This Week in Short Fiction: A Guide to AWP


It’s that time of year again, where writers young and old, from all corners of the country, come to congregate in one gigantic, frenetic, neurotic, alcohol-infused crowd, in a couple of fancy hotels no one can really afford, to stay in and talk shop (or not, depending on how your writing’s been this year). That’s right: AWP 2015, Minneapolis. We took a look at the schedule and picked out some upcoming panels and events that sound especially promising for writers (and readers) of short fiction.

(Keep in mind, these are just suggestions. If, at any moment, you are feeling overwhelmed and unworthy, there’s always a spot for you at the bar. Well, actually, the bar is probably crowded and overpriced, which is why we strongly recommend carrying a flask.)

Without further ado, This Week in Short Fiction’s Guide to AWP.


Thursday 9:00-10:15 a.m.

Social Media Secrets for Authors

If you’re looking for some secret tips from people who have true social media game, you should probably hit up this panel with Rumpus alum and Buzzfeeder extraordinaire Isaac Fitzgerald, Joshua Mohr, Meghan Ward, and others.

Thank You for the Surgery

Teach a writing workshop and wonder about just how honest/critical you should be in your feedback? Writers with differing philosophies on the matter hash it out on this panel, where you can hear from a panel including Peter Ho Davies, V.V. Ganeshananthan, and Jeffrey Schultz.


Thursday 10:30-11:45 a.m.

Like a Virgin: Short Story Writers Read From Their First Books

This has the makings of one of the most power-packed panels of short fiction readings goings. You’ll get to hear a story from Claire Vaye Watkins’s Battleborn, Diane Cook’s Man V. Nature, and Ben Stroud’s Byzantium, among others. This might be one to arrive early for, if you can.


Thursday 12:00-1:15 p.m.

Sympathy for the Devil: Writing “Unlikable” Characters

Consider this panel the booster shot you need to unleash some nasty characters in your stories. Among others, you’ll have the expertise of Skip Horack, Susan Steinberg, and Christian Kiefer to help you make your deviant plans.

Hurston/Wright Foundation’s 25th Anniversary Reading

The foundation created to honor Zora Neale Hurston and Richard Wright has brought together an inspiring round of readers from their workshops: Tayari Jones, Ravi Howard, Marita Golden, and Abdul Ali.


Thursday 1:30-2:45 p.m.

The Short Story Salon with A Public Space

Oh wow. What’s this? Oh nothing. Just another amazing reading by fictioners. See Peter Orner, Danielle Evans, and Keith Lee Morris. Please.


Thursday 3:00-4:15 p.m.

The Art of the Encounter: Structuring Short Fiction

This panel features Caitlin Horrocks, Rebecca Makkai, and Molly Antopol, among others, talking about distilling stories down the “haunting encounter” that will make your story sing.

No Shame: Sex Scenes by Women, About Women

Looking to write sex in a way that makes you proud? You’re in good hands on this panel with Julia Fierro, Gina Frangello, and Elissa Schappell.


Thursday 4:30-5:45 p.m.

No Country for Good Old Boys: The Remaking of the Masculine in Contemporary American Fiction

Do we live in a post-masculine world? Hear the range of responses from this co-ed panel, featuring Kim Barnes, Alan Heathcock, and Benjamin Percy.

Writing About Tragedies Without Destroying Your Subjects—or Yourself

Probably no one could offer advice on this matter better than our own Rumpus founder, Stephen Elliott, joined in conversation with Tara McKelvey and Ada Calhoun.

[Insert Happy Hour.]


Thursday 8:30-10:00 p.m.

#AWP15 Keynote Address by Karen Russell

If you can tear yourself away from reuniting with old friends and signing your next book deal, you probably should try to make this year’s keynote, given by the woman who brought us Swamplandia! and the rockstar collection St. Lucy’s Homes for Girls Raised by Wolves.


Friday 9:00-10:15 a.m.

Four Writers of Experimental Fiction Disagree

Assuming you’re up and around at this hour, which might be a speculative act in itself, you can hear from Kate Bernheimer and Alan Michael Parker on their feelings about this nebulous genre.

Eye on the (Book) Prize: Submitting Short Story Collections to Contests

If you’re serious about this thing, you can expect some good pointers in this session led by recent winners of such respected contests as the New American Fiction Prize, the Flannery O’Connor Award, and the Iowa Short Fiction Award.


Friday 10:30-11:45 a.m.

Blood Will Out: Putting Violence on the Page

Working out a tough scene and want some advice on nailing it? Go and listen to what storytelling master Richard Bausch and truth-speaking poet Roger Reeves have to say about it.


Friday 12:00-1:15 p.m.

Short Fiction—Writing It, Acquiring It, Selling It

These people know how to do it. You’ve got Jamie Quatro and LaShonda Katrice Barnett to talk about the writing side of things, and Tin House Editor Rob Spillman and Assistant Editor at Grove Atlantic Katie Raissian to talk about the business angles on it.

Cream City Review Celebrates Returning the Gift Native American Writers

Need a reading to break up all the advice people are throwing at you? Let these Native American storytellers and poets take you back to the words.

The Past Is a Place: Former Minnesotans Remember

We know we’re not alone in doing the Control+Find for “Cheryl Strayed” in the schedule. Here’s one of her appearances that sounds especially promising. She and other native Minnesotans read original pieces about returning to a Minnesota place fraught with memories for them.


Friday 1:30-2:45 p.m.

I Can Change, I Can Change: Transformation on the Page

Kima Jones! Benjamin Percy! Edan Lepucki! What?!?!!? They could talk about anything probably and it would be transformative. Ironically, they’ll be talking about transformative moments. In fiction.

Between the Sheets: A Hyphen Magazine Reading on Asian American Sex and Sexuality

Learn how to write beyond stereotypes with Hyphen Magazine writers, including Karissa Chen, Eugenia Leigh, Ed Lin, Tina Bartolome, and Regie Cabico.


Friday 3:00-4:15 p.m.

The Uncanny Reader: The Art of Unease in the Short Story Form

Learn from supernatural/blurred reality writers Karen Russell, Kate Bernheimer, Kelly Link, and Marjorie Sandor. And possibly pick up a copy of their new anthology, The Uncanny Reader.


Friday 4:30-5:45

Talking Volumes: Minnesota Public Radio’s Kerri Miller in Conversation with Charles Baxter and Louise Erdrich

When you are in the land of public radio, you might as well tune into some of the most experience writers of the northern landscapes too: see Louise Erdrich and Charles Baxter.

Argonaut, Citizen, Empathy, Inoculation: New Nonfiction

So, generally we try to stick to made-up stories. But seriously, this here’s a panel of some stellar storytellers who’ve published with Graywolf Press: Eula Biss, Leslie Jamison, Maggie Nelson, and Claudia Rankine, to be exact.

Fail Better: Successful Writers Talk About Failure

If you’re feeling a little down after your past 36 hours of spending time with no one else but writers, allow Roxane Gay, Rebecca Makkai, and Dean Bakopoulos to bring you back up.

The Beloit Poetry Journal: Celebrating Sixty-Five Years of Discovering New Talent

We go to the poets for the pretty words, to be held for beautiful moments, and to be lifted up somewhere beyond ourselves. Pretty sure these folks can do all of that: Jenny Johnson, TJ Jarrett, and Ocean Vuong.


Friday 8:30-10:00 p.m.

Stuart Dybek and Francine Prose: A Reading and Conversation

Could you imagine Dybek and Prose just reading and chatting together? Ah man. If you miss this one, we’re might have to punch you.


Saturday 9:00-10:15 a.m.

The Politics of Empathy: Writing Through Borrowed Eyes

This one sounds super promising and inspiring, though there’s a chance that everyone will just look around the room and empathize with the person who looks most hungover and sleep-deprived.


Saturday 10:30-11:45 a.m.

Teaching Fiction in a Golden Age of Television

Need a way to your latest Netflix binge into your writing curriculum? Tom Franklin and Alissa Nutting are here to help.

Striving for Balance Between Language and Prejudice in Teaching Writing

Also on the teaching front, if you have some out-of-control young writers throwing around bad ideas about other people, Danielle Evans, Alexander Chee, Jennine Capó Crucet, and some of their buddies are on the scene to help.


12:00 noon

[Have you visited us at the bookfair? No? Now is like the best time to go because nobody wants to ship books back home, so you can expect some super sales. Everything. Must. Go!]


1:30-2:45 p.m.

Telling Our New War Stories: Witness and Imagination Across Literary Genres

National Book Award winner Phil Klay will be speaking, along with Katey Schultz and Siobhan Fallon and others.


3:00-4:15 p.m.

Revisiting Highway 61

How many panels have you been to by now? The answer may be blowing in the wind, but this poetic tribute to Bob Dylan featuring Dessa and others promises to take you somewhere else for a minute.


4:30-5:45 p.m.

The Art of the Art of Writing

This one sounds pretty cerebral for the last day of AWP, but if you can rally a few more brain cells, I’m sure Stacey D’Erasmo, Charles Baxter, and Carl Phillips will make it worth your while.


Queridos: A Reading by Gay Latinos

Or, maybe this sounds better? Ruben Quesada, Benjamin Garcia, and Pablo Miguel Martinez have some poems for you.


[Insert Last Big Happy Hour]


8:30-10:00 p.m.

Joshua Ferris and Dinaw Mengestu: A Reading and Conversation

And then we came to the end. If you’re still standing, try to stagger in for this one. Sounds like a great chat to eavesdrop on.

Jill Schepmann's stories have been read on NPR and have appeared in Parcel and Midwestern Gothic, among others. She worked as a fiction and nonfiction editor at Nashville Review while getting her MFA at Vanderbilt. She lives in San Francisco and tweets @jillypants. More from this author →