• Robin Martin
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Attending the AWP conference gets easier every year. What was once overwhelming is now energizing. Obviously, some of this is experience: I know not to try to do everything; I pack nutrition and fluids in (peanut butter sandwiches, yogurt, water); I plan an activity away from the conference one night (NHL hockey!); I don’t sweat it if I miss touching bases with someone or if a visit is cut short. But more than all of that, I have accepted myself as someone who belongs behind that table at the book fair. Under the Gum Tree is a fantastic magazine— gorgeous to look at, and, yes, carefully curated. A handful of us take our time respectfully reading and replying to every submission we receive, and that number grows every year. It took six years to get to this point.

I also had a more singular focus this year: All Gum Tree, all the time. In the past, I was divided. I set up some of my time to improve my fiction writing craft, some of my time to improve my freelance editorial and business skills, and some of my time with the magazine. By using other opportunities outside of this conference to build in those other spaces, I freed up this occasion to be more focused. Scattered energy is overwhelming, whereas focused energy is energizing. There you go.

Of course, I found great new books to read. And of course, I met many new people.

The thing I enjoyed the most this year was meeting some of the magazine’s contributors. I had varying degrees of involvement with each of them and their pieces pre-publication, in some cases helping with a re-write and in other cases simply requesting a photo. It was amazing to meet the people behind the stories. Janna and I both posted pictures of these meetings to our Instagram feeds.

I attended a number of CNF panels, and worked with #AWP18 Twitter more successfully than last year, inviting panelists and other attendees to our Friday night CNF happy hour event.

The reading this year included three other magazines: River Teeth (have you read their “beautiful things”?), Hippocampus, and Fourth Genre, and about 130 people attended for a 90-minute reading of true stories. As always, I made the opening remarks and introduced the editors, and even felt pretty comfortable doing that this year.

At some of the other panels I gave out information about this year’s contest, something we started doing three years ago hoping to bring in a more diverse (in experience, and geography, as well as race) writers to submit their stories. Our first year’s contest was (un)seen/(un)heard. The second, (dis)empowered. This year’s contest theme is with(out) pretending. We are working hard to grow so that we support many voices, including those that have been marginalized. This is an exciting time for hearing the human story.

What’s your story? I can help you tell it. Visit my Contact Us page and fill out the Editorial Services Survey; it gives us a great place to start.

Author: Robin Martin
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