Little Falls writer comes home with poets conference awards

Laura Hansen sits at the writing desk she used while growing up in Little Falls. It now has a prized place in the children’s room of her bookshop, Bookin’ It, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary with an open house that will include specials and cake, Nov. 4.

Bookin’ It owner Laura Hansen takes awards in 10 of 18 categories

By Jennie ZeitlerStaff Writer

Book enthusiast and poet Laura Hansen, owner of Bookin’ It bookshop in Little Falls, received the unexpected pleasure of 10 awards for her poetry at the League of Minnesota Poets (LOMP) Fall Conference Oct. 12-13.

“It was a big surprise,” said Hansen, who grew up on the Mississippi River in Little Falls.

Although she has entered many competitions and has received awards from LOMP previously, the sheer number of awards this time was a shock.

“I entered 15 of the 18 categories, and got 10 awards,” she said.

Her poem, “My Father’s Eyes” won first place in the Roy B. Moore Memorial Award category. First place awards were also given for: “Ways to Call Them Home, and “If I Named You.” She received a second place award for “Mother verse; a Magnetic Poetry Poem.” Hansen’s poems also received an honorable mention and five Awards of Merit.

Hansen submitted original, unpublished poems to LOMP in various categories based on their length and style. The awards are announced at the annual fall conference. She has won cash prizes four other years since 2002, the year she first submitted poetry.

“The poems which win first, second or third prizes are read at the conference, either by the writer or by someone designated to read in the writer’s absence,” Hansen said. “There were about 28 people there. It’s a pretty casual bunch of people from all over the state and from all walks of life.”

LOMP’s contest is one of the few Hansen enters. “These are prizes from people who work very hard at their craft, studying poetry and reading poetry. Judges come from all over the country,” she said.

But writing, for Hansen, is not about contests. “It’s nice to get out with people who know poetry, who speak the language,” she said. “The pleasure for me comes in the moment of the writing — the creation. It’s almost like a runner’s high.”

Hansen has self-published two collections of poetry in chapbooks — pocket-size booklets. She did the writing and the layout for “Diving the Drop-off” and “Why I Keep Rabbits” and then had them printed. Ladydog Design in Long Prairie did the first and Custom Printing in Little Falls printed the second.

Hansen has received two writers grants from the Five Wings Arts Council, a five-county organization based in Staples. The first was used for layout, editing and printing of her first chapbook. The second was intended to be used for a workshop in the Apostle Islands, Wis.

When the workshop was cancelled, Hansen, who is currently working on a manuscript for a full collection of poetry, used the opportunity to spend several days with her mentor, Kathryn Kysar of St. Paul.

“I spent that time in the Apostle Islands writing, and going over what had been written with Kathryn,” Hansen said. “At the end of our time there, the chapters that had been completed were spread over four conference tables. It was very satisfying.”

Locally, Hansen is a member of Great River Writers, a loosely-connected group not focused on any particular type of writing. Membership has fluctuated from about three to 10 people at meetings. The group meets the second Tuesday of the month from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Carnegie Library.

“It’s always open to whomever wants to come and share and be encouraged,” said Hansen.