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Authors and Publishers Pulling Out of AWP Conference in San Antonio Amid Coronavirus Concerns


  • Twitter / awpwriter
Well, there's good news and bad news about the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Conference — but what's good and what's bad depends on where your anxieties lie.

On Monday, Mayor Ron Nirenberg declared a public health emergency in a bid to exert more local control over the quarantined COVID-19 patients that are currently housed at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. This came after news that a patient had to return to quarantine after testing "weakly positive" for COVID-19 — but not before making a trip to North Star Mall.

The mall closed Monday for a thorough deep cleaning and health officials say risk of exposure is low, but with community transmission of the disease beginning to be seen in the U.S. and the cancellation of other major events due to coronavirus concerns, rumors began to circulate that this week's AWP Conference would be cancelled, too.

Surprising many, AWP Co-Director Diane Zinna tweeted Monday that "the conference is on."

Many participants expressed concerns that the conference was still moving forward, followed by a snowballing series of announcements of event and appearance cancellations.

Molecular biophysicist and author Joseph Osmundson made his case for pulling out of the conference in a tweet thread, explaining that "social distancing" — which, in this case, means not attending AWP— is key to reducing the rate of spread of the virus.

Essayist and activist Shannon Lee, who also pulled out of the conference, cut straight to the heart of the matter and provided some levity to boot:

Late Monday evening, the AWP tweeted a link to a fuller statement on the conference detailing how the organization came to the decision to continue to hold the event, as well as measures being taken to preserve the safety of its participants. Most notably, they have prohibited physical touch at the event: "This will be a handshake-free, hug-free conference."

For those that remain undecided, alt-AWP book fair Whale Prom put out a Twitter poll to get a clearer idea of how many publishers still plan to appear at the conference. Half of the 366 respondents said that they are not going.

Whale Prom itself may face cancellation, but an announcement is pending.

Still, many people are unfazed by COVID-19 woes, even coming up with fun strategies to avoid touching people at the conference.

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