AWP and the Anxiety of Non-Affiliation

On Halloween night, late, as the ghosts and zombies and fairy princesses were packing away their costumes and sinking into sugar-fogged sleep, I sat down at my computer and registered for next year’s AWP Conference. It’ll be in Seattle February 26-March 1, and since this national writing conference rotates through the Pacific Northwest only every six or so years, I don’t want to miss it. I’m excited to go to craft sessions, hear author readings, and browse the book fair that will take up two entire wings of the Seattle Convention Center.

Signing up was easy, except for one part. On the page instructing me to enter the information to be printed on my conference i.d. badge, I was asked to provide my “Affiliation.”

Now, I’ve been to a lot of professional conferences. In my two decades of teaching, I attended the MLA, the NCTE, and the CCCC:  the national conferences related to college literature, teaching English, and college composition, respectively. At all of those conferences, my “affiliation” was with either my grad school or, for the other 12 years, the community college where I was tenured. My “affiliation” was thoroughly, purely academic.

I resigned my teaching job when, the year after my son was born, I realized that I wasn’t able to manage both my full-time workload and my new full-time workload. Also, having no time to write, read, or exercise was making me crazy. Fortunate to be able to live on the income of my generous husband, I gave up my job, for a few years teaching very part time, and the past few years, not at all.

Untethering myself from academic life has taken a long time, and I’m still processing this separation between my academic identity and my personal identity. So the AWP i.d.-badge “affiliation” prompt raises the question all over again: who am I, now that I’m not connected to a school? If to “affiliate” is to “attach” to an institution as a child attaches to an adoptive parent (filium being Latin for “son”), then who is my professional family?

The prospect of leaving that line blank on my name badge is, frankly, a little terrifying. So I thought I’d ask you, blogfriends, for advice. In the comments, please list all that you think apply:

  1. “Unaffiliated.” End of story.
  2. “Free Range Poet”
  3. “Local Poet”
  4. “Poet with a Chapbook from MoonPath Press and Pretty Stoked About That”
  5. Badges? You don’t need no stinkin’ badges.
  6. “Institutionally Unattached”
  7. “Institutionally Unattached, But Don’t Back Away Like That; I’m Not Gonna Beg You for a Job”
  8. “Existentially Unattached and Kind of Anxious About It on Behalf of All Humanity”
  9. “Don’t Worry, Be AW-P”
  10. For crying out loud, Jennifer, get over yourself and enjoy the conference!
  11. “____________________” [Your suggestion here]

Your thoughts? And will I be seeing you, by any chance, in Seattle?

Cheers,
Jennifer

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10 comments on “AWP and the Anxiety of Non-Affiliation

  1. You could entice them with, “Ask Me,” or “Poets Anonymous.” Why not simply, “Poet?”

    Wish I could be there, but have a blast, Jennifer!

  2. Jennifer- I would say affiliated with “MoonPath Press, publisher of my recent chapbook: Impossible Lessons” as this is the truth, now isn’t? I hope this helps. All the best in making your decision. Namaste! Stephanie

    • I wish the name tag had enough space to say that! I like the idea of my nametag being a billboard for my chapbook. Thanks for this idea–I’ll see if I can figure out a short version.

  3. I adore them all (especially 2, 5, and 9), but for #11, how about “Published poet, don’t be jelly”?

  4. Numbers 2, 4, and 5. Number 5, especially.

  5. Jennifer: You could channel Emily Dickinson with “My business is circumference.” 🙂

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