The Olivian Guide to AWP and Portland Stuff

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So you’re visiting me in Portland! Or you’re visiting AWP and I just happen to live here, and so do some of my closest creative friends. If you know me you know I love hosting, and in a way even though AWP doesn’t pay me and no one cares that I’m there, I’m hosting you, and your thousands of other friends here for a few days.

I’m a downtown Portland local who calls the area you’ll be circling home, so I would be remiss not to share my bacchanal, brainy, and foodie interests for the next week or so. So without further ado, here’s my list of must-sees, must-dos, must-eats, must-reads, and must-meets for Portland, with a special focus on the AWP schedule and where I’ll be throughout it all.


You’re going to fly in or jump off a grayhound or catch a MAX train at some point, just letting you know. If you fly in, and you’re heading downtown, don’t miss the chance to take the Red Line into the city. Odds are it will drop you off right at your hotel if not very close to it. We have a very nice train system and you’ll get a poetic trip past the Ikea and a million trees and some freeways you’ll remember all the way home. Take the train if you can.

Once you’re in the city proper, know everyone will remind you that most people live on the East Side. You will probably spend most of your time at the Convention Center and the central city if you are at AWP. I live downtown so I’m biased because I love the hellish bustle many Portlanders avoid.

Plan ahead to actually go to the east side or the suburbs at some point, if you can squeeze it in. Go to 82nd and eat dim sum at Won’s King on Southeast Division. All the food at the edge of town is cheaper, better, and made lovingly compared to the ever trendy but probably leading to the end of our lives via capitalism food in the urban center.

Get your hair cut at Bishop’s if you haven’t had a haircut recently. Settle in for a free beer and don’t pay taxes for dumb sh•t that isn’t property.

Then at night I’d probably go to some of these:

Cave Canem FEllows OFf-Site Reading @ Literary arts

Binders Memoirists/nonfiction writers/essayists Meetup @ Broadway pub

No Crying Reading@ Dorsa Brevia


Now, I’m a hypocrite because I hate waking up before noon. I work well into the night and I get most of my creative energy around people at late-night readings, events, and writing spurts, so this is all a pipe dream (that being, me going to all these good morning, bright and early events that good doting writers who wake up at the crack of dawn will go to). If you catch me at some of these, give me a pat on the back and remind me to take a nap before I pass out halfway through the day.

9 AM: Yoga (???)

Will I wake up in time for yoga with other writers at the Convention Center? Find out on Thursday at 9 a.m. in room D129. If you can’t make it, that’s fine, just stretch while brushing your teeth in the hotel room or in your friend’s bathroom wherever you’re crashing.

Okay so maybe not yoga?

If I don’t want to do yoga first thing in the morning, or I feel like I just need to dive right into panels and pumping my brain full of delicious writerly things, I’m going to go to a panel maybe. I’m torn between a few of these but they definitely stand out at me:

#saferlit: Fighting Sexual misconduct in the lITerary World

Featuring lynn Melnick, Jen Benka, Elissa Washuta, Deborah Paredez, Jeffrey Lependorf

Men have been gross as hell lately, or maybe forever probably. I’ve been all about being an angel of death when it comes to creeps, predators, and old men who want to harass or limit the advances of women I love. So this seems like a natural, albeit dark, way to start my AWP. Show up and bite the bullet, or be a coward like me and maybe stay in bed.

Cheating on Poetry: On Writing Nonfiction too

FEaturing Anna Leahy, Beth ANN Fennelly, Paisley Rekdal, lisa ko, Cori Winrock

Having a love affair with poetry when you graduated from a Fiction writing program? Sounds like me, the little tart I am! Or maybe it sounds like you, the poet sneaking into the sentence? Either way, this sounds like it rings true to me and I want to go here and fight my inner demons about being in the wrong genre and you might want to join me supposing I’m awake.

10:30 am – 11:45 am

The oh shit moment: Issues of social justice & identity in the writing classroom

I remember now once, I wrote this girl a full question-tree full of responses to her abysmally racist piece. It looks something like this:

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I was too cowardly to hand it to her but I definitely blocked her at the end of the workshop so she could never find me and to stop myself from sending it to her after the fact.

Anyway, maybe I could use this workshop to learn some patience and wisdom or something!

Lenguas revoltosas: Writers of color disrupting traditional literary zones

featuring Alan palaez Lopez, Veronica reyes, Olga Garcia Echeverria, Maya Chinchilla, Sehba Sarwar

So if I’m not learning how to not go ham on my fellow workshop participants, what will I be doing? Learning to disrupt traditional literary zones which I consider myself quite the expert at already! I’m multilingual and frankly even if you aren’t you should attend too in case you might learn how to cuss in Spanish.


Will I manage to eat in the fifteen minutes between one of those workshops and my own panel? Probably not. I think I’ve agreed to have lunch with my fellow panelists afterwards anyway. Probably I’ll spend these fifteen minutes peeking at the bookfair and talking to someone I forgot about.

12 – 1:15 pm

Rewriting wild bodies

featuring Heidi Hutner, CHelsea Biondolillo, Marco Seiryu Wilkinson, J. Drew Lanham, and Olivia Olivia (yours truly)

I have to be at my own panel and frankly you should be there too. Will I rewrite my own wild body? Of course. And you won’t want to miss it.


Probably now I will eat. If you are looking for food near the Oregon Convention Center you’re SOL because it’s surrounded by Starbucks and Denny’s. Our closest “local” burger chain is also under boycott for abusing its workers (I’m looking at you Burgerville) and I don’t want y’all to be strike breakers no matter how tempting those onion rings look. COME ON! Resistance people! Okay, maybe one onion ring but you better tip the shit out of those workers. And tell them you support the union and yell at some manager on the way out.

Other than that, take the MAX a few stops in any direction and you’ll get to a plethora of downtown food carts, northeast local chains, and fun one-offs. Go to Kalé downtown (Japanese Curry!) or check out Cafe Yumm on NE 7th/8th on the Max going east one stop.

Try Little Big Burger, which is also unionizing so support the workers and tip them well.

Try the Pine Street Market downtown which is an indoor fancy food cart area full of high end food cart food because it’s inside. They also serve drinks and pizza and ice cream, but be warned they are fancy ice creams and beers! Prepare accordingly.

Cheap eats abound near the Oregon Convention Center but they’re mostly chain restaurants so eat there but please shut up about it if you go there. I don’t want to hear you self- flagellating about having eating a goddamn mcnugget in Portland, Oregon. You did good. You ate.

3 – 4:15 pm

The Cuba writers program Faculty and alumni Reading

featuring Alden Jones, Tim Weed, Ann Hood, Dariel Suarez, Suchita Chadha

There better some communism at this. If this ends up being some anti-communist thing I’ll wander off.

A reading & Conversation withn Rebecca MakkaI and Tayari Jones

Look, my girl Tayari taught me in Lisbon. I met her at Reed and fell in love with her writing about the Atlanta child murders. Leaving Atlanta is one of my top five must reads and I have a copy that has travelled across three continents and 10 years with me. It is well-loved and might need to live in a ziplock bag because of how much I’ve read it or shared it with friends. This past year she was recognized by freakin’ OPRAH of all people (yes that Oprah). I stan and I generally go to anything where I might catch my mentor/hero/writer fave. You should too.

4:30 – 5:45 pm

US Citizenship and its Discontents

featuring Grace Prasad, Jamila Osman, Mahmud Rahman, Nay Saysourinho

Ever heard of forced migration? Persecution? Not wanting to come to America but being here anyway? If the answer is yes, come with me and talk shit! If the answer is no, come with me and learn something!

6 – 7:15 pm

The LGBTQ Caucus

Will I hate this? Will I even be here? Maybe I’ll be at Dorsa Brevia instead…

8 – ???

AWP Queer Mixer at C.C. Slaughters

Probably the place I should go. A good gay bar with the best and funniest people I know. I go here a lot.

AWP TIn House Partyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

The aspirational party. The fancy party. $5 cover. The party where the rich people from New York will be. Which party do I want to go to? I’m not sure yet.



9 AM: definitely not yoga

We know after staying up late Thursday night I will be nowhere near a yoga class on Friday morning. I might however make it to some panels/readings. Let’s see!

10:30 – 11:45 AM

Epistle(s) as Literary Devices: When a letter is more than a letter

featuring Lisa Allen, Randall Horton, Jeanie Thompson, Derrick Harriell

Many of you know I teach a letter-writing workshop called Goodbye Cruel Worlds and Dear Johns: How to Write the Letter You’ll Never Send. I love writing letters. I love reading letters. You can expect to see me after breakfast.

12 pm – 1:15 pm

Life is a Hybrid: Crossing Genre Boundaries iN Memoir

featuring Alex Marzano-Lesnevich, Emily Maloney, Chris Felicinao Arnold, Ruth Behar, Joshua Rivkin

Ever written speculative memoir? I have. What if x had happened instead of what really happened? Show up with me and we’ll quietly learn how to make ourselves more tolerable.


I’ll probably be dead or need food. Expect to be wandering the book fair or mingling in this time.

4:30 – 5:45 pm

Centro Mariconadas: Queering Central American narratives

I’m on this panel so I’ll definitely be here. Learn more about it!

6 – 7:15 pm

latino or african diaspora caucus

Being Afrolatinx means idk which one to go to. We’ll figure it out!


AWP Off-Site: The Party of Many Names

Bart Fitzgerald and Samiya Bashir are hosting this so it’s sure to be bomb. $10 – $20 sliding scale entry but any allies wanna pay for me hit me up!

LIT in Portland: AWP Off-site dance party

A know less about this one but it looks like PEN America is signing off on it. What does it MEAN?



I have a feeling by Saturday I might be wearing myself a little thin but I do have some must-sees on my list, even though I’m sure I’m leaving out hundreds of things I should also be doing.

1:30 – 2:45 pm

Hoopoes and Dybbuks: Immigrant and refugee voices

Featuring Anne Walker, Gazmend Kapllani, Meaza Petros, Ewa Chrusciel

Ghosts from all over the world? Immigration? I’m all about it.

6 pm – idk when

Bookseller’s BAll @ The Star Theater

I’m reading around midnight, but there’s specials, performances, and readings all damn day. I’ll come here eventually and I’ll be on stage just when you thought I wouldn’t make it.