What Went Wrong?

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The Association of Writing Programs announced its accepted events for the 2012 convention in Chicago on Friday, and my Facebook page/Twitter feed blew up with joy and anguish alike. The panel I’d been asked to be a part of missed the cut (as has been the case for me most years). I was on a panel that made the cut the first time I was asked, back in 2005, and haven’t made it since then, so I’ve wondered what the criteria are, how the panels are chosen, and so on.

So has Amy King, and she’s asking the right questions, I think.

“Why is AWP capable of spending time judging, tallying, averaging, ranking and then informing each applicant of their accepted or rejected status, but it remains impossible, despite having already ranked each proposal and reached a consensus, to inform us of that ranking? If you want the process to be as “democratic and transparent” as possible, wouldn’t sharing those final scores with your applicants be a step in making more transparent this democratic process? ”

I want to say that the AWP isn’t duty bound to make the process open or democratic–it’s their conference, after all. But if they’re going to make the claim that it is, then they ought to make it as open as is humanly possible. After all, they’re depending on writers–many of whom are barely scraping by on contingent faculty wages (and I use the term “wages” loosely) or student loan money or tips–to help pay for the event. If they’re trying to encourage us to take part in the event, then a little help on how to make our panel proposals better would be good, I’d think.


Brian Spears is Senior Poetry Editor of The Rumpus and the author of A Witness in Exile (Louisiana Literature Press, 2011). His poem “Upon Reading That Andromeda Will One Day Devour Triangulum and Come For Us Next” was featured in Season 9 of Motion Poems. More from this author →