Kelly’s Guide to the 2012 AWP Book Fair

It’s just a week away, folks. AWP’s 2012 conference in Chicago. By far, my favorite part of the conference is always the book fair. The panels and readings and off-site events in overly crowded (read: fire hazard, microbiologically menacing) venues are all well and good, but I love meeting other writers, picking up books that I’ve either been dying to read or that I’m hearing of for the first time, and getting a little star-struck and tittering like a little kid as some of my literary idols walk by.

I and the other editors of The Los Angeles Review will be holding court at Red Hen Press‘s booth in the book fair, and I’m already excited about meeting everyone who comes into Red Hen vortex. But I’m also looking forward to walking the book fair by myself. It’s a good chance to get my head out of our work at LAR and to see all the amazing stuff that’s going on in the small press world.

There’s one big problem with the book fair, though: the fact that you can walk up to a table you’re genuinely interested in, start looking at books, and be stared at so bleakly by a seated, wordless intern–one who’s either hung over or bound by a vow of silence–that you drop the book you had in hand and run for more promising territory. Maybe I watch too many horror films, but anybody sitting on a folding metal chair with a lowered head looks a little too much like the creepy girl from the movie The Ring.

But there are some very bright spots in the book fair–safe havens with friendly people, good books, and plenty of opportunities to have conversations with literary folk:

PANK. I have much love for PANK, who gave me my first publication. Even if I didn’t have eternal gratitude, I’d still recommend that you go by and visit the great group of editors. They’re lively, welcoming, and a general pleasure to meet and great. The new issue of the magazine looks amazing, as well.

Tin House. I’ll be honest: I usually don’t bother going by “big” booths. You know, Mc Sweeney’s, Milkweed, Tin House. You can’t always manage to squeeze in sideways between the writers teeming around their tables, and I’m not much of one for teeming. But last year, when the crowds had thinned near the end of the book fair, I was extremely impressed with the niceness of the Tin House crew (okay, the one guy at the booth when I came by) and walked away with a subscription.

Press 53. A great press, great people, and genuine enthusiasm for innovative, high-quality writing.

Dzanc Books. These people are amazing. With five imprints, two print journals and one online journal, and some truly innovative outreach programs, Dzanc is a press to watch (and, more importantly, to read).

Copper Nickel. Do yourself a favor and buy a copy of this journal. The folks at Copper Nickel put out a consistently impressive journal, and they’re a delightful crew of people.

The Rumpus. A word of caution: don’t go by this table unless you are prepared to buy and lug home a mug, okay? Because you will buy a mug. Oh yes you will.

Fifth Wednesday Journal. FIfth Wednesday doesn’t often travel to AWP, but this Illinois journal is a true labor of love. Vern Miller, the man behind the publication, is one of the nicest, most invested editors I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. Don’t miss the chance to meet him and pick up a copy of the journal.

Weave Magazine. An independent journal with a lot of heart, Weave is where it’s at for eclectic, diverse, quality writing. Independent publishing is a labor of love, and is evident on every page of this small, smart, energetic journal.

5 Replies to “Kelly’s Guide to the 2012 AWP Book Fair”

  1. One of the best things about the Bookfair is the free or deeply discounted copies of books, journals and subscriptions. Last year I came back with a bookbag full of publications to share with my local writers–so many I had to FedEx (ground) them home, lest the airlines gouge me for extra baggage. Altogether I saved at least the cost of my AWP registration. This year, two bags.

  2. That’s an excellent point, Joe. It’s such a good chance to subscribe to publications and buy books at a huge discount. I’m thinking about bringing along a USPS flat rate mailer (which are definitely worth the price when it comes to shipping heavy, bulky books) to send a few things home this time.

  3. I hope you do make it out for the 2013 conference in Boston, Stephanie! It’s really quite a unique event. A little overwhelming, but lots of fun.

  4. Wowie Zowie! Thanks for including Weave in this stellar list. Everyone at our table should be super friendly. Plus, we have colorful buttons! Who doesn’t love buttons?

    Looking forward to meeting you in person Kelly!

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