Five MNSCU faculty members win Minnesota Book Awards

Posted: April 23, 2001

Contact: Doug Anderson, doug.anderson@so.mnscu.edu, 651-201-1426

(ST. PAUL) - Five faculty members from three Minnesota state universities have been named winners for 2001 Minnesota Book Awards at an awards ceremony April 20 at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul. The Minnesota Center for the Book, a program of the Minnesota Humanities Commission, announced the winners in 10 categories. A complete listing of the winners follows.

Susan Carol Hauser, Bemidji State University faculty, was an award winner among four finalists in the Nature & Minnesota category for her book Wild Rice Cooking: History, Natural History, Harvesting, and Lore.

Three professors from Minnesota State University, Moorhead, won Minnesota Book Awards for their works. They include Sheila Coghill and Thom Tammaro for co-editing Visiting Emily: Poems Inspired by the Life and Work of Emily Dickinson, in the Anthology & Collections category, and Steven R. Hoffbeck for his book The Haymakers: A Chronicle of Five Farm Families in the History & Biography category.

Alison McGhee, of Metro State University's Writing Department, took home her second Minnesota Book Award in three years in the Novel & Short Story category for her second novel, Shadow Baby.

Other MNSCU faculty members who were 13th Annual Minnesota Book Award nominees included:

  • Emilio DeGrazia from Winona State University, for co-editing the anthology 33 Minnesota Poets with Monica DeGrazia.
  • Southwest State University representatives Bill Holm for Eccentric Islands in Autobiography & Memoir, and Joseph Amato for Dust: A History of the Small and Invisible in the History & Biography category.

McGhee, DeGrazia, Holm, Amato, Hauser and Tammaro have all received nominations for previous works. McGhee won the 1999 Minnesota Book Award for her debut novel, Rainlight. DeGrazia won a 1995 Minnesota Book Award for Seventeen Grams of Soul, a collection of short stories. In 1997 Holm won both the Minnesota Book Award in the Personal Voices category and the John Flanagan Prize for The Heart Can Be Filled Anywhere on Earth: Minneota, Minnesota. Hauser's book, Meant to Be Read Out Loud won in 1989 in the Minnesota category. Tammaro received Minnesota Book Awards for the two anthologies he co-edited: Imagining Home: Writing from the Midwest in 1996, and in 1994, for Inheriting the Land: Contemporary Voices from the Midwest.

Winners of the 13th Annual Minnesota Book Awards are as follows:

ANTHOLOGY & COLLECTIONS
Visiting Emily: Poems Inspired by the Life and Work of Emily Dickinson
Sheila Coghill, co-editor (Moorhead)
Thom Tammaro, co-editor (Moorhead)
University of Iowa Press

AUTOBIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Packinghouse Daughter: A Memoir
Cheri Register (Minneapolis)
Minnesota Historical Society Press

CHILDREN
The Hunter
Mary Casanova, author (Ranier)
Ed Young, illustrator (New York)
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing

FINE PRESS
The Summer House
Patricia Hampl, author (St. Paul)
Harold Kyle, book artist (Minneapolis)
Michael Lizama, book artist (Minneapolis)
Mary Jo Pauly, book artist (Jordan)
Minnesota Center for Book Arts

HISTORY & BIOGRAPHY
The Haymakers: A Chronicle of Five Farm Families
Steven R. Hoffbeck (Barnesville)
Minnesota Historical Society Press

NATURE & MINNESOTA
Wild Rice Cooking: History, Natural History, Harvesting, and Lore
Susan Carol Hauser (Puposky)
Lyons Press

NOVEL & SHORT STORY
Shadow Baby
Alison McGhee (Minneapolis)
Harmony Books/The Crown Publishing Group

POETRY
Turtle Pictures
Ray Gonzalez (Farmington)
University of Arizona Press

POPULAR FICTION
Dark Coulee
Mary Logue (Stockholm, Wisconsin)
Walker and Company

YOUNG ADULT
Curse of a Winter Moon
Mary Casanova (Ranier)
Hyperion Books for Children

The Minnesota Book Awards are given annually to recognize and honor outstanding Minnesota authors and their books. In addition to naming winners in individual categories, the Minnesota Center for the Book also presents the annual Kay Sexton Award and the annual Minnesota Humanities Prize for Literature.

At this year's Minnesota Book Awards, the Minnesota Center for the Book also honored Former Minnesota Gov. Elmer L. Andersen with an Honor Award for his memoir A Man's Reach, edited by Lori Sturdevant. This Honor Award was created to recognize Minnesota books of unusual achievement or significance that fall outside the ten standing award categories. The Minnesota Book Awards committee is empowered to present up to three Honor Awards each year. A Man's Reach is the first book to receive this special honor since the award's creation in 1999 and is recognized as an important work that spans memoir and history in the retelling of extraordinary moments in the private and public life of Minnesota's leading citizen.

This year's Kay Sexton Award was awarded posthumously to Jolie Lynne Sasseville and James Drey Alzheimer for their contributions to the Minnesota book community. Kati Eriksson Sasseville, Jolie's mother of Fergus Falls, and Jill Alzheimer, Jim's daughter of Minneapolis, accepted the award on behalf of Sasseville and Alzheimer.

Sasseville and Alzheimer, along with Sasseville's daughter Chelsea, died November 25, 2000 in a car accident while traveling from their Richville, Minnesota home in Otter Tail County to the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center. However, Sasseville's and Alzheimer's contributions to the national and state literary scene continue. Their lives revolved around the literary arts, working as writers, publishers, and supporters and educators. They co-founded Stone House Press, a nonprofit publishing company devoted to promoting the works of regional writers, and recently published South Beulah, Minnesota by Harold Huber, and Alzheimer's own inspirational book on defeating depression, The Possibility of Joy. Together, Sasseville and Alzheimer also supported local poets and writers groups with readings and as members of the Center for the Arts in Fergus Falls.

Sasseville and Alzheimer have also been recognized for their talents in their own right. Most recently, Sasseville was executive director of the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center. Under her leadership, the Center sponsored the Great American Think-Off and other arts and cultural opportunities for northwestern Minnesota. A native of Bloomington, Minnesota, Sasseville earned her Bachelor of Arts in communications at the University of Alaska. She started her professional career as a feature writer for the Juneau Empire in Alaska and moved on to serve as the public information officer for the City of Fergus Falls. There she became active in the Center for the Arts and the Lake Region Arts Council. Besides her work in the public sector, Sasseville was also a published writer and poet. She married James Alzheimer in July of 1999.

Alzheimer was equally active in the community of the book. Born and raised in Breckenridge, Minnesota, he worked as a radio announcer, a high school English teacher and most recently, as the community education supervisor in New York Mills. Alzheimer was also involved in community theater, including serving as the vice-chair of the Head of the Red Community Theatre in Breckenridge, and chair of the Otter Tail Community Theatre. Alzheimer had also served as a member and chair of the Lake Region Arts Council. As a writer, columnist and poet, he received several awards including the Mental Health Association of Minnesota Media Award; the National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow; the Playwright's Center One-on-One; and the Poetry Chapbook Award, sponsored by Poetry Harbor.

Carol Bly is the recipient of the Minnesota Humanities Prize for Literature, given in recognition of excellence for a body of work. Bly is a gifted writer whose literary career spans over 25 years. Her writing is described as "clear and muscular yet capable of wonderful nuances" by Tess Gallagher in the New York Times and embraces a variety of genres - short story, essay and creative nonfiction.

She was born in Duluth in 1930 and was raised there and in Tryon, North Carolina. She received her Bachelor of Arts. in English and history from Wellesley in 1951 and studied fiction writing with the poet Allen Tate at the University of Minnesota. Her more than 25 years on a farm near Madison, Minnesota inspired a collection of essays originally appearing between 1973 and 1979 in Preview magazine (later Minnesota Monthly). The collection, Letters from the Country, was published in 1981 by Harper and Row; Noel Perrin in the New York Times called it "a spirited and inspiring book."

Two of Bly's books of nonfiction have won Minnesota Book Awards: The Passionate, Accurate Story in 1991 and Changing the Bully Who Rules the World in 1997. Other nonfiction work includes Bad Government and Silly Literature, published by Milkweed; a memoir, An Adolescent's Christmas: 1944, published by Afton Historical Society Press in 1999; and a new book to be published this month by Random House, Beyond the Writers' Workshop: New Ways to Write Creative Nonfiction. Carol Conroy of the Teachers' and Writers' Collaborative, commented on Beyond the Writers' Workshop: " In this bracing critique of workshop culture, Carol Bly reminds serious writers to be passionate, be brave, and tell the truth."

Bly's fiction has also been widely praised: Abigail Davis describes Bly in the Bloomsbury Review as "a master storyteller." Bly's latest book of short stories, My Lord Bag of Rice, published by Milkweed Editions, consists of two new stories as well as selections from her previous collections, Backbone and The Tomcat's Wife and Other Stories; The Tomcat's Wife was nominated for a Minnesota Book Award in 1992.

In addition to writing, Bly lectures and teaches writing courses across the country, most recently at the Ashland Writing Festival in Oregon and the Hofsos Writing Group in Iceland. She was Benedict Distinguished Visiting Professor at Carleton, a lecturer in the University of Minnesota Master of Liberal Studies program, and the Edelstein-Keller Distinguished Minnesota Author in 1998-99. She was named the Minnesota Women's Press Favorite Woman Author for 2000. Bly holds an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Northland College.

Currently Bly teaches private writing classes in St. Paul and will teach creative writing with the Hofsos Writers Group in Hofsos, Iceland in June, 2001.

The Minnesota Center for the Book, an affiliate of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, is a program at the Minnesota Humanities Commission, a statewide agency dedicated to ensuring that the humanities are an integral part of lifelong education and public life for all Minnesotans. The Minnesota Center for the Book provides programs and services that promote reading, books and a literate culture.

For more information on the Minnesota Center for the Book or the Minnesota Book Awards, contact Lisa Brienzo at (866) 268-7293, x111 (toll-free). A complete listing of this year's winners and nominees can be found on the website at www.mnbooks.org.

Electronic graphic files of the winning book jacket art are available upon request. Contact Sarah Henfling at (651) 774-0105, ext. 134 or e-mail: sarahh@thinkmhc.org.