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.
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.
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.
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.”
"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.
Minnesota writer Larry Millett is a finalist for a Minnesota Book Award in two categories; the children’s literature category is a hotbed of competition with all nominees previous winners; and Star Tribune editorial writer Lori Sturdevant has been nominated for her biography of Rosaline Wahl.
The winners will be announced on April 18 at the annual Minnesota Book Awards gala event at the Historic Union Depot in St. Paul’s Lowertown. Here are the finalists:
Children’s Literature, sponsored by Books For Africa: “It’s an Orange Aardvark,” by Michael Hall; “Little Puppy and the Big Green Monster,” by Mike Wohnoutka; “Water Can Be… ,” by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Violeta Dabija; “Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold,” by Joyce Sidman and Rick Allen.
General Nonfiction, sponsored by Minnesota AFL-CIO: “Harriet Beecher Stowe,” by Nancy Koester; “My Grandfather’s Knocking Sticks,” by Brenda J. Child; “New Scenic Café: The Cookbook,” by Scott Graden with Arlene Anderson; “Queer Clergy,” by R.W. Holmen.
Genre Fiction, sponsored by Alerus Financial: “Fallen Angel,” by Chuck Logan; “The Life We Bury,” by Allen Eskens; “The Secret of Pembrooke Park,” by Julie Klassen; “Strongwood: A Crime Dossier,” by Larry Millett.
Minnesota: “Amphibians and Reptiles in Minnesota,” by John J. Moriarty and Carol D. Hall; “Her Honor: Rosalie Wahl and the Minnesota Women's Movement,” by Lori Sturdevant; “Minnesota Farmers Market Cookbook,” by Tricia Cornell; "Minnesota’s Own,” by Larry Millett, photography by Matt Schmitt.
Novel & Short Story, sponsored by Education Minnesota: “A Brief History of Seven Killings” by Marlon James; “In Reach,” by Pamela Carter Joern; “The Lovers Set Down Their Spoons,” by Heather A. Slomski; “Stillwater,” by Nicole Helget.
Young People’s Literature, sponsored by The Creative Writing Programs at Hamline University: “Ambassador,” by William Alexander; “Leroy Ninker Saddles Up,” by Kate DiCamillo; “West of the Moon,” by Margi Preus, “The Witch’s Boy,” by Kelly Barnhill.
Previously announced are the Book Artist Award, which will be awarded to Harriet Bart, Philip Gallo and Jill Jevne, and the Kay Sexton Award, which will go to Mary François Rockcastle.
Tickets for the Minnesota Book Award gala are $50 and are available at www.thefriends.org or by calling 651-222-3242.
Laurie Hertzel • 612-673-7302. On Twitter: @StribBooks
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