Laurie Hertzel is senior editor for books at the Star Tribune, where she has worked since 1996. She is the author of "News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist," winner of a Minnesota Book Award.

Saturday's the day to celebrate your favorite indie bookstore

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel under Author events, Book news, Book stores Updated: April 29, 2015 - 10:52 AM

It started, as so many things do, in California. Now in its second year, Independent Bookstore Day has gone national, spreading across the country with celebrations, giveaways, parties and special events. More than 400 stores nationwide will take part in Saturday’s celebration, including dozens in Minnesota.

In the Twin Cities, home to nearly 30 indie bookstores, you can play F. Scott Fitzgerald bingo, make your own ’zine in the middle of the night, dance around a Maypole, get your picture taken with a lamb (a real one! actually, two real ones!) and, oh yeah, buy some books and chat up some authors.

For details, it's best to check the Website or Facebook page of your favorite indie, or just stop by. But here’s a sampling of what will be going on:

You might want to start at Moon Palace Books, 2820 E. 33rd St., Mpls., because they have put together a bright green map of all the indie bookstores in Minneapolis and St. Paul. They’re also giving away free tote bags (with purchase), coupons for Peace Coffee (right next door), and will raffle off a big basket of bookish goodies.

Boneshaker Books, 2002 23rd Ave. S., Mpls., will stay open all night, with prices falling every hour. The later the hour, the more customers save; at the 8 a.m. opening time, book prices will be 1 percent off but by, say, 3 a.m. Sunday they’ll be 20 percent off. They will also have staplers, paper cutters, collage material, and other things on hand if you feel like crafting your own book or ’zine.

Birchbark Books, 2115 W. 21st St., Mpls., will host dancing, crafts, Maypole dancing, face-painting, and food samples from Heid Erdrich’s “Original Local” cookbook.

Magers & Quinn, 3038 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., will have doughnuts and coffee in the morning, literary board games in the evening, and in between will host impromptu poetry and Obscure Book Recommendations from the extremely literary folks at Rain Taxi Review.

Uncle Hugo's, 2864 Chicago Av. S., Mpls., will give you a free totebag with a $50 purchase.

In St. Paul, Common Good Books, 38 S. Snelling Av., will host a full day of events which includes more doughnuts and coffee (if you drive fast, you might be able to hit both places), coupons for Nice Ride bikes (Magers & Quinn is doing this too), a walking tour of Little Free Libraries (not all of them, just the ones near the store), Fitzgerald Bingo and more.

Red Balloon 891 Grand Av., St. Paul, has root beer and cookies (a healthful alternative to doughnuts and coffee), a book-signing with picture book author David LaRochelle and face-painting. Back across the river (on your Nice Ride, maybe), Wild Rumpus, 2720 W. 43rd St., has more face-painting and photo ops with a live sheep and two lambs — there with shepherdess and author Joan Jarvis Ellison.

You know--this might be the day where you visit all of the indies. Think about it! In your painted face, full of Erdrich's food, as well as doughnuts, the winnings from your bingo game stuffed into your free Uncle Hugo bag, you pedal your free rented bike back and forth across the river ... Once you're done with the Twin Ciites, you can keep going. With 400 stores across the country taking part, that could prove to be one busy Saturday.

Milkweed Editions nature writer speaks at the United Nations

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel under Author events, Book news, Milkweed Editions Updated: April 28, 2015 - 11:30 AM
Robin Kimmerer speaking at the United Nations.

Robin Kimmerer speaking at the United Nations.

Robin Kimmerer, professor of environmental biology at the State University of New York and the author of several award-winning books about nature, spoke at the United Nations on Monday. Kimmerer had been invited by the president of the U.N. general assembly to take part in a panel on how harmony with nature can help conserve natural resources.

Kimmerer’s book, “Braiding Sweetgrass,” published by Milkweed Editions of Minneapolis, won the Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award. Her earlier book, “Gathering Moss,” won the John Burroughs Medal for outstanding nature writing.

She is an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.

"Can we turn our attention away from the covenant of unlimited growth and return to the covenant of reciprocity?" she asked.

"As we give thanks for the earth, will we live in such a way that the earth will be thankful for us? ...We humans are more than consumers, we have gifts of our own to give to the earth." 

Per Petterson on writing, translating, and his reluctance to revise

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel under Author events, Book news, Graywolf Press, Readings Updated: April 23, 2015 - 4:16 PM
Novelist Per Petterson (right) and Geir Berdahl, publisher at Oktober in Norway, which publishes both Petterson and Karl Ove Knausgaard

Novelist Per Petterson (right) and Geir Berdahl, his publisher at Oktober in Norway, which publishes both Petterson and Karl Ove Knausgaard

Per Petterson does not map out his novels in advance, the Norwegian author told a crowd at Macalester College on Tuesday night. Nor does he work with drafts. He writes slowly and straightforwardly, sentence by sentence, trusting his hard work to lead him to the next sentence, the next idea. He does not know what's going to happen in the end; he often does not know what's going to happen on the next page. "I trust my subconscious," he said.

If you've read his novels --- "Out Stealing Horses," for instance, winner of the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, or his new one, "I Refuse," published this month by Graywolf Press --- you will have noticed his gorgeous complicated prose, "run-on sentences, tripping over their own dropped clauses, pricked with intermittence, properly punctuated but curiously unpunctual," as James Wood said in the New Yorker.

Petterson said that he works hard on these sentences, works on the rhythm and the meaning. Maybe the sentence ends with a two-syllable word and it really needs three syllables, so he digs around in his brain and finds the right three-syllable word, but that word has a slightly different meaning than the two syllable word, so then he has to go back and rework the rest of the sentence. And when it's done, when it's right, he moves on.

Even a complex novel like "I Refuse," a beautifully braided story that alternates between two time periods (the 1970s, and present day) and two main narrators (but there is a third narrator, and, twice, a third time period), and between first person and third person--even that book, he says, he wrote straight through. He did not map it, did not cut it into pieces and move sections around. Except for one section--he moved one of the sections about the protagonist's mother. "And it felt like cheating," he said. He doesn't normally write that way.

"Out Stealing Horses," also published in the United States by Graywolf, was a world-wide best seller, translated into 50 languages. Petterson admitted to being difficult to work with when it comes to translation. The English version, in particular, was important to him. "I love the English language," he said, and he used to work in translation himself. So once the translator was done, Petterson jumped in, rewriting, changing, working with his editor via Skype. Where was the translator during this? He is over here somewhere, he said, waving his hand to indicate, well, Siberia, maybe, or the boonies.

(When it comes to working on translations, Petterson said in an interview last year with writer Tasja Dorkofikis, "I guess I am a little more than average involved.")

The title of "Out Stealing Horses" was originally translated as, "Out to Steal Horses," which Petterson could not live with. It was wrong, he said. "What does that mean, Out to Steal Horses? Nothing, it means nothing," he said. No worries. He fixed it.

So what of the 49 other translations? The two Chinese-language editions, the Italian, the Spanish? Did he worry about the quality of those translations too? "Of course," he said. But he can only do so much.

An audience member, noting the lyricism of Petterson's prose, asked him if he also wrote poetry. "No," Petterson said. "I read a lot of poetry. All fiction writers should, I think. What I have of poetry in me goes into the prose."

When he began writing "I Refuse," he had the opening scene--a well-known bridge in Oslo---and he had a character: an unhappy man who had lost nearly everything and who had come to the bridge to fish.

What would happen next? Petterson had no idea. He trusted his subconscious, he said. And sure enough, along the bridge came a big fancy car and a rich man in a purple coat. Who was the man? Petterson let his subconscious figure that out. For his part, he just kept writing, one sentence at a time.

Common Good Books (and GK) announces poetry winners

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel under Author events, Book awards, Book stores, Garrison Keillor, Poetry Updated: April 19, 2015 - 11:59 AM

Nearly 1,000 poets from all over the United States entered Common Good Books' annual spring poetry contest. The winners were announced at noon today by Garrison Keillor in a ceremony at Macalester College.

Minneapolis poets Lisa Kundrat and Ethna McKiernan, along with Kari Castor of Illinois, were the three top winners. Each won $1,000.

There were also four $500 winners--three of whom are from Minnesota. They are Heidi Annexstad of Golden Valley, Cynthia Orange of St. Paul, Sharon Dardis of St. Paul, and Elizabeth Twiddy of Syracuse, N.Y.

The three top poems are posted below. The competition was judged by Keillor, the owner of Common Good Books.

Lisa Kundrat, "Dear You"

Dear you

If we had met ten years earlier, would we have had ten more years?

Or, meeting too soon, would we have rejected the alien and had no

time at all? You the responsible, hard-working corporate guy, me a

hippie vagabond, living in a trailer adjacent a rooster coop. For me to

wander into the corporation took a while. How lucky to find you in

that tiny window of time, grinding out PowerPoints and yearning

toward bumdom. Once I wandered in, we left together. Driving our

rented Camry through the West, driving that straight-line highway

toward Albuquerque, the land scrabbled with petrified trees and

ringed with a 360-degree rainbow. We stopped at a cave-like

restaurant in Taos for Thanksgiving fajitas, chili-pepper lights

dangling like calcite.  Driving north through the pitch black, we knew

we were surrounded by beauty. Opening the window to breathe the

cold pine air of the forest we knew was there, but couldn’t see.

Gripping the dash, saying, “stop stop stop,” as a bull elk stepped into

the headlights. You slowed, we watched him saunter across. You

wanted a photo, but could only stare, heart pounding. Why do we

always have to know what we’re traveling through or toward and

when we’ll find it? What matters is we’re wandering together. As our

hearts slow enough to take a picture, he disappears into the black on

the other side.


Ethna McKiernan, "Leaving"

         For Conor

                    I turned around tonight to say—

And then I missed you so hard

at that instant, the wry smile of you

absent, every atom of you flown,

not a particle hovering in the house.

I left too, young as you

craving wind-shifts of change,

hitching through Europe in the 70’s,

camping rough, picking grapes in France,

bleaching the stain off down in Spain,

five months of glory on the road.

Now the same winds have pushed you

to Mexico, a silver jet seam visible as stars

in the sky last night, that long curl

dissipating into cloud.

Remember how I knew you at five

in that Ninja costume?

I knew you skate-boarding

with an attitude at Brackett Park,

and sensed for certain when

you first fell in love. I knew you

as a heartbeat beneath my ribs

at nine months, almost born.

And know you now,



Kari Castor, "Dear Roger"

Dear Roger,

I think sometimes about

that night in college when I

sat on your lap in your room

and the way we tried to devour

each other when we

realized we were alone for a moment--

         Aaron graduated and in

         Chicago waiting

         for me to join him,

         our friends returned

         to the living room--

the way your thick stubble

burned my cheek

the way I was terrified

to make this mistake

and also terrified

to not make it

the way I made you drive me

home and leant my

still-burning cheek

against the cool car window

and fantasized

the whole way about asking

you into my empty apartment

the way we carefully

avoided touching each other

for fear of striking a spark that might

set the whole fragile veneer ablaze

and I wonder sometimes if you

all these years later

ever think about that night

the way I do

Encores for three Minnesota Book Award winners

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel under Author events, Book awards, Book news, Local authors, Local publishers, Minnesota Book Awards Updated: April 18, 2015 - 9:33 PM
This year's trophy is made of blue glass.

This year's trophy is made of blue glass.

Novelist Marlon James and poet Joyce Sidman each picked up their second Minnesota Book Award on Saturday night, and previous nominees Julie Klassen and Margi Preus also were among the winners. The Star Tribune's editorial writer Lori Sturdevant picked up her first award for writing; she had previously won two Minnesota Book Awards for editing.

The annual event drew about 800 people to St. Paul’s Union Depot for a festive night of music, champagne and celebration of the written word. Here are the winners:

Children’s Literature, sponsored by Books for Africa:
Joyce Sidman and Rick Allen: “Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold,” published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers. Sidman, a Newbery Honor-winning author, won a Minnesota Book Award in 2010. She lives in Wayzata. Allen is an award-winning illustrator and printmaker in Duluth.

General Nonfiction, sponsored by Minnesota AFL-CIO:
Nancy Koester: “Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Spiritual Life,” published by William B. Eerdman Publishing Co. Koester is an ordained Lutheran minister and spiritual director. 

Genre Fiction, sponsored by Macalester College:
Julie Klassen: “The Secret of Pembrooke Park,” published by Bethany House Publishers. Klassen is the author of eight novels, including three winners of the Christy Award for Historical Romance.

Memoir & Creative Nonfiction, sponsored by Northwestern Mutual:
Kaethe Schwehn: “Tailings: A Memoir,” published by Cascade Books/Wipf and Stock Publishers. Schwehn is the co-editor of “Claiming Our Callings: Toward a New Understanding of Vocation in the Liberal Arts.” She teaches at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn.

Minnesota, sponsored by St. Mary’s University of Minnesota:
Lori Sturdevant: “Her Honor: Rosalie Wahl and the Minnesota Women’s Movement,” published by the  Minnesota Historical Society Press. Sturdevant is an editorial columnist for the Star Tribune and has written a number of books on Minnesota history.She won a Minnesota Book Award in 2003 for editing "Overcoming: The Autobiography of W. Harry Davis," and in 2001 for editing Elmer L. Andersen's "A Man's Reach."

Novel & Short Story, sponsored by Education Minnesota:
Marlon James: “A Brief History of Seven Killings,” published by Riverhead Books. James is the author of “The Book of Night Women,” winner of a 2010 Minnesota Book Award. He teaches at Macalester College in St. Paul.

Poetry, sponsored by Wellington Management, Inc.:
Sean Hill: “Dangerous Goods,” published by Milkweed Editions. Hill, who was born and raised in Milledgeville, Ga., also is the author of “Blood Ties & Brown Liquor.”

Young People’s Literature, sponsored by the Creative Writing Programs at Hamline University:
Margi Preus: “West of the Moon,” published by Amulet Books. Preus, who lives in Duluth, is a Newbery Honor Award-winning author of five books for young readers. 

Also at the event, writer and educator Mary François Rockcastle received the previously announced Kay Sexton Award for her long-standing contributions to Minnesota’s literary community. And Harriet Bart and her collaborative partners, Philip Gallo and Jill Jevne, won the eighth annual Book Artist Award for a new piece entitled “Ghost Maps.” Since 2000, Bart, Gallo and Jevne have collaborated to produce 10 artist books, two of which have received Minnesota Book Awards.

Judges sifted through 250 books nominated for awards this year, with 32 books selected as finalists. The winners were chosen by judges from around the state. 


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