36 Finalists Blog: Marguerite Ragnow

Each day leading up to the 32nd annual Minnesota Book Awards announcement, we’ll be featuring an exclusive interview with one of our 36 finalists.

Interview with Marguerite Ragnow, co-author of Tulips, Chocolate & Silk: Celebrating 65 Years of the James Ford Bell Library, part of the Minnesota Nonfiction category

How does it feel to be a Minnesota Book Award finalist?

It is very exciting — such an honor!

Share something about your writing process and preferences. For instance, where is your favorite place to write?

It is all about perception. Our personal stories affect how we view the world around us; the same is true with photographs. Natasha, who took the photos featured in the volume, has a unique eye when it comes to rare books and other materials. Looking at her photos will, I hope, help readers change their perceptions about the past and the rare books that document it.

Share something about your writing process and preferences. For instance, where is your favorite place to write?

If I had my way, I would sit on a sunlit terrace with my notebook and a cup of fabulous coffee, perhaps a pastry. Unfortunately, most of my writing is done in my crowded office in between appointments and classes and emails, etc. When I can block off a few hours and not get interrupted — that’s when the writing happens.

Minnesota has a reputation as a state that values literature and reading. In your experience, what is it about our state that makes it such a welcoming place for writers and book creators?

This is a gross generalization, of course, but I think there is something to the idea of “hardy” Minnesotans and the character traits that fosters. We have a strong sense of the individual and that, I think, tends to support creative endeavors, which often are very individual pursuits. And writers tend to attract other writers. A lot of famous writers are from Minnesota. And of course we have the fabulous Minnesota Center for Book Arts and strong independent publishers.

What is something you are good at that few people know about?

Ha! I spent a lot of my young adulthood doing community theater, as well as a couple of plays in college — singing, dancing, acting — although the dancing, eh…

What do you love about libraries?

Before I became a librarian, I would have said “the books, of course.” And that is still true, but libraries are so much more than that now. They are maker-spaces, places where you can get help managing your data, get access to way more than the contents of any single building. You can register to vote, hear a lecture, take a class, see a wonderful exhibition. Libraries are the heart and soul of our communities.

Marguerite Ragnow is an historian of the pre-modern era and the curator of the James Ford Bell Library.