Notes from AWP: Creative Writing Advice for Fundraisers

IMG_0406 (1)I recently traveled to Minneapolis to attend the annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Conference. More than 12,000 literary writers, editors, publishers, and educators converged for four days of readings, panel discussions, workshops, and networking events.

Much of the advice issued for writers of creative prose applies to fundraising writing as well. Here are a few quotes from AWP that reach into the work we do:

“Writing well is a choice.” An MFA candidate from Gettysburg College said this in a larger discussion of how texting and new media affect the written word. It’s simple, but important: If the words are doing your work, there’s no room for laziness.

“Work small.” Edan Lepucki, author of California, talked to a group about the idea of microtransformation in fiction – that is, small moments of precision and clarity that move a character forward on her journey. It’s those small, approachable, everyday things that readers – whether literary or philanthropic – can personalize. Just because the scope of your story seems small doesn’t mean its effects will be.

“I write to access the kind of world I want to live in.” This, stated by an editor at the Kenyon Review, speaks to what all of us are working toward. When we’re describing a problem, it’s so that we can work towards a solution. When we write about a need, we’re envisioning its fulfillment.

“I deeply believe that writing exacts a force in the world.” Self-proclaimed poet-of-witness Carolyn Forché said this after reading some of her work. This is the reason we do what we do – whatever kind of words we string together, we fill them with purpose, ask them to create some sort of change, and dispatch them out into the world.

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