AWP is the biggest writers conference held each year in America. Writers, publishers, professors, MFA students, CW undergrads, literary journals, agents, and editors all converge on one destination. This year was Chicago.

Below are some random quotes I heard, or perhaps said, over the four-day period:

“I’m Margaret Atwood. Where’s my suckling pig?”

“I’m the other Toni Morrison.”

“I’ve self-published two novels. Would you like to buy one? I have plenty of copies.”

“Are you Sandra Beasley?”

“I’m thirsty. Would you like a beer?”

“Take a free copy of our journal. We’d like a five-dollar donation for it.”

“It’s not a podium. It’s a lectern!”

“Oh, you’re that Christopher Linforth.”

Fun times! Feel free to add your own quote in the comments section.

Many national literary journals are located geographically in the Midwest. Madison Review, Iowa Review, New Letters, Michigan Quarterly Review, etc., are all prominent publications that solicit beyond their local confines for a diverse, international literature. Recently, though, several journals seem to have gone the other way: narrowing their focus and giving voice to the American heartland. Midwestern Gothic, Cleveland Review, South Dakota Review, Camas, Whitefish Review, Downstate Story, and Front Range to name a handful, attempt to offer identity to this vast and subtly heterogeneous region. Often, it seems, many journals also cover the natural environment (and how humans change it), and the idea and practices of the West. Iowa State’s Flyway, the independent Three Coyotes, and more broadly ISLE, Terrain, Precipitate also parlay into this evolving and mythic territory. Although, in some ways, Midwestern literature is conjoined with a backlog of archetypal scenarios, backdrops, and character, mostly aptly described below by Patricia Hampl, the art of the written word is blossoming in the countless miles between the coasts.

The Midwest. The flyover, where even the towns have fled to the margins, groceries warehoused in Wal-Marts hugging the freeways, the red barns of family farms sagging, dismantled and sold as “distressed” wood for McMansion kitchens, the feedlots of agribusiness crouched low to the prairie ground. Of all the American regions, the Midwest remains the most imaginary, ahistorical but fiercely emblematic. It’s Nowheresville. But it’s also the Heartland. That weight again: the innocent middle. Though it isn’t innocent. It’s where the American imagination has decided to archive innocence.

The Florist’s Daughter.