Tag Archives: Minnesota Writers

Twin Cities Book Festival – Where the “right words” rule

The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning. ~~ Mark Twain

The Great Minnesota Get-Together 2017 is history, and yet the Fairgrounds will come alive October 13-14 as bibliophiles gather from far and wide to celebrate “the right word.”  It’s the annual Twin Cities Book Festival.   (http://www.raintaxi.com/twin-cities-book-festival/

Sponsored by Rain Taxi, the free and open tribute to the book is the call for “word people” to meet and learn from bibliophiles who write, publish, read, edit, sell, and otherwise shape and share the “right words.”  It’s a time to refresh the mind and soothe the soul of the faithful who cling to the idea that the right words not only read well but speak truth.

The agenda for TC’s Book Festival is robust, overflowing with exhibits, speakers, opportunities to meet and greet – the Festival calls for serious preparation!  If, perchance, you can’t attend, the website itself offers a great read and reminder of the many faces of the state’s book world!  The online guide to the Festival includes authors of every genre, publishers, booksellers (new and used) along with myriad options, including but not limited to food vendors — Be sure to save time to experience the Poetry Bus! (http://www.raintaxi.com/twin-cities-book-festival-poetry-bus/)






Honoring the Writers of Northeast Minnesota

Organizers of the Northeastern Minnesota Book Awards (NEMBA) have posted a “date due” notice – not for loaned library books but for nominations of books for the 29th Annual NEMBA. The awards recognize books that are substantially representative of northeastern Minnesota which includes Aitkin, Carleton, Cook, Itasca, Kanabec, Koochiching, Lake, Pine and St. Louis counties. Categories include these:

  • Nonfiction
  • Fiction
  • Art and Photography
  • Children’s literature
  • Poetry

Eligible titles must have been originally released in 2016; nominations should include a nonrefundable entry fee ($25) for each title.

The annual awards are co-sponsored by the University of Minnesota Duluth Kathryn A. Martin Library and the Friends of the Duluth Public Library. An awards reception honoring all nominated authors will be held on Thursday, May 18, in the Kirby Ballroom on the UMD campus. The reception is free and open to the public.

For past recipients and more about the awards, click here: http://www.d.umn.edu/lib/nemba/award.htm

Questions? Call 218 726 7889 or email libnemba@d.umn.edu.



Minnesota writers are World Book Night “tradition”

Organizers of the third World Book Night (http://www.us.worldbooknight.org) have just announced the list of titles that will be shared round the globe on Wednesday, April 23, 2014.  On World Book Night “reading ambassadors” will reach out in their communities to share a half million books with random, unsuspecting individuals.

Once again Minnesota writers are prominent on the list of 30 selected titles.  IN 2012 it was Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River and Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie that made the list.  At that time, Enger captured the spirit of World Book Night as “a beautiful foolish idea.”

It’s such a beautiful foolish idea that the selectors this year wisely turned to three more Minnesota writers, that’s 10% of the 30 chosen titles!  The 2014 selections include Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild, Garrison Keillor’s Pontoon and Peter Geye’s The Lighthouse Road.  For a full listing of the 2014 list of WBN titles, click here. http://www.us.worldbooknight.org/books/2014.  Reading selections from past years are posted here:



World Book Night is an annual collaboration first organized in the U.K. three years ago.  The intent of the nonprofit organization is to share the love of reading through a one-person-at-a-time distribution of a half million books.   World Book Night visionaries live their vision – it’s more than giving away books; “It’s about people, communities and connections, about reaching out to others and touching lives in the simplest of ways – through the sharing of stories.”

Books for World Book Night are selected by an independent panel of booksellers and librarians.  The selections are based on lists curated by experts in the bookselling and library world.  Each year givers from the previous year’s World Book Night nominate books for the panel to consider.  The criteria used by the selectors is explicit:  Acceptable books of high quality; recently published books or established classics; books available in paperback; published books of any genre, and gender, ethnic and geographical balance.

In years past both individuals and groups – Friends of the Library, reading circles, youth groups and others – have participated in WBN as enthusiastic  — and much appreciated – “book givers.”

World Book Night planners are now accepting applications for book givers.  The “Be a book giver” posting covers the rules, e.g. givers will be asked to think about where  and to whom they intend to share the books.  Applications can be made online and are due January 5, 2014.  Answers to everything you ever wanted to know about WBN are posted at http://www.us.worldbooknight.org/faqs.

WBN has all of the characteristics of a “beautiful foolish idea’ whose time has come!


If the Joy is in the Prize, Writers Have Options

Be it jewel or toy, not the prize gives the joy, but the striving to win the prize.

Edward George Bulwer-Lytton’s words of wisdom offer sage counsel to the legions of Minnesota literary giants left in the shadows at the recent Minnesota Book Awards “gala.”  Still, in the likely event that is a misguided hopeful for whom writing is about winning, options abound.

Though a comprehensive review of nontraditional literary awards would be great a fun but futile pursuit, a few strike the fancy and give a sense of the possibilities.  Clearly there is no reason why every one of us should not be strutting our literary stuff sporting a laurel wreath.

** The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest award is arguably the best known of the “other” book awards (http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/  honoring the worst possible first sentence of the worst of all possible novels.  The award was the “brainchild (or Rosemary’s baby)” of Professor Scott Rice who was presumably inspired by the immortal opening line “It was a dark and stormy night.”

The website explanation of the enigmatic name is this:    Sentenced to write a seminar paper on a minor Victorian novelist, he chose the man with the funny hyphenated name, Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, who was best known for perpetrating The Last Days of Pompeii, Eugene Aram, Rienzi, The Caxtons, The Coming Race, and – not least – Paul Clifford, whose famous opener has been plagiarized repeatedly by the cartoon beagle Snoopy.  No less impressively, Lytton coined phrases that have become common parlance in our language: “the pen is mightier than the sword,” “the great unwashed,” and “the almighty dollar.”

Winner of the 2012 BLFC, Cathy Bryant of Manchester, England, wowed the judges with her entry:  “As he told her that he loved her she gazed into his eyes, wondering, as she noted the infestation of eyelash mites, the tiny deodicids burrowing into his follicles to eat the greasy sebum therein, each female laying up to 25 eggs in a single follicle, causing inflammation, whether the eyes are truly the windows of the soul; and, if so, his soul needed regrouting.”  The BLFC honors similar bon mots in categories ranging from the Grand Panjandrum’s Special Award to Children’s Literature, Fantasy, Purple Prose and others.

Since its inception in 1982 the BLFC has been sponsored by the English Department at San Jose State University.  Sponsors magnanimously share winning sentences, runners up and dishonorable mentions on their delightful website.

** Then there’s the Lyttle Lytton Contest hosted by Adam Cadre, an American writer best known for his work in interactive fiction.  (http://adamcadre.ac)  What sets the Lyttle-Lytton apart from its predecessor is the brevity requirement of first sentences.  As of 2012 the submission limit was 200 characters.

** The award for this year’s Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year goes to Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop – a “practical” guide to how to “clear your home and garden of goblins and banish them forever.”  Author, Reginald Bakeley’s manual of fairy-proof tips garnered the public vote to win the hearts of voters over competitors How Tea Cosies Changed the World and How to Sharpen Pencils.

Previous weirdly titled tomes include Greek Rural Postmen and Their Cancellation Numbers, Highlights in the History of Concrete, Bombproof Your Horse and Cooking with Poo.  The first recipient of the Diagram Award went to Proceedings of the Second International Workshop of Nude Mice in 1978.

The Award is sponsored by the Diagram Group, an information and graphics company based in London, and The Bookseller, a British trade magazine for the publishing industry.  A book about the prize,  How to Avoid Huge Ships and Other Implausibly Titled Books, was published in 2008 by Aurum Press.

In truth, the intent of the award is serious.  Philip Stone, administrator of the Diagram Award, observes that, on the one hand, a weird title can catch the reader’s eye or frame of reference.  “Books such as A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time all owe a sizeable part of their huge successes to their odd monikers.”  Further, Stone says, “the fact that writers still passionately write such works and their publishers are still willing to invest in them is a marvelous thing that deserves to be celebrated.

* * For the past twenty years the Literary Review has sponsored its annual Bad Sex in Fiction Award to the writer who produces the worst description of a sex scene in a novel.  The award was originally established by Rhoda Koenig, a literary critic, and Auberon Waugh, then the magazine’s editor.

The official rationale for the Award is “to draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it.  Recent awardees include Jonathan Littell, The Kindly Ones (2009), Rowan Somerville, The Shape of Her (2010), David Guterson, Ed King, (2011), and Infrared, by Nancy Huston (2012) The late John Updike won a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2008 ceremony, after his novel The Widows of Eastwick garnered him a fourth consecutive nomination.

** The Shorty Awards fill an inevitable niche.  The Shorty goes to the year’s best producers of short (fewer than 140 characters) weird content on Twitter.  Entries may be submitted in 26 official categories, one of which is “author” (http://shortyawards.com/category/author)  The fifth annual Shorty Awards event was held April 8 – for the faithful, it’s streamed (http://new.livestream.com/shortyawardslive/ShortyAwards2013)

The list goes on….Award Options Overload set in at the Weird-ass Picture Book Awards, conferred on the producers of books whose “strangeness reaches new heights of art and storytelling.”   I began to ask myself essential questions about mission, sponsorship, finances, criteria, process, benefits and more….

For aspiring writers the moral is clear;  as Edward George Bulwer-Lytton himself might have written:    If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.