AWP Panel Proposal Rejected – Let’s Get Technical

While people like Cate Marvin, Susan Schultz, & Craig Santos Perez have queried similarly in the past, speculating on a variety of causes for rejection, proposal applicants are still left wondering at the end of the process each year, where we went wrong.  Did bias play a role?  Are the panelists and I not noteworthy enough?  Was the proposal poorly worded?  Is my focus on the least popular genre?  Etc.

On the process, Christian Teresi clarified last year in an interview:

We want the process to be as democratic and transparent as possible. We are always thinking about ways in which we might improve those goals. A detailed explanation of the “Selection & Scoring Process” can be found on the AWP website, but in short what happens is each committee member ranks the proposals within the given modules based on a set of defined criteria. The committee’s aggregate scores are then averaged, and the highest scoring proposals within each module are accepted.

So we are told attention is paid to each proposal by each committee member.  And that each proposal is averaged into a final score and ranked.   But at the end of the day, rejection in hand, we hopeful applicants who put in time and effort writing proposals with their justifications, having invited and convinced other writers to share their time and participate, are not privy to where we went wrong, not even a hint.

MY QUESTION:  Why is AWP capable of spending time judging, tallying, averaging, ranking and then informing each applicant of their accepted or rejected status, but it remains impossible, despite having already ranked each proposal and reached a consensus, to inform us of that ranking?  If you want the process to be as “democratic and transparent” as possible, wouldn’t sharing those final scores with your applicants be a step in making more transparent this democratic process?   It would also permit us to think about how to improve our proposals next year.

AWP, since you’ve already done the tallying, by not permitting us to know where we stand in the big picture feels like shadowy obfuscation and actually does make us wonder about the true democracy of the process.  This may sound like sour grapes, but I would like to have a vague idea where my proposal placed so that I can know if I should bother trying to improve it for next year — Or is an investigation of the influence of gender in publishing merely a subject AWP doesn’t want to touch with a ten foot pole?   Would such queries resound with AWP’s practices to boot?  With no sense of why, my speculations are left to ‘run wild’… & I don’t think I’m alone.



In other AWP news, I return to my usual refrain:  If writers did not have access to alcohol at this year’s conference, you better believe this would be a men’s issue.  Wait!  I mean, women AND men would care, speak out, shout their demands for access from the rooftops & book fair tables, etc. 

But I hear very little outcry about the lack of daycare, which *pretty often* falls on the shoulders of writers who happen to be female (Wait!  I know some men, even personally, take care of their babies at AWP – I know – hence the “pretty often”).  This need for childcare affects attendance & participation, among other issues.  Teresi notes in the aforementioned interview that insurance for childcare is too costly, but I wonder, as AWP maps out hotels and locations, how much childcare factors into the planning (as might access to bars? etc).  Teresi states:

However, whenever possible we will provide information on local childcare providers as recommended by the hotel, and attendees can contract with them individually. We will work toward making this information available both on the website and in the conference program.

Has AWP been working on locating options for parents who bring children this year?  Did they last year?  Do they network these parents so that they might be able to collaborate and share babysitting duties, thus permitting more mobility?  To date, I see no mention of the above ‘childcare providers’ on the AWP site, nor do I see any discussion module set for parents to attempt to mobilize on their own steam on the AWP Conference forum.  I realize it’s early still, so perhaps AWP officiators will remedy this absence.  Perhaps.


SANDRA SIMONDS started an online petition for on-site daycare here – click and sign


From: Christian Teresi
Date: September 15, 2011
Subject: AWP & Child Care
We created the child care discussion section on the forum of the AWP website:
You’ll see it under the conference section with the heading “Conference Child Care.”  
We’ll make the announcement of the discussion on facebook and twitter, but please feel free to pass this information along.  If anyone does not already have access to the Writer’s Circle Forum all they would need to do is register at the top of the page.  Best, Christian 
Christian Teresi
Director of Conferences 
Association of Writers & Writing Programs

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AMY KING View All →

Amy King is the recipient of the 2015 Winner of the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) Award. Her latest collection, The Missing Museum, is a winner of the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize. She co-edited with Heidi Lynn Staples the anthology Big Energy Poets of the Anthropocene: When Ecopoets Think Climate Change. She also co-edits the anthology series, Bettering American Poetry, and is a professor of creative writing at SUNY Nassau Community College.

8 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Hrm. As a scholar and professional in other fields as well as creative writing, providing childcare options has never been addressed, nor has any ranking system for papers/panels/presentations been published (at least that I am aware of, in library & information science, or political science).

    I’m curious as to why there’s more outcry from writers for this that hasnt bled into other areas (particularly library science, which is very heavily female, unlike other areas, and where one might expect such an outcry for childcare).

    Or perhaps childcare is largely considered a personal issue that isnt within the purview of the professional association. (Of course, if AWP says they’ll address it and don’t, that’s on them.)

  2. Amy, I do not mean to sound like sour grapes either, but I would like to know which area of the ranking I need to improve upon for my own rejected panel. This year I submitted a panel for Portuguese-American writers. No panel or reading on this topic has ever been included in an AWP conference. The panel included the most talented and note-worthy Luso writers out there. Last month the very first Portuguese-American anthology was published and in June I particpated in the first conference in Lisbon. I looked at my proposal as to where it went wrong and I could not see where. Every year at AWP there are the same old panels, with the same academic stars and meanwhile year after year panels that I think sound great or worthy or at least interesting are turned down. I was on a panel last year which was packed. We had a great turn out! And, yet, when we applied for a part two, that panel was trurned down in favor of another similar topic from last year which was held in a large auditorium and which had maybe 5 people in an audience that should have been 500. I do not understand the criteria or the “grading scale” either. It would be nice if AWP shared this with us. I am SO willing to improve upob my proposal–if I only knew what was wrong with it. Millicent

  3. Child care is cost prohibitive thus AWP can easily remedy this problem by charging appropriate fees, fees that cover insurance and providers or simply contract it to known quality daycare centers in the area.
    as for the ranking being transparent I could see why they wouldn’t allow it to be known as many writers will tend to squabble over points vs other writers vs their own perception of what should have been graded differently and where – it would then become too personal when their goal ought to be making it as impersonal as possible – therefore promoting a more equal selection.

  4. I am 100% in support of your panel and I hope that we can combine it with other more “political” panels that were rejected by AWP this year. I think we should combine these panels into an off-site panel. Thanks so much for this post, Amy. I’m really glad you wrote it :)

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