Mary Logue knew as a child that reading was the key to the rest of the world. And at some point, she realized that writing was the key to her particular world.
Logue, who has homes in Golden Valley and in western Wisconsin, has been creating graceful books of prose and poetry for more than 30 years. She has worked as an editor, a manuscript consultant and a writing teacher, and she has lived elsewhere in the United States and abroad. But she has never strayed for long from her love of writing — poetry, primarily — and her love of Minnesota.
Her novels, mysteries and children’s books have won an impressive number of awards, including a Charlotte Zolotow Honor Award for her picture book “Sleep Like a Tiger,” a Minnesota Book Award, an American Library Association “Best Book” honor and many others. She has collaborated on a young-adult series with her husband, writer Pete Hautman. And if all that isn’t impressive enough, she also hooks beautiful rugs.
Logue is the author of “Giving Up the Ghost,” the Star Tribune’s first serialized novel.
Q: You’re a very versatile writer. Do you have a favorite genre? And why do you move around so much in the writing world?
A: Two answers to these questions: 1) Poetry is my home base. For me, everything comes out of that. I try to give the world to my readers in images (having said that, I do love to write dialogue) — be it a novel or a children’s book. And 2) I don’t think I distinguish much between all the forms of writing. Usually when I get an idea it comes in the form it should be — if that makes sense. A line, a thought, I will try to capture in a poem. A scene, a conflict, usually should be a novel.
Q: Describe your writing space.
A: Unfortunate that you should ask me to do that today. It’s a bit of a mess. I’m in the midst of deadline work and my office was a bedroom and serves also as my dressing room, so I have piles of clothes on the floor, waiting to be washed or put away. When I’m not quite so busy I manage to keep it more tidy. I have a bookshelf for all my French books, one for inspirational books and then one for my books. I also have a gathering of creatures that watch me work — a collection of old kachina [figures], a carefully selected group of poodles, a few tigers (one playing an accordion) and other small and odd totems I have acquired. I have one brown wall that’s covered with artwork and photographs, many of my sister Dodie’s paintings of trees.
Q: This book, “Giving Up the Ghost,” is notable for its strong sense of place — both the cabin Up North, and also the glimpses we get of downtown Minneapolis. Are you a lifelong Minnesotan?
A: I am and very proud of it. Early childhood in Shoreview and Osseo, then grew up in Lake Elmo with a pond in the back yard and a dirt road out front. We spent many summer vacations Up North, visiting relatives. Moved to Minneapolis when I went to the University of Minnesota and then have lived there most of my life. While I have also lived in France, Belgium, New York City and Tucson, I always come back home.
Q: A lot of the book’s humor comes from incidental anecdotes and vibrant details — the behavior of the cat, the small child solemnly praising the refrigerator magnet, the artist hanging the turkey-and-wine-stained tablecloth on the wall as though it were a painting. Where did these details come from?
A: For this book, more than many of my others, I mined my life and the lives of my friends for these stories. The ghost story in the mansion on Franklin Avenue was told to me by a woman I worked for. Some of the scenes have been pushed a bit — I’ve never witnessed a roast turkey flying through the air, but I would like to.
Q: Did this story come from any particular incident in your life?
A: Not really. I just wanted to write a ghost story, and I wanted to write a love story. This tale was the result.
Q: Do you believe in ghosts?
A: I think I might have had my main character say this in the book, but I don’t not believe in them. Until I see one myself I will be a skeptic. And if I see one, I have always hoped that there would be someone with me to share the experience.