Publishers and conference attendees described a relaxed atmosphere at this year's Association of Writers and Writing Programs annual conference (known as AWP), held in Seattle from February 26-March 1. Amid the usual panels about how to write, publish and teach books of literature, publishers reported strong book sales and attendees noticed a friendlier atmosphere than in previous years. Although there was no major announcement, this year's AWP shows literary--and print book--culture to be thriving.

Rob Spillman of Tin House magazine and books said he felt "incredible energy" on the floor this year. "There seems to be a collective optimism," he said. "A lot of the old guard have come up to me and said this is heartening to see young people starting magazines but also buying books."

In terms of book sales, some publishers felt they were the same as--while others felt they were better than--sales at last year's conference in Boston. "It's really fantastic," said Graywolf associate editor Steve Woodward, who was manning the publisher's booth. "We are selling a lot of books." As far as whether copies of Graywolf's new poetry collection from actor James Franco were flying off the table, Woodward said, "a lot of people come by to look at that book and are not buying it," which, he said, is what they expected of this hardcore literary crowd. "We didn't bring any more of that than any other book. The atmosphere is really good, relaxed, less pressure."

Stephanie Elliot of Wesleyan University Press said, "The first day was a little slow, but {Saturday] it's really picked up. There are quite a few people from Seattle [on Saturday, when the floor was open to members of the local community]." Kelly Forsythe, publicist for Copper Canyon Press, said that members of the Seattle community fit right in at the conference: "They are a very engaged intellectual community," she said. Caroline Casey, Marketing director of Coffee House Press said, "The location is great and that's made it a lot more fun and easier to have off-of-the-book fair interactions."

Spillman summed up what makes AWP a necessary conference for the indie and literary publishing community: "The vibe is not cynical, especially compared to BEA. The indie world is doing well and we've weathered some kind of storm and people are buying books. The e-revolution hasn't crushed us."