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.

Spring lineup for Talk of the Stacks announced

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel under Author events, Talk of the Stacks Updated: January 5, 2015 - 11:57 AM

Boris Fishman. Photo by Rob Liguori

Boris Fishman, the author of the comic novel "A Replacement Life," will kick off the next season of Talk of the Stacks, the free writers series held at Central Library on Nicollet Mall and hosted by Friends of the Hennepin County Library.

Fishman's debut novel is about a young man who invents a story about his family's Holocaust experience in order to receive restitution money from the German government. In the Star Tribune review, critic Mark Athitakis called the book "smart ... deft and funny." Fishman was born in the Soviet Union and immigrated to the United States as a child.

He will be at Central Library at 7 p.m. on Feb. 19.

His appearance is first of three Talk of the Stacks appearances; he will be followed by Lisa See ("China Dolls")  on March 25 and then by Dan Buettner ("The Blue Zones") on April 27.

See is a New York Times bestselling novelist who writes about the Asian American experience.

Buettner is a motivational speaker and writer who writes about how to live a longer, happier and more successful life.

All events are free and open to the public and will be followed by book sales and signings. Doors open at 6:15 and seating is first-come, first-served.

 

Graywolf Press criticized for 2015 fiction lineup

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel under Book news, Graywolf Press Updated: December 23, 2014 - 12:05 PM
The authors of Graywolf's 2015 fiction list.

The authors of Graywolf's 2015 fiction list.

The folks at Minneapolis' Graywolf Press are finding themselves in a strange position these days--defending their commitment to diversity. Publisher Fiona McCrae recently announced the 2015 lineup for fiction--a strong list by any measure, including two books by perennial favorite Per Petterson, a new book by IMPAC Dublin award-winner Kevin Barry, and a title by Jeffery Renard Allen (whose previous book for Graywolf, "Song of the Shank," was highly praised). Half of the books are in translation -- from Serbian, from Russian, from Norwegian, from Spanish.

But there are no women. No women on the fiction list. Graywolf has four women on its 2015 poetry list, and four of the seven titles on the 2015 nonfiction list are by women. But readers on Facebook responded to the fiction list with surprise and anger.

"Whoa. So many dudes. Disappointing," wrote one person.

"I can't believe you even had the balls to publish the photo of these writers," said someone else. "And you're not doing them any favors, making us notice them for their gender and not their work. Time to start boycotting Graywolf Press. What a pity."

Many posters seemed to want very much to give Graywolf the benefit of the doubt, but they were having trouble. "This REALLY bums me out, especially as a huge fan of Graywolf, my hometown press!" wrote another. "ALL men? Really? Absolutely not acceptable in 2014 or ever. This picture makes me want to cry."

All of which seems almost ironic, as Graywolf has steadily built a reputation for publishing cutting-edge, serious work by men, women, people of color, and writers in translation. Its top four titles for 2014 were all written by women--the spectacular best-selling essay collection "The Empathy Exams," by Leslie Jamison; "On Immunity," by Eula Biss, a past winner of the Graywolf Nonfiction Award (who will have another nonfiction book published by Graywolf in 2015), and collections of poetry by Claudia Rankine (also a best-seller) and Fanny Howe, which were both finalists for this year's National Book Award.

McCrae said in an interview today that the men on the fiction list are, mostly, not the mainstream: two African-American writers, a gay writer, several writers in translation. "I was very conscious of how international the list was," she said. "Under two percent of literary titles published in America are in translation. There are all kinds of balances."

Looking at the books seasonally rather than genre by genre shows much better gender balance, she noted. "When we are going through the exercise of balancing the list, we’re looking at the spring list or the fall list," not just the fiction list or the poetry list. "We don’t come out with all-male or all-female lists.

"We’re always balancing, and we’ve got  grant considerations, translation grants, other grants. Books don’t show up in Noah’s Ark formation." Still, she said, it won't happen again.

McCrae also responded in a Facebook post yesterday. She wrote: 

Graywolf Press is committed to publishing a wide spectrum of work by a diverse group of writers. In putting together our seasonal lists we are balancing many factors, and think about diversity in terms of gender, sexual orientation, geography, cultural background, and race. We also try to make room for new writers alongside ones who are further along in their careers. Our forthcoming fiction lists have failed to balance male with female writers, and our editors will be working hard to correct this imbalance for 2016 and beyond.
Fiona McCrae
Publisher

A Christmas Carol

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel under Author events, Local authors Updated: December 18, 2014 - 11:11 AM

Dudley Riggs reads poems by John Berryman at the University Club.

On Tuesday evening, the day after her 80th birthday — a wintry, glittering night — St. Paul Poet Laureate Carol Connolly hosted the holiday edition of her monthly reading series at the University Club in St. Paul.

Over the last four years, Connolly’s series has raised $15,000 for Public Art St. Paul’s sidewalk poetry program. On Tuesday night, she announced that beginning in January, donations will go to the St. Paul Almanac, a nonprofit book that publishes the work of established and emerging writers.

One by one, poets approached the podium to read and to wish Connolly a happy birthday. “A wonderful, wonderful lady,” said Cary Waterman. “What would we do without her?” And Connolly piped up from the front row: “Oh, you’d do just fine.”

Tim Nolan read a birthday poem and then seized the opportunity to ask for more time, for just one more poem.

But the evening’s highlight was Dudley Riggs, who approached the podium slowly, with dignity, steadying himself with his cane. He wore a white shirt and a bow tie, and he carried with him poems by the late John Berryman.

“I knew John Berryman somewhat,” Riggs said. “I knew him a little earlier, and a little later. When I knew him earlier, he was neat, clean-shaven, acerbic, anti-war, but he was cool.“When I met him again, he was a burly, bearded bear. Still anti-war. Still cool.”

And then he read two poems — “Dream Song No. 14,” and “Mr. Pou & the Alphabet,” a powerful and poignant poem Berryman had written for his son after a divorce. “N is for now, the best time of all … X is for Xmas where I cannot be.”

Next summer's serial novel announced

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel under Book news, Competitions, Local authors Updated: December 12, 2014 - 11:25 AM
Megan Marsnik

Megan Marsnik

It is with great pleasure that we announce the winner of the Star Tribune's search for our third summer serial--Megan Marsnik, St. Paul resident, English teacher at Southwest HIgh, proud daughter of the Iron Range, and a lovely, strong, lyrical writer.

Her first novel (working title: "Underground") will be published in daily installments in the Star Tribune over the course of the summer of 2015. It will also be available as an e-book.

We received more than 100 one-chapter entries, many of which were excellent, and all of which were interesting. We narrowed it down to three finalists, which we read in their entirety. Megan's book is an historical novel, set on the Iron Range during the tumultuous strike of 1916, told through the perspective of a strong young woman who emigrated to the Range from Slovenia to live with her relatives.

"In my early adulthood, I spent three summers working as a researcher at the Iron Range Research Center at Ironworld in Chisholm," Megan said. "My job was to listen to the oral histories of women in politics and transcribe them to paper. These women led amazing lives."

Her research took 18 months and took her not just back to the Range, but to Croatia and Slovenia. 

It is very exciting to launch her book into the world, beginning in May.

William Kent Krueger rakes in a few more big awards

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel under Book awards, Book news Updated: November 24, 2014 - 11:20 AM
Krueger tweeted this picture with the caption, "On my right, the Macavity. On my left, the Barry. Aren't they lovely?"

Krueger tweeted this picture with the caption, "On my right, the Macavity. On my left, the Barry. Aren't they lovely?"

So you still haven't read "Ordinary Grace"? You weren't persuaded by the glowing reviews that describe St. Paul author William Kent Krueger's novel as a cross between a mystery and a coming-of-age tale, a book with quiet beauty and compelling characters?

The novel, narrated by a middle-aged man looking back on his 1960s childhood in southwestern Minnesota, centers on a missing person and a murder, but is also about one family and the members' relationships with each other.

Maybe a ton of national awards will sway you.

"Ordinary Grace" won the Edgar Award earlier this year, and this month it has won, in quick succession, the Barry Award, the Anthony Award and the Macavity Award. This is what's known in the mystery-writing world as the "full EBAM."

What's the difference, you ask? What's the difference between an Oscar and a Golden Globe?

The Barry Award is an annual award presented by the editorial staff of Deadly Pleasures for the best works published in the field of crime fiction.

The Anthony Awards are literary awards for mystery writers, named for Anthony Boucher, one of the founders of the Mystery Writers of America. And the Macavity Award is, well, that's another literary award for mystery writers.

No wonder the man in the picture is smiling so big.

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