MN Book Awards: and the winners are…


Laurie Hertzel’s memoir “News to Me” took home the Readers’ Choice Award at the Minnesota Book Awards

As Pioneer Press Books Editor Mary Ann Grossman said, “isn’t this about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on?”

It was, indeed, a very fun night celebrating the Minnesota literary scene. It’s not often an event can draw everyone from Mayor Chris Coleman to Dudley Riggs to Venus DeMars (whose coffin-shaped purse was ultra-cool). Hosted by Jeff Kamin (moderator of the “Books and Bars” series), the evening was punctuated with performances by the RockStar Storytellers, as well as a reading by this year’s O’Shaughnessy poet Leanne O’Sullivan. Poet Carol Connolly received this year’s Kay Sexton Award for her contributions to the literary vibrancy of Minnesota, and book artist Regula Russelle was recognized for her work bringing text and image to life on paper.

Without further ado, here are this year’s winners of the Minnesota Book Awards:

Award for Novel and Short Story:

John Reimringer, “Vestments”

It’s a bittersweet tale of religion, family and love set in St. Paul. Click on the audio link below to listen to my interview with John Reimringer about his debut novel on Midmorning:

Award for Memoir and Creative Nonfiction:

Bonnie J. Rough, “Carrier: Untangling the Danger in My DNA”

Rough attended the awards with her eight day old baby in tow, having flown into town for the ceremony. A fellow Minnesota traveler, upon hearing that Rough was an award finalist, exclaimed “I have to get your autograph!” “Only in Minnesota,” Rough chuckled. She went on to thank all readers who, she said, “give all of the meaning to the work we do.”

Award for Minnesota

Mary Lethert Wingerd, “North Country: The Making of Minnesota”

North Country explains how the land the Dakota named Mini Sota Makoce became the State of Minnesota. Wingerd is associate professor of history at St. Cloud State University.

Award for Young People’s Literature

Pete Hautman, “Blank Confession”

Hautman is the author of nearly a dozen books, including his young adult book “Godless” which won the National Book Award in 2004. In “Blank Confession”

young Shayne Blank, the new kid in town, walks into the police department to confess to a murder. Click on the link below to listen to his recent interview on Midmorning:

Mayor Chris Coleman presented the Kay Sexton Award to poet Carol Connolly, and in doing so recited a poem a made up that morning. It involved picking up after his dog on the morning walk, only to lean over to read a poem in the sidewalk. Connolly is St. Paul’s first poet laureate, and has been an “unrelenting supporter” of the St. Paul Sidewalk Poetry project, according to its creator, Marcus Young.

Rockstar Storyteller (and book artist) Curt Lund gave a rousing performance, noting “it is in an exceptionally nerdy spirit that we gather here tonight; to be any nerdier would require a labcoat.” Noting how many people in the audience wore glasses, “a symbol of infinity perched upon our noses,” he asked all of us to raise our glasses high, declaring them “not a crutch, but a portal.”

Award for Children’s Literature:

Michael Hall, “My Heart is Like a Zoo”

Hall described himself “as tongue-tied as two dueling aardvarks” and as “palpitatious as a hummingbird” as he accepted the award.

Award for General Nonfiction

Michael Nordskog and Aaron Hautala: The Opposite of Cold: The Northwoods Finnish Sauna Tradition

Accepting their awards, Nordskog and Hautala wondered if the last minute snow had worked in their favor.

Award for Poetry

Lightsey Darst, “Find the Girl”

Darst came to the podium a bit bewildered, musing “If I thought I was going to win I wouldn’t have had so much champagne… and I probably would have worn a longer skirt.” She then went on to recite a poem:

Roses are red

Books should be too

If you’re a reader

I thank you

Award for Genre Fiction

Wendy Webb, The Tale of Halcyon Crane

In Webb’s debut novel, Hallie James discovers that her mother, believed long dead, was actually alive until very recently. That discovery sets off a pursuit of the truth, and the unveiling of dark family secrets.

Last, but by no means least, was the Readers’ Choice Award. That prize went to Star Tribune Books Editor Laurie Hertzel for her memoir “News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist.” It recounts Hertzel’s stumbling into journalism at the Duluth News Tribune, and portrays an industry in the midst of revolutionary transformation. Click on the link below to listen to my conversation with her on Midmorning about her memoir:

Congratulations to all the winners!