When you saw that Garrison Keillor and Common Good Books had decided to offer a $1,000 prize for the winner of this year's love poem contest--and $250 for each of the four runners-up--you probably thought, Heck. I'll never win. It'll probably go to someone really good, like Walt Whitman, or somebody.
Fear not! Prithee! 'Zounds! And other vaguely poetic sounding exclamations! Because the bookstore is hoping to level the playing field a little--bring you up, so to speak, to Whitman's level. And so, on its website, it is offering free advice on how to write a love poem. This advice is from the tops in the field. No, not Walt Whitman (someone needs to break the news to you that Mr. Whitman is dead), but from others just as good (and very much alive).
And so we have advice from Jeff Shotts, executive editor of Graywolf Press and editor of some of the finest poets being published today. Also, advice from Washington State's poet laureate Kathleen Flenniken, Tony Hoagland (whose newest book came out in March) (and was edited by Jeff Shotts), and many others. More advice will pop up between now and the competition deadline of April 15, so check back.
The advice is sound and simple and much of it applies to good writing in general: Be direct and intimate, be fully honest, be unexpected. But of course, since they are poets, they said this so much better. Here's a sampling:
"While writing a love poem, you must ignore everyone but the beloved." (Shotts.)
"I learned that love poems could be more than just 'let me count the ways' and contain the dark as well as the light.." (Flenniken.)
"The love poet is advised to twist the data convincingly towards the eccentric as well as the esoteric. Show the beloved emptying a mousetrap. Describe the expression on the mouse’s face." (Hoagland)
So. Ready? Submit your poem (with a signed release, available on the Common Good Books site) by April 15. Winners will be judged by Garrison Keillor, Patricia Hampl and Tom Hennen--fine St Paul poets, all.
And even if you don't win the $1,000, when this is all over you will have written a love poem. And that's no small thing.
They'll be working all weekend, shlepping books out the door, up the street and around the corner, but Brian and Sue Roegge will be happy to do so. The owners of the three-year-old Chapter2 Books in Hudson, Wis., had lost their lease and up until two days ago had figured their indie bookstore was going to have to close. They'd been looking for a new space in Hudson's little riverfront downtown, but with no luck.
On Tuesday, their luck turned. They have signed a lease with a landlord in the Star Observer building, next floor to a flower shop and a chocolate shop. (That side of the street must be very busy on Valentine's Day, and Mother's Day, and Christmas.)
The new spot is what you might call "garden level"--it's down six steps-- but "it is a spacious 1,250 square feet with great lighting," Sue Roegge said, and it has big windows.
So on Friday night, the store will close for the last time in its current location, and the plan is to be up and running again by early next week in the new place. Sue Roegge suggested that interested customers might call the store at 1-715-220-8818 for updates.
And that's not the Roegges' only bit of good news: On Tuesday a publicist for Candlewick Press called the store, asking if they would be interested in hosting Minneapolis author Kate DiCamillo in May. It would be DiCamillo's first trip to Chapter2.
Interested? "I am bursting with excitment right now," Sue Roegge said. "I can't believe what a change from a few weeks ago."
The new store will be at 226 Locust Street, Suite 3, Hudson, Wis.
Chapter 2 Books in Hudson, Wis., which has been a friend of writers and readers for many years, hosting events and story time and writing workshops as well as selling all the latest national and regional titles (in print and in Kobo), has lost its lease and is almost certain to close.
Owners Brian and Sue Roegge of St. Paul have tried to find other space in Hudson's little downtown, but their last effort--Tuesday night--came up short. "I think we're done," a deeply discouraged Sue Roegge said in an e-mail. Even presenting the potential new landlord with a petition signed by more than 300 people who want the bookstore to remain in Hudson made no difference. "Goodbye, bookstore," Roegge said. "It's hard to think positive."
To show their gratitude to customers and authors, the store will host an author appreciation day on Saturday. Between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., more than 15 local writers will come by the store to sign books, chat with customers and say goodbye to the Roegges. "We invited nearly every author who has ever been in the store," Roegge said. Some, she noted, are regional, some are national best-sellers, "and some are both!"
A partial list includes William Kent Krueger, David Housewright, Kate Hopper, Sarah Stonich, Barbara Deese, Susan Sims Moody, and many others. A full list is on the store's website here.
Chapter 2 Books is at 422 2nd St. in Hudson.
Author Olivia Laing, whose nonfiction account of writers and drinking, "The Trip to Echo Spring," was widely reviewed, has canceled her book tour. Laing was scheduled to appear at Common Good Books this Thursday. Her book traces the lives of six male writers--John Cheever, Ernest Hemingway, Raymond Carver, John Berryman, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Tennessee Williams, and the effect alcohol had on their output, lives, and prose.
Laing's publicist said today that Laing had suffered a medical emergency and had undergone emergency surgery while on tour in Portland, Ore. At first doctors thought she could continue the tour, but later they suggested it would be better for her to return home and recuperate.
"All involved (especially Olivia) are terribly disappointed," her publicist said in an e-mail. We are wishing Laing a speedy recovery and hope she can come to Minnesota some time in future--perhaps when it's not eleven degrees below zero.
Here's the Star Tribune's review of her book.
When you’re out shopping for books the Saturday after Thanksgiving (as of course you will be), do not be surprised if some of your favorite writers are manning the cash registers or tidying up displays. Walk up to them. Ask for a recommendation. That’s why they’re there.
Saturday, Nov. 30, is not just "Small Business Saturday," but it's also “indies first” day — a day when writers show support for independent bookstores by helping out for a few hours. Writer Sherman Alexie came up with the plan, which has been embraced by hundreds of authors across the country. ("Hello, hello, you gorgeous book nerds," his open letter begins.)
Lists are still being firmed up, but here’s what we know so far (and you can check the map to find out what's going on in your favorite store):
Chapter 2 Books in Hudson, Wis., Michael Norman and Stephanie Bodeen;
Red Balloon, Saint Paul: Debra Frasier, Nancy Carlson, Kurtis Scalleta, David LaRochelle, Brian Farrey, Lauren Stringer, John Coy
Addendum Books, Saint Paul (in a corner of SubText Bookstore): Dawn Klehr, William Alexander, Nancy Carlson, Catherine Clark, John Coy, Brian Farrey, Kevin Kling, Christopher Lincoln ("Billy Bones"), Mary Losure, Carrie Mesrobian, Chris Monroe, Laura Purdie Salas, Kurtis Scaletta, Pat Schmatz, Lauren Stringer, Stephanie Watson, Jacqueline West
Micawber's, Saint Paul: Peter Geye and Nicole Helget
Birchbark Books, Mpls: Heid Erdrich
Common Good Books, Saint Paul: Mary Losure and Sarah Stonich
Magers & Quinn, Mpls: Andy Sturdevant
SubText, Saint Paul: Sarah Stonich.
Valley Booksellers, Stillwater: Julie Kramer, Erin Hart, Colleen Baldrica, Stephanie Landsem, Charlie Quimby
Monkey See, Monkey Read in Northfield. Benjamin Percy
The Bookstore at Fitger's in Duluth: Erin Soderberg.
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