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On Books

Laurie Hertzel is senior editor for books at the Star Tribune, where she has worked since 1996.

Authors get pie and prizes (and pie!)

The Northeastern Minnesota Book Award Winners ceremony, held each year at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, is a casual, laid-back affair, with an attentive, bookish audience, lovely glass plaques, and PIE. Always lots of pie!

This year 39 titles competed for honors in six categories. The winners were nicely divided among several regional presses -- University of Minnesota Press, North Star Press of St. Cloud, Holy Cow! Press, and others. The keynote speaker was Duluth poet laureate Jim Johnson.

Here are the winners:

Memoir and creative nonfiction:

Winner: "Rooted in Iron and Ice: Innocent Years on the Mesabi," by Gary W Barfknecht.

Honorable mention: "Zenith City: Stories from Duluth," by Michael Fedo.


Winner: "Approaching the Gate," by Lynette Reini-Grandell

Honorable mention: "Night Train Red Dust: Poems of the Iron Range," by Sheila Packa

Art and photography:

Winner: "Saved by Beauty: Sister Mary Charles McCough, OSB," by John Schifsky and others.

Honorable mention: "The Other Side of Wilderness," by Richard C Johnson

General nonfiction:

Winner: "Twin Ports by Trolley," by Aaron Isaacs

Honorable mention: "Sawdust in their Blood," by Jim Boyd

Children's literature:

Winner: "Rhoda's Rock Hunt," by Molly Beth Griffin

Honorable mention: "Wilder's Foe," by Diane Bradley


Winner: "Sins of Our Fathers," by Shawn Lawrence Otto

Honorable mention: "A River Through Two Harbors," by Dennis Herschbach

Congratulations to all the winners and nominees. Now I want some pie!

Minneapolis poet Jennifer Willoughby wins Lindquist & Vennum Prize

Jennifer Willoughby

Jennifer Willoughby

Jennifer Willoughby earned her bachelor's degree from St. Catherine's University in St. Paul and her MFA in poetry from the University of Minnesota. For 15 years, she has worked as an advertising copywriter, writing poetry on the side. She has published poems in The Believer, the Boston Review, and the Indiana Review, as well as other places.

Her poetry manuscript, "Beautiful Zero," has been named winner of the Lindquist & Vennum Prize for Poetry, chosen from more than 150 submissions from poets across the Midwest. The Lindquist & Vennum Prize, offered by Milkweed Editions, carries a $10,000 honorarium and a publishing contract.  Milkweed will publish Willoughby's book in November.

The judge for this year's competition was Santa Fe poet Dana Levin, who had this to say about Willoughby's book:

"You were born the weirdo that you are,” writes Jennifer Willoughby in her very alive first collection, "Beautiful Zero." With its sense of affection and straight talk, such a pronouncement sets the tone for these poems, whose speakers tumble and swerve as they urgently try to inhabit and describe the contours of being strange and alive in our electrified now. There’s a hint of dread, apprehension, to the speakers’ searches for connection and understanding, but the book’s primary argument seems to be for beauty, joy, surprise, release: “The world doesn’t want to see you / on your knees for more than a minute / when it could be inspecting a music / box that knew how to fly,” Willoughby writes in “Do Not Be Broken By This Day,” a poem whose title acts as command and charm.

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