curiosities with how other authors approach writing rural in their work, and the way small towns can function in other ways through narrative.
Ari McGuirk, Fiction Editor (incoming Managing Editor)
I’ve been tinkering at a memoir for a year now and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve asked myself, “What’s the point?” In most of the magazines I read and, in the submissions sent to me at Blue Mesa Review, one thing is clear: shorter work is trending, which is bad news for me. The story I initially thought I could wrap up in a neat 200 pages feels more like an unwieldy 450-page behemoth. So, I’m elated that there’s a panel arguing that longform nonfiction is on the rise. On Friday morning, “Going Long: Editors and Writers of Longform Nonfiction in Conversation” will discuss if certain subjects demand a deep dive over brevity and the technical challenges facing the genre. As a writer still exploring the possibilities in creative nonfiction, I’m really looking forward to this panel.
Ryan Murphy, Nonfiction Editor
For AWP 19, I am particularly excited to see a shared reading between Kaveh Akbar, Fady Joudah, and Jos Charles. Akbar’s Calling a Wolf a Wolf is a rapturous meditation balancing the sublime beauty of the religious with visceral honesty that makes the poems land. Charles’ feeld was probably my favorite book of 2018. Her manipulation of language into a faux middle English left me breathless and I can’t wait to hear these poems performed. While I’m less familiar with Fady Joudah’s work, I look forward to becoming better acquainted at this reading. The reading will be on Friday 29 March from 1:30-2:45.
Friday morning, Vandana Khanna, Kazim Ali, Blas Falconer, Jenny Johnson, and Traci Brimhall will offer a roundtable discussion on the interplay between poetic canons and innovation. I’ve always had an interest in the ways that poetry can point backwards and forwards at the same time, so seeing this panel explore that territory is going to be a richly rewarding experience. The panel is from 10:30-11:45AM.
Tori Cárdenas, Poetry Editor (incoming Editor in Chief)
As incoming Editor-in-Chief, I want to reconnect Blue Mesa Review and UNM’s English Department to the community. BMR has a long history at UNM, but not so much in the community that it exists in. I want to find new ways to make connections between our readers and Albuquerque, so that our magazine can both deepen its roots in New Mexico, and share that culture and beauty with the world. My focus will be to make connections between the English Department and the community writers and artists of Albuquerque and the culture here. This is a chance for us to diversify and connect the people of New Mexico to the larger literary community.
I’m very excited to take up the EIC role, but anyone who knows me knows that ‘practical’ is only in my vocabulary when combined with ‘joke.’ Hopefully, I will also absorb techniques and advice from these panels that will help me with some of the practical elements of running the magazine.
Mario Montoya, Graduate Reader, MFA in Nonfiction (incoming Fiction Editor)
Choosing one panel/event I’m excited for was daunting. There are so many intriguing discussions going on this year. Conversations revolving around the Southwest and the border interest me. There’s even a panel dedicated to disabled writers that I must attend, being that I’m a writer in a wheelchair. Yet, I’d like to prioritize my obligations as incoming fiction editor by learning some things I can contribute to the magazine. Recently, as a staff, we discussed ways to be more inclusive, making sure our publication is made up of a variety of voices/ identities. With that in mind, I’ll definitely attend: “How Literary Magazines Cultivate Meaningful Inclusivity.” The speakers are editors of color, who will discuss staffing, mentoring and editing practices that take people of color into consideration. They’re offering strategies that support and attract writers of color as well. This information can be massively beneficial to our team.
Remember to stop by Table 2057 at the bookfair to meet the BMR staff, see our latest issue, pick up some swag, and find out which phenomenal authors we have lined up for our summer contest judges. See you in Portland!