Association of Writers & Writing Programs

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Association of Writers & Writing Programs
TypeProfessional/Academic literary organization

The Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) is a nonprofit literary organization that provides support, advocacy, resources, and community to nearly 50,000 writers, 500 college and university creative writing programs, and 125 writers' conferences and centers. Founded in 1967 by R. V. Cassill and George Garrett, their mission is to foster literary achievement, advance the art of writing as essential to a good education, and serve the makers, teachers, students, and readers of contemporary writing.


AWP, originally named the Associated Writing Programs, was established as a nonprofit organization in 1967 by fifteen writers representing thirteen creative writing programs. The new association sought to support the growing presence of literary writers in higher education. It accepted both institutional and individual members, and it aimed to persuade the academic community that the creation of literature had a place in the academy as important as the study of literature did.

AWP has helped North America to develop a literature as diverse as its peoples. Member programs have provided literary education to students and aspiring writers from all backgrounds, economic classes, races, and ethnic origins.

AWP has also supported the development of hundreds of educational programs, conferences, reading series, and literary magazines, as well as thousands of jobs for writers and new audiences for contemporary literature. AWP's membership fees have grown exponentially since their inception.

AWP Conference & Bookfair[edit]

The AWP Conference & Bookfair is the largest and most inclusive literary conference in North America. AWP hosts an annual conference in a different region of North America, featuring over 2,000 presenters and 550 presentations, readings, lectures, panel discussions, book signings, and receptions. The conference is held in the late winter or early spring of each year, and attracts more than 12,000 attendees and 800 bookfair exhibitors. [1]

AWP's first conference was held in 1973 at the Library of Congress, and it hosted six events and 16 presenters. George Garrett, one of AWP's founders, planned the first gathering with help from the National Endowment for the Arts. Presenters included Elliott Coleman, founder of the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University, Paul Engle, founder of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, poets Josephine Jacobsen and Miller Williams, and novelists Ralph Ellison and Wallace Stegner, among others.

How events are selected[edit]

The events for the conference are chosen through a competitive proposal process by individuals who represent AWP's general membership. These individuals ensure pluralism in literary evaluations and serve on a city-specific Conference Subcommittee, which ranks the proposals for that city's conference. In populating this subcommittee, AWP chooses people who provide the process with:

  • fairness and discernment in evaluating literary excellence for the many communities of literature;
  • regional representation—individuals who appreciate the accomplishments of the writers, presses, and literary organizations in the region hosting the conference;
  • balance by literary genre—authors who represent the full variety of literary genres;
  • diversity—individuals who embody various literary professions, aesthetics, races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, gender expressions or identities, socioeconomic statuses, ages, disabilities, and religious and political beliefs;
  • representation of AWP's membership generally—individuals who represent the wide range of AWP's programs and the concerns of our teachers, students, administrators, and graduates.

Among the 19 people who are on the city-specific Conference Subcommittee, only two are board trustees. No AWP staff member ranks or judges any of the proposals. Each year's subcommittee has 18 new members, with the small minority of board trustees providing continuity. This structure gives more AWP members an opportunity to build our conference programming. Members of the subcommittees for current and future conferences are listed on the AWP website.

As is the case with most literary magazines and presses, AWP receives many submissions, and relatively few make the cut. Every year there is not enough event space to accept all of the proposals they receive. Because the subcommittee that evaluates the proposals changes every year, the preferences for what is accepted onto the schedule of events changes annually. According to AWP:

Given the vast array of today's literary concerns, it is unlikely that we will ever be able to create a single schedule that satisfies everyone, but we work hard to include as many voices as possible. If one year's conference omits a certain subject, another year's conference will surely address it. Over a period of several conferences, the programming of the AWP Conference & Bookfair offers a wonderful and unmatched reflection of today's vast literary field. The AWP Conference & Bookfair is the most inclusive literary event in the United States, and we are always working on ways to improve those efforts.[2]

AWP enters into literary partnerships with allied literary organizations like the Academy of American Poets, the Authors Guild, Cave Canem Foundation, the Center for Fiction, Community of Literary Magazines & Presses, Kundiman, National Book Critics Circle, Poetry Society of America, and Writers in the Schools to serve our association's various constituencies and to provide the outstanding featured programming at the conference. Two or three featured events, including the keynote address, are created by the Conference Steering Committee of the AWP Board of Trustees.[3]

Conference history[edit]

The AWP Conference & Bookfair has shown significant growth since the early 2000s, transforming from a small conference of only a couple thousand attendees, 300 exhibitors, and less than 200 events to over 12,000 attendees, 800 exhibitors, and 550 events today. Recent destinations include, Chicago (2012), Boston (2013), Seattle (2014), Minneapolis (2015), Los Angeles (2016), Washington, DC (2017), Tampa (2018), and Portland, OR (2019). Other conference locations have included Atlanta (2007), Austin (2006), Denver (2010), Miami (1991), New York (2008), Pittsburgh (1995), San Diego (1985), San Francisco (1988), and Vancouver (2005).

The AWP Conference & Bookfair has established itself as an invaluable part of literary culture. Every year, conference presenters include many winners of the most prestigious literary prizes in the world, including the Man Booker Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Nobel Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, as well a MacArthur and Guggenheim fellows. Past lectures and readings have featured Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Margaret Atwood, Anne Carson, Michael Chabon, Sandra Cisneros, Don DeLillo, Rita Dove, Jennifer Egan, Louise Erdrich, Nikki Giovanni, Terrance Hayes, Seamus Heaney, John Irving, Ha Jin, Erik Larson, Carolyn Forché, Roxane Gay, Ursula K. Le Guin, Jonathan Lethem, Barry Lopez, Jhumpa Lahiri, Chang-rae Lee, Alice McDermott, Joyce Carol Oates, Sharon Olds, Robert Pinsky, Annie Proulx, Claudia Rankine, Marilynne Robinson, Karen Russell, Richard Russo, Cheryl Strayed, Amy Tan, Natasha Trethewey, Derek Walcott, Colson Whitehead, Jeanette Winterson, and Tobias Wolff.[4]

Future conferences locations[edit]

San Antonio, Texas
March 4–7, 2020
Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center

Kansas City, Missouri
March 3–6, 2021
Kansas City Convention Center

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
March 23–26, 2022
Pennsylvania Convention Center


The Writer's Chronicle
Frequency6 Issues per Year
CountryUnited States

For more than four decades, The Writer's Chronicle has served as a leading source of articles, news, and information for writers, editors, students, and teachers of writing. Published six times a year, the Chronicle provides diverse insights into the art of writing that are accessible, pragmatic, and idealistic. Each issue features in-depth essays on the craft of writing, as well as extensive interviews with accomplished authors. Readers can also find news on publishing trends and literary controversies; a listing of grants, awards, and publication opportunities available to writers; and a list of upcoming conferences for writers, including AWP's Annual Conference & Bookfair. The Chronicle's pages are for those who love reading and writing.

Awards sponsored[edit]

AWP sponsors six contests, and also provides an extensive listing of literary grants, awards, and publication opportunities available from organizations and publishers throughout North America. Their contests include the AWP Award Series, the George Garrett Award, the Small Press Publisher Award, the Intro Journals Project, the Kurt Brown Prizes, and the National Program Directors' Prize.

AWP Award Series[edit]

AWP sponsors the Award Series, an annual competition for the publication of excellent new book-length works. The competition is open to all authors writing in English regardless of nationality or residence, and is available to published and unpublished authors alike. The Donald Hall Prize for Poetry is an award of $5,500 and publication. The Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction is an award of $5,500 and publication. The AWP Prize for Creative Nonfiction is an award of $2,500 and publication. The AWP Prize for the Novel is an award of $2,500 and publication.[5]

AWP George Garrett Award[edit]

The annual AWP George Garrett Award for Outstanding Community Service in Literature recognized a few of those individuals who have made notable donations of care, time, labor, and money to support writers and their literary accomplishments.

The award is named for George Garrett (1929–2008), who made exceptional contributions to his fellow writers as a teacher, mentor, editor, friend, board member, and good spirit.

The award includes a $2,000 honorarium, in addition to travel, accommodation, and registration to attend AWP's annual conference, where the award is publicly announced and conferred.

Small Press Publisher Award[edit]

AWP's Small Press Publisher Award is an annual prize for nonprofit presses and literary journals that recognizes the important role such organizations play in publishing creative works and introducing new authors to the reading public. The award acknowledges the hard work, creativity, and innovation of these presses and journals, and honors their contributions to the literary landscape through their publication of consistently excellent work.

The award includes a $2,000 honorarium and a complimentary exhibit booth, including two complimentary conference registrations, at AWP's Annual Conference & Bookfair in the year following the recipient's recognition. In even years, the award is given to a journal, and, in odd years, to a press.

Kurt Brown Prizes[edit]

AWP offers three annual prizes of $500 each to emerging writers who wish to attend a writers' conference, center, retreat, festival, or residency. The prize money is applied to fees for winners who attend one of the member programs in AWP's Directory of Conferences & Centers. Winners and finalists also receive a one-year individual membership in AWP. This was formerly known as the WC&C Scholarship Competition and was renamed in 2017 after the founder of the writers' conferences & centers membership program at AWP.[6]

Intro Journals Project[edit]

The Intro Journals Project is a literary competition for the discovery and publication of the best new works by students currently enrolled in AWP member programs. Program directors are invited to nominate students works, which are selected for publication in participating literary journals, including Artful Dodge, Colorado Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, Mid-American Review, Puerto del Sol, Quarterly West, and Tampa Review.

National Program Directors' Prize[edit]

Instituted by the directors of AWP's member programs, two National Program Directors' Prizes for undergraduate literary magazines are awarded annually to outstanding journals in the categories of content and design. Each winning magazine receives a $500 cash award. Winners are announced in the Writer's Chronicle and in other media, and the winning magazines are acknowledged at AWP's Annual Conference & Bookfair the following year. Prize honoraria are sent directly to the winning magazines. The final judges for content and design are announced at the conclusion of the competition.

Grace Paley Prize[edit]

The Grace Paley Prize is an American literary award presented by the Association of Writers & Writing Programs. The award carries a prize of $5,000 and a publishing contract with the University of Massachusetts Press.[7]


Vanessa Place was removed from the 2016 Los Angeles Subcommittee to satisfy concerns of the AWP membership after Place received criticism for a Twitter art project where she retyped the entire text from the 1936 novel Gone with the Wind in an effort to call attention to the novel's inherent racism.[8] While some have argued the Twitter account was meant to scrutinize and call attention to stereotyping and racism in Gone With the Wind, others accused it of being racist or insensitive itself, which resulted in not only the removal of Place from the subcommittee, but also a number of other literary organizations canceling appearances by Place.

In anticipation of the 2016 AWP Conference & Bookfair in Los Angeles, some members of the organization objected to what they felt was a lack of programming specific to literature and disabilities. A petition was started that claimed the subcommittee responsible for selecting the events rejected all proposals having to do with disability, while some sources responded this claim was erroneous, the Deaf & Disabled Writers Caucus is not a panel but a networking event.[9][10] AWP implemented changes for the 2016 conference to further efforts to provide increased accommodations for disabled attendees, which included an onsite location where attendees could report accessibility issues, improved signage, and reserved seating throughout the conference, as well as updates to the Accessibility Services throughout the event.[11]

For the 2017 AWP Conference & Bookfair in Washington, D.C., the number of proposals related to literature and disability increased, and subsequently the subcommittee accepted twenty of them for inclusion onto the schedule of events.[12] At each conference, AWP provides many accessibility services including ASL interpretation, cued speech transliteration, computer assisted real time captioning, assistive listening devices, braille programs, accommodations for those requiring an attendant or assistant, and much more to attendees who need these services.[13]


  1. ^ "AWP Conference & Bookfair Overview", Association of Writers & Writing Programs.
  2. ^ "How Competitive Is the Process?". Association of Writers & Writing Programs.
  3. ^ "How Conference Events Are Selected", Association of Writers & Writing Programs.
  4. ^ "Conference Archives and Photo Albums", Association of Writers & Writing Programs.
  5. ^ "AWP Award Series Winners", Association of Writers & Writing Programs.
  6. ^ "Kurt Brown and What You Can Do for Poetry". Association of Writers & Writing Programs. Retrieved August 1, 2014.
  7. ^ McGrath, Charles (15 January 2011). "The Family History Is Grim, but He's Plotted a New Course". New York Times. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  8. ^ "Update Regarding the AWP Los Angeles 2016 Subcommittee", Association of Writers & Writing Programs.
  9. ^ "Response to Members' Concerns". Association of Writers & Writing Programs. Retrieved August 19, 2015.
  10. ^ Logue, Josh. "Disabilities and Writing". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
  11. ^ Morgan Teicher, Craig. "M.F.A. Update May 2016: How the American Creative Writing Community Can be Made More Inclusive". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved May 6, 2016.
  12. ^ "Communities of the 2017 AWP Conference & Bookfair". Association of Writers & Writing Programs. Retrieved August 1, 2016.
  13. ^ "AWP: Conference & Bookfair Accessibility Services". Association of Writers & Writing Programs. Retrieved April 18, 2017.

External links[edit]