Ten Things You Definitely Should (& Shouldn’t) Do at AWP by Justin Brouckaert

I don’t like telling people what to do, but—no, wait, that’s not right. I love telling people what to do! Here’s the completely serious, all-encompassing AWP advice article you’ve all been waiting for.

1. You should definitely hand those business cards out, early and often.

I think I speak on behalf of everyone when I say this: I just love getting business cards—especially from other writers! In the age of social media, there’s nothing more valuable than a stiff piece of paper with the name, phone number and email address of a stranger I spoke to for five minutes in a crowded book fair.

2. You should definitely go to as many panels as possible.

8 a.m. to 5:45 p.m – book it up! Panel right through breakfast & lunch—you definitely won’t regret it. I personally guarantee every panelist will be alert, informative, entertaining and well prepared; your eyelids will not start drooping halfway through that 1:10 panel on hybrid memoirs that’s somehow morphed into five writers shamelessly reading from their newest books; and that free book fair mini-notebook chock full of quotes will be extremely helpful in the years to come!

3. You definitely shouldn’t pack your own lunch.

Why settle for a Cliff bar or a PB&J when you can get a 15-dollar mini-sandwich from that great place around the block the whole book fair is buzzing about? Or how about a 12-doller gyro from the conference center lobby? Live it up—you’re on vacation! (Kind of.)

4. You definitely shouldn’t ask other writers about their work before talking about your own.

This is all about you, after all. If they didn’t want you to launch into a lengthy, unprompted synopsis of your novel-in-progress, they would have stopped you seven minutes ago!

5. You should definitely passive-aggressively shame editors for not publishing your work.

Really: it’s not awkward at all for an unpaid second-year MFA student to respond to quips like, “Well, I’ve submitted to you five times and you still keep rejecting me! What’s the deal with that? Heh heh heh,” and the expectant stare that follows.

6. You definitely shouldn’t ship your book haul home on Saturday afternoon.

Save your money for the pain pills you’ll need after lugging your suddenly-on-the-verge-of-literally-bursting-at-the-seams backpack around LAX on Sunday morning!

7. You definitely shouldn’t worry about keeping your phone charged.

If, to use a random example, it dies in the middle of your walk home from the Whiskey Bar and you’re left wandering the streets of Seattle at 2:30 a.m., drunk, directionally challenged and inexplicably unable to find a cab…then so be it!

8. You should definitely plan on keeping to a concrete schedule.

If you’ve already clicked Going on the Facebook invite, you are contractually obligated not to miss that four-hour, twelve-reader event going down at the bar on the other end of Los Angeles. I mean, it’s Friday night. What could possibly come up?

9. You definitely shouldn’t use AWP as an excuse to see friends & former classmates now scattered across the country.

Who has time to hang out with old friends when there are panels to attend?

10. You should definitely stay hydrated.

No, seriously. Hydrate. You think all those “How to Survive AWP” articles are joking? They’re not. Hydrate. Hydrate! HYDRATE.


Justin Brouckaert is a Yemassee editor & a five-time AWP vet. You can give him your business cards at the Wednesday night #Panoreading or find him at the book fair (Table 221).

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