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.

Posts about Minnesota Book Awards

Kay Sexton Award, Hognander History Award announced

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel Updated: March 7, 2014 - 2:39 PM

The last two big awards leading up to next month’s Minnesota Book Awards gala event have been announced. The Hognander History Award, which is given every other year to the author of a significant book about Minnesota history, and the Kay Sexton Award, which is given annually to a person who has made a significant contribution to the world of books, reading and literature in the state, were announced Friday.

The Hognander award will go to Gwen Westerman and Bruce White for their book, “Mni Sota Makoce, The Land of the Dakota.” The book was published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press in 2012 and won a Minnesota Book Award last year.

Westerman is professor of English and Humanities at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Bruce White is author of “We Are at Home: Pictures of the Ojibwe People.

Mark Vinz

Mark Vinz

This year’s Kay Sexton Award winner is Mark Vinz, retired professor of English at Minnesota State University-Moorhead, co-director of the Tom McGrath Visiting Writing Series, and founding editor of the literary journal Dacotah Territory.

Vinz was also director of the college’s MFA program, editor of Dakota Arts Quarterly, and the co-founder of Plains Distribution Service, an organization that worked to get good books into small Midwestern communities.

Vinz is also a poet and fiction writer, winner of three Minnesota Book Awards, six PEN Syndicated Fiction Awards, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry, and was named a poet laureate of North Dakota.

His next collection will be published by Red Dragonfly Press.

Westerman, White and Vinz will be honored on April 5 at the 26th annual Minnesota Book Awards gala at the St. Paul Union Depot.

Minnesota Book Award finalists announced

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel Updated: January 25, 2014 - 6:36 PM


Several winners from years past are among the finalists for this year’s Minnesota Book Awards, including children’s writer David LaRochelle, who won last year and who is a finalist twice this year. Other past winners and finalists include mystery writers William Kent Krueger, Erin Hart and Brian Freeman, novelist Kent Nerburn, and children’s author Alison McGhee.

Finalists in eight categories were chosen Saturday afternoon by 24 judges from around the state ­­— writers, teachers, librarians and booksellers.

Here’s the list:

Children’s Literature, sponsored by Books For Africa:

 “The Case of the Missing Donut,” by Alison McGhee, illustrated by Isabel Roxas; “How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans,” by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Mark Fearing; “ Moo!” by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka; and “Peep Leap,” by Elizabeth Verdick, illustrated by John Bendall-Brunello.

General Nonfiction, sponsored by Minnesota AFL-CIO:

 “Evil Men,” by James Dawes (Harvard University Press); “Harriman vs. Hill: Wall Street’s Great Railroad War,” by Larry Haeg (University of Minnesota Press); “The Nazi and the Psychiatrist: Hermann Göring, Dr. Douglas M. Kelley, and a Fatal Meeting of Minds at the End of WWII,” by Jack El-Hai, and “Soda Shop Salvation: Recipes and Stories from the Sweeter Side of Prohibition,” by Rae Katherine Eighmey (Minnesota Historical Society Press)

 Genre Fiction, sponsored by Alerus Financial:
 The Book of Killowen,” by Erin Hart; “The Cold Nowhere,” by Brian Freeman; “Tamarack County,” by William Kent Krueger; and “Wolves,” by Cary J. Griffith

Memoir & Creative Nonfiction, sponsored by GovDelivery:
 “The Girl Who Sang to the Buffalo: A Child, an Elder and the Light from an Ancient Sky,” by Kent Nerburn; “Prairie Silence,” by Melanie Hoffert; “Thunder of Freedom: Black Leadership and the Transformation of 1960s Mississippi,” by Sue [Lorenzi] Sojourner with Cheryl Reitan, and “We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down: Memoir of a Gravedigger’s Daughter,” by Rachael Hanel (University of Minnesota Press)

 Minnesota, sponsored by MSR Architects:
“A Love Affair with Birds: The Life of Thomas Sadler Roberts,” by Sue Leaf (University of Minnesota Press); “Minneapolis Madams: The Lost History of Prostitution on the Riverfront,” by Penny A. Petersen (University of Minnesota Press); “Modern Spirit: The Art of George Morrison,” by W. Jackson Rushing III and Kristin Makholm, and “Survival Schools: The American Indian Movement and Community Education in the Twin Cites,” by Julie L. Davis (University of Minnesota Press)

 Novel & Short Story, sponsored by Education Minnesota:
 “Let the Dark Flower Blossom,” by Norah Labiner; (Coffee House Press) “Little Wolves,” by Thomas Maltman; “The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories,” by Ethan Rutherford, and “Vacationland,” by Sarah Stonich (University of Minnesota Press)

 Poetry, sponsored by Wellington Management, Inc.:
“Black Aperture,” by Matt Rasmussen; “The First Flag,” by Sarah Fox (Coffee House Press); “It Becomes You,” by Dobby Gibson (Graywolf Press); and “Slip,” by Cullen Bailey Burns

 Young People’s Literature, sponsored by Sit Investment Associates:
 “Chasing Shadows,” by Swati Avasthi with graphics by Craig Phillips; “The Real Boy,” by Anne Ursu; “ Sex & Violence,” by Carrie Mesrobian (Carolrhoda Lab/Lerner Publications); and “Wild Boy: The Real Life of the Savage of Aveyron,” by Mary Losure, illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering.

The winners will be announced April 5 at the book award gala, this year to be held at the historic St. Paul Union Depot. That same evening three special awards will also be given--Fred Hagstrom will receive the seventh annual Book Artist Award, which has already been announced; the Kay Sexton Award, which will be announced in February, and the biennial Hognander Minnesota History Award.


Fred Hagstrom named 2014 Book Artist Award winner

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel Updated: December 19, 2013 - 10:24 AM
Fred Hagstrom.

Fred Hagstrom.

Carleton College professor and printmaker Fred Hagstrom has been named the 2014 Book Artist Award winner for his new piece, "Passage." The annual award is presented jointly by the Minnesota Center for Book Arts and the Minnesota Book Awards, and Hagstrom joins Jana Pullman, Bridget O'Malley and Amanda Degener of Cave Paper, Regula Russelle, and others in receiving the honor.

Hagstrom teaches printmaking, drawing, art and narrative, and artist's books at Carleton, and has lectured and studied all over the world. His new piece, "Passage," juxtaposes archival photographs of slave ships, hand-drawn diagrams depicting the conditions aboard the ships, and selected text from two books on the issue of slave trade.

Hagstrom will be honored at the Minnesota Book Awards gala in the spring, and his work will be displayed at Open Book from Jan. 24-March 30, with a reception at 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 24.

Minnesota Book Awards to cross the river again!

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel Updated: June 14, 2013 - 11:11 AM


Union Depot, St. Paul. Star Tribune photo by Elizabeth Flores.

Union Depot, St. Paul. Star Tribune photo by Elizabeth Flores.


After years of holding the Minnesota Book Awards spring gala event in downtown St. Paul, this year the organizers hauled the whole thing--books, authors, trophies, wineglasses, and all--across the river to downtown Minneapolis. The Hilton was a fine venue, and it made perfect sense to hold the event in Minneapolis. After all, while the big sponsor is the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library, it really is a state-wide event.

But yesterday they announced that books, authors, trophies, and wineglasses will pack up and move back across the river for the 2014 event.

And why not? Look at the gorgeous venue they nabbed: The newly refurbished historic Union Depot in St. Paul's Lowertown. It'll also be a wee bit earlier in the spring than in years past, so mark your calendars: 7 p.m., April 5.

Minnesota Book Awards cross the river and lighten up.

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel Updated: April 14, 2013 - 6:47 AM


At the Minnesota Book Awards gala.

At the Minnesota Book Awards gala.


If you've never been to a Minnesota Book Awards gala celebration, you really should go, at least once. It's not just that it's fun to get gussied up and go downtown, and it's not just that it's fun to wander around and bump into the writers whose books you've read and loved--it's fun to see the celebration, the hoo-ha, the big to-do all centered around writing, and writers, and the written word. That's really something.

This year's celebration marked the 25th anniversary of the awards, so there was a little something special going on. They moved the gala from downtown St. Paul to the big city of Minneapolis. They showed a little film with funny and charming snippets from winners from years past--Jon Hassler, and Robert Bly, and Carol Connolly, and memoirist Patricia Hampl (who described memoir as, "Enough about me, what do you think about me?").


Louise Erdrich and Jonathan Odell were two of the finalists in fiction. Or, wait--maybe it's Jonathan Odell and Louise Erdrich?

Louise Erdrich and Jonathan Odell were two of the finalists in fiction. Or, wait--maybe it's Jonathan Odell and Louise Erdrich?


The emcee was writer and comedian Lorna Landvik, who said she agreed to host the event only if the St. Paul Friends of the Library waived all of her past and future overdue book fines, and only if the Highland Park branch library expunged from her record the fact that she had once checked out "Fifty Shades of Gray." "I only read the first paragraph," she said.

She also proposed a drinking game, in which every time someone at the podium said the word "book," everyone in the room would toss back a drink. And she also had a supply of party favors that, when she pulled a string, showered forth a little burst of confetti. It was that kind of evening.


Lorna Landvik and Louise Erdrich embrace after Erdrich receives the Minnesota Book Award for fiction.

Lorna Landvik and Louise Erdrich embrace after Erdrich receives the Minnesota Book Award for fiction.

 The first winner of the evening was Louise Erdrich, who won in the Novel & Short Story category for "The Round House." It had already won a National Book Award, but Erdrich looked as delighted by the Minnesota Book Award as she surely did for the bigger prize. She thanked the crowd in Ojibway, and then she recited a limerick her father had written, which began, "There once was a girl from Max Bass..."  ("When my father was bored at work, he wrote limericks," Erdrich said, adding that he had written one for every town in the state.)

There were poignant moments to offset the humor of the evening. Erdrich admitted that there had been hard times while she was working on "The Round House," and she thanked her youngest daughter: "Your smile and your hugs and your good cheer got me through those hard times," she said.


Geoff Herbach, with finalist Margi Preus.

Geoff Herbach, with finalist Margi Preus.


Geoff Herbach, who won in Young People's Literature, seemed genuinely surprised and thrilled when his name was called. He talked about his son, who had been an avid reader as a child but who, when he reached his teen years, "stopped reading. Which scared me," Herbach said. "So I wrote the book for him, and for his friends, who had also stopped reading."

He was the first writer--but not the last--to thank the Loft Literary Center for helping him get established as an author. "If it weren't for the Loft, if it weren't for Hamline University, if it weren't for Minnesota State at Mankato, I would not be a writer," Herbach said.

The poetry award, which was won by Patricia Kirkpatrick, was announced by two-time winner Michael Dennis Browne, who, instead of giving a speech, recited "To Be of Use," a poem by Marge Piercy, which ends with these lines:

The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

There was more. There was much more. David Treuer, who won for nonfiction, sending a letter to be read (he lives in California part of the year), a letter funny and wise; picture-book author David LaRochelle thanking his illustrator, because a picture book without pictures would be boring, indeed; book artist Jana Pullman confessing that books are her passion--or, perhaps, obsession. Minnesota Book winner Gwen Westerman addressed the room in Dakota; Kay Sexton Award winner Robert Hedin noted how Minnesota had grown from being seen as a "literary backwater" to a place that the rest of the country looked to--"Well, first let's see how they do it in Minnesota."

Mystery writer David Housewright, who competed against two other writers and himself in the genre fiction category, lamented that it was the book he wrote alone rather than the book he co-wrote with his wife that took the prize. He said he would give the award to his wife, "and not just because of what promises to be an awkward ride home."

The enthusiastic table of the evening award, Landvik decided, went to the table where memoirist Atina Diffley sat. When Diffley's name was called (for "Turn Here Sweet Corn") the table whooped and screamed. Diffley herself grinned broadly as she mounted the stage. And then, when it was over, they all smooshed in close for a happy group picture.


Atina Diffley and her happy fan base.

Atina Diffley and her happy fan base.


 Now don't you wish you'd been there yourself?



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