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Let me begin by saying that I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to attend and participate in both the #AWP Conference & Bookfair in Seattle and the ASA Conference at Ohio University. Charles Dickens began his classic A Tale of Two Cities by writing, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….” That aptly describes my comparative experience at these two conferences. Don’t get me wrong. Both conferences had some high points and were very valuable experiences that I am glad to have had.

At the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) Conference in Seattle, I was happy to be part of a workshop panel discussion on the topic of “Anthology Activism: Creating Space for Marginalized Voices.” I considered it a great honor to be asked to be a part of this very worthwhile project, and our presentation was very successful (despite my voice), and I am very proud of all of us.

I made some connections at AWP, but overall, the conference was kind of disappointing and overwhelming. It was very big, and I generally do not do well in crowds, especially in environments that are unfamiliar, and Seattle was most definitely unfamiliar. We found very few sessions to be of interest, and we just stayed in our room on Friday and Sunday. Of course, I felt that we should be doing something and were missing out. But, Marilyn kept everything in perspective. We did go to an interesting session virtually and three in-person sessions. One was on writing about women’s desire, and the other was on imposter syndrome.

We were also able to do some sightseeing earlier in the week, but I messed up Wednesday, by taking one of the muscle relaxants that the doctor had given me in the morning, which completely knocked me out. I had to go back to bed. I was also sick a lot of the time with a cold that had actually started before we left. However, we did really enjoy our visit to the Pike Street Market and Left Bank Books. We also had some good food, but not the seafood that we expected to have.

My experience at the Appalachian Studies Association (ASA) Conference was a direct contrast to my experience at AWP. It was absolutely amazing and so very welcoming. Of course, I knew a lot of people, and I did make some connections. Whether they amount to anything remains to be seen. I felt like I was home with my people. I had a nice conversation with a person from Glenville State College (now University) about my parents and grandparents. Both of my parents went to Glenville State, and my grandparents lived on College Street right across from the College. I remember the homecoming parades that would go right past my grandparents’ house. We also went to some amazing workshops and presentations. I had two readings-“I Thought I Heard A Cardinal Sing” and “Women Speak.” I felt like I nailed both readings, but especially “Women Speak.” I could tell how moved the audience was by my reading of “Roadblocks.”

Barbara Marie Minney is a transgender woman, award-winning poet, writer, speaker, and quiet activist. She is a retired attorney and a seventh generation Appalachian. Now based in Tallmadge, Ohio, her first collection of poetry entitled “If There’s No Heaven” was the winner of the 2020 Poetry Is Life Book Award and the Akron Beacon Journal Best Northeast Ohio Books 2020. It is available through this website at Barbara is also the author of the "Poetic Memoir Chapbook Challenge." Follow her at

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