April 6, 2016

The Association of Writers & Writing Programs held their annual conference, AWP, this past week in Los Angeles. The creative writing undergraduate and graduate programs were well represented at the event. Keep reading to learn more.

Below is a list of UMD participants at AWP, complied by Lindsay Bernal.

AWP 2016 Panels & Readings (ON-SITE) featuring UMD faculty, current students, and alumni


12 pm to 1:15 pm

Queertopia or Bust: Thoughts on Intersectional Queer Poetics . (Jason Schneiderman,  Rickey Laurentiis,  Julie Enszer,  Viet Le,  Trace Peterson) “Queer” emerged in the 1990s as an activist formation that challenged liberal politics and became the preferred term in academia for everyone who was not straight or normatively gendered. The inclusivity of “queer” has been contested by those who felt instrumentalized or excluded by the term. Though it continues to be useful as a rubric (and easier to say than “LGBTQIA”), is queer really working, and for whom? Four poet-editors discuss their experience at the intersections of queer identity.

Jason Schneiderman is an alum of the undergraduate program in Creative Writing; Julie Enszer is an alum of the MFA Program.

Room 407, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level


12 pm to 1:15 pm

The Radioactive Muse: Nuclear Disaster and Poetry. (Mihaela Moscaliuc,  Judith Vollmer,  April Naoko Heck ,  Lissa Kiernan,  Kathleen Flenniken) To commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and the 5th anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster (as well as the 70th anniversary, in 2015, of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki), four women poets whose lives have been marked by the nuclear industry read from their work and discuss the convergence of research and personal history in the making of their poems.

April Naoko Heck is an alum of the MFA Program.

Room 513, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level


1:30 pm to 12:45 pm

Extinction, Erasure, and the Living Practices of W. S. Merwin. (Stanley Plumly, David Baker,  Rosanna Warren,  Meghan O'Rourke) W. S. Merwin may be our greatest living poet—a poet of absence and erasure, whose 65-year poetic vocation traces words on a journey, he says, not the inscriptions of a settled people. Four poet-critics look at Merwin’s life and art to discuss this fruitful paradox—how grappling with the conditions of both linguistic erasure and natural extinction have led him to unparalleled works of presence and preservation in his poetry, his bountiful translations, and his devoted nature-conservancy.

Stanley Plumly is co-founder of the MFA Program and a member of the MFA faculty. Room 408 B, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level


3 pm to 4:15 pm

Does America Still Dream?: Depictions of Class, Poverty, and Social Im/mobility in Literature. (Dawn Dorland Perry,  Jennifer Haigh,  Brando Skyhorse,  Jodi Angel,  Teka-Lark Fleming) Authors writing across genre and form hold a transracial conversation about rendering poverty—child hunger, homelessness, upheavals of industry, prostitution, and incarceration—on the page. At stake is the easy conflation of class with ethnicity, the challenge of writing beyond experience, and the invisible, emotional costs of class ascendance. Can stories, novels, essays, poems, or memoirs galvanize these otherwise disconnected struggles? This is a report, via literature, on the state of the American dream.

Dawn Dorland Perry is an alum of the MFA Program.

Room 503, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level



3/31/16 (cont’d)

4:30 pm to 5:45 pm

 Rejecting "Page" vs. "Stage": A Drawbridge Reading. (Elizabeth Acevedo,  Clint Smith,  Amin Drew Law,  Terisa Siagatonu,  Pages Matam) Coming from both spoken word and formal literary backgrounds, and pushing back against the notion that these are mutually exclusive, the Drawbridge Collective gives a reading that reflects work imbued with dynamic performance and literary merit. The panel serves as an exhibition of new voices that traverse multiple genres and discuss what it means to be young artists of color at a time in America when many black and brown young people experience ubiquitous violence and discrimination.

Elizabeth Acevedo is an alum of the MFA Program.

Room 513, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level



10:30 am to 11:45 am

The Return of Aphrodite’s Daughter: Rhetoric in Contemporary Poetry. (Sharon Dolin, Phillis Levin,  Rosanna Warren,  Christina Pugh,  Blas Falconer) Persuasion is Aphrodite's daughter: It is she who beguiles our mortal hearts. So wrote Sappho 2,600 years ago, and rhetorical figures persist as the structural foundation of many memorable lines of poetry—from Mark Doty to Terrance Hayes to Lyn Hejinian. After a successful panel in Seattle, five contemporary poets return to discuss five different rhetorical figures, such as apostrophe, litotes, negatio, and prosopopeia, as they exist in their own poems and in those of poets they admire.

Blas Falconer is an alum of the MFA Program.

Room 403 B, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level


12 pm to 1:15 pm

 Competition and Creativity. (Lynn Pruett,  Lorraine Lòpez,  Blas Falconer,  Rebecca Gayle Howell,  Ansel Elkins) Does literary competition fuel better work, or does it jettison risk and originality? How does one write against the competition? Is artistic compromise required? Five award winners analyze the effect of competition on their creative processes, offer strategies for elevating the writing game, and discuss how winning an award has influenced their later work.

Blas Falconer is an alum of the MFA Program.

Room 501, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level


3 pm to 4:15 pm

 Women Writing Fiction in a Postfeminist Era. (Varley O'Connor,  Michelle Latiolais,  Emily Mitchell,  Lisa Alvarez,  Melissa Pritchard) What does postfeminism even mean? VIDA, the organization devoted to defining the current state of women in literature, has demonstrated with chilling exactitude the very real marginalization of contemporary women’s writing. Perhaps we may agree that the difficulties women writers face today are in need of analysis and discussion. The experienced women fiction writers on our panel share how they approach the problem at their writing tables, in publishing arenas, and in their classrooms.

Emily Mitchell is a member of the MFA facuty.

Room 402 AB, L.A. Convention Center, Meeting Room LA


4:30 pm to 5:45 pm

A Reading and Conversation with Douglas Kearney, Robin Coste Lewis, and Gregory Pardlo, Sponsored by Cave Canem. (Robin Coste LewisGregory Pardlo,  April Heck,  Douglas Kearney) Three poets read from collections that provoke new ways of seeing and thinking about culture, art, history, naming, race, and home. They discuss how strategies of experimental performative typography, meditations on the roles played by desire and race in the construction of the self, and autobiographical lyric poems connecting the complex intimacies of domestic life with the profound issues of our day create a seamless line between craft, vision, and critical thought.

April Naoko Heck is alum of the MFA Program.

Petree Hall, LA Convention Center, Exhibit Hall Level One


4/1/16 (cont’d)

4:30 pm to 5:45 pm

There's No "I" in "We": Writing Creative Nonfiction About the Groups We Belong To.(Maggie Mertens,  Honor Moore,  Huan Hsu,  Ainsley McWha,  Elissa Washuta) We all belong to groups. When we write creative nonfiction about our family, race, religion, gender, sexuality, generation, or industry, many of us struggle to balance and maintain our own first-person voice within a story that might be shared by many different people. Four writers who have navigated the tug of war between the "I" and the "We," of various groups, discuss how to successfully write first-person narratives that tell more than just one's own story.

Elissa Washuta is alum of the undergraduate proram in Creative Writing

Room 511, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level



9 am to 10:15 am

Succeed Better: The Many Ways Our Words Can Bear Fruit. (David Ebenbach, Anna McCormally,  Margaret Luongo,  Dawn Dorland Perry,  Amy Gottlieb) Faced with Amazon rankings, bestseller statuses, and zero-sum “top writer” lists, you might think that success is all about numbers—but numbers are the palest measure of what our work can do in the world. The writers and editors on this panel share personal stories about how writing can lead to poignant encounters, salved wounds, changed lives, and empowered people. This conversation broadens the definition of success to encompass the things that mean the most.

Anna McCormally is a current student in the MFA Program; Dawn Dorland Perry is an alum of the MFA Program.

Room 407, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level


1:30 pm to 2:45 pm

Four Way Books Reads: Part 2 with Gregory Pardlo and Others. (J.Mae Barizo,  Reginald Dwayne Betts,  Catherine Bowman,  Jonathan Wells,  Gregory Pardlo) Hear Pulitzer Prize winner Gregory Pardlo (Digest) read along with some of Four Way Books' Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 authors. All titles will be available for purchase at the Four Way Books' booths (610 & 612).

Reginald Dwayne Betts is an alum of the MFA Program.

Scott James Bookfair Stage, LA Convention Center, Exhibit Hall Level One


4/2/16 (cont’d)

3 pm to 4:15 pm

40th Anniversary Celebration of Calyx and Sinister Wisdom. (Jenny FactorJean Hegland,  Brenna Crotty,  Julie R. Enszer) Two venerable feminist publications celebrate their 40th anniversary of publishing in 2015. Calyx, a twice-yearly feminist journal that celebrates the excellence and diversity of women’s literature and art, and Sinister Wisdom, a quarterly multicultural lesbian literary and art journal, continue to publish vital new voices building on their long publishing history. Join the editors to celebrate both journals and the broad contributions of Calyx and Sinister Wisdom to feminist publishing.

Julie Enszer is an alum of the MFA Program.

Room 407, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level