Department of English, College of LAS, University of Illinois

Illinois Department of English Blog


Welcome to the Department of English blog.

My name is Vicki Mahaffey and I took over as
head of the department on July 1, 2016. I'll be using this site to post updates and information of interest to our faculty, students, and alumni,
along with reflections about our discipline(s) in particular and the humanities in general. As anyone who has ever worked or studied here knows, the Department of English is a vibrant place. If you have something you'd like to see posted here, or if you want to contact me about the content of this blog, drop me an email at

Monday, January 31, 2011

Radio Free AWP

The AWP meeting is the big, annual conference of creative writing programs. It features readings, paper sessions, hobnobbing, a large and various book exhibit, interviewing for jobs, etc. This is a big and growing deal: there are now something on the order of 500 college- and university-based creative writing programs in the country, and a correspondingly large number of faculty members and students.

For a literary scholar like myself, this is off the beaten path. I go every year to the big Modern Language Association conference--a gathering of 8,000-10,000 literary scholars in English and other languages--but I would not have known about AWP had I not become head of a department with an associated MFA program. The MLA conference gets a certain amount of press coverage each year, and I've been joking that this year there seems to be an unspoken journalistic agreement that all MLA-related stories must feature at least two faculty members from our department. This year, though, as the AWP continues to grow in importance, John Griswold--aka, Oronte Churm--is bringing the media spotlight to AWP.

He's calling it "Radio Free AWP" on his Inside Higher Ed blog, and I'll let him explain:

"Please tune in here, this Wednesday through Saturday, to click-and-listen to two-dozen free podcasts by big-time poets, writers, and editors.[...] Radio Free AWP will coincide with the annual conference of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs, which supports more than '34,000 writers at over 500 member colleges & universities and 100 writers' conferences & centers.' This year the conference is in Washington, DC, home of Inside Higher Ed, and with IHE’s help I’m using this opportunity to connect writers and readers, wherever they are.

It’s true pirate radio, internet-style, with some of my literary friends and friends-of-friends generously donating their words and time for your listening pleasure. The readings and discussions range widely, from a short story recorded professionally in the studio of some guy named Ira who evidently has an interest in American lives, to a self-produced audio essay recorded on location in Africa, to what sounds like a writer who's broken into your kitchen late at night to drink your bourbon and pet your dog, and when you discover him there he tells you a crazy-funny tale about the Russian mob stealing a river."

So there you have it. Not only a way to keep up with the AWP as it happens, but a way to do so without actually sharing your bourbon. Tune in!

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