36 Finalists Blog 2024: Laura Zimmermann

Laura Zimmermann, author of Just Do This One Thing for Me

Young Adult Literature Category, sponsored by Minnesota Humanities Center

Each week leading up to the 36th annual Minnesota Book Awards, we are featuring exclusive interviews with our finalists. You can also watch the authors in conversation with their fellow category finalists here.

What is one detail you wanted to include in this book, but couldn’t find a place for?   

I learned a lot more about dead bodies and about Justin Timberlake than was strictly relevant to the story. For example, a common misconception is that a corpse floats because of air in the lungs, but that’s not true! It sinks at first, but can resurface when micro-organisms start to break down the soft tissues, releasing gasses that cause the body to float. An unrelated example: Ryan Gosling lived with Justin Timberlake’s family when they were both on the Mickey Mouse Club and Gosling’s mother was working in Canada! (As you can see, a lot of very important research goes untapped when writing a book.) 

Tell us about a favorite read from the past year. Why did you find it enjoyable, insightful, or memorable?  

I just reread Remains of the Day, which was only a mistake in that it is hard to read Kazuo Ishiguro and not feel like one should give up writing. He’s just that much better than everybody else. Maybe the thing I admire/envy most is his infinite patience in unfolding a character, building something enormous out of the smallest pebbles. The book was written in the 80s about a butler in the 40s, but feels completely relevant today–the observations of the tiny, twisted lies we tell ourselves; the incongruous desire to be both relevant and blameless; the gymnastics of justification. It’s brilliant. 

Please tell us something about yourself that is not widely known.

I am extremely jumpy. A partial list of things that have startled me recently: squirrels, doorbells, centipedes, dead centipedes, dried bits of cilantro that look like centipedes, car doors, charging cords underfoot, birds, the entirety of True Detective: Night Country, sneezes, people gently greeting me while I am reading, the boiler, wind. If people actually died of fright, you would have lost me a long time ago. 

Share your thoughts about the role and value of libraries.   

Democracy relies on access to information; empathy depends on hearing other people’s stories; justice dies when voices are silenced. All of these are under threat, but *libraries* are where we hold the line. We hold the line with books, with computers, with newspapers, with safe spaces, weekend hours, workshops, Legos, seed exchanges, Read to a Dog days, with welcoming places to ask questions or play Dungeons and Dragons or get out of the rain. And when the orcs and the wargs come for us, I think librarians are the Great Eagles* who will turn the whole battle. 

*St. Paul’s librarians may wish to read this as Laser Loons. 

Laura Zimmermann is an award-winning author and storyteller. Her debut novel, My Eyes Are Up Here, won the Minnesota Book Award and has been published in six countries.