Courtney Maum

Hello and welcome to AWP Boston! Whether this is your first time joining the world’s largest assembly of writers, or if you make the pilgrimage each year, this is the place to compare your own fears and anxieties with other peoples’. Please note: the FAQs are organized by participant-type. Enjoy!


Q: Is the bookfair open to the public?

A: We are contractually obligated to open the bookfair to the general public on the last day of the conference so that Brides-to-Be can assess the capacity and noise levels of the host’s event spaces. If a person who works outside of the publishing industry shows up at your booth and he/she isn’t a bride, please notify the Hospitality Center immediately so that the host hotel can claim their “we had a real-live non-writer person show up at the bookfair” prize.

Q: When must I leave the bookfair exhibit hall?

A: Most Bookfair Exhibitors choose to leave the exhibit hall when they are deprived of all dignity, compassion and patience, and/or when they run out of Aspirin. This usually takes place around 5:30 p.m. each day.

Q: May I share my personal exhibit space with another vendor?

A: Our legal team has advised us not to answer this.

Q: There is a person who submits five stories a week hovering by our table. What should I do/say?

A: Does this person subscribe to your magazine? No? Write down “you’d have a better chance at understanding what we do publish if you actually read our mag” on a piece of paper, fashion the paper into an origami elephant and throw it at their head.

If this person is a subscriber: After complimenting them on their prolificacy, be honest about the reasons why you’ve rejected all their stories. If the submitter exhibits any signs of trembling, sweating or nausea, give them a free pen (Editors Note: Due to the rising cost of publishing, especially witty blog essays, Tin House will no longer be giving out free pens at AWP. We will still be providing competitive insurance quotes ).


 Q: What does AWP stand for?

A: AWP stands for “Awkward Writers’ Powwow.” Some people will tell you that AWP stands for “The Association of Writers and Writing Programs” but if that were true, the acronym wouldn’t be AWP, so duh.

Q: Socially and professionally, what should I expect?

A: Expect the world, writer! The world, and nothing less! Whether you are distributing galleys of your self-published zombie romance novel; are looking for the right home for your chapbook of short stories narrated from the POVs of different household appliances; or you’re just hoping to make some like-minded, writing and reading-obsessed friends—you’ve come to the right place!

Q: I feel embarrassed calling myself a writer. Am I a writer?

A: Much has been made about the existential, psychological and even financial ramifications of answering this question in the affirmative. This friendly little quiz will help you find your way:

-Do you own a pet?

– Is that pet a cat?

– Do you, right at this moment, have a weathered plastic baggie of exotic nuts inside your bag?

Is that bag a tote bag?

– Do you get irritated when other people talk about themselves, instead of you?

– Are you fussy about beer?

Are you fussy about beer because you can’t afford good wine?

– Would you say, on average, that you are the proprietor of mostly sensible shoes, except for that one pair you save for the nights you want to “party?”

– Are you at home right now, in loungewear, reading this on a screen? If we said that you hadn’t brushed your teeth yet, would we be right?

If you answered yes to three or more questions, congratulations, you’re a writer! Welcome to AWP!

Q: Do I have to register for each individual panel or reading that I want to attend?

A: You don’t, but if you intend on going to panels and participating in the Q&A section at the end, please be advised that actual “questions” will not be tolerated by the Awkward Writers’ Powwow, and could result in your removal from the exhibit halls.

Many new conference attendees have a difficult time understanding the difference between a question and a statement. A “question” is a sentence worded to procure information of some sort. Usually, the “question” will demonstrate that the “questioner” has been listening to the panel presentation, and the presenter’s response will benefit the public’s experience as a whole.

A “statement” is a self-promotional vehicle that informs panel attendees, conference presenters, and other strangers about the nature of the writing project you are currently working on and where you are in terms of literary representation and/or financial compensation. The themes of the “statement” should have nothing whatsoever to do with the subject matter of the panel.

Please do not come to panel discussions with “questions.” The conference presenters will be thrown off.

Q: I don’t live too far from Boston. Should I bring my car?

A: Yes! You should absolutely do this! And make sure to stop by the Tin House booth at table 1015 so that we can coordinate our off-site event pick-up and drop-off needs in accordance with the size, make, model and availability of your car.

Q: Will it be cold?

A: Since its founding in 1967, AWP has endeavored to provide attendees with an unflinching reflection of the writing life. Accordingly, AWP is held in locales with climatic conditions ranging from “unsympathetic” to “extremely hostile” to humans. This year’s conference takes place during the first week of March in Boston, Massachusetts, a meteorological combination that should guarantee discomfort for all.

Q: When must I leave the bookfair exhibit hall?

A: One never really “leaves” the bookfair at AWP. Indeed, our souls—our very life forces—will forever strive to return to the carpeted corridors where so many hearts were raised above sixty beats a minute by the mere thought of books! Thankfully, our brand new AWP store offers a great selection of travel mugs, clip-on reading lights, dry-bound erasers, adult footie pajamas and other fab accessories to bring the writing life back home.

Q: Does the conference provide time to meet with literary agents about manuscripts?

A: Due to time and space constraints, unfortunately, we don’t. However, the exits in the Hynes Convention Center are ill-lit and inconveniently placed, so you might try chasing down your preferred agent through our vast network of halls.


Q: One of the people I’m presenting with just got a way bigger advance for her collection of personal essays than I did. How should I prepare for my panel presentation?

A: All of the attendees’ questions will be directed towards your more financially successful colleague, so you don’t need to prepare much. Try not to glare at your colleague while she’s talking: the panel presentations are filmed.

Q: Has anyone else had it with the public knitting?

A: Yes, it can be tiresome! But much like creative writing, the fiber arts also has a muse, and she can’t be called off just because you are delivering a lecture on “Surviving and Thriving Without an MFA.” Remember: whether it’s checking your “mention” feed on Twitter after your latest HuffPo post or grieving over the uselessness of your B.A in English while talking to that ass-wipe ex-friend of yours who’s now a successful bond trader, sometimes, you multitask, too!

Q: May I serve alcoholic beverages at my panel presentation?

A: That depends. Are you Benjamin Percy? If you are Benjamin Percy, you may. If not: you have enough alcohol in your system already. No.

Courtney Maum is a writer who just keeps writing things. She can be found at, on Twitter @cmaum, or at home in her adult footie pajamas.