In a week, I’ll be heading to Boston to attend AWP, the annual conference of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs. Although my grad school classmates attended several conferences in a row while I was enrolled in my MFA program, I generally couldn’t afford the plane ticket and hotel reservations, as working at LensCrafters part-time while in grad school doesn’t really leave a person rolling in extra cash.

Last year, though, the conference was in Chicago, which is just a few hours’ drive from where I live in Indiana. I reserved a hotel room with a friend from grad school, got my institution to cover the cost of my registration, and off I went for a long weekend.

The experience was certainly rewarding. I was inspired in both my writing and my teaching, I got the chance to socialize with friends from the internet and grad school. I bought far too many books/literary journals and scored several free ones. The thoughts that various presenters and conversations at AWP launched ended up being pretty important to my writing and teaching in the last year.  I got the idea to re-launch this blog at AWP, and to teach an entire composition syllabus based on the theme of superhero movies. Just last week I used a specific graphic novel strategy that I learned at AWP to introduce a concept to my creative writing students.

Last year's AWP Take-Home pile

Last year’s AWP take-home pile: books, books, books! And some pencils!

This year, I am excited that the conference is in Boston. Although I don’t know the city extremely well, I do have some familiarity with it after living for nearly four years just an hour away from it. I’ll be squeezing a lot into the weekend: conference sessions, keynote addresses, dinners with grad school friends, dinners with internet friends, some grading, and some long walks in Boston. Ruthie will fly out there with me and stay in New Hampshire with the babysitter who watched her until she was eighteen months old.

This is the only conference I’m attending this academic year, so I want to make the most of it.

Take a look at these featured presenters and readers: Seamus Heaney! Jeanette Winterson! Alison Bechdel! Tom Perotta!

That, of course, is just the surface.

Looking through that list of presenters and the full intimidating schedule, who would you make a point to listen to? Who would you recommend that I not miss?