On my way to speak at #AWP19 with Erica Jong, Thad Rutkowski & more

I’m on my way in a matter of hours to Portland, Oregon, for AWP. For those who don’t know it, AWP is the “Association of Writing Programs” (i.e. MFA programs) and their conference is a massive, massive writers conference of epic proportions.
I’ll be speaking on a Thursday afternoon panel on “Hybrid Sex Writing” with Erica Jong, Thad Rutkowski, Larissa Shmailo, and Jonathan Penton.
Here’s the official panel description:
1:30 pm to 2:45 pm
R223. Hybrid Sex Writing: What’s Your Position?
B116, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1
(Larissa Shmailo, Jonathan Penton, Thaddeus Rutkowski, Cecilia Tan, Erica Jong)
In The History of Sexuality, Michel Foucault argues that sex was not repressed in past centuries, but codified. How does contemporary hybrid sex writing crack these codes? Is there a relationship between gender politics and hybrid writing? How does hybrid writing give voice to marginalized gender identities? What is hybrid ecstasy? Is there a special connection between transgressive sex and hybrid writing? Panelists will discuss these questions with a focus on 21st-century writers.
Ooh! Come at me Foucault! I’ve prepared remarks that cover a lot of ground, including the sex-positive feminist and queer literary movement of the 1990s, how societal expectations control erotic literature counter to capitalist freedoms, and how the #MeToo movement and the runaway phenomenon of 50 Shades of Grey are linked.
I’m also keen to hear Erica Jong speak about censorship in the literary era before mine. This should be loads of fun.
Meanwhile, the conference has literally hundreds of panels and workshops. Many other ones on sexuality and erotic writing of course, including: “Reaching Climax: Girls with Sexual Agency (YA),” “Write to Climax: Women Writers on Writing Sex and Intimacy” and “Assimilate This!: Queer Literary Community as Sites of Mobilizing & Resistance.” Sassafras Lowrey is on that last one and I hope I catch it!
Plus a ton of science fiction and fantasy, of course! The conference is so large there are not one but two tribute panels on Ursula K. LeGuin. I started making a list of my sf/f peeps to try to catch at the conference and ended up giving up. The list is long:

  • Nisi Shawl
  • Alaya Dawn Johnson
  • G. Willow Wilson
  • Maryanne Mohanraj
  • Alexander Chee
  • Carmen Maria Machado
  • Daniel Jose Older
  • Kelly Link
  • Nalo Hopkinson
  • Maria Dahvana Headley
  • Rose Lemberg
  • Jonathan Lethem
  • Karen Joy Fowler
  • Rebecca Roanhorse
  • E. Lily Yu

A highly diverse assortment of writers, too, I can’t help but notice. This fuels my optimism.
Of course what I actually should make sure I spend some time doing–whether I do it in my hotel room or in tea shops and cafes–is some writing. My plan is to not overdo my conference participation and to get a few hours of writing in per day. We’ll see if I succeed. There are a lot of people I want to visit in Portland, too! And so many excellent restaurants!

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