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Literary Excursions: Crafting Your AWP Experience in Kansas City

By David Wayne Reed

Books and coffee cup

Kansas City is a storied city where many myths and legends make up its well-documented history—historical crossroad, political scandals, romantic intrigue. As such, Kansas City is a natural fit to host the 2024 Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference. This year’s conference invites writers and publishers from around the country to convene at the Kansas City Convention Center from February 7-10, 2024. 

The Annual AWP Conference is the largest gathering of writers in North America. The conference includes all disciplines, representing multiple literary genres and communities and aims to “amplify the voices of writers and the academic programs and organizations that serve them while championing diversity and excellence in creative writing.”

This year’s conference features a diverse slew of panels, programs, and readings along with its annual book fair, promoting a vast list of publications, presses, and publishers. 

Even if you’re not registered for the conference, there are still opportunities to attend free public readings and events around Kansas City. 

Here are our top picks, which feature M-AAA grantees and alumni: 

Charlotte Street located at 3333 Wyoming Street will host Wednesday Night Poetry.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

  • Wednesday Night Poetry (Offsite) 5:30–10:30 p.m. FREE
    Kai Coggin (Catalyze Fellow, Artist Leadership Fellow, Peer Facilitator) recently celebrated the 35th anniversary of Wednesday Night Poetry in Hot Springs, Arkansas. She will be bringing this weekly series to the conference with a firehose of poets reading at this free event. Co-sponsored by M-AAA and Charlotte Street, this event will bring together hundreds of poets (including our own, Huascar Medina and David Wayne Reed, as well as Erin McGrane (Artist INC Peer Facilitator)  and many more. Located at Charlotte Street, Stern Theater, 3333 Wyoming, Kansas City, MO 64111. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. for socializing and community. Readings will begin at 6:30 p.m. 
  • TRANSAS CITY! (Offsite) 5:007:00 p.m. FREE
    TRANSAS CITY! is the only all-trans and gender nonconforming (and ALL Kansas City) poetry and performance event during AWP 2024 hosted by KC’s own co-op bookstore Turnsol Books (just a short walk from the convention center). The event is at Turnsol Books, 1664 Broadway, Kansas City, MO.


Thursday, February 8, 2024

  • Caffeine please? Try Café Corazón in the Crossroads.

    Two people sitting outside a coffee shop with a brick wall and mural that says Cafe Corazon.

    Café Corazón is located in the KC Crossroads.

  • 12:10–1:25 p.m. Megan Kaminski (Exhibiting Poet, M-AAA) will be a featured panelist on Writing Under the Influence: Accessing the Unknown Through Divination (Convention Center, Room 2215C).
  • 1:45–3:00 p.m. Huascar Medina (Artist Services Program Associate, Kansas Poet Laureate 2019-2022) will be a featured panelist on A More Perfect Union In Extreme Times: Kansas Poets Laureate (Convention Center, Room 2502A).  
  • 5:00–6:30 p.m. (Offsite) FREE Social Justice Storytime features five authors who will take the stage for an evening of storytelling drawn from their work as changemakers. The event is at the Bad Seed, 1909 McGee St., Kansas City, MO. 
  • 6:00–7:30 p.m. (Offsite) FREE Women Writers in Bloom Poetry Salon (WWBPS) Curator JP Howard brings her New York based literary Salon to AWP and Kansas City to showcase poets from across the country. The event is at Natasha Ria Gallery, 1014 W 39th St, Kansas City, MO.


Friday, February 9, 2024

  • 9:00–10:15 a.m. Kai Coggin will be a featured panelist on Our Souths: Curating Spaces Against BIPOC & LGBTQIA+ Erasure (Convention Center, Room 2504AB).
  • 5:00–6:00 p.m. Lydia Cheshewalla (Interchange Fellow  2021, Artist Leadership Fellow) will be a featured panelist on Latinx Writers Caucus (Convention Center, Room 2215C)
  • 6:00–9:00 p.m. (Offsite) FREE Show Me State: Missouri Journals – Happy hour featuring River Cow Orchestra with appetizers and wine. Reading starts at 7:00 with seven journals: I-70 Review, Bear Review, Boulevard, Laurel Review, The Missouri Review, New Letters, and Pleiades. The event is located at The Nonprofit Village at 31w31, 101 W. 31st St., Kansas City, MO.
  • Hungry? Try pizza at Grinders or the burger at Brewery Emperial. Both have outdoor seating and decent areas to gather.


Saturday, February 10, 2024

A Calm and Normal Heart by Chelsea T. Hicks

  • Need a walk? Visit our M-AAA office at 2018 Baltimore Avenue and see the installation outside of our windows by Danielle Hatch.
  • 3:20–4:35 p.m. Brody Parrish Craig (Artists 360 Community Activator, Artists 360 Fellow, Artist Leadership Fellow, Catalyze Peer Facilitator) will be a featured panelist on Not Just Surviving: Queer Poets Thriving in the Red (Convention Center, Room 2103B).
  • 5:30–7:00 p.m. (Offsite) FREE Words of the People, organized by Chelsea T. Hicks (Artistic Innovations recipient FY24, Interchange program recipient FY21) Words of the People presents ten Indigenous writers who will share work written in their Indigenous languages, with translations. This event is free and open to the public. Participating authors’ books will be available for pre-order. The event is at Bliss Books and Wine, 3502 Gillham Road, Kansas City, MO.
  • BBQ time? End the conference with some Kansas City BBQ at Jack Stack near Union Station.

Check out the full AWP Conference schedule here. 

About Mid-America Arts Alliance

Mid-America Arts Alliance (M-AAA) strengthens and supports artists, cultural organizations, and communities throughout Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, and beyond.

Interested in learning more about M-AAA programs and grants that support writers? Our current in-region opportunities include Artistic Innovations applications for new and original projects are open now and close February 23. Interchange program applications for creatives with a socially-engaged practice open February 20.

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M-AAA's brick building exterior with a large bright pink, purple, and orange fabric installation on the two large front windows.

M-AAA offices with installation by Danielle Hatch titled “All the Petals Packed Inside Her” on the outside of the building.

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