UNM MFA graduate students and the Blue Mesa Review attended the 2020 AWP: Association of Writers & Writing Programs in San Antonio, Texas. Tori Cárdenas, Editor and Chief of Blue Mesa Review, remarked that each year UNM’s graduate students and the Blue Mesa Review Team look forward to attending the AWP as a way to promote the literary magazine and take part in an active community of writers.

Tori was invited by an acquaintance in the literary community to read a poem titled, “Intercessions for Sharks,” presented at the event “Queer Voices” held at the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center in San Antonio, Texas.

Both Heather Johnson and UNM Professor Emeritus, Sharon Oard Warner, presented on the panel, “The Novella Workshop: Advocating an Alternative MFA Apprenticeship.” The panel’s description reads: “Two professors and three graduate students share their experiences teaching, writing, and reading novellas as well as well as their reasons for embracing a form they find commodious, malleable, and downright subversive.”

Jennifer Tubbs was also in attendance. Her favorite panel was “The Ps and Qs of Pitching and Querying” in which established agents, editors, and published authors talked about best practices for getting noticed. Jennifer said that she appreciated that they all discussed their personal experiences, which helped her see what it’s like being on the writing and receiving ends of submissions. “It was definitely helpful to me as I hope to be published someday!” Jennifer said.

Jennifer also enjoyed the “Writing the Difficult with Fabulist Elements” panel as it related to her current project. She remarked, “Although the speakers were mostly poets while I write fiction, it was really interesting to see how – and why – they weave magical realist aspects into their work. As an editor for the Blue Mesa Review, Jennifer and the rest of the team took turns tabling at the book fair in San Antonio in order to both increase the literary magazine’s readership by handing out free issues and to promote their big summer contest.

While the conference offered many great opportunities for its attendees, Tori lamented that unfortunately, many of the AWP events were canceled because of the state of emergency called in San Antonio for COVID-19.