Book awards postponed for a year

by Jim Lundstrom

The 32nd Northeast Minnesota Book Awards (NEMBA – not to be confused with the New England Mountain Biking Association) is another victim of the pandemic, however, Gail Trygstad, chair of the organizing committee, said not to worry.
“We are going to combine the 32nd and 33rd, combine the celebration for all the nominees,” she told The Reader just a few days after the awards ceremony would have been held in the UMD ballroom on May 21.

“The actual event is really important,” said Trygstad, whose day job is at UMD’s Kathryn A. Martin Library, headquarters for the NEMBA Committee (the library and the Friends of the Duluth Public Library oversee the awards). “Nominees are well represented. We don’t always get the winners because we don’t let them know ahead of time. We did in the beginning, but it stifles some of the excitement.”

The winners of this most unusual book award are authors and illustrators who released a book in the previous year that has something to do with northeastern Minnesota.

“It’s amazing to us every year how many books are written, and well-written, about the area,” Trygstad said.

When pressed about why so many are compelled to include this area in their creative output, she said, “Maybe it just touches a lot of people. It must. I think people just love the area. [Minneapolis novelist] Peter Geye has won several awards over the years. He’s a fiction writer. I will never forget the day he won his first NEMBA several years ago. He was just so touched. It ‘s those reactions. Then he’s gone on to win other awards. That sense of recognition that I’ve done something that people love, that’s what keeps it going. Even though we give them some money and a plaque and book seals, I think it’s the recognition that is important.”

Of course, being nominated for a NEMBA is a good thing for book sales. Trygstad said the NEMBA Committee heard from an illustrator who said the major disappointment for those with books in running for an award “is that when you do win you get a burst of sales, so by postponing this, it has an effect on that.”

That comment got the committee thinking that maybe they could do a virtual announcement of the winners and runners-up in each of the categories before next year’s combined event.

“We haven’t made any decision yet,” she said. “We took her comments in stride because it’s a whole other perspective which we really hadn’t thought of.”

This year’s scheduled speaker – renowned Minneapolis photographer Wing Yung Huie – has agreed to be the speaker next May at the combined event, but Trygstad said she’s not so sure about longtime emcee Barton Sutter, who was also Duluth’s first poet laureate.

“He’s an excellent emcee,” she said. “He just rolls with it with humorous anecdotes. This was going to be his last rodeo – those were his words. We aren’t sure if he will be able to come next year.”

Trygstad said the premise of NEMBA was simple – to honor books that are written about this area. It doesn’t matter where the author lives, unlike the Minnesota Book Award, where the author has to be from Minnesota. So the authors come from all over and they write about this area for different reasons. It’s been growing. We used to have just one category. We’ve expanded to six now – fiction, non-fiction, art-photography, children’s literature, poetry and memoir.”

The list of 2020 nominees follows:

FICTION
Evidence of V: a Novel in Fragments, Facts, and Fictions
Sheila O’Connor
published by Rose Metal Press

In the Night of Memory: a Novel
Linda LeGarde Grover
published by University of Minnesota Press

Jack & the Ghost
written by Chan Poling,
illustrated by Lucy Michell
published by University of Minnesota Press

Kotimaa: Homeland
Mark Munger
published by Cloquet River Press

Lester’s Gift
Pat McGauley
published by PJM Publishing

POETRY
Hawks on High: Everyday Miracles in a Hawk Ridge Season
written by Phil Fitzpatrick, illustrated by Penny Perry
published by Savage Press

To Gather a Seed
Stephen Dahl
published by Snow Bunting Books

Where Your House is Now: Prose Poems
Louis Jenkins
published by Nodin Press

NONFICTION
Grandfather’s Blood Memories and Unbroken Spirit
Sharon Doolittle Shuck
published by Tarpaper Shack Press

Learnin’ in Hermann: History of Hermantown Schools 1874-1938
Delaine Carlson, Bette Grussendorf
published by Hermantown Historical Society Press

Superior Perspectives: Views of Lake Superior from Park Point
Paul Treuer
published by Nodin Press

Taconite, New Life for Minnesota’s Iron Range: the History of Erie Mining Company
Erie Mining Company, multiple authors
Published by Donning Company Publishers, St. Louis County Historical Society

The Trial of the Edmund Fitzgerald: Eyewitness Accounts from the U.S. Coast Guard Hearings
Michael Schumacher
published by University of Minnesota Press

Walking the Old Road: a People’s History of Chippewa City and the Grand Marais Anishinaabe
Staci Lola Drouillard
published by University of Minnesota Press

MEMOIR
Dylan & Me: 50 Years of Adventures
Louie Kemp
published by WestRose Press

Rooted in Rocky Soil: a Mostly Peaceful Life Interrupted by Moments of Something Else Entirely
Ray Thielbar, Rose Thielbar
published by Electric Moon Publishing

Tucker Lake Chronicle: Thirteen Months in the North Woods
Joan Crosby
published by Nodin Press

CHILDREN’S LITERATURE
Canoeman Joe
written by Robin Radcliffe, illustrated by Consie Powell
published by Green Writers Press

Emma Bee
written by Pamela Fish Carlson, illustrated by Tessa Carlson
published by Beaver’s Pond Press

The Forever Sky
written by Thomas Peacock, illustrated by Annette S. Lee
published by Minnesota Historical
Society Press

Hundredth Day Disaster
written by Bridget Reistad,
illustrated by Brian Barber
published by Beaver’s Pond Press

Johnny’s Pheasant
written by Cheryl Minnema, illustrated by Julie Flett
published by University of Minnesota Press

The Lost Forest
written by Phyllis Root,
illustrated by Betsy Bowen
published by University of Minnesota Press

Snowy’s Search for Color
text and photography by Richard Hoeg
published by 365 Days of Birds Press

Where is Smelly Ann Skunk?
written by Chris Thillen,
illustrated by Janet Hill
published by Sister Crow Books

Where We Run: a Dog Sledding Story
written and illustrated by K.M. Allen
published by Legacy Bound