The State of the Industry on the Eve of AWP

Not mentioned among yesterday’s news roundup, although it’s the lead story everywhere else these days, is the economy. It’s a difficult time to be on the job market, perhaps especially for writers and editors. Opportunities are scarce, and the applicant pool is large—and growing larger every day as more and more writers lose their jobs.

The past several weeks have seen layoffs in key positions: Andy Klein, my editor at Los Angeles CityBeat, was let go at the start of the year. The alt weekly’s film coverage has suffered considerably in his absence. His departure was preceded by Ella Taylor’s at the L.A. Weekly and Carina Chocano’s at the Los Angeles Times. The Weekly also let go theater critic Steven Leigh Morris, who had been with the paper for twenty years, prompting outrage from the city’s theater community.

Meanwhile, more and more of my writer friends, whether they’re working in editorial positions or not, are delivering unemployment news via Facebook status updates.

Into this environment enters AWP, the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference and Bookfair in Chicago, where writers and editors will gather for three days to discuss the future of their craft. It’s challenging to remain optimistic, but AWP can’t help but engender enthusiasm for the written word. More words are being written now than perhaps ever before. It’s our job as writers and editors to defend it, to reinvigorate it, and to usher it into what’s next, whatever that might be.

End post.

Except I’m not feeling it. Part of it is the economy and unemployment of my colleagues. Part of it is the recent completion of my graduate work, the question of “what next” and the stagnation between what I’ve just finished and what I’ve yet to begin. Part of it is that a paradigm shift is taking shape, yet I can’t envision it. What will it look like? What will my role in it be? That’s what I hope to learn this week at AWP, or to get inspired about—how to see out of this period of uncertainty. I’ll keep you posted.

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