Emily Geminder Lands Creative Non-Fiction Prize

Photo credit: Janet Rogers, Strategic Marketing and Communications


Wins 2015 Association of Writers and Writing Programs award

From her ground-level position as a journalist, Emily Geminder was immersed in the sights and sounds and events that inform a writer’s work. While covering stories and editing pieces in New York and Cambodia, she developed a keen eye for the ways in which history remains tied to an invisible past.

Not content to tell a story based solely on current events, Geminder offered historic context that embellished and enriched the tale. As a fiction writer, she crafted stories about everything from bomber pilots dropping messages into villages below, to 13-year-old runaways, to the children of Cambodian refugees. Issues of memory and language were recurring themes in her fact-based writing.

A second year MFA student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Geminder’s talents have earned her the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) 2015 award for “Nausicaa,” a piece of creative non-fiction that relates, in letter form, her reading of “Ulysses” while she was in India. The Tampa Review will publish her winning entry in a forthcoming issue.

Thousands of writers, teachers, publishers and students flock to AWP’s annual conference every year. The conference features a wealth of literary notables, with the attendant panels, talks and book signings that are standard fare for such meetings. Its literary contest is open to students from the 500 American member colleges that are home to creative writing programs.

“The AWP award is the most prestigious and competitive national award that a creative writing student can receive,” said Whitney Terrell, assistant professor in the Department of English and the New Letters Distinguished Writer-in-Residence.

In addition to this latest recognition, Geminder’s writing has attracted widespread acclaim. One piece, “Coming To: A Lexicology of Fainting,” was runner-up in a creative nonfiction contest for the University of Nebraska-based literary journal Prairie Schooner and will be published in the summer issue. The Mississippi Review, based at the University of Southern Mississippi, will publish her short story, “Are You on the Road to Salvation?” a finalist in their fiction competition.

While earning her undergraduate degree from Hampshire College in western Massachusetts, Geminder spent a year in India working on her undergraduate thesis about spirit possession at a Sufi shrine. After graduation, she worked as a contributing writer at the New York Observer and was a member of the Cambodia Daily staff, based in Phnom Penh.

The reputation of UMKC’s MFA faculty drew Geminder to UMKC. She was named a Durwood Fellow, a position providing funding for her graduate work that also allowed her time to polish her writing, editing and literary criticism.

She considers herself fortunate to find so many inspiring writers in her classes, faculty and students alike.

“As for choosing UMKC, the work of the creative writing professors really played a huge part in attracting me,” Geminder said. “I had come across a short story of Christie Hodgen’s a few years earlier and was just completely blown away by it. I was also drawn to the program’s interdisciplinary bent.”


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