Wednesday (Sept. 18) is the first day of nearly a month of readings, at coffee shops, bookstores and cafes across St. Paul. If you can't make one, surely you can make another.
It's the St. Paul Almanac Literary Festival, a joint venture of the smart folks at the St. Paul Almanac, and the equally smart folks at Cracked Walnut. Cracked Walnut did something similar in the spring, hosting a reading a day for 21 days. Now, with the help of the Almanac, they're going themselves four days better.
Writers who contributed to the 2014 Almanac (on sale now, because, of course, it's almost 2014) include Joyce Sutphen, Carol Connolly, Ethna McKiernan, John Jodzio, Margot Fortunato Galt, and Jim Moore (though there are many, many others).
You can catch them at readings at J&S Bean Factory (6:30 p.m. Wednesday), Subtext: A Bookstore (7 p.m. Sept. 21), Khyber Pass Cafe (7:30 p.m. Sept. 26), and places in between. Check out the full schedule at the Cracked Walnut page.
A week or two ago, I posted here a long list of prominent writers who are coming to town to speak at various reading series—Talking Volumes, Pen Pals, and the others. But that, of course, was only part of the list of writers you can go listen to around the Twin Cities area.
So here’s a second list—not comprehensive, by any means, but a list of some of the more notable writers who will be speaking at 10 Twin Cities bookstores this autumn. It’s an impressive list—Sue Grafton, Alice McDermott, Jhumpa Lahiri and Louise Erdrich, Pulitzer Prize-winner Paul Harding, local favorite Garrison Keillor, Jamie Ford and Jesse Ventura….
Hans Weyandt, co-owner of Micawber's Bookstore, got things rolling Tuesday night when he introduced Ethan Rutherford, author of the new short-story collection, "The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories" (Ecco Press).
" 'Peripatetic' is a word that is not used by anyone anywhere in the United States today," Weyandt said. He said he enjoyed calling up distributors and ordering the book, because it required them not only to pronounce the word but also to spell it.
Weyandt's little bookstore in St. Paul's St. Anthony Park neighborhood was packed to the stacks with friends and fans of Rutherford, there for the first stop of his rather extensive book tour, which will take him to the West Coast next week, and then to the East Coast. Rutherford, who lives in Minneapolis with his wife and toddler son, is a graduate of the University of Minnesota's MFA program in creative writing. Rutherford also reviews books for the Star Tribune.
A friend he met in the program, Matt Burgess--author of "Dogfight: A Love Story"--was up next. (And in the crowd, their writing teachers--Charles Baxter and Julie Schumacher.) (Also in the crowd, novelist Peter Bognanni, winner of the American Academy's Rome Prize, removing his hip white-framed sunglasses as he dashed through the door a little late.)
After a few more jokes about the word "peripatetic" (which Burgess said he had to look up the meaning of), Burgess read a brief, very funny scene from his work-in-progress, "Uncle Janis," a novel about undercover narcotics cops in Brooklyn.
The bookstore was crowded on this warm spring night, and Rutherford swung the door a few times, trying to kick up a breeze. (There was also free beer, which might have served to both cool and warm the guests.)
"This is a sort of wonderful day," Rutherford said. "It's like a wedding, except I don't have to dance."
He chose Micawber's for his book launch, he said, both because it's his favorite bookstore, and because he loves independent bookstores in general. "I've tricked you all here, I've given you free beers, so please buy a book," he urged the crowd. (Any book, he said, though he would especially like it if they bought his book.) (And they did, selling out Weyandt's supply of "Coffin.")
Rutherford's collection contains three sea stories, including the title story (the well-traveled coffin is a submarine), and Rutherford told the audience that it had long been his wish "to write 'Moby Dick II.' It turns out that's not a story that anybody was waiting for."
And then he read from the last story in his collection, "Dirwhals!," a futuristic tale about whale-hunters--though these whales live not in the sea, but in the sand.
And after that, booksigning and beer and the reading turned into a happy party. Like a wedding, but with no dancing.
You can't miss the finalists in the Common Good Books first annual amateur love poem contest--they're printed on huge sheets (three by four feet) of posterboard and are suspended from the ceiling of the bookstore. You can read them even without your bifocals. And then, after you've found them and read them, you can go up to the counter and vote for your favorite.
The finalists were chosen by G. Keillor, Prop., himself from more than 150 entries, and he will announce the winner at 1 p.m. on April 21 at a celebration of poetry at Weyerhaeuser Chapel at Macalester College.
The finalists are: Emily Walz, Thomas Kendrick, Barbara Miller, Carol Van Hale, Bernard Jacob, Delores Mixer, Norman Holen, Anne Parsons, Roy Close, Rob Dougherty, Ginger Bolling and Thomas Hamburg.
The bookstore is at 38 S. Snelling Av., St. Paul. Stop by, read, cast your vote. And watch your head.
What a brave and wonderful move, opening up a contest to unpublished poets. Brave because -- well, we know how many people secretly write poetry: All of us. And wonderful because -- well, there just aren't enough venues for poets.
But here come Common Good Books and Garrison Keillor with the first annual (which means if you don't win this year, there's always next year) Common Good Amateur Love Poem Contest. ("Amateur" meaning you cannot have published a book of poetry.)
Submit your poem (limit of 14 lines, or 200 words) by email to email@example.com. One poem per person, so pour everything you have into it. (In 200 words.)
Poems should focus on love or praise.
The finalists will be announced April 1, and the finalists will be displayed at the store for you to vote on. The winner will be announced at 1 p.m. on April 21 at a big Poetry Month event at Weyerhaeuser Chapel at Macalester College, hosted by Keillor. "You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll rhyme," says the press release, and we can only imagine.
Sharpen thy quill pen.Don thy puffy-sleeved shirt. Bare thy soul.
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