AWP 2014 Series: Chris Robinson on Three Imagined AWP Panels

Disclaimer: Chris gave me permission to point out that this is “fiction.” No MAPH students were chained to the UChicago booth during AWP 2014.  2013, well, that’s in the past…

While I was sitting at booth 411 of the AWP Book Fair, smiling scribers would pass by from far-off conference center rooms, glinting with the secrets they had just learned of the craft, mumbling things like “the open ending” or “linked story collections” over and over to themselves. I would sigh, try to catch one of their eyes, and turn their attention towards our program. “Why don’t you try that open ending here, at U Chicago?” I would say. Or, “We like linked stories too.” But, really, this was my way of trying to penetrate those golden orbs of knowledge they possessed now from the panels. What was it like to attend an AWP panel, I thought? What sort of person would I be if I had attended one? Yes, something in them seemed to coronate these people who now glided through the aisles of booths, breezily calling themselves “writers.” The black iron clamp around my foot jiggled the chain that linked it to our table as I sat down and began imagining my own panels and the treasures they would hold:

Alphabetic Trends: M, N, O vs. A, B, C

What letters should one use? Writers throughout the centuries have proposed many answers to this question, but this panel will reveal what letters are best to use right now. Padmina Pillokova, of the Abecedaire Literary Agency, will moderate. Amber Atopher, a poet who only writes vowels, will discuss the value of the letter e. Cincinnatus Jones, a memoirist, will discuss his shift from letters early in the alphabet to those later after a harrowing recovery from Jackson 5 addiction. And Blake Sobertson, a researcher from Bainbridge Island University, will present his study of the Scrabble letter values of recent National Book Award members.

There Is A Light, Yes, I Can See a Light, No, Maybe We Should Turn Around, Wait, Yes, There Actually is a Light: Writing the Hallway Scene

Hallways. They get us from where we’ve been to where we’re going. They might contain monsters. They might contain friends. How do we approach them in fiction? How do we approach them in life? Jefferson Adams, a writer from Seattle, lived for 10 years in a Nordstrom hallway, and will read from the short story collection he wrote during this time, each story being told from the perspective of a different hall. A pair of twin publishers, Gamie and Garbo Patrizi, will vent about the impression the twin sisters in the hallway of The Shining had on them as children. And Initi Scripps will lead a workshop exercise at the end where participants are forced to complete a poem before the walls of the conference hall squeeze in on them.

Yeah, I Don’t Even Know: A Writers’ Brunch

Please, someone, bring coffee to this panel. Aspirin wouldn’t hurt either. You’ve seen them hunched over the Washington State Conference Center water fountains. Now see them in person—or, well, somewhat there, at least—eating brunch together. Rachel Kushner still has splinters in her clothes from hitching a ride last night with Pacific Northwest loggers and asking them to take her to their favorite art gallery. Ursula K. LeGuin keeps demanding that someone bring her an “Earthsea, Earthsea, please,” eyes darting around behind her sunglasses so that no one is sure who she’s talking to. Chang-rae Lee passes glowing, green-looking fish fillets down the panel row. And, somewhere overhead, the ghost of Raymond Carver swoops through and says, “It is good, yes it is, it is good.”

Clear evidence that Chris managed to escape Booth 411

Clear evidence that Chris managed to escape Booth 411


Chris was born in North Carolina, went to school in Virginia, and is working on a short story collection for his MAPH thesis.

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