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Reflection - AWP Conference inspires students to pursue their passion for writing

Kansas City is peak midwest; the plains are vast, dotted occasionally with houses built long before the airport our group landed in was planned. The earth is green and brown in the most honest way, and as we walked out with our suitcases out to the rideshare strip of airport pick-up, my optimism about this trip only grew. 

In February, AWP–Association of Writers and Writers Programs–held its annual writing conference in Kansas City. It’s one of if not the biggest gathering of writers in North America, attracting universities, journals, reviews, bookshops, and writers guilds. Anyone who wants to write or be involved with writing may attend. It was at this conference that, as has happened in the past, my passion for writing found room to blossom. The sprawling book fair stationed adjacent to the check-in desks was thriving with writing, with people eager to speak to you about MFA programs, and opportunities for free submission of work to various journals, reviews and magazines. Beneath the bookfair, divided among two floors, two buildings, and a thousand rooms, were the panels. Published writers took to tables to talk to attendees, and educate them on topics such as trauma in writing, writing fiction, the world of publishing; through presentations and Q&As. This is what my group and I flew to Kansas City for: to stew in a world concentrated entirely on writing. 

One of my favorite parts of this trip was a panel I attended on the “structure” of essays. The majority of what I write and read is the informal essay–-a form in creative writing that does not adhere to traditional structure, and focuses on the writers’ ideas and reflections—oftentimes nonfiction and memoir in nature. I plan on completing and publishing a collection of my own essays, so this panel was extremely important for me. It gave me an opportunity to hear from a handful of excellent writers, including Melissa Febos, whose work is a cornerstone of understanding my own craft. It was enlightening to hear these writers discuss the difficulties of forming a book around essays, and strategies they used to navigate the challenges of organizing something that is near to impossible to visualize. 

The panel was not the only experience that was transformational on the AWP trip. It was the mere exposure to a new environment, one with people just as passionate about me as the written word, that really helped me refocus my attention towards my own writing and the imminent need for me to begin filling out MFA applications. I have been and will no doubt continue to feel daunted by closing out this phase of my life at Ohio Wesleyan University, as I’ll be graduating next Spring, but the excitement of attending a program where my main goal is to write, rejuvenates me, and keeps me pushing along with classes and campus life as the end nears. This trip, in many ways, gave me the space I needed to remember what the important bits of my life are, and where I was wasting energy worrying and ruminating on the uncertain future. Traveling for school related purposes in general, is refreshing, and has consistently given me moments where I was able to gain perspective, and come back to my studies with a more headstrong attitude. I’m grateful OWU gave me this opportunity, and grateful that there will be more to come as time goes by. 

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