Writing Minnesota


It’s not often that I use the blog to promote a radio show before it airs, but this one merits exceptional treatment.

My colleague Annie Baxter is not just an accomplished business reporter, she’s also a great writer. When MPR conducted an internal “contest” for show ideas, Baxter pitched a show that would highlight the amazing literary talent in our state. To her delight it was accepted. Fast forward many late-nights and long weekends, and “Writing Minnesota” was born.

The show, which airs tomorrow (Friday) at noon and Sunday at 6pm is an hour-long program which, Baxter says, “will sound like nothing else on our airwaves.”

We’ve got some amazing poems by poets from around the state, which are very place-based. We had Chris Roberts record the poets reading at the locations mentioned in the poems, so you really feel transported to the Mississippi and the grain fields of Red Wing. And we’ve adapted a fabulous short story by Charles Baxter (no relation) for the radio. It’s called “The Winner,” and it’s set in the hills bordering Lake Superior in a millionaire’s bizarre compound. We hired a team of talented actors to bring the piece to life. We’ve also got some great interviews with various writers about the extent to which they identify as a Minnesota writer– i.e. whether they see their work as consistent with any kind of regional voice.

Some of the other featured writers include Steve Healey, Robert Hedin, Philip Bryant, Kao Kalia Yang, and Nicole Helget.

So, will Writing Minnesota become a regular feature on MPR airwaves? At this point, Baxter doesn’t think so. But in the off-chance it does become a series, Baxter already has plenty of ideas:

If I had the chance to produce more episodes, I wouldn’t organize every one around work that references Minnesota as a place. Instead, I’d probably pick themes like “Minnesota writers on love” or “Minnesota writers on death,” etc. Maybe I’d have a few place-specific shows still, looking at, say, the writing scene in Duluth or writings specifically about Minneapolis or St. Paul.

I should also note that Baxter had lots of production help from Morning Edition’s Curtis Gilbert… who also happens to be her husband.