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

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.

Meet your favorite author at your favorite bookstore

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel Updated: November 22, 2013 - 11:36 AM
Sherman Alexie.

Sherman Alexie.

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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