Glad to have contributed a post to the blog of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) College Creative Writing Caucus. It synthesizes writing strategies and pedagogical approaches to encourage bilingual/multilingual/ESL college students to write in English, derived from the AWP 2020 panel I moderated earlier this year.
Just came out in the Spring 2020 issue of the bi-monthly California Writers Club Bulletin: my article “A Writers’ Convention That Almost Didn’t Happen” (excerpted on this site), a firsthand account of the #AWP20 congress that barely made it under the wire of the pandemic.
Every year, thousands of writers travel to the annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference, the largest literary convention in North America with an upwards of 10,000 attendees, 700 exhibitors, and 500 programmed events. This year, however, was special. The coronavirus pandemic cast doubt on this giant event until March 2, just two days before its start, when the organizers and the host city of San Antonio, TX, confirmed it was going forward . . .
A venerable California institution, California Writers Club, founded in 1909, is one of the nation’s oldest professional clubs for writers. The Bulletin itself was launched in 1913. With 22 branches throughout the state offering workshops, contests, and conferences, CWC “is dedicated to educating writers of all levels and disciplines in the craft of writing and in the marketing of their work.” Glad to be part of it.
#awp20 #awp2020 #AWPocalypse #CaliforniaWritersClub
Every year, thousands of writers flock to the annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference, the largest literary convention in North America.
This year, however, was special. The coronavirus pandemic cast doubt on this giant event until March 2, just two days before its start, when the organizers and the host city of San Antonio, TX, confirmed it was going forward.
Despite many attendees’ choosing to stay home and the cancellations of up to a half panels – quickly dubbed on Instagram as #AWPocalypse – #AWP20 was still a vibrant event. Many panels reconstituted themselves with new panelists, while the readings and the Bookfair proceeded as planned.
I spoke on the panel “More Than Me: Memoirists Looking Outward,” which focused on memoir as a tool to spotlight larger social issues like the ethics of science and medicine, drug policy, race, sexuality, and, in my case, family formation and public adoption systems in America today. Our panel’s 200 attendees asked probing questions and stayed on afterwards to discuss the issues raised in our books. The panel was organized by Alia Volz (far right), and included (R-L) Barrie Jean Borich, Samuel Autman, Ming Holden, and me.
The next day, I moderated another panel, called “Nurturing Future Danticats, Nabokovs, and Vuongs: Engaging Multilingual & ESL College Students in Creative Writing.” Counting a last-minute replacement of a non-attending panelist, our panel had four English instructors – Marlys Cervantes, Sharon Romero, Carla Sameth, and me – sharing working strategies on how to destigmatize these students’ voices and tailor writing pedagogies to their needs. Besides presenting the strategies and examples that we brought with us, we fielded some great questions from the audience of, roughly, 30.
As a memoirist, I couldn’t miss the panels related to my field, but also some that satisfied my professional interests, such as how to finish a long-term writing project, keep the readers’ interested past the first 70 pages, or navigate the publishing world after a book deal.
AWP is also a great place to have your writing heard. Friday, March 6, I read “When the County Is the Parent,” an essay excerpt from my memoir Dispositions, at the group reading of the AWP 2-Year College Creative Writing Caucus off-site. The reaction, just as when I read a portion of it at the memoir panel, was visceral, and I was asked numerous times when the book would finally be out.
This was a most unusual AWP, that barely made under the wire of the pandemic curfew, but still a deeply gratifying experience.
Loved being part of the “Our Families, Our Stories: Writing and Parenting in the Trenches” apanel t 2019 Lambda LitFest with Michael Kearns, Carla Sameth, Pat Alderete, and Aimee Rowe, and reading there the opening chapter of my book Dispositions. From a lesbian Mom with a child from a short-lived straight marriage, to a pioneering, single HIV-positive Dad, to two gay Moms raising their kids, each with her own, unique path, to our story, we presented a wide range of moving parenting experiences.
To me, the last 15 years have also been an experience of being both in and outside the traditional parenting narrative. What sets gay male parenting apart is that it is a 100% intentional endeavor. We have fought an uphill fight, and have come a long way. In 2019, our right to parent is a reality, but any way you look at it, parenting remains of little interest to many within our community. And it’s fine because it’s how it should be: intentional, not a slip-up, a by-product, or a means to end.
Please come to our panel “Our Families, Our Stories: Writing and Parenting in the Trenches” at Lambda Literary Festival. Here’s the panel description:
For those LGBTQ writers who are parents, the realities of parenthood intersects at every level of the professional author experience. Queer parents are often intentional in creating their families and in how they position their identities as writers, from craft to publication and marketing. Markedly so when you define yourself as other than a traditional “parent” and know how much words matter.
This interdisciplinary program features diverse authors who have published in multiple genres in magazines and books. The queer parenting experience is historically underrepresented and is now a rising area of focus in literary publishing.
Panelists will talk about how they both write about and interrogate some of the assumptions of parenting today.
Readings (fiction/memoir/poetry), followed by discussion.
In April, Los Angeles Collegian – the student newspaper of Los Angeles City College – interviewed me about the UCLA / Medical Humanities project for their Facebook / YouTube newscast called Collegian Wired – East Hollywood News. I participated in the development of this new major at UCLA in October 2018-March 2019 as an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow with the UCLA Excellence in Pedagogy and Innovative Classrooms (EPIC) Program. The broadcast went live May 17 and is about 10 minutes long. Since my UCLA segment does not appear until about 5 minutes into it, I am posting here the video segment itself which Collegian Wired has excerpted for me.
On the closing night of the conference, I read my new short story “Saviors or Vultures?” based on a chapter from my memoir Dispositions, at a reading organized by the AWP College Writing Caucus at Café Marino Adriatico in the Division district.
A perfect way to cap off a writing conference.
It took me almost 2 days to get through the AWP 2019 bookfair. It is enormous, but then everything about this conference is enormous: 15,000 attendees ant-crawling through the convention center, 30 concurrent talk tracks, the enormous lines, and the ensuing networking and camaraderie.
Among my bookfair finds is a collection of Tel Aviv noir; gemlike essays on obscure figures from the Age of Enlightenment written by a shy Midwestern poet I heard earlier that day; a volume of Californian eco-poetry, which includes my friend Caryn Davidson; latest issues of the famed Virginia Quarterly Review (#VQR), all but given away to lighten the publisher’s suitcase. (And now weighing down mine.)
Every Child Deserves a Family campaign website launched earlier this week supports the efforts to “win and conserve protections” for gay families nationwide. I am simply delighted to have our family photo featured on it. (Click and scroll down to the “LGBTQ Families” section.) We’ve been proudly supporting ECDF, in particular, the work of Family Equality Council, which is leading it.
PS. In this 2007 photo, the kids are 1 and 3.