On the evening of April 6, 2019, hundreds of Twin Cites literature and library lovers gathered in the Intercontinental Hotel’s Great River Ballroom to celebrate this year’s Minnesota Book Awards. The event was sponsored by the Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, with various other institutions, including Macalester College, Education Minnesota, and Books for Africa, lending their support to individual awards. The First Lady of Minnesota and former English teacher Gwen Walz kicked off the ceremony, with journalist and author Roxane Battle emceeing. Throughout the night, prizes were awarded across genres in such categories as Minnesota Nonfiction, Novel & Short Story, and Young Adult Literature. In addition, both Jody Williams and David Mura received commendations for their contributions to the Minnesota literary community. In his acceptance speech, Mura spoke of the difficulties facing writers of color and the importance of community in nurturing new voices. Williams, who won a Book Artist Award for her book-box hybrid For Now, drew laughter after donning a tiara and poking fun at literary conventions.
Poet Chaun Webster, whose book GeNtry!fication: or the scene of the crime won the award for poetry, thanked University of Minnesota MFA faculty member Douglas Kearney in his acceptance speech. Also representing the University of Minnesota MFA program were alumna Sally Franson—nominated in the Novel & Short Story category—and faculty member Patricia Hampl—nominated in the Creative Nonfiction category. Hampl, who was not able to attend there ceremony, sent three third-year MFA candidates in her stead: Mae Rice, Gao Vang, and Kelsey Donk.
It was a wonderful night to celebrate the arts.
—Clare Boerigter & Antonia Angress
“I wanted to write smart, grumpy Midwestern women”: An Evening with Curtis Sittenfeld
On Monday, March 25 at cozy Minneapolis bookstore Magers & Quinn, local writer Sally Franson engaged Curtis Sittenfeld in a lively and thoughtful discussion on, among other topics, unlikable female characters, antipathy in fiction, and “making thing happen” in stories. The event promoted the paperback release of Sittenfeld’s short story collection You Think It, I’ll Say It. “I wanted to write smart, grumpy Midwestern women,” said Sittenfeld in a discussion of the often overlooked literary landscape of Middle America. Many of the stories in You Think It, I’ll Say It feature such characters. Sittenfeld also gave a teaser of her next book: a fictional retelling of Hillary Clinton’s life…if she’d never married Bill. Sittenfeld is being welcomed into the Twin Cities literary community as a transplant from Saint Louisa. She is the New York Times best-selling author of Prep, Man of My Dreams, American Wife, Sisterland, and Eligible.
–Antonia Angress & Clare Boerigter