Minnesota Book Awards Opens 30th Anniversary Season

Book Submissions for the annual Awards program open on August 1, 2017.

SAINT PAUL, MINNESOTA, August 1, 2017 – The Minnesota Book Awards, a program of The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, will kick off its 30th anniversary season on August 1 with the opening of submissions for books published in 2017.

The nine categories for the annual Book Awards include: Children’s Literature, General Nonfiction, Genre Fiction, Memoir & Creative Nonfiction, Middle Grade Literature, Minnesota Nonfiction, Novel & Short Story, Poetry, and Young Adult Literature. To be eligible, all books must be the work of a Minnesota author or primary artistic creator and must have a 2017 copyright. Authors, publishers, and agents are eligible to submit a book by completing the online form, submitting five copies of the book, and paying a $45 entry fee. Eligibility and entry guidelines are available at thefriends.org/submissions.  Submissions close at 5 p.m. on Friday, November 17, 2017.

The upcoming season of the Minnesota Book Awards, with a theme of “30 Years of Stories,” will celebrate the best in local literature and also look toward the future of the program.

“We will continue to honor Minnesota’s rich literary legacy,” says Alayne Hopkins, director of the Minnesota Book Awards, “while at the same time including more voices from across our state to help us write the next chapter of this important program.”

Finalists in all nine categories will be announced on January 27, 2018. Winners will be announced at the 30th annual Minnesota Books Awards ceremony on Saturday, April 21, 2018 at the InterContinental Hotel in downtown Saint Paul.

Nominations are also being accepted for three special awards: the Minnesota Book Artist Award, recognizing an outstanding new work in the book arts created during the last year; the Kay Sexton Award, presented annually to an individual or organization in recognition of outstanding work in fostering books, reading, and literary activity in Minnesota; and the biennial Hognander Minnesota History Award which recognizes a scholarly work on a topic of Minnesota history.

About the Minnesota Book Awards

Celebrating its 30th season, the Minnesota Book Awards is now a year-long program that fosters our statewide literary arts community. Woven throughout the season are various engagement activities and events that promote the authors and connect the world of Minnesota books – writers, artists, illustrators, publishers, editors, and more – to readers throughout the state. In recognition of this and its other statewide programs and services, the Library of Congress has recognized The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library as the state’s designated Center for the Book. For more information visit www.thefriends.org/mnba.

About The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library
The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library exists to help libraries, and the communities they serve, thrive. An independent, nonprofit organization established in 1945, The Friends invests in the Library through fundraising, advocacy, and programming; as a result, the Saint Paul Public Library is a nationally-recognized leader in serving its community. The Friends also serves libraries across the country and internationally through its consulting services, Library Strategies, and promotes literacy, reading, and libraries statewide as the Minnesota Center for the Book. For more information, contact The Friends at 651-222-3242 or visit thefriends.org.

Best-selling Authors are Coming to Opus & Olives!

Opus & Olives: Fine Print & Fine FoodEach year, The Friends hosts its annual fundraising gala that benefits one of the most important and beloved institutions in our community – the Library. Proceeds from the evening support initiatives like early literacy, workforce development, and other lifelong learning opportunities for individuals of every age, ethnicity, and socioeconomic background. To headline the event, we bring in five best-selling authors to share thoughts on their latest work, their process, and their inspiration. The Friends is thrilled to announce that authors Paula Poundstone, who will serve as the evening’s emcee, Ben Blum, Jamie Ford, Tom Perrotta, and Gabrielle Union will join this year’s line-up. You can support your community and mingle with these incredible writers – get your tickets now, and stay tuned for more author announcements!

Get Tickets Now


Jeff Kamin on Books & Bars, Reading, and Why Libraries Are Better Than Netflix

Books & Bars is a twist on traditional book clubs. Open to the public and held in bars, this moderated book club show “provides a unique atmosphere for a lively discussion of interesting authors, fun people, good food and social lubrication with liquid courage.”

The Friends has been a supporting partner of Books & Bars since the Saint Paul version started in 2011.

Creator, moderator, and host Jeff Kamin tells us a bit about this almost 14-year series and why he loves it so much.

How did the idea for Books & Bars start?

I’ve always loved books, writing, and literature. I really wanted to join a book club, but actually none of the groups I talked to would have me. They said I wouldn’t like their groups because they didn’t really talk much about the books, they just drank wine.

So while I was at City Pages, I was working with an independent book store, and we decided to try a different version of the book club. We thought “let’s make it public and bring strangers together to talk about books.”

We started in the basement of the Green Mill in Uptown, and it’s grown from there. We’ve read 175 books as a group, and we’re now in both Minneapolis, soon to be back at Bryant Lake Bowl, and Saint Paul at Amsterdam Bar & Hall.

How do you choose your books?

I sit down and start a list, usually one season at a time. I ask the question, are these books “discussion-worthy?” I’m usually looking at new paperbacks – I want them to be accessible to everyone – and I really try to mix them up to appeal to both men and women, and to represent diverse authors and diverse interests. These are not “Jeff’s favorite books” that I try to push on people – I’m reading them for the first time as well. Then I let people vote on the books.

Why do you love the Books & Bars concept?

We all read the same book, but none of us read the same book. Everyone interprets things in their own way, and when they come together to talk about it – that’s what makes it interesting.

Everyone is welcome. You don’t have to read the book. You don’t even have to talk if you don’t want to, though I like see a “fresh hand” from someone who’s never spoken. You just show up and enjoy.

I really think it creates a sense of community. I’ve been doing this for over 13 years; there’s a sense of longevity. I’ve seen people leave and come back [to the series]. I’ve seen lasting friendships made. People have gotten married after meeting at Books & Bars. I’ve even officiated a wedding because of it.

What has surprised you about the series?

It’s people’s willingness to trust in a book they’ve never read or wouldn’t normally pick for themselves, because they know it will be worth it. People have sometimes told me that after our discussions they would rate a book higher because they now see it in a different way.

Why do you love reading?

You can connect with someone else whom you’ll probably never meet and who may be different than you, but with whom you have something in common because you’re reading their words. You’re an active participant in this art form. You’re creating the picture inside your head, and it’s your interpretation that gives it meaning.

Why do you love libraries?

I walk to Central [Library] a few times every week – it’s my lunchtime routine. I love that I can reserve books and videos online and pick them up right there. [The Library] is really like the new video store. Their “lucky day” section with the newest Blu-rays and books is the best. It’s better than Netflix, because I have a chance of getting the newest titles. I love it.



The Friends Receives NEA Funding

nea-logoA recent grant will help The Friends connect more readers and writers throughout the state.

The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library is thrilled to be the recipient of funding from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). NEA Chairman Jane Chu has approved more than $82 million to fund local arts projects across the country in the NEA’s second major funding announcement for fiscal year 2017. Included in this announcement is an Art Works award to The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library for its “Readers Meet Writers” program. The NEA received 1,728 Art Works applications and will make 1,029 grants ranging from $10,000 to $100,000.

“The arts reflect the vision, energy, and talent of America’s artists and arts organizations,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to support organizations such as The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, in serving their communities by providing excellent and accessible arts experiences.”

Through the “Readers Meet Writers” program, The Friends will present three author tours in greater Minnesota to increase awareness of work written by Minnesota authors. The program aims to increase engagement between readers and writers in the state through innovative programming and increase access to Minnesota Book Award-winning and finalist authors.

2017 programming dates and sites include:

July 20 – Minnesota Book Award Winners, Rochester Public Library
September 7 – Prized Writers with William Kent Krueger and Danielle Sosin, Virginia Public Library
September 14 – Music Meets Minnesota Lit, Grand Rapids Public Library
September 21 – Prized Writers with Lorna Landvik and Julie Schumacher, Rochester Public Library
October 12 – Music Meets Minnesota Lit, Douglas County Public Library
October 17 – Minnesota Book Award Winners, Fergus Falls Public Library

Stay tuned for more information on The Friends’ calendar.

About The Friends’ Programming
At The Friends, we invest in libraries so that they, and the communities they serve, thrive. One way we invest is by connecting people to experiences through a range of cultural programming in libraries. For over 25 years, we have offered programs that entertain, enrich, and nourish curious minds.

Our events are always open to the public and most are free. You can make an investment in the library simply by joining us at one of our upcoming programs.

Inside the Fitzgerald Rare Photo Exhibit: An Interview with Stu Wilson

In a few short weeks, F. Scott Fitzgerald fans from all over will descend upon his hometown – our beloved Saint Paul – to learn, share, and be inspired by the work and life of this celebrated author. One of the many features of the 14th International F. Scott Fitzgerald Society Conference is a rare photo exhibit that provides a glimpse into Fitzgerald’s life with his family and friends, including a number of early photos from his days in Minnesota.

StuStu Wilson is lead consultant for The Friends’ consulting group Library Strategies and president of Fitzgerald in Saint Paul, the organization hosting the conference. Stu sat down with us recently to share more about the exhibit and why he is so passionate about Fitzgerald.


When did you first become interested in F. Scott Fitzgerald?

I’ve appreciated his work since college, but until moving to Saint Paul, I honestly preferred John Steinbeck and Sinclair Lewis. I began to pay more attention to Fitzgerald when I moved here in 1996. In 2000, The Friends was doing doing a lot of community events during the major renovation of Central Library. We designated Fitzgerald’s birthplace at 481 Laurel Avenue as a National Literary Landmark, and my interest deepened and grew from that point onward.

What is it about Fitzgerald and his work that you find so compelling?

Fitzgerald’s work is very accessible and sophisticated at the same time, and his writing can be absolutely beautiful. He has many passages that are worth reading over and over again. But more than that, he writes of universal themes of love, greed, and dreams that continue to touch us all.

What is one thing about Fitzgerald that you’d really like people to know who aren’t as familiar with him?

There are tons of fascinating details about Scott, but I’ll give you tow interesting, sports-related tidbits. Scott was a big football fan, and according to a recent New York Times article, he was one of the first people to suggest that football be played with two “platoons” – essentially separate offensive and defensive teams. His suggestion may have influenced the University of Michigan to institute that system in the late 30s and 40s. And, his biggest football idol was Hobey Baker, who was a national star at Princeton when Fitzgerald enrolled there, and who Fitzgerald subsequently knew. Today, Minnesotans know Baker as the namesake of the award for the best men’s collegiate hockey player of the year – even though he was more famous in his day as a footballer.

Tell me more about the photo exhibit and why Fitz fans will appreciate it.

SPL Exhibit PhotoFor Fitzgerald fans, it will be a treat to see many images of Scott and his family that they haven’t seen before. For someone more casually interested in Scott and Zelda, they’ll be able to see them as “real” people – young parents, children, siblings, playful 20-somethings, serious artists – rather than just the common, mythologized depictions of them as intense party-goers. In both cases, I think the photos will add depth and understanding to reading Fitzgerald’s books and short stories.


Stu will present a gallery talk about the exhibit alongside scholar Dave Page, author of the new book, F. Scott Fitzgerald in Minnesota, on Sunday, July 16 at 2:00 p.m. The photo exhibit, Sight Unseen: Rare Photographs of F. Scott Fitzgerald with His Family and Friends, is free and open to the public and will be on display in the Bremer Room on the 1st floor of the George Latimer Central Library. Hours are listed below. Check our calendar for more details.

Sight Unseen exhibit hours:
June 24 through July 17
Saturdays from 1:00 to 4:30 p.m
Mondays from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Rare Photographs of F. Scott Fitzgerald on Display in New Exhibit

SPL Exhibit PhotoA gallery talk and book presentation will accompany the exhibit at George Latimer Central Library, presented in conjunction with the 14th International F. Scott Fitzgerald Society Conference in Saint Paul. Read our interview with Fitzgerald in Saint Paul president, Stu Wilson.

SAINT PAUL, MINNESOTA, May 25, 2017 – The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, together with Fitzgerald in Saint Paul and the Saint Paul Public Library, are pleased to present the new exhibit Sight Unseen: Rare Photographs of F. Scott Fitzgerald with His Family and Friends. Free and open to the public, the exhibit will be on display in the Bremer Room on the 1st floor of the George Latimer Central Library, 90 West Fourth Street, Saint Paul.

Stu Wilson, president of Fitzgerald in Saint Paul, and scholar Dave Page will present a gallery talk about the exhibit and the new book F. Scott Fitzgerald in Minnesota, authored by Page with photographs by Jeff Krueger.

Sight Unseen exhibit hours:
June 24 through July 17
Saturdays from 1:00 to 4:30 p.m
Mondays from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Gallery talk and book presentation:
Sunday, July 16, 2:00 p.m.

F. Scott Fitzgerald is considered one of America’s greatest writers, and is known worldwide for his masterwork, The Great Gatsby. The new book F. Scott Fitzgerald in Minnesota, published by Fitzgerald in Saint Paul, is a collaboration providing historical insights, stunning photographs and images, and the opportunity to re-examine and appreciate the many Minnesota connections found in Fitzgerald’s life and works.

Fitzgerald was born in Saint Paul in 1896, and the new exhibit provides glimpses into his life with his family and friends, including a number of early photos from his days in Minnesota. The exhibit was curated by Shawn Sudia-Skehan, who collected the photos while researching a forthcoming book.  While some of the photographs presented in Sight Unseen may be readily recognizable, many are relatively rare and previously unpublished. Many were selected specifically for their relevance to Fitzgerald’s years in Saint Paul.

A resident of Atlanta, curator Sudia-Skehan is a board member of the Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum in Montgomery, Alabama.  Now retired after a distinguished career in non-profit public relations, she re-discovered Fitzgerald after re-reading The Great Gatsby for the first time as an adult.

The photographs in the exhibit include reproductions from:

  • The Matthew J. and Arlyn Bruccoli Collection, Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, University of South Carolina;
  • Sara and Gerald Murphy Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library;
  • The Reginald Marsh Collection, Smithsonian Archives of American Art;
  • The Baltimore News American Collection at the University of Maryland; and
  • The Minnesota Historical Society.

Sight Unseen is presented by Fitzgerald in Saint Paul, the Saint Paul Public Library, and The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library in conjunction with the 14th International F. Scott Fitzgerald Society Conference in Saint Paul. For more information on the conference, visit www.fitzgerald2017.org.

About The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library

The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library exists to help libraries, and the communities they serve, thrive. An independent, nonprofit organization established in 1945, The Friends invests in the Library through fundraising, advocacy, and programming; as a result, the Saint Paul Public Library is a nationally-recognized leader in serving its community. The Friends also serves libraries across the country and internationally through its consulting services, Library Strategies and promotes literacy, reading, and libraries statewide as the Minnesota Center of the Book. For more information, contact The Friends at 651-222-3242 or visit thefriends.org.




2017 Letters About Literature Winners Announced

SAINT PAUL, MINNESOTA, April 25, 2017The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, as the home of the Minnesota Center for the Book, is pleased to announce the state-level winners of the 2017 Letters About Literature Essay Contest, co-sponsored by the Minnesota Council of Teachers of English and Common Good Books.

More than 40,000 adolescent and young adult readers nationwide in grades four through twelve participated in this year’s Letters About Literature program, which encourages young people to read, be inspired, and write back to the author who has somehow changed their view of the world or themselves. The number of entries from Minnesota’s students was 1,122, and 130 student letters made it through to the state round of judging in the three levels of competition. For more information about the contest, national winners, and free teaching resources to guide students through the reader response and writing process, visit www.read.gov/letters/.

The winners of the Letters About Literature essay competition were selected on three levels: Level I – for grades four through six, Level II – for grades seven and eight, and Level III – for grades nine through twelve.

The winners are:

Level I

Level II

Level III

About The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library:

The Friends, with a staff of 18 and an operating budget of $3 million, produces 70 events per year and provides over $1.5 million in support annually to the library, resulting in the Saint Paul Public Library being recognized as a national leader in serving its community. In recognition of its statewide programs and services, The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library has been recognized by the Library of Congress as the state’s designated Center for the Book. With a mission of stronger libraries for stronger communities, The Friends supports not only the Saint Paul system, but also libraries and library organizations across the country and internationally through its consulting services, Library Strategies. For more information, contact The Friends at 651-222-3242 or visit thefriends.org.

2017 Minnesota Book Awards Winners Announced

April 10, 2017, SAINT PAUL, MN – The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library is pleased to announce the winners of the 29th annual Minnesota Book Awards. In addition to winners in nine categories, The Friends presented the Book Artist and the Kay Sexton Awards to previously announced honorees—respectively, Steven McCarthy and Lou Bellamy. The Minnesota Book Awards are presented this year by sponsor Education Minnesota.

Close to 900 people attended the award ceremony at InterContinental Hotel on Saturday, April 8, emceed by Tom Weber, host of “MPR News with Tom Weber” and author of 100 Things to Do in the Twin Cities Before You Die. Announced at the ceremony, the winners of the 2017 Minnesota Book Awards are:

Award for Children’s Literature, sponsored by Books for Africa:
J.J. Austrian – Worm Loves Worm – illustrated by Mike Curato, published by Balzer + Bray/ HarperCollins Publishers

When a worm meets a special worm and they fall in love, you know what happens next. They get married! This irresistible picture book is a celebration of love in all its splendid forms. J.J. Austrian is a graduate of Hamline University’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults program. This is his first picture book.

Award for General Nonfiction, sponsored by the College of Saint Benedict Literary Arts Institute and Saint John’s University:
Shawn Otto – The War on Science: Who’s Waging It, Why It Matters, What We Can Do About It published by Milkweed Editions*

Otto’s provocative book investigates the reasons for why and how evidence-based politics are in decline and authoritarian politics are once again on the rise, and offers a vision, an argument, and compelling solutions to bring us to our collective senses, before it’s too late. Otto is an award-winning science advocate, educator, and speaker, and a previous Minnesota Book Award winner.

Award for Genre Fiction, sponsored by Macalester College:
Allen Eskens – The Heavens May Fall – published by Seventh Street Books/Prometheus Books

Eskens revisits characters from The Life We Bury in a mystery full of twists and turns, vividly told from two opposing perspectives. Eskens is also the author of The Life We Bury, a Minnesota Book Award finalist, and The Guise of Another. He was a practicing criminal defense attorney for 25 years.

Award for Memoir & Creative Nonfiction, sponsored by Faegre Baker Daniels:
Kao Kalia Yang – The Song Poet: A Memoir of My Father – published by Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt and Company

Yang retells the life of her father, Bee Yang, the song poet – a Hmong refugee in Minnesota, driven from the mountains of Laos by America’s Secret War. Yang is also the author of The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir, which was a finalist for the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award and the Asian American Literary Award, and received the 2009 Minnesota Book Award.

Award for Middle Grade Literature, sponsored by Education Minnesota:
Brian Farrey – The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse – published by Algonquin Young Readers/Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill

In this thrilling modern fairytale, Farrey has created an exciting new world where friendship is more powerful than fate and the most important thing is to question everything. Brian Farrey is the author of The Vengekeep Prophecies series and the Stonewall Honor Book and Minnesota Book Award-winner With or Without You.

Award for Minnesota Nonfiction, sponsored by Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota:
Cheri Register – The Big Marsh: The Story of a Lost Landscape – published by Minnesota Historical Society Press*

After stumbling upon her great-grandfather’s scathing critique of the draining of southern Minnesota wetlands, Register uncovers the stories of life on the Big Marsh and of the “connivers” who plotted its end: the Minneapolis land developer, his local fixer, an Illinois banker, and the lovelorn local lawyer who did their footwork. Register is also the author of Packinghouse Daughter, which won a Minnesota Book Award and an American Book Award.

Award for Novel & Short Story, sponsored by Fitzgerald in Saint Paul:
Peter Geye – Wintering – published by Alfred A. Knopf/Penguin Random House

When elderly, demented Harry Eide escapes his sickbed and vanishes into the forbidding, northernmost wilderness that surrounds the town of Gunflint, Minnesota, he instantly changes the Eide family, and many other lives, forever. Geye has created an epic tale – a love story spanning 60 years, generations’ worth of feuds, and secrets withheld and revealed. Geye is also the author of the novels Safe from the Sea and Lighthouse Road.

Award for Poetry, sponsored by Wellington Management, Inc.:
Sun Yung Shin – Unbearable Splendor – published by Coffee House Press*

Who is guest, and who is host? Adoption, Antigone, zombies, clones, and minotaurs – all are building blocks, forming and reforming our ideas in Shin’s groundbreaking new collection. Shin is also the author of poetry collections Rough, and Savage and Skirt Full of Black, which won an Asian American Literary Award and was a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award. She is the editor of the anthology A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota.

Award for Young Adult Literature, sponsored by Brainfuse:
Lara Avery – The Memory Book
– published by Poppy/Little, Brown and Company

Told in letters to herself, the Future Sam, this heartfelt, funny, and bittersweet novel chronicles both the path of a high school valedictorian’s degenerative disease and the major events and little details of her life over the summer that was supposed to be pre-college. Avery is the author of A Million Miles Away and Anything But Ordinary. She lives in Minneapolis, where she is a contributor at Revolver, and at work on her next novel.

Also at the Book Awards ceremony, the tenth annual Book Artist Award was presented to Steven McCarthy, for his “Wee Go Library” project – a mobile collection of 22 altered books found in Little Free Libraries throughout the Twin Cities. The award, sponsored by Lerner Publishing Group and presented with the Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA), recognizes book artists for excellence of a new artistic work and demonstrated proficiency and quality in the book arts, as well as an ongoing commitment and significant contributions to Minnesota’s book arts community. McCarthy is a professor of graphic design at the University of Minnesota.

Lou Bellamy received the previously announced Kay Sexton Award. For more than four decades, Lou Bellamy has been a champion of African American literature, bringing to light works by African American playwrights, enabling artists to find their voice, and inspiring understanding of the vital role these stories play in our community and history. The Award is sponsored by St. Catherine University.

Books written by a Minnesotan and first published in 2016 were eligible for the 29th annual Minnesota Book Awards. A total of 242 books were submitted this year, and 36 books were selected as finalists. The winners were chosen by panels of judges from around the state. Submissions for next year’s awards will open in August, 2017. For more information on the Book Awards process, and a list of finalists and winners since 1988, visit www.thefriends.org/mnba.

The Book Awards ceremony will be broadcast in the weeks to come on Saint Paul Neighborhood Network and TPT-MN Channel. Watch the website for updates on air dates.

The 29th annual Minnesota Book Awards is a year-long outreach program of The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library. Major funding for the Book Awards was provided by Education Minnesota, the Harlan Boss Foundation for the Arts, the Katherine B. Andersen Fund of The Saint Paul Foundation, and the McKnight Foundation. Statewide outreach partners include The Loft Literary Center, Minnesota Center for Book Arts, and Minnesota State Arts Board. Media sponsors include Minnesota Public Radio and the Star Tribune.

*Indicates a Minnesota-based publisher

36 Books in 36 Days: Rise of the Spring Tide

Each day we highlight one of the 36 finalists leading up to the April 8 announcement of the Minnesota Book Awards, presented by Education Minnesota. Today we feature 2017 Genre Fiction finalist:


Rise of the Spring Tide, by James StittRise of the Spring Tide by James Stitt
Category Sponsor: Macalester College

Shikha lives a lonely life, but not quite solitary. Inside her, something slumbers, while her sister Faria, half a world away, can hear her thoughts and feel her emotions. As a vagabond geneticist who has bounced from institution to institution, she sits on the cusp of discovering the mystery of her own DNA. Her sister has traversed the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent collating local myths and researching ancient cultures. Their quest, spanning 400 years, has led them on a trail that has both been intentionally obscured, yet seemingly left for them to discover. Loosely structured along the lines of a diary, Rise of the Spring Tide moves from past to present and back again, building to its final crescendo.


James Stitt, Rise of the Spring TideAbout the Author:

James Stitt has lived on the right, left and middle of the U.S. but he and his family found home in Saint Paul, where they have dwelled for over a decade. Trained as a scientist, his educational background is in Physics and Biology, with minor departures into History and Archeology. His works seek to explore the intuitive and unconscious knowledge of the ancients, who for millennia, embedded their observations of the celestial movements, the seasons, the cycles of birth, death and rebirth into myth and story. James hopes to reintroduce these myths and their connective relationships across cultures to a broader audience – within the context of engaging, approachable fiction. He is also the author of several articles in atmospheric science and remote sensing. James rails against nature itself to keep his 1968 Land Rover free of rust, desperately misses the ocean, blogs on WordPress, and can be found @stittwords.


36 Books in 36 Days: Original Fake

Each day we highlight one of the 36 finalists leading up to the April 8 announcement of the Minnesota Book Awards, presented by Education Minnesota. Today we feature 2017 Young Adult Literature finalist:


Original FakeOriginal Fake by Kirstin Cronn-Mills, art by E. Eero Johnson
Published by: G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin Random House
Category Sponsor: Brainfuse

Introvert Frankie Neumann hates his life, and understandably so. He’s got a weird, tutu-wearing sister, Lou, and even weirder parents. He’s just the guy who makes pizza at Pizza Vendetta. After his shift one night, Frankie meets David and Rory, cousins and errand runners for the mysterious Uncle Epic, a legendary anonymous street artist and Frankie’s absolute idol. Little could Frankie dream that his new adventures with Uncle Epic would lead to the perfect opportunity to strike back at his insufferable sister. When things go haywire quicker than you can say “street art kicks righteous ass,” the lines are suddenly blurred between art and Frankie’s real life.


Kirstin Cronn-Mills, Original Fake and LGBTQAbout the Author:

Kirstin Cronn-Mills is a self-proclaimed word nerd who secretly wants to be a street artist. Her first YA novel, The Sky Always Hears Me and the Hills Don’t Mind, was a Minnesota Book award finalist in 2010. Her second novel, Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, won the 2014 Stonewall Award from the American Library Association. She writes a lot, reads as much as she can, and goofs around with her husband and son in North Mankato, Minnesota.

E. Eero Johnson is a Minneapolis-based illustrator, graphic designer, and comic book artist. His illustrations have appeared in GQ, The New Yorker, Newsweek, Wired, and The New York Times, and on several book jackets. Original Fake is his first fully illustrated book. His longtime comic book project, The Outliers, is being expanded into a graphic novel for 2018. Johnson lives and draws with the support of his wife, two sons, and an elderly Boston terrier. Follow Erik on Twitter and Facebook.


Rave Reviews:

“Johnson’s bold black and orange illustrations spotlight key plot points and emotions, emphasizing Frankie’s view of the world and his budding affections for David. Cronn-Mills’s consideration of the intersections between art and family is striking and heartfelt.” ─ Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“At the crux, this story of statement-making art and a love affair with creativity is all about the power of blurring lines and altering perceptions of acceptability…The book is also a balance between text and art. Johnson’s bright orange, black, and white illustrations replace what might have been Cronn-Mills’ text on the pages, continuing the narrative intermittently through visuals rather than type. The melding of these two métiers speaks to the significance of fine art as a valid voice and means of expression, a timeless tool for storytelling.” ─ Lambda Literary


Beyond the Book:

Video: Meet the authors, Minnesota State University – Mankato

Article: Cover reveal, School Library Journal website