A few months ago I found out that a trip to the 2012 AWP conference in Chicago would be fully funded by my university. Chicago is only about a 6 hour drive from Oxford, Ohio and any gathering of writers is a place I want to be. Besides, conferences are part of the whole “grad school experience” and I don’t want to miss out!
Since I’ve never been to a conference before, I am still not sure what to expect. Many of my assumptions about conferences and conventions are based on The Office or the origin story for Legionnaires’ disease. In truth, I am going in almost completely blind. Luckily, some of my peers attended last year and had some suggestions for how I should spend my time. Unfortunately, their suggestions were varying: some advising I attend lots of seminars so I can to learn as much as possible, others saying to skip seminars all together and stick to off-sight events and parties. Some even thought it would be time better spent to hang out in the city, maybe check out the aquarium.
But the best advice I received about attending conferences actually came from Chuck Sambuchino who runs the Writer’s Digest Guide to Literary Agents Blog, and who has been keeping me the busiest during my WD internship. He suggested that if I attend any seminars to take notes and blog about them (so expect a number post-AWP posts coming soon!) Chuck also advised me to get to know people and make connections over drinks, after verifying that I was over 21 of course. And, since I will get to spend some time working at the Writer’s Digest booth at the Book Fair, Chuck suggested that I not to fan-girl around any big-name writers, but instead act professional–like someone that people should want to get to know.
So here I am, making an itinerary of scheduled events, break times and meals, just to make sure I don’t walk in completely lost. Hopefully I’ll have a buddy with me to make sure I don’t wander off, but it’s a big event–sold-out this year–and knows what people will want to do and see? I am still a little nervous because this will be a completely new experience for me, but I figure that if I take a deep breath, shake a few hands and have a good time, things will work out just fine.
As for the Chicago traffic getting in and out of the city….pray for me.