#AWP20 Featured Presenter Q&A with Aimee Liu

AWP | January 2020

Event Title: Donna Hemans, Aimee Liu, and Ellen Meeropol in Conversation with Kristen Young, Sponsored by Red Hen Press
Description: Four powerful female authors read their work and discuss their shared themes of families torn apart by history and war. Each work quests to find lost siblings and daughters and sons, each story a heart-wrenching tale of the strength of family against life's cruel obstacles. These four women discuss the importance and necessity of telling these stories, and the impact these stories have on our lives right now, in the real world.
Participants: Donna Hemans, Aimee Liu, Ellen Meeropol, and Kristen Young
Location: Hemisfair Ballroom C3, Henry B. González Center, Ballroom Level
Date & Time: Thursday, March 5, 12:10 p.m. to 1:25 p.m.


Q: What are some of the conference events or Bookfair exhibitors you look forward to seeing at AWP?
There’s almost too much to choose from! This year I’m excited to be part of the Red Hen Press family at the Bookfair, and I always look forward to the keynote and to the AWP reunion of alumni and faculty from the Goddard College MFA Program where I teach. In addition, I’ve spotted a few panel discussions that I find particularly interesting and have not seen at other AWPs: Expat Writers in and from Asia: Questioning the Term “Expatriate” (Sybil Baker, Collier Nogues, Lawrence Lacambra Ypil, Ploi Pirapokin, James Shea); The Evolution of Truth: How Nonfiction Has Changed Over Time (Mia Herman, Patricia Horvath, Phillip Lopate, Lee Gutkind); What if the Unlikeable Narrator is You?: On “Likability” in Nonfiction (Lucas Mann, Angela Pelster, Sarah Viren, Zaina Arafat, José Orduña); and one that seems imperative today, Don’t Call It a Call Out: Literary Citizenship in the Digital Age (Michael Kleber-Diggs, Levis Keltner, Su Hwang, Gala Mukomolova, Sun Yung Shin). I’m also eager to attend some of the many discussions focused on the role of the writer vis-à-vis the immigration crisis on the border, especially given that we’re meeting in Texas.

Q: What do you remember most about your first AWP? What advice would you give to an AWP first-timer?
The first AWP conference I attended was in Austin, Texas, in 2006. Although attendance was vastly lower back then, I still found it overwhelming and bewildering. I was somewhat mystified by the plethora of small presses and the relative absence of large publishers exhibiting in the Bookfair. Having attended more commercial trade shows such as BEA, I kept searching for the monetary key to explain AWP’s mojo. It took me some time to grasp that this huge gathering really is fueled more by the love than the sale of literature. One of the things that helped bring this home was the presence of my whole grad school community, plus constellations of award-winning authors mingling generously with emerging writers.

My advice to first-timers is to scour the online schedule in advance and plan to attend the panels, readings, and signings that feature your hottest topics and literary heroes but also to remain flexible and open to chance encounters and discovery. Don’t try to do it all. Take breaks. Drink water. Wear comfortable shoes. And enjoy hanging out with your old and new friends!

Q: What is your favorite AWP conference memory?
During my first AWP I had a chance offsite encounter with one of my favorite authors, Sabina Murray (The Caprices, Tales of the New World, Valiant Gentlemen). To me she was a luminary, but she greeted me, a stranger, more as a colleague than a fan and seemed genuinely surprised by my awe of her. I’ve since realized that such encounters are the norm at AWP, where the community of writers is like a large family of kindred spirits.

Q: What book or books that you’ve read over the last year would you most highly recommend?

  • Pico Iyer’s lovely new reflection on Japan, Autumn Light
  • Johanna Stoberock’s disturbingly original eco-novel, Pigs
  • Tom Lutz’s rollicking and riveting trip around the world, And the Monkey Learned Nothing
  • J.D. Vance’s unsettling but important memoir, Hillbilly Elegy
  • Cara Hoffman’s deeply moving novel, Running
  • Colette Sartor’s arresting debut collection, Once Removed


Aimee LiuAimee Liu is the author of the forthcoming novel Glorious Boy, as well as Flash House, Cloud Mountain, and Face and the memoirs Gaining: The Truth About Life After Eating Disorders and Solitaire. Her books have been translated into more than a dozen languages, published as a Literary Guild Super Release, and serialized in Good Housekeeping. She’s received a B&N Discover Great New Writers Award and special mention by the Pushcart Prize. Liu holds an MFA from Bennington College and teaches in Goddard College’s MFA in Creative Writing Program at Port Townsend, Washington. More at http://www.aimeeliu.net.


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