On Feb. 27, BFA students John McDonough, Olivia Lawrance, and Taylor Shaw, former editors of the student-run Gihon River Review, met Assistant Professors of Writing and Literature Jacob White and Elizabeth Powell in Chicago for the Annual Association of Writers and Writing programs (AWP) convention.
The AWP convention functions as an opportunity to “engage students in the world of literary publishing and editing, as well as giving them an opportunity to meet with and learn about various MFA programs,” said Powell.
The entirety of Powell’s Editing and Publishing class was invited to attend the trip. Those who voiced interest successfully solicited funds from the Student Government Association.
While funding issues were resolved, other problems nearly derailed the trip.
Johnson State was not registered for the conference, and when Powell attempted to do so, she learned registration was closed. She was nevertheless able to resolve the problem, putting the trip back on schedule.
“Getting the trip organized was a challenge,” said Lawrance. “There were many setbacks that ultimately reduced the number of students able to attend, although I feel that our small group functioned very well and that a larger group would have been much more complicated to deal with.”
Shaw, Lawrance, and McDonough used their SGA grant money to attend the AWP writers’ conference and the book fair, where they represented The Green Mountains Review.
“We listened in on some really interesting panels and readings, looked at a few MFA programs, found some great-looking magazines to submit to,” said Shaw. “I talked to a small independent press where I’m in the process of applying for a layout internship. We did a lot of booth time at the book fair, when we weren’t going to panels and readings, and sold a lot of magazines, got submissions for GMR’s (Green Mountains Review) poetry and fiction contests, also solicited some submissions for GMR and Gihon.”
The consensus was that the trip was a success partly because of the smaller group.
“One particularly helpful event that myself and the two other students attended was the FUSE caucus, which was a meeting of undergraduate students involved in undergraduate-run literary publications,” said Lawrance. “The caucus gave us many new ideas that could be applied to The Gihon River Review, Johnson’s own undergrad magazine.”
Apart from the conference, book fair, and the panels, the three students had free time to see the ins and outs of Chicago.
“We didn’t have plans outside of the conference, so in our free time we wandered to different tourist attractions and quested for the best deep-dish pizza,” said Shaw.
“My main goal in attending the conference was both to enrich myself creatively, and to look at my options in the creative community,” said Lawrance. “I left the conference having met with people involved in graduate-level creative writing programs across the country, and am excited to begin my application process.”