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

But seriously, folks....AWP is also about scholarship

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel Updated: April 10, 2015 - 6:00 PM

The Pink Tuxedos, including former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove, sing William Wordsworth's "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" to the tune of "I Heard it Through the Grapevine."

Lest you think that AWP is only about parties and networking, let me assure you that it is only partly about parties and networking. There are also, at any given time, a dozen or more panel discussions and lectures  on the craft of writing going on in the Convention Center. 

It's not possible to be in two places at the same time, so people often sit or stand in the back or at the end of a row so they can sneak out after a while and go sample something else. It is not considered rude to leave in the middle, though of course speakers don't particularly enjoy losing their audience. (Some have  more audience to lose than others, of course.) 

And so I have done this. I dropped in on a tribute to Charles Baxter (with Baxter himself, sort of abashed and shy, sitting in the middle, while panelists in the front of the room praised his "capacious mind" and "Wile E. Coyote skills"). And I took part in a panel comparing the benefits of small publishers to the big guys in New York.  Said writer Chantel Acevedo, who has been published by both, smaller publishers give a writer more attention, meaning that a writer who would be firmly mid-list at a big house might lead the list at a smaller place.

She paused, though, when Europa Editions publisher Michael Reynolds (and Acevedo's publisher) asked what she would counsel a writer who was being offered a million dollars from the big guys, or a few thousand from the little guys. "That's not fair," she said, while the audience chuckled.

In between, I took time to check out the Pink Tuxedos, a band of poets led by Rita Dove, who had set serious famous poems to music. I missed hearing them sing Sylvia Plath's "Daddy" to the tune of Bobby Darin's "Dream Lover," but I did get to hear "Mock on, Mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau," by William Blake, sung to the tune of "The Book of Love." It was great. They can sing.

(The other Pink Tuxedos are Marilyn Nelson, Sophie Cabot Black, and Carol Muske-Dukes.)

Acquisitions editor Erik Anderson of the University of Minnesota Press

I have listened to panel discussions on regional literature (and heard the Midwest compared, by writer Mardi Jo Link, to a deep-fried sandwich--the best part is in the middle); and on the University of Minnesota Press at 90, where I listened to compelling readings from Sarah Stonich, Karen Babine and Kate Hopper.

Fox Gordon and Debra Monroe discuss the tricky minefield of writing about others.

I listened to Guggenheim fellow and memoirist Emily Fox Gordon talk about the tricky business of writing about people you love. Her panel, which also included Robin Hemley, Debra Monroe, Marcia Aldrich and John Price, was packed--so many memoirists out there!--and the angst in the room was palpable. How does one write about other people? Without destroying friendships, that is, or alienating family?

The advice was not always encouraging. Write with empathy and respect. Make sure your book contains context. Beware the "gratuitous, small hurt," Fox Gordon said. And, said Hemley, "It's important that we don't kid ourselves. We're going to write things that definitely will hurt other people."

Up next, Charles Baxter and Louise Erdrich in conversation. And there's another day tomorrow.

Everybody who's anybody is at the AWP Bookfair 'party room'

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel Updated: April 9, 2015 - 6:30 PM


The book fair is huge, a big literary party

The book fair is huge, a big literary party

The book fair is huge, a big literary party.

The National Book Critics Circle booth is No. 1201, right across from Boston Review and Adelphi University MFA Program, right next to the African Poetry Book Fund and Prairie Schooner, and everywhere you look, there are writers. Readers, for sure, but writers almost certainly. A few publishers, a few publicists. But even they are probably secretly writers.

The place is packed, the lines for coffee are long (oddly, not so for the bathrooms), and each of the 700 booths is doing its best to attract visitors. Lots of smiles, even the booths where nobody has visited in a while.

This is the AWP Bookfair, the party room of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs annual conference and everybody, all 12,000 conventioneers, everybody ends up here sooner or later. Sometimes they don't leave. Some people (I've been told) spend the entire AWP conference here, networking and chatting and trolling for free stuff and interesting books. They forget to go to readings, or panel discussions. 

The annual convention began this morning, and in the first five minutes of my arriving at the Book Fair I ran into Charles Baxter, and Susan Straight, and Fiona McCrae, and Jeff Shotts, and Dylan Hicks, and all the Lofties and Milkweed folk, and the head of the National Book Foundation, Harold Augenbraum. (Also a writer.) They're all writers. And yet the atmosphere here is not cut-throat, nor suspicious, nor even competitive. It's like a big party. People hug. They squeal, just a bit. Mostly, they talk, and take pictures. 

The Saint Paul Almanac is collecting stories of AWP at their booth--you can write them, or tell them, at their Storymobile.

An AWP story someone started at the Storymobile but did not finish.

An AWP story someone started at the Storymobile but did not finish.

An AWP story someone started at the Storymobile but did not finish.

Jane Ciabattari of the National Book Critics Circle is gamely manning the NBCC booth, has been here for hours, not sitting down, chatting people up, taking their pictures, because the NBCC member who was supposed to be here is stuck in New York because of weather. Everyone who stop by, she says, "Let me take your picture!" and they always say yes. 

Jane Ciabattari and Harold Augenbraum

Jane Ciabattari and Harold Augenbraum

The booth is kind of bleak compared to others--no stacks of books, or free lanyards, or bowls of candy, or t-shirts. Just printed information on how to join the NBCC and a little "name the author" quiz that has me totally stumped. (It's HARD.) But it's a place of chattiness and warmth. And, of course, hugs. And photos.

Michele Filgate, NBCC board member (and a writer) is here, too, and it is on her laptop that I am writing these words before heading off to the tribute to Charles Baxter. Stay tuned. And follow me at @stribbooks on twitter and instagram for up-to-the-moment photos.

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?


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