Sharing the AWP Love: Accumulated Wisdom Posts.

April 7, 2016 § 18 Comments

Janice Gary

Janice Gary

By Janice Gary

It’s too big, too rushed, too crazy with choices. But for a writer, there is nothing like the AWP. Every year, I look forward to attending with both excitement and dread. In the end, it’s always worth the trouble. I fill up with inspiration, writer camaraderie and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.

The inspiration (and sugar high) lasts about week, maybe less. This time, to keep the AWP mojo going, I’ve decided to revisit one gem of wisdom a day from my semi-indecipherable notes. The content is telling. Memoir. Personal Narrative. Some poetry. (I did wander into a translation panel by accident and stayed long enough to be polite and catch my breath. As a panelist, I’m sensitive to flagrant bolting.)

The quotes and snatches of conversation are pale ghosts of the experience, but act like touchstones. And some are quite moving. For those who were not able to attend this year, or those who did not take notes (you know who you are), here are my notes in one overwhelming rush – just like the real thing.

AWP 2016 : Accumulated Wisdom Posts.

“Be vulnerable on the page. If we do anything as writers, it’s to make people feel less alone and visible.” Lee Stein.

“Writing is how I metabolize my own experience.” Melissa Febos

“Essay is making meaning out of raw experience through the sentence to reflect the true and beautiful.” Richard Hoffman

“Be alert to speaking and listening in writing. Listen to what you have written on the page.” Mark Doty

“Even though the unbearable is unbearable, it is not unbearable forever.” Marilyn Bosquin

“Everything I write is always a wandering.” Katharine Winograd

Writing enacts, entombs, it raises (the past) and buries it.” Tom Larson

“The impulse to let another voice in is a generous one.” Fiona McCrae

“Say one bold thing.” Maggie Nelson

“Those who condemn memoir are scared of it. They are scared of the emotionally graphic nature of memoir.” Sue William Silverman

“This habit of trying and retrying, approach and then another approach is a pattern in trauma narratives. People can bring themselves back from extinction by putting together shards of fragments.” Debra Marquart, quoting Terry Tempest Williams.

“The way to write a piece that ultimately speaks to the universal is to allow the bottom to drop out of what kind of truth you’re willing to reveal.” Cheryl Strayed

I make myself naked on the page. I show my wounds. I share my shame. That’s what I do in memoir.” Beverly Donofrio

“My story matters more than what anyone thinks of it.” Laura Bogart

“People who lack decency live among people of great decency.” Shann Ray

“Be your full self unapologetically.” Anna March

“Our job as writers is not to make people comfortable. Artists are supposed to be subversive. It’s what we do when we put words on paper.” Sue Silverman

“Inspiration is something only amateurs wait for. If my work is flat, if it’s dead, I keep going back to it until I pump it back to life.” Andre Dubus III

“It’s just that hard every time. You have to start over and over again.” Toi Derricotte


Janice Gary is a writer, teacher and lecturer of creative nonfiction in all its glorious forms. She is the author Short Leash: a Memoir of Dog Walking and Deliverance and is on the faculty of the Master of Liberal Studies Program at Arizona State University.









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