Reid and Leah have left Seattle, as have the hordes of writers from all over. I could act like it was thrilling to see folks from NC–and it was–but I’ve ensured that I am never without access to liberal Southerners, even here in WA state.
AWP was much sillier than I anticipated; the longer I spend away from writers, the easier it is to forget that so many of them are comfortable in their cushions of class/race/cisgender privilege and choose to disregard the political nature of work such as teaching, creating worlds & stories, and, you know, working in contemporary capitalist frameworks.
Folks seemed content to pat themselves on the back for achieving PhDs–no small feat, to be sure–and for challenging their undergraduate students to adhere to the rigid, objective aesthetics of “good” writing that they soaked up in their various MFA programs.
Few people even mentioned that these same aesthetics have fostered an exclusionary, classist, racist, and sexist literary community since ancient times, fetishizing Western aesthetics as superior, and in fact, “civilized,” while relegating non-white authors to the status of “other.” This is still the case: Women’s Fiction, Asian-American poetry, LGBT/Special Interest.
I guess this is partially my own fault for insisting on attending the writing pedagogy panels, answering such banal questions as “how do we teach writing?” I care because I’m a professional writing tutor, but I also care because I acknowledge the political implications of literacy and language fluency. This is not a prerequisite for teachers of composition, either creative or academic.
On the bright side, the panels that I more or less stumbled upon in search of my friends ended up counteracting the cluelessness of the pedagogy panels: unlikeable women characters, queer literary communities, and publishing politics were all represented–if not always well-attended.
There has to be a formula for successful conference attendance, a code written into panel descriptions to clue attendees into the actual usefulness or self-awareness of each event. This may be something that I myself have to devise through trial and error–and the input of my fellow critical readers & writers.