Just for fun, I asked my facebook friends to report if they also had rejected panels, and I was surprised to find a number of really interesting ones.
Here's Danit Brown's, author of Ask for a Convertible, an excellent book of short stories:
Rebecca Meacham, Kelly Magee, Diana Joseph, and Michelle Herman.
Why Every Writer Needs a Wife and What to Do If You Don’t Have One: Balancing the demands of Writing, Academia, and Motherhood.
Writing takes time and psychological privacy, which can be at a premium for parents. Women especially may find themselves unable to reconcile being a Good Mom (selfless, present, makes own baby food) and a Good Academic (selfless, present, does committee work, mentors students) with the conventional image of the Real Writer (typing away alone in the attic). Panelists discuss their experiences as writers, academics, and mothers, and share strategies they’ve used to stay focused and keep writing.
Social scientists have long observed that men in academia find it easier to balance the demands of career and parenthood, while women are more likely to be single and childless, and/or keep quiet any conflicted feelings towards career and motherhood. This panel seeks to bring this conversation out into the open, and to expand the definitions of Good Mother and Real Writer so they are more inclusive and less dependent on gender roles and stereotypes.
Here's poet and editor Cate Marvin's.
Beth Ann Fennelly
Arsenic Icing: Sentiment as Threat in Contemporary American Women's Poetry
Six contemporary female American poets explore how sentimentality is deployed in twenty-first century women’s poetry, with regard to both content and rhetoric, as a means to counter traditional assumptions regarding female desire and identity. What personal and political alchemies occur when the affectionate address verges on acerbic? What transformations are sought when a female speaker, once familiar as mother, daughter, sister, wife, or lover, employs sentiment to reveal herself as Other?
The first female American poets to be respected for their intellect, Marianne Moore and her protégé, Elizabeth Bishop, were careful not to express an excess of sentiment; poets Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath would make a stark departure from this mode by channeling emotional extremity. It is now important to explore how twenty-first century American women poets understand and reinvent these opposing traditions
in their work.
By the way: I had a stellar group of panelists (VARIED and FAMOUS) lined up for this.
As I stood rolling my socks into balls and shoving folded shirts into drawers (warning: dangerously clumsy use of heavily figurative language in use: the women are the clothes, get it?? Being shoved into drawers, i.e. repressed!), I considered how another panel proposal I was on was accepted. It concerns the uses of criticism, harkening back to the New Critics, Eliot in particular. Nothing WRONG with that . . . but hasn't it been done?
And I thought, too, of how often I see more men's names in prominent magazines than women's, how I see men getting prizes more often than women, how even though female students would love to read newer work by female writers, they are rarely taught the work of women-- except for the usual suspects.
And I thought about how a male poet friend of mine discouraged me from getting involved with editing a book of feminist poets/poems from the past two decades because it would be "dangerous" and "divisive."
Now, there's no reason why one should, on the basis of these two panel rejections, assume that there is a bias against feminist perspectives on literature at AWP, but it will be interesting to see whether there are indeed panels of similar concern or frame, and to figure out why those were chosen (if, indeed, they exist). Barrett Watten emailed to say that Carla Harryman's panels also went by the wayside.
Of course, I received other rejected panel proposals, also of interest:
"Crossing the Great Divide: Creative Fallout from Teaching Composition"
Statement of Merit
In an interview with composition theorist David Bartholomae, Charles Bernstein suggests that teaching composition can be useful for the creative writer. Viewing these disciplines as inimical, Bernstein argues, hurts both. Past AWP panels suggested ways of incorporating creative-writing practices into the composition classroom. This panel adds to that rich conversation by examining ways in which teaching composition can complement one’s creative process. The panel thus offers an alternative vision of composition as enriching rather than threatening to creative writing.
For many beginning creative writers, the reality of teaching composition is greeted with sorrow and distress, but does this need to be the case? How might teaching composition deepen rather than disrupt one’s creative process, enrich rather than jeopardize one’s creative output? This panel, composed of poets, playwrights, fiction writers and literary editors, will explore the positive, creative fallout from teaching composition and examine how the view of composition as inimical to creative writing actually threatens to hurt both disciplines.
Particpants: David J. Daniels, Heather Martin, Carol Samson, Blake Sanz
And this, from Jake Adam York:
Two panels I was on were rejected (waiting to hear about a third). The first was about Writing About Racial Violence, with Anthony Grooms (coordinator), Amaud Jamaul Johnson, Ravi Howard, and myself. The second was called "Whose Disaster?" and was to discuss the ethics of writing about human disasters in which the author did not participate/suffer, with Colin Rafferty, Nicole Cooley, Sheryl St. Germaine, and Carly Sachs..
So the concern remains, as I wrote to Susan Schultz, that the AWP is not a big enough tent--that how the AWP panel judging understands and applies the notion of diversity--part of the criteria for panels--needs to be examined by members and more clearly articulated by the organization. It is too soon to decry the AWP for 2010, though I know that critical analysis of the organization has been done in the past.
What it suggests, at the very least, from a "member" point of view, is that we need to agitate for ever more transparent judging and clearer criteria and application of criteria.
Further, as Susan points out in her piece, there is an implicit tension between the aim to be representative in a democratic sense and to be patrons of the arts--i.e., an art that is democratically funded, organized, and legitimated, and an art that is aristocratically funded, organized, and legitimated (though here, I'm simplifying).
What we need to ask of the AWP, at the very minimum, is a fuller report of judging criteria, a revamped system of application which would include full abstracts--as every other conference does--rather than name-dropping participants, catchy titling, and a few sentences about why people should care. Though I have been impressed by the substance and range of a good many AWP panels, still far too many AWP panels are shoddily presented, thinly argued book- and self-promotions.