AWP 2019 was a huge success! We had so much fun connecting with WITS Alliance members, hosting and attending dynamic panels and readings, and meeting writers from across the country. See some highlights from our time in Portland below!

Panel highlights:

  • Literary Changemakers: Representation & Visibility in the Writing World

Panelists: Tina Cane, Suzi Garcia, Natalie Lima, Eloisa Amezcua, Justin Jannise

Natalie Lima talking about ways that University of Arizona helped increase diversity to 65% of writers of color–how we can’t consider race without class, and how the program established a scholarship for first generation college graduates.

  • Poets Vs. Poets: Dismantling the Bias Against Performance Poetry

Panelists: Monica Prince, Paul Tran, Safia Elhillo, Denice Frohman, Bill Moran

“Slam is a team sport… [the reason I’m a poet] is having this human interaction, this touch… language is important, but I come to AWP because I love my people and I want to see my community.” – Safia Elhillo on the importance of community building in her poetic life

  • Revolutionary Voices: Harnessing the Power of Language

Panelists: Desireé Dallagiacomo, Ellen Hagan, Merna Hecht, Jake Vermaas

“We are pushing away any stereotype of each other, or what teachers have about students. We are creating dialogue…we are creating a space with no assumptions.” – Ellen Hagan on the work being done to support students in the Bronx through the DreamYard Project

  • Challenging Tokenization: Writers of Colors Respond

Panelists: Analicia Sotelo, Chris Santiago, Janine Joseph, Tiphanie Yanique, Leslie Sainz

“Tokenization is the appearance of equity.” – Leslie Sainz speaking on the ways people of color working in publishing are often encouraged to solicit other writers of color without seeing structural changes to the industry

“What do we when we find ourselves as tokens?…I’m using that power of tokenization to hire new diverse staff, expose new voices… but it’s a lot of work.” – Tiphanie Yanique on her work as a professor and how she is using her power to impact change

  • A Job of One’s Own: How to Create a Professional Life That Works for You

Panelists: Meggie Monahan, Natalia Sylvester, Ramiza Koya, Nancy Reddy, Jesse Donaldson

“I launched a company, commissioned a logo, DIYed my own website and business cards. I learned how to quote clients, draft up contracts, invoice them and make sure I was paid on time. All the while, I applied these same research/obsession skills to publishing and the craft of writing, attending every conference and workshop I could afford and/travel to. If an author was in town, I went to their book signing. If they were teaching a workshop at my library or through an organization, I signed up. This was my way of cobbling together a DIY MFA. I am fully aware that it might not be what would work for everyone—the path to publishing and even alternate paths are structured in favor of those with certain and often very different kinds of privilege…” – Natalie Sylvester on how she started her own copywriting business while working toward the publication of her first novel

  • Safe Writing Spaces: Building Community Through Literary Advocacy

Panelists: Angela So, Cathy Linh Che, Elizabeth Bryant, Renée Watson, Michael Martinez

“We try to create spaces of intimacy… every retreat begins with an opening circle for every single person to speak and listen to each other” – Cathy Linh Che on how Kundiman creates a space of vulnerability for writers of color to create community

“We’re always asking ‘where are you from, where are you now, where do you want to go… what’s happening in the world, and what do you want to say about it?’” – Renee Watson on the important questions she asks the youth at the I, Too, Arts Collective

  • Off-site Reading at Literary Arts:

“Fear kept me loving one man… even when he was so clearly designed for oceans when I cannot swim” – Monica Prince


Thank you to all our panelists and partners. See you in San Antonio for AWP 2020!

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