AWP “Camp”

For me as a writer, going to AWP (the largest writing convention in North America) is kind of like going to camp. It’s about running into people I haven’t seen since last year. It’s about inspirational talks, booths full of books, too many activities such as readings, workshops, poetry slams, all taking place at the same time, and I have to choose which ones to attend. Just like any camp experience, I came home both exhausted and exuberant.


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Thursday morning, standing in line for the doors to open, I met Dinty W. Moore! Dinty was the final judge for the Autumn House Nonfiction Prize. He’s the man who chose my book. What a fun way to start the conference!







I also met Sarah Einstein, author of Mot: A Memoir, winner of the AWP Award Series for Nonfiction! We talked till the doors opened up, and in we went.




The first day I met Michael Simms, owner of Autumn House Press and poetry prize winner Ellery Akers.

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Also talked with and bought a book from Robin Hemley, who was my first creative nonfiction teacher years ago, and one of the people who wrote a blurb for the back of my book.

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I attended a dozen workshops, walked up and down the 500 booth book fair, and talked to dozens of writers. In the evening, I went to a poetry slam sponsored by three faith journals: Rock & Sling, Ruminate, and Relief. The setting was as gorgeous as the poetry and kinship.

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Minneapolis threw a great party.

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AWP consisted of great lectures, new friends, and the joy of being refreshed by being around so many people who love words.

Last year at AWP Seattle, I was confined by only having one suitcase with a weight limit. Oh, it’s a glorious thing to go to AWP with a CAR! I came home with a sack of books and literary journals.

Here are a few of the highlights: BOOKS. Atticus Books stopped me in my tracks. I loved the cover art of their books! Wonderful time chatting with Dan Cafaro (founder and chief imagination officer) about his vision for Atticus. I chose Paper Dreams, edited by Travis Kurowski, because of the subject. The history of literary magazines in America. I bought Prairie Silence because I love North Dakota books. Surrendering Oz: I met Bonnie Friedman and loved talking with her. Same with Eric Freezes Hemingway on a Bike. I mean, I’m talking to a man who lives in Nice, France and is writing about Hemingway and it’s so fascinating. And I have a weak spot for authors. And I just had to pick his book up and ask him to sign it. Joshua Ferris gave the last reading for the whole AWP event and I nearly fell out of my chair laughing, so, HAD to buy his book, To Rise Again at a Decent Hour.  Nola was purchased because Robin Hemley has been influential in my writing life and he’s such a great author. And, frankly, I own every Robin Hemley book there is, so this is the final one in my collection. I got Read This because of the subject. I bought Sy Safrankys’s new book, Many Alarm Clocks, because I love his literary journal The Sun and everything he has to say. Finding Livelihood came out This Week (!) and is written by good friend and Minneapolis writer Nancy Nordenson. She gave it to me as a gift. Thank you, Nancy! I stopped by the Oven Bird Books booth and talked for a long time with Stan Rubin. He gave me his latest book of poetry, There. Here. We spoke for a long time about his wife Judith Kitchen, who passed away this past year. It was moving and very special to hear about her memorial service. I once told him “Judith not only made me a better writer, she made me a better person.” Stan said those words of mine meant a lot to him. And again, I was reminded, of the power of words. So soothe. To comfort. To care. I bought Judith’s last book, The Circus Train, and it’s the first one that I’ve started reading since coming back. Practicing the Truth was the final purchase, from Ellery Akers, winner of the Autumn House Press Poetry Prize. I bought it because secretly I love poetry, although I don’t often say so, because I don’t know a lot about poetry and it intimidates me. But I’m learning. IMG_20150412_181705789 (768x1024)

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LITERARY JOURNALS: I came home with about thirty lit. journals. So many colorful, artistic, creative covers. So many amazing words.


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And finally, there is the SWAG: I have a bag full. I am the Queen of Swag. Buttons, pins, pencils, notebooks, pens, postcards, bookmarks.


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ALL in ALL, a wonderful AWP Conference. I couldn’t have asked for more. My favorite, unexpected serendipitous moment? Running (literally) into another woman, stopping to chat, and this ensued:

“Hi. You a writer?”

“Yes. I write fiction.”

“Sweet! Where are you from?”

“North Dakota.”

“No! Really? So am I.”

“Really? Where are you from?”




“Me, too.”

So out of 14,000 Writers, I run in to one of a hand full of North Dakota writers. We had supper together and it’s the start of a great friendship.

So here’s to Selina, my new friend and fellow Fargo Writer, and to AWP, and to all the people out there who take it upon themselves to wrestle with words.

Jill Kandel
  • karen luo
    Posted at 06:36h, 22 April Reply

    So jealous! Delicious looking books and swag and people. The joy of having a stack of new books. Sigh. And your website looks amazing on my cell!

    • Jill Kandel
      Posted at 08:57h, 22 April Reply

      Thank you, Karen! I’m glad my site is mobile friendly. It was great having AWP in my backyard. I won’t have that opportunity again for many years.

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