Cheryl Strayed

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of the 2015 Association of Writers Minneapolis Conference and Bookfair

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I’m not an educator, nor did I have a burning desire to go to Minneapolis in the spring, knowing winter storms ground planes and make life in general just plain miserable


I couldn’t attend AWP 2014 in Seattle, which is closer to my home state


my son had two readings scheduled and invited me along. Being a writer myself, there was no way I was going to say no.

We arrived a day early, and I’m glad we did. I have Meniere’s disease, and any form of travel can set my head spinning. The added day gave my body time to settle down as well as some extra time to get my bearings.

On Wednesday, the first day of registration, the hotel and convention center was like the inside of a beehive.  With over 13,000 registrants, the place was abuzz as writers arrived and networked. It was almost like being in the middle of a great movie.



 One of the biggest literary writer conferences in the United States

 Opportunities to meet editors, pitch story ideas, and listen to other writers talk about craft

 Over 500 panels to choose from, consisting of readings, discussions, or pedagogy running consecutively from 9 am to 5 pm every day

 A gigantic bookfair manned by every conceivable literary small press including Tin House, The Rumpus, and Prairie Schooner, not to mention the university presses looking for new voices

 Some of the best writers in the United States

 Some of the best educators in the United States

 Offsite readings, book signings, and events

 Karen Russell, Lance Olsen, Pam Houston, Kim Barnes, Robert Wrigley, Lidia Yuknavitch, Cheryl Strayed, Claire Davis, Stephen Graham Jones, and Trevor Dodge, to mention only a few


 Over 500 panels to choose from, running consecutively with fifteen-minute breaks. Impossible to settle on just one

 A gigantic bookfair with conference specials, writer guidelines, and bling. Extra totes to carry everything home

 Offsite readings, book signings, and open bars wherein you crawl into bed at 2 am too wired and over-stimulated to sleep

 Long lines, incessant chatter fueled by all that writerly energy

 No genre discussions, no Alice Hoffman, Margret Atwood, or Charles Frazier


Me the day I leave Minneapolis to fly home, exhausted, my head spinning with thousands of ideas

In this world there’s two kinds of people my friend – those who attend conferences, and those who stay home. You dig?


Kim Barnes discussing No Country for Good Old Boys
Kim Barnes discussing No Country for Good Old Boys



Cheryl Strayed appearing tonight in Boise

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This blog might fall under the topic of why you should attend writing conferences because that’s where I met Cheryl Strayed, at a writing workshop in Oregon. That was before Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail took off, before Cheryl appeared on Oprah, and before Cheryl revealed her identity as the author of the “Dear Sugar” columns in The Rumpus. Soft-spoken with a captivating smile, Cheryl looked anything but wild the day I met her.

That was a couple of years ago and today Cheryl’s coming to Idaho. For some of you lucky ticket holders, you’ll get to spend part of today and tonight with Cheryl, and I’m betting you’ll go home supercharged and eager to write. I know I was after hearing her speak about writing from a fearless place. She was inspiring, saying the best writers dare to tell the whole, complicated, beautiful and ugly truth. Write, even if you never get published. Write what’s in your heart. Stay true and stay genuine. Do what you can to support other writers.

Today Cheryl will be in Boise, Idaho. Tomorrow she’ll be in Helena, Montana. And then it’s on to Washington before she returns to her home in Portland. Since her memoir Wild took off, Cheryl’s been on the go talking with writers about writing and taking risks. If, like me, you can’t attend Cheryl’s reading today in Boise, go out and buy her books. Or make a trip to the library. She’s an author you don’t want to miss.


Two of my favorite authors Anne Lamott and Cheryl Strayed discuss life and writing

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Every time I sit down to write, I feel like a failure. Check out this great video. It looks like I’m in good company!

Anne Lamott and Cheryl Strayed