#AWP20 Featured Presenter Q&A with Jess Row
AWP | December 2019
Event Title: American Harvest & White Flights: Marie Mutsuki Mockett and Jess Row in Conversation, Sponsored by Graywolf Press
Description: Join acclaimed authors Marie Mutsuki Mockett (American Harvest: God, Country, and Farming in the Heartland) and Jess Row (White Flights: Race, Fiction, and the American Imagination) as they read from and discuss their latest works of nonfiction. Engaging with race, religion, agriculture, and contemporary fiction, these two authors are at the center of ongoing conversations of vital importance to us all. Introduced and moderated by Graywolf Press director and publisher Fiona McCrae.
Participants: Marie Mutsuki Mockett, Jess Row, Fiona McCrae
Location: Hemisfair Ballroom C1, Henry B. González Convention Center, Ballroom Level
Date & Time: Friday, March 6, 1:45 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Q: What are some of the conference events or Bookfair exhibitors you look forward to seeing at AWP?
I'm always excited to discover presses, journals, and projects I've never encountered before—especially projects in book arts, letterpress, etc. I don't work with those materials, and I find them totally fascinating.
Every year I discover a panel or event focused on a subject or theme I've never thought about. Even if I don't get to go, I'm glad to know that new conversation is happening.
Q: What do you remember most about your first AWP? What advice would you give to an AWP first-timer?
I went to my first AWP in 2007, which now sounds like a long time ago, but of course I know lots of people who've been going since the very early days, when less than a thousand people attended.
AWP can be a very alienating experience if you're new to the literary world and know only a few people. Focus on making friends and talking to people one on one, not promoting your own work or trying to make "connections." Despite what you may have heard, very few people land book deals or get manuscripts accepted or anything of that kind at AWP. Editors at the bookfair generally don't want to hear pitches or take submissions—that's not what the conference is for. Focus on building relationships and finding people you genuinely like.
Q: What is your favorite AWP conference memory?
That would be at AWP in 2011, when Claudia Rankine confronted Tony Hoagland onstage over racist language and imagery in one of his poems. That event led to Claudia's Open Letter website, where hundreds of writers contributed reflections on race and creative writing (later collected in the anthology The Racial Imaginary). I think that was a real turning point in the American literary world.
Q: What book or books that you’ve read over the last year would you most highly recommend?
Minae Mizumura's A True Novel; Rion Amilcar Scott's The World Doesn’t Require You; Ibram X. Kendi's Stamped from The Beginning; Carmen Machado's In the Dream House.
Jess Row is the author of White Flights: Race, Fiction, and the American Imagination, as well as the novel Your Face in Mine and the story collections The Train to Lo Wu and Nobody Ever Gets Lost. White Flights is his first book of nonfiction. One of Granta’s Best of Young American Novelists of 2007, he teaches at the College of New Jersey.