Thursday, October 8, 2015

AuTHor THursday: Jill Kandel

Author Jill Kandel
Meet Jill Kandel, a local author. She specializes in creative nonfiction and has had essays published in a variety of literary journals, including The Missouri Review, Gettysburg Review, River Teeth, Pinch, Image, and Brevity.  Her book So Many Africas: Six Years in a Zambian Village won the Autumn House Press Creative Nonfiction Award in 2014. 

You can find Jill online at She regularly blogs about her writing life, which included participating in the Red River Valley Writing Project's Pens and Pints Writing Crawl this past August. 

For more insight into her writing process and literary life, she graciously answered a few questions for the RRVWP.  

Why do you write?

Initially, I began writing after living for six years in a very remote village in Zambia, Africa. When I came home I couldn't talk about those years. I didn't understand a lot of my own life. Zambia became a large silence in the narrative of my life. So I wrote to understand and to articulate what those years had been. Writing gave me a voice.

I am curious about the world and about life. I love to research and writing clarifies my ideas. As William Zinsser said, "Writing is thinking on paper." Writing both excites and calms me. It gratifies my curiosity and is also a tool which takes thoughts out of my mind and releases them.

What are you reading?

I have a book in every room! Here's a few that are open right now:

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
Best American Essay 2015
This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, by Ann Patchett
Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn't Work and How We Can Do Better, by Maya Schenwar
The Beautiful Mystery, by Louise Penny
Small Victories, by Anne Lamott

Advice for writers?

I have two very favorite quotes which affect my writing every day. Steven King said, “If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” Dan Poynter said, "If you wait for inspiration to write: you're not a writer, you're a waiter."

To be a good writer you have to be a great reader. You also have to sit down in the chair and do the work. You learn to write by reading; you learn to write by writing.

Other than reading and writing, one of the best things a writer can do is to find other writers and form working friendships. Becoming comfortable with other people critiquing your work is essential. Opening up your writing to a writing group, or workshop, or writing friend will make your writing stronger. This back and forth helps a writer let go of the work in a good way. When I first started writing, I thought somehow since the words were written down they were almost sacrosanct. This is a beginner's mistake. It is not easy to have your work critiqued. But when a writer friend tells me a paragraph or page isn't working for them, I have the opportunity to make it better. Having another writer read my writing in progress is a real gift.