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Miami English professors attend esteemed conference

By Hannah Fierle, For The Miami Student

Members of Miami University's Creative Writing department attended the Association of Writers and Writing Programs' (AWP) annual conference last weekend.

Held in Los Angeles this year, the AWP Conference is the largest literary conference in North America, welcoming over 12,000 authors, writers, educators, students and publishers. Many high profile members of the contemporary literary community, such as Jonathan Franzen, Emily St. John Mandel and Joyce Carol Oates were in attendance. There were more than 2,000 lectures, speakers and panels during the four-day conference.

Miami sent several members of the Creative Writing department faculty, as well as both graduate and undergraduate students in the program.

Director of the Creative Writing program, Cathy Wagner, expressed the importance of how the AWP Conference translates back to the classroom at Miami.

"We're very lucky to be able to attend because it's a way to really bring back a real-world sense of what's happening in the literary community, which the students can apply in their work," Wagner said.

In addition to being a tremendous venue for writers to explore the community, the conference is a great experience for members of the literary market, especially smaller publishers.

Aside from the many speakers, there is a book fair during the conference that boasted thousands of works from smaller publishers and lesser-known authors striving to have their voices heard.

"The AWP is a really important venue for small presses to sell their books," Wagner said. "It's fun to see works that you'd never see at a regular bookstore. The smaller publishers are able to play around with a lot of experimentation and new directions that larger corporations aren't able to."

Keith Tuma, acting chair of the English department and editor of the Miami University Press, attended the conference. With the press' recent success, Tuma's presence was important from a publishing perspective.

The Miami University Press has received great critical acclaim recently after publishing "Mitko" by Garth Greenwell. Originally the winner of the press' annual novella contest, "Mitko" went on to become the first section of a three-part best selling novel.

Additionally, the Miami University Press was featured in an article in The New Yorker magazine, which cited Peter Manson's poetry collection as the best translation of French poet, Mallarmé, thought by many to be impossible to translate.

Tuma sees the AWP Conference as a good way for the press to build upon their recent accomplishments.

"The conference is a great opportunity to see how the profession operates, both publishing and presenting," Tuma said. "There's a good mix of both learning and promotional opportunities."

Associate professor Margaret Luongo also attended the conference and hosted panels.

Luongo, who released her new book "History of Art: Stories" this month, taught "Visual Arts in the Creative Writing and Literature Classroom" as well as "Succeed Better," a panel about redefining success in the competitive and often unforgiving creative writing field.

"There is something at AWP for any interest at any level. It's a great way to network with others in the literary community and find support of other educators and students," Luongo said.