#AWP20 Featured Presenter Q&A with Mahogany L. Browne

AWP | February 2020

Event Title: The Path to Rad Empowerment: YA Lit Today, Sponsored by Blue Flower Arts
Description: Literary revolutionaries Elizabeth Acevedo, Mahogany L. Browne, Carrie Fountain, and Marilyn Nelson are breaking into the new ground of representation and empowerment in YA lit. Illuminating anew the coming-of-age experience, they bring to life real-world youth awakening to activism: from the streets of NYC to the Dominican Republic, from first loves to freedom fighting, they show young people of color for whom defiance holds the key to decoding the complexities of our present and shared histories.
Participants: Elizabeth Acevedo, Mahogany L. Browne, Carrie Fountain, Marilyn Nelson
Location: Hemisfair Ballroom C3, Henry B. González Convention Center, Ballroom Level
Date & Time: Thursday, March 5, 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 see what new ways the writers and educators are sharing their work and processes.  I'm excited to attend panels: “The Futures of Documentary and Investigative Poetries,” “A Tribute to Monica A. Hand: Poet, Playwright, Mentor, Activist” and “Did This $%*! Just Say That?: Navigating the Debut Year and Book Tour.” Also—MY PANEL! I mean, Elizabeth Acevedo, Carrie Fountain, and Marilyn Nelson? I'm in verse heaven!

Q: What do you remember most about your first AWP? What advice would you give to an AWP first-timer?
The advice I wish I would've received is: take your time—you don't have to rush through every event. Give yourself permission to learn new things, introduce yourself to new writers. Meet new people with an intentional connection to their humanity—not what they can do for your career. The books brought us together—but the connection to our community is what makes this work worth it! This emotionally intense packed conference can be mind-numbing, so I make sure to see at least one evening/side event. Those are some of my most profound memories. 

Q: What is your favorite AWP conference memory?
My favorite AWP memory is walking through the hall on the last day and seeing poetry legends and fiction writers mingle. The genres can be so separate that when you see these beautiful writers in one space—it's transcending. I will never forget the impact of Black Poets Speak Out in the Bookfair, or witnessing Haymarket & Cave Canem booths swarming with writers and lovers of writing. 

Q: What book or books that you’ve read over the last year would you most highly recommend?
I read across the genres. I would definitely suggest poetry legend Eve Ewing's 1919, nonfiction gem Imani Perry's Breathe, YA treasures Jason Reynolds’s Look Both Ways & Mariama Lockington's For Black Girls Like Me, & children's book scriber Matthew A. Cherry's Hair Love.


Mahogany L. Browne Mahogany L. Browne is a writer, organizer, educator, and spoken word poet. She is the author of the YA poetry book Black Girl Magic and the children’s book Woke Baby. Her poetry collections include Kissing Caskets and Redbone. She co-edited the poetry anthology The Breakbeat Poets Vol. 2: Black Girl Magic and is at work on WOKE: A Young Poet’s Call to Justice. Browne is the recipient of numerous literary fellowships and has appeared on BuzzFeed Live, HBO, and PBS NewsHour. She is the artistic director of Urban Word NYC and the poetry coordinator at St. Francis College’s MFA Program.

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