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 Local authors

Kate DiCamillo wins her second Newbery Medal

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel Updated: January 27, 2014 - 9:58 AM
DiCamillo

DiCamillo

Minneapolis writer Kate DiCamillo, recently named the Library of Congress National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, won her second Newbery Medal this morning for her book, "Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures," the story of a girl and a squirrel with superpowers. DiCamillo launched "Flora & Ulysses" in September in an event at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul. 

Given by the American Library Association, the Newbery Award is considered the most prestigious honor in children's literature.

DiCamillo's second Bink and Gollie book, "Bink and Gollie: Two For One," written with Minneapolis writer Alison McGhee, was also honored for best children's video book. DiCamillo first won the Newbery in 2004 for "The Tale of Despereaux," and her first book, "Because of Winn-Dixie," was a Newbery Honor book.

The Caldecott Medal for illustration went to "Locomotive," by Brian Floca. Other awards included Marcus Sedgwick's "Midwinterblood"--the Michael L. Printz Award for best young adult book. Rita Williams-Garcia's "P.S. Be Eleven" won the Coretta Scott King award for best African-American book. The King award for illustration went to Bryan Collier for "Knock Knock: My Dad's Dream for Me.'

Below is the press release from the American Library Association, listing all of today's winners:

John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature:
“Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures,” written by Kate DiCamillo, is the 2014 Newbery Medal winner. The book is published by Candlewick Press.
Four Newbery Honor Books also were named: “Doll Bones,” written by Holly Black and published by Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division; “The Year of Billy Miller,” written by Kevin Henkes and published by Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers; “One Came Home,” written by Amy Timberlake and published by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc.; and “Paperboy,” written by Vince Vawter and published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc. 

** Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children:
“Locomotive,” illustrated by Brian Floca, is the 2014 Caldecott Medal winner. The book was written by Brian Floca and published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing.
Three Caldecott Honor Books also were named: “Journey,” written and illustrated by Aaron Becker and published by Candlewick Press; “Flora and the Flamingo,” written and illustrated by Molly Idle and published by Chronicle Books LLC; and “Mr. Wuffles!” written and illustrated by David Wiesner and published by Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

** Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award recognizing an African American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults: 
“P.S. Be Eleven,” written by Rita Williams-Garcia, is the King Author Book winner. The book is published by Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. 
Three King Author Honor Books were selected: “March: Book One,” written by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell, and published by Top Shelf Productions; “Darius & Twig,” written by Walter Dean Myers and published by Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers; and “Words with Wings,” written by Nikki Grimes and published by WordSong, an imprint of Highlights.

** Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award:
“Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me,” illustrated by Bryan Collier, is the King Illustrator Book winner. The book was written by Daniel Beaty and published by Little, Brown and Company, Hachette Book Group.
One King Illustrator Honor Book was selected: “Nelson Mandela,” illustrated and written by Kadir Nelson and published by Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. 

** Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award:
“When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop,” illustrated by Theodore Taylor III, is the Steptoe winner. The book is published by Roaring Brook Press, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishing Holdings Limited Partnership.

** Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement:
Authors Patricia and Researcher Fredrick McKissack are the winners of the Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement. The award is presented in even years to an African American author, illustrator or author/illustrator for a body of his or her published books for children and/or young adults, and who has made a significant and lasting literary contribution. 
 Patricia McKissack and her late husband Fredrick McKissack, both natives of Tennessee, began their writing and research partnership in the 1980’s.Their subject matter from family-based folklore to nonfiction titles, are scholarly researched and written with accurate, authentic text, creating a cultural transmission of history. Their immense range of topics are informative, readable and enjoyable, covering accounts from slavery days to biographical studies of noted men and women in African American history past and present. 

** Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults:
“Midwinterblood,” written by Marcus Sedgwick, is the 2014 Printz Award winner. The book is published by Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group.
Four Printz Honor Books also were named: “Eleanor & Park,” written by Rainbow Rowell and published by St. Martin’s Griffin (Macmillan); “Kingdom of Little Wounds,” written by Susann Cokal and published by Candlewick Press; “Maggot Moon,” written by Sally Gardner, illustrated by Julian Crouch and published by Candlewick Press; and “Navigating Early,” written by Clare Vanderpool and published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House LLC, Penguin Random House Company.

** Schneider Family Book Award for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience:
“A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin,” written by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet and published by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc. wins the award for children ages 0 to 10.  
“Handbook for Dragon Slayers,” written by Merrie Haskell and published by HarperCollins Children’s Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, is the winner of the middle-school (ages 11-13) award.
The teen (ages 13-18) award winner is “Rose under Fire,” written by Elizabeth Wein and published by Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group.  

** Alex Awards for the 10 best adult books that appeal to teen audiences:
 “Brewster,” written by Mark Slouka and published by W. W. Norton & Company
“The Death of Bees,” written by Lisa O’Donnell and published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
“Golden Boy: A Novel,” written by Abigail Tarttelin and published by ATRIA Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
“Help for the Haunted,” written by John Searles and published by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
“Lexicon: A Novel,” written by Max Barry and published by The Penguin Group, Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
“Lives of Tao,” written by Wesley Chu and published by Angry Robot, a member of the Osprey Group
“Mother, Mother: A Novel,” written by Koren Zailckas and published by Crown Publishers, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc.
“Relish,” written by Lucy Knisley and published by First Second, an imprint of Roaring Brook Press, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishing Holdings Limited Partnership
“The Sea of Tranquility: A Novel,” written by Katja Millay and published by ATRIA Paperback, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
“The Universe Versus Alex Woods,” written by Gavin Extence and published by Redhook Books, an imprint of Orbit, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

** Andrew Carnegie Medal for excellence in children's video:
Paul R. Gagne and Melissa Reilly Ellard of Weston Woods Studios, Inc., producers of “Bink & Gollie: Two for One,” are the Carnegie Medal winners. The video’s cast is anchored by Kate Micucci and Riki Lindhome, with music by David Mansfield. Tony Fucile’s artwork is brilliantly brought to life by Chuck Gammage Animation. 

** Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults:
Markus Zusak is the 2014 Edwards Award winner. His books include: “The Book Thief” and “I Am the Messenger,” published by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, and “Getting the Girl” and “Fighting Ruben Wolfe,” published by Arthur A. Levine, an imprint of Scholastic.  

** May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award recognizing an author, critic, librarian, historian or teacher of children's literature, who then presents a lecture at a winning host site:
Brian Selznick will deliver the 2015 lecture. 
Author and illustrator Brian Selznick graduated from Rhode Island School of Design intending to be a set designer for the theater, but a stint at Eeyore’s children’s bookstore in New York City changed his mind and his first book was published while working there. He left to pursue a full-time career in children's book illustration, but he still designs theater sets and is a professional puppeteer. Among his award-winning works are illustrations for two Sibert Honor Books and a Caldecott Honor Book. His groundbreaking “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” was awarded the 2008 Caldecott Medal.  

** Mildred L. Batchelder Award for an outstanding children's book originally published in a language other than English in a country other than the United States, and subsequently translated into English for publication in the United States:
“Mister Orange” is the 2014 Batchelder Award winner. Originally published in Dutch in 2011 as “Mister Orange,” the book was written by Truus Matti, translated by Laura Watkinson, and published by Enchanted Lion Books.
Three Batchelder Honor Books also were selected: “The Bathing Costume or the Worst 
Vacation of My Life,” written by Charlotte Moundlic, illustrated by Olivier Tallec, translated by Claudia Zoe Bedrick, and published by Enchanted Lion Books; “My Father’s Arms Are a Boat,” written by Stein Erik Lunde, illustrated by Øyvind Torseter, translated by Kari Dickson, and published by Enchanted Lion Books; and “The War Within These Walls,” written by Aline Sax, illustrated by Caryl Strzelecki, translated by Laura Watkinson, and published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

** Odyssey Award for best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults, available in English in the United States:
“Scowler,” produced by Listening Library, an imprint of the Random House Audio Publishing Group, is the 2014 Odyssey Award winner. The book is written by Daniel Kraus and narrated by Kirby Heyborne.
Four Odyssey Honor Recordings also were selected: “Better Nate Than Ever,” produced by Simon and Schuster Audio, written and narrated by Tim Federle; “Creepy Carrots!” produced by Weston Woods Studios, Inc., and written by Aaron Reynolds; “Eleanor & Park,” produced by Listening Library, an imprint of the Random House Audio Publishing Group, written by Rainbow Rowell, and narrated by Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra; and “Matilda,” produced by Penguin Audio, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., written by Roald Dahl, and narrated by Kate Winslet.

** Pura Belpré (Illustrator) Award honoring a Latino illustrator whose children's books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience:
“Niño Wrestles the World,” illustrated by Yuyi Morales, is the Belpré Illustrator Award winner.  The book was written by Yuyi Morales and published by Roaring Brook Press.
        Three Belpré Illustrator Honor Books were selected: “Maria Had a Little Llama / María Tenía una Llamita,” illustrated and written by Angela Dominguez and published by Henry Holt and Company, LLC; “Tito Puente: Mambo King / Rey del Mambo,” illustrated by Rafael López, written by Monica Brown and published by Rayo, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers; and “Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale,” illustrated and written by Duncan Tonatiuh and published by Abrams Books for Young Readers, an imprint of ABRAMS.  

** Pura Belpré (Author) Award honoring a Latino writer whose children's books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience:
“Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass,” written by Meg Medina, is the Belpré Author Award winner. The book is published by Candlewick Press.
Three Belpré Author Honor Books were named: “The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist,” written by Margarita Engle and published by Harcourt, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company; “The Living,” written by Matt de la Peña and published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company; and “Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale,” written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh and published by Abrams Books for Young Readers, an imprint of ABRAMS.

** Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award for most distinguished informational book for children:
“Parrots over Puerto Rico,” written by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore, and illustrated by Susan L. Roth, is the Sibert Award winner. The book is published by LEE & LOW BOOKS, Inc.
Four  Sibert Honor Books were named: “A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin,” written by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet and published by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc.; “Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard,” written and illustrated by Annette LeBlanc Cate and published by Candlewick Press; “Locomotive,” written and illustrated by Brian Floca and published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing; and “The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius,” written by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan and published by Roaring Brook Press, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishing Holdings Limited Partnership.

** Stonewall Book Award - Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award given annually to English-language works of exceptional merit for children or teens relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience:
“Beautiful Music for Ugly Children,” written by Kirstin Cronn-Mills and published by Flux, an imprint of Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd; and “Fat Angie,” written by e. E. Charlton-Trujillo and published by Candlewick Press, are the winners of the 2014 Stonewall Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award.
Three Honor Books were selected: “Better Nate Than Ever,” written by Tim Federle and published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division; “Branded by the Pink Triangle,” written by Ken Setterington and published by Second Story Press; and “Two Boys Kissing,” written by David Levithan and published by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc.

** Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for the most distinguished book for beginning readers:
“The Watermelon Seed,” written and illustrated by Greg Pizzoli, is the Geisel Award winner. The book is published by Disney Hyperion Books, an imprint of Disney Book Group.
Three Geisel Honor Books were named: “Ball,” written and illustrated by Mary Sullivan and published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company; “A Big Guy Took My Ball!” written and illustrated by Mo Willems and published by Hyperion Books for Children, an imprint of Disney Book Group; and “Penny and Her Marble,” written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes and published by Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.  

** William C. Morris Award for a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens:
        “Charm & Strange,” written by Stephanie Kuehn, is the 2014 Morris Award winner. The book is published by St. Martin’s Griffin, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press, a division of 
Macmillan.
Four other books were finalists for the award: “Sex & Violence,” written by Carrie Mesrobian and published by Carolrhoda LAB, an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group; “Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets,” written by Evan Roskos and published by Houghton Mifflin, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company; “Belle Epoque,” written by Elizabeth Ross and published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books; and “In the Shadow of Blackbirds,” written by Cat Winters and published by Amulet Books, an imprint of ABRAMS.

** YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults:  
        “The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi,” written by Neal Bascomb, is the 2014 Excellence winner. The book is published by Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc.
         Four other books were finalists for the award: “Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design,” written by Chip Kidd and published by Workman Publishing Company; “Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans During World War II,” written by Martin W. Sandler and published by Walker Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing, Inc.; “Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles, America’s First Black Paratroopers,” written by Tanya Lee Stone and published by Candlewick Press; and “The President Has Been Shot! The Assassination of John F. Kennedy,” written by James L. Swanson and published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic Inc.

Recognized worldwide for the high quality they represent, ALA awards guide parents, educators, librarians and others in selecting the best materials for youth. Selected by judging committees of librarians and other children’s experts, the awards encourage original and creative work.  For more information on the ALA youth media awards and notables, please visit www.ala.org/yma .

Minnesota Book Award finalists announced

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel Updated: January 25, 2014 - 6:36 PM

 

Several winners from years past are among the finalists for this year’s Minnesota Book Awards, including children’s writer David LaRochelle, who won last year and who is a finalist twice this year. Other past winners and finalists include mystery writers William Kent Krueger, Erin Hart and Brian Freeman, novelist Kent Nerburn, and children’s author Alison McGhee.

Finalists in eight categories were chosen Saturday afternoon by 24 judges from around the state ­­— writers, teachers, librarians and booksellers.

Here’s the list:

Children’s Literature, sponsored by Books For Africa:


 “The Case of the Missing Donut,” by Alison McGhee, illustrated by Isabel Roxas; “How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans,” by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Mark Fearing; “ Moo!” by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka; and “Peep Leap,” by Elizabeth Verdick, illustrated by John Bendall-Brunello.

General Nonfiction, sponsored by Minnesota AFL-CIO:

 “Evil Men,” by James Dawes (Harvard University Press); “Harriman vs. Hill: Wall Street’s Great Railroad War,” by Larry Haeg (University of Minnesota Press); “The Nazi and the Psychiatrist: Hermann Göring, Dr. Douglas M. Kelley, and a Fatal Meeting of Minds at the End of WWII,” by Jack El-Hai, and “Soda Shop Salvation: Recipes and Stories from the Sweeter Side of Prohibition,” by Rae Katherine Eighmey (Minnesota Historical Society Press)


 Genre Fiction, sponsored by Alerus Financial:
 The Book of Killowen,” by Erin Hart; “The Cold Nowhere,” by Brian Freeman; “Tamarack County,” by William Kent Krueger; and “Wolves,” by Cary J. Griffith

Memoir & Creative Nonfiction, sponsored by GovDelivery:
 “The Girl Who Sang to the Buffalo: A Child, an Elder and the Light from an Ancient Sky,” by Kent Nerburn; “Prairie Silence,” by Melanie Hoffert; “Thunder of Freedom: Black Leadership and the Transformation of 1960s Mississippi,” by Sue [Lorenzi] Sojourner with Cheryl Reitan, and “We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down: Memoir of a Gravedigger’s Daughter,” by Rachael Hanel (University of Minnesota Press)


 Minnesota, sponsored by MSR Architects:
“A Love Affair with Birds: The Life of Thomas Sadler Roberts,” by Sue Leaf (University of Minnesota Press); “Minneapolis Madams: The Lost History of Prostitution on the Riverfront,” by Penny A. Petersen (University of Minnesota Press); “Modern Spirit: The Art of George Morrison,” by W. Jackson Rushing III and Kristin Makholm, and “Survival Schools: The American Indian Movement and Community Education in the Twin Cites,” by Julie L. Davis (University of Minnesota Press)


 Novel & Short Story, sponsored by Education Minnesota:
 “Let the Dark Flower Blossom,” by Norah Labiner; (Coffee House Press) “Little Wolves,” by Thomas Maltman; “The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories,” by Ethan Rutherford, and “Vacationland,” by Sarah Stonich (University of Minnesota Press)


 Poetry, sponsored by Wellington Management, Inc.:
“Black Aperture,” by Matt Rasmussen; “The First Flag,” by Sarah Fox (Coffee House Press); “It Becomes You,” by Dobby Gibson (Graywolf Press); and “Slip,” by Cullen Bailey Burns


 Young People’s Literature, sponsored by Sit Investment Associates:
 “Chasing Shadows,” by Swati Avasthi with graphics by Craig Phillips; “The Real Boy,” by Anne Ursu; “ Sex & Violence,” by Carrie Mesrobian (Carolrhoda Lab/Lerner Publications); and “Wild Boy: The Real Life of the Savage of Aveyron,” by Mary Losure, illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering.


The winners will be announced April 5 at the book award gala, this year to be held at the historic St. Paul Union Depot. That same evening three special awards will also be given--Fred Hagstrom will receive the seventh annual Book Artist Award, which has already been announced; the Kay Sexton Award, which will be announced in February, and the biennial Hognander Minnesota History Award.
 

 

Word games, poetry, music and -- wrestling?

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel Updated: January 17, 2014 - 9:13 AM

Twelve experiments involving words and risk, each lasting ten minutes. What does it all mean? Who can say? Revolver Magazine's "Revolver at the Ritz" is promising a night that explores the intersection of words and risk, and they're bringing together local writers, publishers, musicians and other wordy folks to play.

Writers Sarah Stonich and Marty Kihn will attempt to pitch a novel (a famous, already-published one) to folks from Coffee House and Graywolf without using any words that give away which novel it is. Poet Heid Erdrich will "do something amazing" (it might involve a salad shooter). Dylan Hicks (musician, author of "Boarded Windows," and occasional Star Tribune book critic) will write a song, right there on the spot, with help from the audience. Andy Sturdevant will create essays before your very eyes. Poets apparently will wrestle. (Poets! Gentle poets! This you gotta see.)

Also taking part in the madness: poets Matt Rasmussen and Lightsey Darst, Coffee House Press publisher Chris Fischbach (always one to experiment with form), and many others.

The evening will be "all the crazy fun / dark weirdness you've come to expect and love from our crew," the Revolver folks said on their Web page.

The event costs $15 and is sponsord by Coffee House Press, the Playwrights Center, and Revolver, an online magazine which is still new but is quickly growing in its influence. Tickets are available here. It begins at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Ritz Theater, 345 13th Av. NE, Mpls.

You can check out the full list of 12 experiments on the Revolver Facebook page.

Pushcart Prizes announced

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel Updated: January 16, 2014 - 12:44 PM

The Pushcart Prizes were announced today, and the list is long and illustrous. Andrew Dubus III, Natasha Trethewey, Louise Gluck, Amy Hempel, Pam Houston, Lorrie Moore ... Three Minnesota writers are among the nearly 70 winners:

Charles Baxter, for his story, "What Happens in Hell," published by Ploughshares

Jude Nutter, for her poem, "Love Like That," published in Briarcliff Rerview

Matt Rasmussen, for his poem, "After Suicide," published in Water-Stone Review, the literary magazine published by Hamline University.

The Pushcart Prizes honor stories, essays and poems published by small presses.

For a full list of winners, go here.

Props, jokes and poetry

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel Updated: December 18, 2013 - 10:21 AM
Danny Klecko reads at the University Club.

Danny Klecko reads at the University Club.

The women weren't exactly sedate, but they read from printed scripts--poetry, book excerpts, essays--and they mostly kept to the time limit. Within those constraints, though, there was much room for laughter and poignancy, as Heid Erdrich read poems that she had "sneaked into" her new cookbook, "Original Local," and Mary Lou Judd Carpenter read from a memoir she has written about her parents, "Miriam's Words: The Personal Price of a Public Life." (Her father was congressman Walter Judd, and the memoir draws heavily on the letters of his wife, Miriam.) Eleanor Leonard read an essay about lighting the candles on a tree and singing "Silent Night."

But the men! Whoa! Less reading than performance art, spoken word, with props.

Last night's Readings for Writers (holiday edition), coordinated and emceed, as usual, by St. Paul Poet Laureate Carol Connolly, was unexpectedly raucous and, at times, side-splittingly funny. Not what you might expect for a literary evening at the sedate and dignified University Club.

Mike Finley pulls poems out of a sock

Mike Finley pulls poems out of a sock

Poet Mike Finley, blue-eyed and cherubic, pulled a tinsel-bedecked hat out of a bag, placed it solemnly on his head, then pulled out a big gold Christmas stocking and began fishing around inside of it, drawing out slips of paper at random and reading them. Not poems, exactly, but more than jokes, they first startled, then amused the audience. (The first one: "Why / is that frisbee / getting bigger? / and then it hits me....")

Poet and memoirist Ted King pulled on a Santa hat, claimed that Ted King couldn't make it and had sent Santa in his place, and then began spinning fantastic stories, seemingly off the top of his head, about the original Santa giveaway (which involved theft).

Baker-poet Danny Klecko never opened his prop bag, just pounded it on the podium dramatically as he read a poem about urging one of his pastry chefs to steal Garrison Keillor's salt and pepper shakers. Was that what was in the bag? The last line of the poem tells us that the contents "I'm not at liberty to discuss."

At 9 p.m., just as Tim Nolan, the last poet of the evening, approached the podium, a dozen or so people screamed, "Snow emergency!" and fled to move their cars. Nolan looked wryly at Connolly and said, "You mention my name and people head for the door."

He carried only a sheaf of paper with him, but it turned out that he, too, had props: As he read his final poem, "Shoes," he removed his shoes and placed them on the podium in front of him. He made it almost all the way through the poem before stopping, sniffing the air, and saying, "Oooh, my shoes stink." And then, "That's not part of the poem."

The annual event is free but passes the hat for Public Art St. Paul.

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