Virtual AWP 2021: How to Release a Book in a Pandemic

March 11, 2021

This is a guest post by
Kelli Russell Agodon

I did not screenshot the one-on-one Meet and Greet with Copper Canyon Press, but I wore a paisley button-down shirt and people arrived, to ask questions and just to talk. I had been a little nervous about that event for two reasons. The first was, I wasn’t exactly sure how it would work: would I be chatting with people via text or would we all arrive on Zoom (Zoom it was)? The second reason was, what if it was just me sitting in a Zoom room by myself because no one showed up? Oh the sad life of a poet!, I thought. But thankfully, people did show up, Zoom worked well, and as usual, my worries were for nothing.

The rest of AWP felt like wandering around an empty virtual game. Since you can’t see other participants unless you go to the tab with a list of attendees, it felt like an AWP of one’s own, which for me is the opposite of why I go to AWP. I go to AWP to walk the bookfair and for the surprise encounters with favorite poets and friends I haven’t seen for a while. I go to AWP to hold books, to flip the pages of poetry books, to sit in an audience and listen to a panel.

In my current world, I am Zoomed out, so clicking on a panel (many pre-recorded) and tuning in seemed like another opportunity for too much screentime. But I discovered that because everyone is just sitting in their offices off screen, I could click on a panel, listen, and clean my office! The panels I listened to were good and if they weren’t, there was no awkward leaving mid-panel, just a click of the pause button or shutting the laptop.

While Two Sylvias Press had a virtual booth, we mostly set it up and answered questions by message. We didn’t sell as many books as a normal AWP, but we didn’t have to carry any books from a van to the conference center either!

While this wasn’t the most inspiring conference, I admire AWP for coming up with something that wasn’t too hard to navigate, had a virtual bookfair, and allowed us a little bit of the AWP feel through panels and readings (even if they were on a screen).

This would have been the AWP my book, Dialogues with Rising Tides, would have been released with Copper Canyon Press, or almost (it’s due to be published April 27, 2021). Do I feel cheated or sad that my book is coming out during a pandemic? Not really. Actually, not at all. Mostly, I am thankful for the new ways we unite online, how we find our way through this difficult time. I’m reminded of the many ways we still have to connect and know we are turning the corner for more in-person time.

Since I’m not doing in-person events right now for my book, the online world has oddly become a stage (one I’m occasionally falling off, due to too much screentime). Virtual AWP was a way to meet some new readers, hear my favorites talk about their poetry lives, and actually sell a few more books. During the pandemic I have learned that things do not need to be perfect; good enough suits me just fine these days.

– – – – –
Kelli Russell Agodon is the author of Dialogues with Rising Tides from Copper Canyon Press (which you can preorder here or on Amazon.) Kelli is also the cofounder of Two Sylvias Press and the Co-Director of Poets on the Coast: A Weekend Retreat for Women. On May 1, 2021, she will be teaching a workshop on The Surrealists Toolkit, writing poems from prompts and play of surrealist artists and writers. Visit her website to read more of her work.

One Response to “Virtual AWP 2021: How to Release a Book in a Pandemic”

  1. bwcarey Says:

    best of luck, zoom on


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