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 Author events

The happy marriage of books and music

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel Updated: March 24, 2015 - 10:54 AM

 

Music inspired by four of last year's Minnesota Book Award-winning books will be performed on April 8 at the Bedlam Theatre in St. Paul.

 

The authors will also be there, to read from their books: Melanie Hoffert, winner for memoir and creative nonfiction, will read from "Prairie Silence." Carrie Mesrobian, winner in young people's literature, will read from "Sex & Violence." Matt Rasmussen will read from his debut poetry collection, "Black Aperture." And Ethan Rutherford will read from "The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories," which won in the category of novel and short story.

The accompanying music was written and will be performed by Ipsifendus Collective, a group of Twin Cities musicians who compose music for films and theater productions. The group includes musicians from a number of local bands, including Dreamland Faces, Bookhouse, Painted Saints and the Poor Nobodys.

The collaboration of books and music is sponsored by the Minnesota Book Awards, in advance of this year's gala event on April 18.  The April 8 performace at Bedlam Theatre will begin at 7 p.m. Bedlam Theatre is at 213 E. Fourth Street, at the last stop of the Green Line in Lowertown, across from the Historic Union Depot.

Kevin Kling will substitute for Richard Blanco at Pen Pals

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel Updated: March 6, 2015 - 6:58 PM

The bad news is that Poet Richard Blanco, who was to appear in the Twin Cities later this month for the Pen Pals Reading Series, has been forced to cancel his appearnce due to a "non-life-threatening health issue." 

The good news is that storyteller Kevin Kling has agreed to fill in for Blanco. He'll be introduced by poet Ed Bok Lee for the performance of 7:30 p.m. March 12, and by Minnesota poet laureate Joyce Sutphen at 11 a.m. on March 13.

If you have a ticket and can't make the event, Friends of the Hennepin County Library will issue you a refund.

If you don't have a ticket, they're still available, and you can get one online here or by calling 612-543-8112.

Tickets are $40-$50. Tickets are also still availble for Jodi Picoult in April, and Chip Kidd in May.

Louise Erdrich to read from work-in-progress at her bookstore

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel Updated: February 19, 2015 - 7:18 AM

Birchbark Books in Minneapolis.

Readers and fans of writer Louise Erdrich have a rare opportunity to hear the prize-winning author read from one of her works-in-progress this weekend during her bookstore's midwinter celebration.

Birchbark Books in Minneapolis will be open extended hours (10 a.m. to 8 p.m.) on Sunday (Feb. 22), with Erdrich making several appearances between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. to autograph books (purchased on site, please) and read from her current work in progress.

Louise Erdrich in her bookstore.

Louise Erdrich in her bookstore.

The store will also have hot cider and cookies and will raffle off a number of gift items, including a handmade star quilt, a hand-crafted birdhouse, and first editions and broadsides, autographed by Erdrich.

Erdrich, who won the National Book Award in 2012 for "The Round House," owns the independent bookstore at 2115 W. 21st St., which also sells Native American crafts, jewelry and medicines.

Bockley Gallery, next door to the bookstore, will also be open Sunday. It currently is showing an exhibit of the works of artist George Morrison.

Raffle tickets are available for $5 each in advance, either at the bookstore or by phone. Call the store at 612-374-4023. You do not have to be present to win. But wouldn't it be fun to be there?

A feast of love for Charles Baxter

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel Updated: February 5, 2015 - 7:54 AM
Charles Baxter at Micawber's Books

Charles Baxter at Micawber's Books

Charles Baxter looked around at the crush of people inside Micawber’s Bookstore, a standing-room-only crowd, and he suggested that maybe he should cut his talk a little short. All those people standing, in winter coats and boots, it can’t be comfortable.

Nobody seemed to think that cutting things short would be a good idea.

Baxter, winner of the Rea Award for the Short Story and a finalist for the National Book Award for his novel “The Feast of Love,” was at Micawber’s to launch his new book, “There’s Something I Want You to  Do.”

Baxter wrote the book—a collection of ten stories, five about virtues, five about vices—after going through what he called a “dry patch” when he wasn’t writing much of anything. “I started going through some old notebooks,” he said, “and I came across some old pages from 30 years ago. This is how old they were—they were typed.”

The pages were from a story he had started and discarded, and as he read it he thought it was one he could finish now. He changed the locale from Michigan (where he had lived) to Minnesota (where he now lives). One of the characters used the word “loyalty” to talk about his father, and that became the name of the story.

A glittering night at Micawber's Books.

A glittering night at Micawber's Books.

The next story ended up being called “Bravery,” and, “I thought that was very odd,” he said. “I seemed to be writing stories about virtues.” He talked to his editor about writing a collection of stories called “Virtues,” and his editor said, "I think that’s a very bad idea."

In the end, Baxter put together a collection of stories about both vices and virtues. Not all vices and virtues, and not necessarily the most common ones. “Just the ones I’m interested in,” he said.

The title had a different genesis. In “Hamlet,” “the whole play essentially starts because the ghost of Hamlet’s father says, ‘There’s something I want you to do.’" Baxter said. "The same is true for ‘King Lear.’”  That request sets things in motion—and the higher the stakes of the request, the more dramatic the story.

Baxter looked out at the crowd and met the eyes of his brother, who was in the audience. “Since my brother is here, I can tell you that that phrase is also one that my mother used, over and over and over again.” And everybody laughed.

When he read, Baxter didn’t first read from the book but from an excised scene from one of the stories, “the equivalent of the DVD deleted scenes,” he said, or the director’s cut of a movie. The scene, originally in the story, “Chastity,” was both funny and poignant, an encounter between the main character of Benny and Benny’s mother, a cigarette-smoking-yoga-practicing woman whose divorce either “liberated or destabilized her, Benny wasn’t sure which.”

It was the following scene—a scene that takes place on the Washington Avenue Bridge, a scene that remained in the story—that was pivotal to Baxter. He read aloud the key sentence: “Irony was the new form of chastity and was everywhere these days. You never knew whether people meant what they said or whether it was all a goof.”

“And that’s the sentence that made me know I had a book,” he said.

And then questions, answers: He discussed that “dry patch” (“I like to think every writer experiences this. It feels a little like depression," he said, when no topic or subject seems appealing to write about. "It just feels like luck when a subject arrives and you think, ‘That’s something I can do. That’s something I want to do.’”) and themed collections (“You write these stories and you find out sort of belatedly what you’re writing about. My second collection, ‘Through the Safety Net,’ was about people who have had the rug sort of pulled out from under them. Though I didn’t realize until I was about three-quarters through it that that’s what it was about”) and about which is easier to write about, vices or virtues (“Oh, vices. Vices are much more interesting. Misdeeds—they interest us”).

The bookstore grew warm, those standing shifted from foot to foot, but nobody wanted to leave. Baxter wrapped things up. He looked out at the crowd, at his brother, his daughter-in-law, his students, his colleagues, his fellow writers, and his friends.

“I’m going to be on this book tour for some time,” he said, “and I just have to say I don’t expect ever to be in a room with so many people I care about. So, thank you. Thank you.”

Celebrate African American writing Thursday night at the History Center

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel Updated: February 4, 2015 - 1:45 PM
Alexs Pate

Alexs Pate

"Blues Vision: African American Writing from Minnesota," the new anthology edited by Alexs Pate along with co-editors Pamela R. Fletcher and J. Otis Powell!, will be launched into the world Thursday evening at the Minnesota History Center.

This collection of writing by 43 black writers was, Pate says in his introduction, "the culmination of a dream."

"What would a collection of works by African American writers who've lived in Minnesota for significant portions of their lives look like?" he writes. "How much would we talk about the weather? About isolation?"

And so he gathered together poems, essays, stories and recollections from Gordon Parks, and Nellie Stone Johnson, and Kim Hines, and Carolyn Holbrook.David Haynes is here, too, and Tish Jones. Anthony Peyton Porter writes about delivering the Star Tribune back in the day ("As far as I know, I'm the only person to have subscribed to, written for, and delivered the Star Triubne. I once delivered an edition with one of my book reviews, quite a sensation, as I recall.")

And Clarence White writes about applying for a job at the Ford plant, an activity that sends his memory back to growing up in St. Cloud. ("The teachers expected little of me. They also expected little of my siblings, yet we now have four master's degrees among us.")

The book launch will run from 6 to 8 p,m, on Thursday, Feb. 5, at the history center, 345 Kellogg Blvd. W.

Alexs Pate, Tish Jones, Philip Bryant, E.G. Bailey, Taiyon Coleman, Shá Cage, and J. Otis Powell‽ will all be there.

There will be refreshments, a cash bar, a reading, and a book signing. It is free and open to the public.

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