The Association of Writers & Writing Programs has just announced that its annual conference will proceed as scheduled in San Antonio March 4-9.
“We know there have been concerns about holding the conference at this time due to the coronavirus pandemic,” the organization published in a statement. “We have been in consultation with local authorities and public health staff in San Antonio.”
Held in a different city each year, the AWP Conference and Bookfair is one of the larger gatherings for authors, editors, writing program adminstrators and faculty, and indie book and journal publishers. It typically attracts more than 12,000 participants.
In recent days, as news of coronavirus contagion in San Antonio emerged, multiple AWP panels have been canceled as authors, editors and publishers pull out. And the debate to cancel the conference, or not, has caused at least one AWP board member to resign.
I am broken-hearted, but I resigned from AWP this morning over the decision to hold the conference. I will always love this community and ask that you please be kind to the board and tiny staff, people who are working so hard and believe in you.
— Diane Zinna (@DianeZinna) March 3, 2020
“AWP is not moving forward lightly,” the organization’s statement said. “AWP staff and board are doing so out of a sense of responsibility to the communities we serve. Many schools and programs, particularly in the region, have worked so hard to create a truly exceptional conference this year. This includes the many small presses and journals who work hard all year to sell their books, magazines, and promote their programs at AWP.”
Meanwhile in Austin, organizers of South By Southwest, due to run March 13-22, say they have no plans to cancel the sprawling mega-festival which attracts tens of thousands from around the world. Nevertheless tech giants Facebook and Twitter, as well as tech news outlet Mashable, among others, have announced that they would be pulling their participation in SXSW. And an online petition, signed by more than 30,000 people, is calling for the cancellation of SXSW.
Facebook had planned to host a Facebook house and an activation in East Austin as part of its artists in residence program.