#AWP18 Event Organizer Q&A with Luanne Smith

AWP | February 2018

Event Title: Writing Bad Ass and Nasty Women
Description: We long for empowered women, especially in today’s political climate. Writing such women, though, is not about capturing Wonder Woman on the page. At times, kicking butt, breaking laws, hearts, and balls is necessary for the work, but at other times, the woman simply stands her ground and wants control over her own choices and body. The writers on this panel have given us bad ass women in their writing and sometimes been surprised by the reception. What is bad ass today? No cuffs required.
Participants: Luanne Smith, Pam Houston, Kim Addonizio, Ann Hood, Bonnie Jo Campbell
Location: Ballroom D, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor
Date & Time: Saturday, March 10, 10:30 a.m.–11:45 a.m.


Q: What new understanding or knowledge will attendees walk away from your event with?
A: We all know certain women, real or imagined, out there are bad asses. They loom large in our minds, whether for their outspoken nature or their actions. (From Wonder Woman to Cat Woman. From Ripley in Alien to Thelma and Louise. From Rosa Parks to Malala Yousfzai.) What we don’t realize is how bad ass it is to simply speak up or act up, to write or march, even to simply say “no,” in everyday life.  Stories, poems, and creative nonfiction show us how “the girl next door” is actually the bad ass woman next door. We all have a little bad ass in us we want or need to tap into at times. Sometimes, the “sugar” just has to take a backseat to the “spice.”

Q: What makes your event relevant and important in 2018?
A: Ha! Turn on the news. Name names. My body is my own, not to be grabbed, groped, raped, or regulated by others. My thoughts are my own, not to be mansplained away, dismissed, belittled, or ignored. My sexuality is my own, not to be overwhelmed by your needs and desires or your biases. My life is my own. Giving voice to all of this through our writing, our words, and our characters is incredibly important today—and always. Being a bad ass woman, though, isn’t always a political act. What our writing shows is that it is very often our only means of survival in today’s world.

Q: What are some of the conference events (besides your own) or Bookfair exhibitors you look forward to seeing?
A: As usual, there are more panels I want to attend than I will physically be able to attend unless I figure out how to clone myself between now and March. But here’s a list: The Gift of the Grind: Writing Your Way Through Depictions of Class in Contemporary Southern Fiction; Stay in Your Lane Or…; The Historical Women: Reimagining Past Narratives Through the Contemporary Female Perspective; Bad Moon Rising: Writing the Weird in the South; The Pussy Fights Back; Born on the Bayou (the Creedence Clearwater Revival thing is coincidental); The Places America Forgot; and George Saunders. Also, the tribute to Michelle Boisseau—I knew Michelle, and at an AWP conference many years ago, she handed me a bottle of bourbon across the aisle during a panel we were both attending, saying she knew I’d have a sip with her.  She was a wonderful poet and person, funny, original—a bad ass. I look forward to seeing friends, of course, and—shameless plug—I’m working on an anthology of writing about bad ass women (including work by all the panelists on my event) with Sandra and Ron Cooper, which should be finished by the time the conference comes around. I’ll be spending time with them for final touches and hitting the bookfair for drumming up business and making connections. That’s not “official” AWP event material, but it is a fairly typical AWP activity.

Q: What book or books that you’ve read over the last year would you most highly recommend?
A: No One Is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts; American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell; Wild Beauty by Ntozake Shange; and The Heronry by Mark Jarman (an old friend). Also, manuscripts, poems, and nonfiction submitted for the anthology on bad ass women I’m at work on. Finally, I have a long commute and often listen to audible books while driving. I’ve been listening to all of Amy Tan’s books; they are amazing, of course.

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