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Students at AWP

The Write Stuff

Hours before dawn, the day after a blizzard rushed through New York, six publishing studies students piled into an airport van to head for Tampa for the annual Association of Writing Programs and Professionals conference, the largest single gathering of writers in the U.S.

Their purpose for going was multifaceted. They’d go to panels about the business of publishing, writing and the literary world and network with the hundreds of publishers and agents that attend AWP and have displays in the Bookfair. The students would also promote Windmill: The Hofstra Journal of Literature and Art, the joint literary magazine of the BA in Publishing Studies and the MFA in Creative Writing at Hofstra, which many of the students have editing and management roles in.

Chatting at the Windmill table

“There are so many fantastic elements of the publishing world that come together in one place, one time a year…it’s exciting as a writer, but it’s also exciting as somebody who wants to be in publishing because its full of agents, publishers and the people who make the literary magazines, small press publishers…all of these great opportunities that come together in one place, where the students can have interactions with people over three days,” said Kelly McMasters, director of Hofstra’s publishing studies program.  While at AWP, McMasters produced and moderated a panel for her newly published anthology, This is the Place, a volume for which she served as editor.

Kelly McMasters leading panel on her book

The panels were a valuable part of the experience. Junior Kristen Rickershauser said, “I went to panels about things like the lies characters tell, the structure of a novel.  Even though I’m not a writer, I want to go into editing, and it really is helpful to see how others view things like plot and character, what they look for, so if I’m in the position of giving a writer advice, maybe I can do it in slightly different terms, because of these panels.”

Students attending McMasters panel

Sophomore Kira Turetzky, who has a managing role on the Windmill production team, said that attending the conference has given her a fuller picture of the career she wants to have. “This has helped me gain clarity in the world of literary magazines. I have taken two classes and that’s helpful, but coming here and meeting other journals…working on a journal prepares me to do a lot of reading, which prepares me for a career in literary publishing. Reading through the slush pile, talking about the work…it’s good preparation for a career in publishing.” 

According to McMasters, who is Windmill’s founding editor, the combination of producing Windmill and seeing its place in the world of literary journals at AWP is a unique experience. “Windmill is a community in its own right, coming together to build this book and website through classes and volunteers…and that’s exciting to see within our halls, but then to come to AWP and go up and down the aisles, see other universities and presses that have their own publications, meet people working on those, to see how those magazines are running and compare to ours, make contacts, they’re building a larger community outside Hofstra.”

Buttons from AWP
Meeting with Folio Literary Management

 Jennifer Romanello, a long-time publishing executive at Simon and Schuster and Warner Books, and currently a principal at Emi Battaglia Public Relations, also teaches book promotion in the program and joined the students on the trip. She facilitated a meeting with three agents at Folio Literary Management: Michael Kleinman, Sonali Chanchani and Annie Hwang. They shared their insights about what makes a great agent, and how to land an internship. First and foremost, they acknowledged that their love of books and the written word was what made them successful as agents, while giving students great insights about how to get and thrive in an internship.

First year student Nicole Dykeman related to the talk. “I love to read, but I’m not a great writer, so helping other people make their work better is a strength of mine, so I wanted Publishing Studies. I thought that would be a better fit for me. The literary agents were really chill, hearing them talk about their jobs, made me feel like I’ve chosen the right thing."

At the bookfair

For Turetzky, walking the Bookfair and meeting the publishers, small presses and literary professionals brought singular opportunity. “I went to the McMillan Learning booth at the AWP Bookfair during a Writers Appreciation and author signing. The McMillan people told us to make ourselves at home, and I saw the name tag of 'Olivia Croom – Knopf' – I recognized Knopf from the work of Chip Kidd, who had done Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park cover, Murikami’s latest book. I asked her if she worked there and we got into an exchange about Chip Kidd, and she said she works with Chip, and asked if I was interested in cover design. When I said I was very interested and asked if they were looking for interns, Croom said yes, they were. I was over the moon – this was all I could’ve hoped for…the best thing that could possibly happen this weekend would be meeting someone from a publishing house and asking about internships…and that happened.”

Tampa

Junior Sabrina Noury came to the English department and Publishing Studies as an already published author. "The book I published is called Silent Luna, last August, very interesting and eye-opening to be involved in publishing. Now, here at the conference, I’m learning it’s a lot bigger than I thought – more than the five big publishers, did not realize how many literary presses and journals there were."

In addition, the group visited Tampa’s famed historic district Central Ybor and walked the lovely Riverwalk, soaking some some rare (for Northeasterners) March warmth. As Dykeman said, "Sometimes being on campus, you can only experience so much, it’s good to get a different perspective and see how others operate. Especially in sunny Florida!”


Publishing Studies at AWP