“Going Coastal” Wins Honors

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The “Going Coastal” anthology sporting its snazzy Northeastern MN Book Awards seal.

An anthology of Lake Superior short stories that contains one of my tales was awarded an honorable mention in the fiction category of the Northeastern Minnesota Book Awards competition. “Going Coastal” contains stories written by nine writers who live around the lake in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Here’s what the awards committee had to say about the book:

The stories in Going Coastal are all deeply personal, and reflect the lake as a source of beginnings and endings-a source of inspiration, loss, and renewal. The anthology contains a variety of very different stories, touching us in many ways, and connecting us to the power of Lake Superior.

The award was established to recognize books that substantially represent northeastern Minnesota in the areas of history, culture, heritage, or lifestyle. For a list of other winning books for 2018, check here.

To learn how this book project happened, read this previous blog post.

Writing at Dream Speed

The Northeastern Minnesota Book Awards ceremony was held a few days ago in Duluth. I attended in because my novel, Plover Landing, was nominated in the fiction category, and because it’s fun to hob nob with other writers. Although any hope of an award was futile (sniff, small sob), the event always has inspiring speakers (see last year’s blog story), and poet Barton Sutter provides entertaining emceeing.Layout 1

This year’s speaker was Duluth Poet Laureate Jim Johnson, who offered a tongue-in-cheek look at the writing process. Regarding the importance of writing rituals: “The muse can only find you at the same place and same time every day. The first step in writing is to be there . . . . While you are waiting for the muse to appear, you might as well write.”

Is the writing process about hard work or inspiration? “Yes,” is Johnson’s answer. “You can’t write if your ritual doesn’t work right. Don’t skip over the details!” Then he went into a long explanation of the importance of exact paper and pen placement on the desk, having all your pencils sharpened, your computer programs updated, etc.

Is all this preparation and procrastination worth it? “Trust me,” Johnson said. “Something will happen. When it does, it’s magical. The words will come out at dream speed . . . . This is its own reward. Writing isn’t about money, awards, or publication. Sometimes we’re rewarded, sometimes not. The odds are not good.”

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The crowd gathers for the Northeastern Minnesota Book Awards presentation.

Basically, he was saying that writers need to trust in whatever process they’ve developed, and that the key is to persevere despite rejections from publishers or awards judges. There’s nothing better than when the words seem to come of their own accord and you get into that “flow.”

Keep flowing, my friends. Keep writing at dream speed.

Rounding Off the Rough Edges of Torment and Desire

Kevin Kling

Kevin Kling

I didn’t mean to start taking notes during the keynote speech at the Northeastern Minnesota Book Awards when they were held last week in Duluth, but I couldn’t help it. When a speaker quotes Johnny Cash: “Talent is God-given; style comes from our limitations,” and starts talking about writing, well, it’s hard not to . . . start writing in every open space on the back of the program.

But I also need to let you know that there was pie at this event; five kinds of free pie provided by the Rustic Inn up the North Shore of Lake Superior. I wrote my notes under the sugar-rush influence of a raspberry cream variety, so keep that in mind as you read this.

The speaker was Kevin Kling, noted playwright, speaker, author and storyteller who I am ashamed to say, I’d never heard of before. But hey, I live in Duluth. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. Kling is almost as cool; he hails from Minneapolis. He talked a lot about why people write and how the process helps people deal with emotions, tensions and physical difficulties.

Kling’s physical differences are more apparent than most. Although he was born with a short left arm that has no wrist or thumb, audience members couldn’t help but notice it because it’s the only arm he can use. His right arm (which he used to depend on) was rendered pretty much inoperable by a motorcycle accident over a decade ago.

Kevin Kling as a Minnesotan.

Kevin Kling as a Minnesotan.

Despite a shorter than usual appendage with which to make his point, Kling made his point clear, even to the sugar-impaired. He told us a condensed story about his accident and used it to illustrate how, when he tells a story, it doesn’t control him anymore. “By the telling and the asking, we know we’re not alone.” Kling was in therapy after the accident and described how retelling the story of his accident so that he didn’t crash lessened the hold the experience had on him. By rewriting it in his mind, he took away its power.

Other notes I scribbled include: stories are tension – things that need to be worked out. And, “God loves stories so much; he created people so there would be an endless supply.” (Love that quote!) And Kling discussed how stories “round off the rough edges of torment and desire.” Now, as an eco-mystic romance writer, I know a bit about desire and torment. I lived with it for the 17 years it took to write my first novel, and I’m living through it now while writing the sequel (which I hope will take me less than two years). I suspect the thing that kept me going that long on the original (other than to eventually prove I could finish it) was to work out the feelings that inspired it. Did all that writing help? Yes, I think so. The feelings aren’t locked inside me anymore. They are loose upon the world, for better or worse.

By the way, my novel was not up for consideration in the competition, since it was set on Isle Royale, which is technically an island in Michigan (not Northeastern MN), and it was published in 2011. The stories under consideration for this ceremony were published in 2012. I attended the event to just to enjoy hob-knobbing with bookish folks in hopes it would help me stay inspired.

My first novel did not have a happy ending for the human protagonists. I’m a sucker for a happy ending, so I’m working to find them one in the sequel – so that some of their desire and torment can be lessened; and in doing so, lessen mine.

But right now, I’m desiring more of that pie. . . .

God loves stories so much; he created people so there would be an endless supply.

Kevin Kling – author, storyteller, playwright
Northeastern Minnesota Book Awards ceremony, May 23, 2013 in Duluth, MN