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 Book awards

Common Good Books (and GK) announces poetry winners

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel 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 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. 

PEN/Literary Award short list includes small and indie publishers

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel Updated: April 16, 2015 - 11:16 AM

Leslie Jamison.

The shortlists for the PEN Literary Awards were announced today, and there's Graywolf Press (Leslie Jamison and Claudia Rankine) as well as books published by other small presses--a growing force in the world of publishing. Tin House, Sarabande, Princeton University Press, Soho.

The winners will be announced May 13, with an awards ceremony in June.

Here are the lists, with links to Star Tribune reviews when available.

PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction ($25,000): To an author whose debut work—a first novel or collection of short stories published in 2014—represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise.

The UnAmericans (W. W. Norton & Company), Molly Antopol

Ruby (Hogarth), Cynthia Bond

Redeployment (Penguin Press), Phil Klay

The Dog (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), Jack Livings

Love Me Back (Doubleday), Merritt Tierce

PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay ($10,000): For a book of essays published in 2014 that exemplifies the dignity and esteem that the essay form imparts to literature.

Moral Imagination (Princeton University Press), David Bromwich

Theater of Cruelty (New York Review Books), Ian Buruma

Loitering (Tin House Books), Charles D’Ambrosio

The Empathy Exams (Graywolf Press), Leslie Jamison

Limber (Sarabande Books), Angela Pelster

PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award ($10,000): For a book of literary nonfiction on the subject of the physical or biological sciences published in 2014.

War of the Whales (Simon & Schuster), Joshua Horwitz

How We Got to Now (Riverhead Books), Steven Johnson

The Sixth Extinction (Henry Holt and Co.), Elizabeth Kolbert

The Age of Radiance (Scribner), Craig Nelson

Proof (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Adam Rogers

PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction ($10,000): To an author of a distinguished book of general nonfiction possessing notable literary merit and critical perspective and illuminating important contemporary issues which has been published in 2013 or 2014.

Our Declaration (Liveright), Danielle Allen

League of Denial (Crown Archetype), Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru

Five Days at Memorial (Crown), Sheri Fink

The Big Truck That Went By (Palgrave Macmillan), Jonathan M. Katz

This Changes Everything (Simon & Schuster), Naomi Klein

PEN Open Book Award ($5,000): For an exceptional book-length work of literature by an author of color published in 2014.

An Unnecessary Woman (Grove Press), Rabih Alameddine

Every Day Is for the Thief (Random House), Teju Cole

An Untamed State (Black Cat/ Grove Atlantic), Roxane Gay

Citizen (Graywolf Press), Claudia Rankine

The City Son (Soho Press), Samrat Upadhyay

PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography ($5,000): For a distinguished biography published in 2014.

Rebel Yell (Scribner), S. C. Gwynne

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace (Scribner), Jeff Hobbs

Strange Glory (Alfred A. Knopf), Charles Marsh

The Queen's Bed (Sarah Crichton Books), Anna Whitelock

Piero's Light (Pegasus Books), Larry Witham

PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing ($5,000): To honor a nonfiction book on the subject of sports published in 2014.

Boy on Ice (W. W. Norton & Company), John Branch

Black Noon (Thomas Dunne Books), Art Garner

All Fishermen are Liars (Simon & Schuster), John Gierach

Ping-Pong Diplomacy (Scribner), Nicholas Griffin

Deep (Eamon Dolan Books), James Nestor

PEN Award for Poetry in Translation ($3,000): For a book-length translation of poetry into English published in 2014.

Sorrowtoothpaste Mirrorcream by Kim Hyesoon (Action Books), translated from the Korean by Don Mee Choi

I Am the Beggar of the World (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), translated from the Pashto by Eliza Griswold

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz by Juana Inés de la Cruz (W. W. Norton & Company), translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman

Breathturn into Timestead by Paul Celan (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), translated from the German by Pierre Joris

Guantanamo by Frank Smith (Les Figues Press), translated from the Spanish by Vanessa Place

PEN Translation Prize ($3,000): For a book-length translation of prose into English published in 2014.

The Gray Notebook by Josep Pla (New York Review Books), translated from the Catalan by Peter Bush

The Symmetry Teacher by Andrei Bitov (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), translated from the Russian by Polly Gannon

Baboon by Naja Marie Aidt (Two Lines Press), translated from the Danish by Denise Newman

Texas: The Great Theft by Carmen Boullosa (Deep Vellum Publishing), translated from the Spanish by Samantha Schnee

Self-Portrait in Green by Marie NDiaye (Two Lines Press), translated from the French by Jordan Stump

Matt Rasmussen wins the Holmes poetry prize

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel Updated: April 2, 2015 - 12:17 PM

Minnesota poet Matt Rasmussen has won the Theodore H. Holmes and Bernice Holmes National Poetry Prize from the Lewis Center for the Arts' Program in Creative Writing at Princeton University.

Rasmussen, visiting professor of English at Gustavus Adolphus College, grew up in International Falls and now lives in Robbinsdale. He has received grants and residencies from the Bush Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, the Loft Literary Center, Yaddo, and elsewhere. His first collection, "Black Aperture," published by Louisiana State University Press, won the Walt Whitman Award and was a finalist for a National Book Award.

The Holmes prize carries an award of $5,000. 

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.


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