GLD Digital Events Coordinator Erin Riddle shares her experiences at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Annual Conference

A Report from the AWP Conference in Kansas City

The annual conference of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs is a major destination for the creative world of writing and publishing, and this year writers, translators, teachers, students, editors, publishers, and others in the publishing world converged in Kansas City, Missouri from February 7-10, 2024.

The conference offered a wide variety of panels related to various aspects of writing craft, publishing, business management, and community building. There were so many panels to choose from, so it was hard to decide at times. Here is a brief summary of the panels I attended, of course from a translator’s perspective: translation as advocacy in a multilingual world of poetry, writing while holding a “day” job, publishing your first book after age fifty (with a very full room-it’s never too late to publish that book-length translation!), how to be your own agent, promoting your work (shamelessly), writing book reviews, how to get along in the publishing world, literary criticism of translated works, and publishing translations (geared towards literary magazines and journals).

Aside from the numerous panels and readings is the enormous book fair with hundreds of literary magazines and journals, book presses, professional organizations, academic institutions, agents, and more eager to connect with others in the world of creative expression. I spent some time at the booth of the American Literary Translators Association while also playing book fair bingo and won a collection of book-length translations, including a collection of short stories translated in part by ATA Literary Division Administrator Shelley Fairweather-Vega. Thanks to Seagull Books, Columbia University Press, Gaudy Boy, and Eulalia Books for your donations to this fun activity!

In addition, I was thrilled to learn that Transit Books has just published the first English translation of prose fiction by Brigitte Reimann, an important figure of East German literature who died from cancer at the age of 39. The novel Siblings, translated by Lucy Jones, exemplifies so well Reimann’s talent for portraying the impact of politics in the GDR on the daily and personal lives of (East) Germans. I enjoy reading Reimann’s writing very much and am so glad to see her work published becoming available to English language readers. Along with a copy of Siblings, I also purchased at the book fair a copy of Esther Ninsky’s novel River (also published by Transit Books and translated from German by Iain Galbraith), along with a handful of other translations (from languages other than German) and a few books on editing.

The many conference panels and readings were easy to browse and choose, thanks to the AWP app, and organize my own personal schedule to plan my conference experience. In addition, I stayed at an AirBNB about a 45-minute walk away from the Kansas City Convention Center; in addition, Kansas City has a wonderful, reliable, and FREE public transit system that made getting to and from the conference and offsite events a breeze.

Next year’s AWP conference will be held March 26-29 in Los Angeles. If you are a literary translator at any stage, or otherwise involved in creating and publishing work, AWP is a wonderful opportunity to meet with writers, other translators, presses, journals and learn about getting published, share tips for a rewarding writing life, and build community.

Are you a literary translator? Have you thought about translating literature but are not sure yet how to get started? Feel free to contact me – we can explore ways to organize literary translation events and activities within the GLD. I’d love to chat!