#AWP20 Featured Presenter Q&A with Jean Kwok

AWP | February 2020

Event Title: A Reading and Conversation with Jean Kwok, Dani Shapiro, and Jacqueline Woodson, Sponsored by Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau
Description: Jean Kwok, Dani Shapiro, and Jacqueline Woodson will read and discuss their writing processes, inspirations, and critically acclaimed works. Jean Kwok is the author of the 2019 bestseller Searching for Sylvie Lee as well as two previous novels. Dani Shapiro is the author of ten memoirs and novels, including Inheritance, and hosts the hit podcast Family Secrets. Jacqueline Woodson is a National Book Award winner who has written numerous books for audiences of all ages, including Red at the Bone.
Participants: Jean Kwok, Dani Shapiro, Jacqueline Woodson
Location: HemisFair Ballroom C1, Henry B. González Convention Center, Ballroom Level
Date & Time: Thursday, March 5, 3:20 p.m. to 4:35 p.m.


Q: What are some of the conference events or Bookfair exhibitors you look forward to seeing at AWP?
I really enjoy panels on craft and publishing, plus I always go to the Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau events because they always seem to feature my favorite authors.

Q: What do you remember most about your first AWP?
I live in the Netherlands, and when I come to the US to do publicity for my books in the form of readings or interviews, I’m often the only author around. I was feeling lonely and wanted to connect with other people who loved the same things I did. Author friends told me that AWP was THE conference to attend in order to connect, so I tried it.

My first AWP, I felt completely lost. It seemed like everyone else was completely at home. I wasn’t on any panels and hardly knew anyone. However, I still loved being among so many people who cared about writing the same way I did. I went to panel after panel until I collapsed.

And now, just a few years later, I’m amazed that I’m a featured presenter at AWP. I’ve been on panels every year since my first AWP and I’ve made so many wonderful friends here. Sometimes I meet people at random at events, but sometimes I’ll finally see someone in person who I may only have known via social media. AWP is truly a place where people connect.

Q: What advice would you give to an AWP first-timer?
My advice to a first-timer would be to take it easy. It can be really overwhelming. There are so many people, so many panels, but just take it one step at a time. Go to events that call to you and don’t worry if you need to take a break once in a while.

Be open to meeting new people. Go up to panelists afterward and tell them how much you enjoyed their talk. Before the conference, ask if people are going to AWP and suggest meeting up for a cup of tea.

Go to panels and talks and soak up the wisdom, humor, and honesty you’ll find there. Disregard anything that doesn’t feel right to you.

Q: What is your favorite AWP conference memory?
Listening to Min Jin Lee at the Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau event a few years ago. She was so honest, wise, and funny. She also read her work with so much feeling that I was completely awed.


Jean KwokJean Kwok is the New York Times and international bestselling author of Girl in TranslationMambo in Chinatown, and the hit novel Searching for Sylvie Lee. Her work has been published in eighteen countries and is taught in universities, colleges, and high schools across the world. Kwok’s numerous honors include the American Library Association Alex Award, the Chinese American Librarians Association Best Book Award, and the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award international shortlist. She received her bachelor's degree from Harvard University and earned an MFA from Columbia University.

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