“It’s one of the largest book fairs of its kind in the world,” says Peter Chilson, Associate Professor of English. He’s talking about the AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) Conference, held every year in February. This year, the AWP – with some 8,500 attendees – took up residence at the Hilton on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. Chilson was to read from his recent book, Disturbance Loving Species published by Houghton Mifflin [WSM review]. I went along to check out the Book Fair, particularly the 100s of literary journals displayed.
With 799 exhibitors, the Book Fair took up the entire lower floor of the hotel, and many of these spaces were rented by literary journals. Some of the big names in literary journals such as American Poetry Review, the Georgia Review, and New Letters can be found on the shelves of Barnes and Noble and Borders across the U.S. but the largest proportion of literary magazines are more obscure such as the Straddler, Smokelong Quarterly, Forklift Ohio, Slack Buddha, and Duckabush Review. Slotted in between the independently run journals were those housed in institutions—Ninth Letter from the University of Illinois, Subtropics from The University of Florida, and Ecotone from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. What I found exciting was the thought behind some of these, the personality. For example, a woman named Jennifer S. Flescher explains the idea behind her journal Tuesday; An Art Project like this:
I wanted to make a thing we could hold.
I am a photographer, a bookmaker, a poet.
It was a reaction to all of the (necessary and often fabulous) on-line work that is out there.
It had to do with unrest.
There is a postcard in every issue, I hope you’ll mail it. I wanted it to come with a stamp on it, but that would have been another thousand dollars…
Chilson had told me that going to the Book Fair is a one-of-a-kind experience because it’s one place “you get to talk with editors who are so willing to talk with writers. The other thing is a lot of these editors are themselves writers.” (more…)