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AWP Conference & Bookfair 2019: A Recap

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In 2019, the Association for Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) Conference & Bookfair was held in Portland, OR. Exhibitors and attendees alike flocked to Portland this year, with the AWP welcoming nearly 15,000 writers, teachers, students, editors, publishers, and exhibitors.

Poetry was on everyone’s minds this year, with many booths hosting poets and poetry titles, and bookstores around town hosting poetry readings. Saturnalia Books’ poets that came to the AWP read on Friday night at an event hosted at Mother Foucault Bookshop. Noelle Allen of Wolsak & Wynn Publishers had a booth but was able to take some time out and come visit.

Exhibitors’ booths varied widely, with the bulk of exhibitors being either publishers selling titles and other writing-related items, or University Master programs for graduates. IPG’s booth was located in an aisle on the outside of the main floor, but we were near to the Powell’s book kiosk so received quite a bit of traffic through our area. We had an empty booth to one side, but the other side was an MFA program and across the aisle were two writer’s programs and a booth for chiropractic care items.

Discussing her experience at AWP is Jenna Grimm, Academic Marketing Specialist at IPG.

What was your primary objective for attending AWP and what were you most excited for?
JG: 
This was my first time attending the AWP and I was very excited to meet and mingle with so many amazing presses, writers, and other exhibitors.

How was this year’s show different from others you’ve been to in the past?
JG:
 Though I have not attended the AWP before, I was told by many other exhibitors that this year’s location in Portland boosted the attendance numbers quite a bit. Many people that came to the booth the first day were excited but a bit overwhelmed by the sheer size of the conference, as well as the exhibitor hall.

What was the show’s biggest success, in your opinion?
JG: Attendees were excited by the amount of panels, classes, workshops, etc., and the large amount of events going on around town after the official conference hours had closed.  Though the exhibitor’s hall was enormous, booths were spread out enough that the space was not cramped and different areas of interest had been placed throughout the hall to draw people to each aisle.

What would you like to see differently next year, either on the part of the show or of IPG?
JG: The book selection we chose drew interest, but this show is more a trade show than an academic show. I think we would benefit by having a larger selection of trade books, along with our academic titles. The titles we brought on literary criticism received no interest, but our fiction, poetry, and anthologies did. Titles by POC and our books on poetry held the most interest this year.

What was your main takeaway?
JG: 
For connecting with publishers and presses looking for a distributor or reaching out to self-published authors and letting them know what we offer, this show is a clear success. It is a more trade-oriented show, and we would do well to have flyers/pamphlets about our distribution service to hand out as people show interest. It would be wonderful if in 2020 we might be able to organize a panel with our publishers and authors that attend about distribution in the publishing industry – what a distributor offers, who we represent, and how we can help presses and writers get a bigger foothold in the publishing industry.

AWP 2020 will be held March 4th – 7th, 2020 in San Antonio, Texas.

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