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MINNESOTA WRITERS ON THE MAP
From Main Street to Your Street
b. 1939, Alexandria, LA;
d. 2007, Princeton, MN
Kathleen Woodiwiss was a romance novelist from Alexandria, Louisiana. She is credited with the invention of the modern historical romance novel due to the release of her controversial 1972 novel The Flame and the Flower. While the novel was at first thought to be too long by publishers at 600 pages, it sold over 2 million copies within the first few years of its publication. This novel’s success allowed for the emergence of a new literary genre and changed the landscape for future romance novelists. Other novels by Woodiwiss include
Shanna and Everlasting.
b. 1948, St. Paul, MN
Mary Lethert Wingerd teaches history at St. Cloud State University. She is the author of Claiming the City: Politics, Faith, and the Power of Place in St. Paul and North Country: The Making of Minnesota, for which she won a Minnesota Book Award and a Hognander Minnesota History Award.
Diane Wilson is a creative non-fiction writer and Mdewakanton descendent. Her first book, Spirit Car: Journey to a Dakota Past, won her the Minnesota Book Award in 2006. Beloved Child: A Dakota Way of Life, her second book, has also won several awards from the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Ragdale Artist Residency, and more. Both books come from her desire to show historical events from a native perspective. Currently, Wilson is the Executive Director of the Dream of Wild Health Organization, a 10-acre farm in Hugo, Minnesota, which strives to help American Indian people reclaim their health.
b. 1867, Pepin, WI;
d. 1957, Mansfield, MO
Laura Ingalls Wilder was a children’s book author whose autobiographical works about her rural Midwestern upbringing have given her international fame. After writing the Little House on the Prairie series, Wilder worked as a seamstress, was a columnist for various periodicals and edited the Missouri Realist. Her novels have received numerous accolades, including the Newbery Honor Book Award and the Henry Hartman Young Readers Award. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award was later established by the Children’s Library Association in 1954. Her works include These Happy Golden Years and On the Banks of Plum Creek.
b. 1957, Camden, AR
Gwen Westerman teaches at Minnesota State University, Mankato. She completed B.A and M.A. degrees at Oklahoma State University and received her Ph.D. in English from the University of Kansas. She and co-author Bruce White wrote Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakot(Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2012) which went on to win a Minnesota Book Award in 2013 and a Hognander Minnesota History Award in 2014. Her roots are deep in the landscape of the tallgrass prairie, and reveal themselves in her art and writing through the languages and traditions of her family. Her poetry collection Follow the Blackbirds (Michigan State University Press, 2013) is written in Dakota and English. In addition to telling stories with words, she is an award-winning visual artist.
b. 1950, Park Rapids, MN
Will Weaver is a novelist and young adult novelist from Park Rapids, Minnesota. His novels and short stories have received national attention, partly through their screen adaptations. Weaver’s story Sweet Land from his collection A Gravestone Made of Wheat & Other Stories, was released as a movie in 2006 and his debut novel Red Earth, White Earth was made into a television movie in 1989. His works share a focus on Minnesota farms and farming and are notable for their candid tone and realism.Weaver’s acclaimed works for young people include The Survivors, Saturday Night Dirt, and Defect. He is the recipient of two Minnesota Book Awards.
b. 1934, Minneapolis, MN
Gerald Vizenor is a novelist, essayist, and poet from Minneapolis. After serving in the National Guard and the U.S. Army, Vizenor studied at New York University and received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota in 1960. Born to a Chippewa father, Vizenor has spent a great deal of time on the White Earth Reservation and served as an advocate and director for the American Indian Employment Guidance Center. He would later go on to write for the Minneapolis Tribune and teach at various universities, including the University of Minnesota from 1977-1985. He won the American Book Award in 1988 for his novel Griever: An American Monkey King in China and remains a member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. His other works include Bearheart: The Heirship Chronicles.
b. 1857, Cato, WI;
d. 1929, Menlo Park, CA
Thorstein Veblen was an economist and social scientist who sought to apply an evolutionary, dynamic approach to the study of economic institutions. Of Norwegian descent, he didn’t speak English until he went to school. He graduated from Carleton College in three years, and went on to study philosophy at Johns Hopkins and Yale universities, receiving his Ph.D. from Yale in 1884. His first book, The Theory of the Leisure Class, was published in 1899, and he went on to write several other books, including The Theory of Business Enterprise and The Engineers and the Price System.
b. 1877, Camden, NY; d. 1908, Bemidji, MN
Arthur Upson attended the University of Minnesota and edited the campus newspaper. As a student, he wrote the second verse to “Hail! Minnesota” which would become the university hymn and later the state song of Minnesota. Unable to complete his studies due to chronic poor health, the university awarded him an honorary degree in 1906 and hired him as a lecturer in the English department. He was seen as a poet of great talent and enormous potential. His works include Westwind Songs; Octaves in an Oxford Garden; and The Tides of Spring and Other Poems Tragically, Upson drowned in Lake Bemijii at age 31.
b. 1926, Vienna, Austria
Robert Treuer is a nature writer and a holocaust survivor from Vienna, Austria. He came to the United States with his parents in 1939 and served for the U.S. army during World War II. Treuer later attended Yale University and eventually received bachelor’s degrees from Antioch College and Bemidji State University. After teaching high school English and working as a Native American Tribal manager and organizer, Treuer went on to work for the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare in Washington D.C. He then moved back to Minnesota, where he has published numerous short stories, newspaper columns, articles and book reviews. His work includes A Northwoods Window; The Tree Farm; and Voyageur Country: A Park in the Wilderness.
b. 1970, Washington, DC
David Treuer is a novelist and non-fiction writer who is a Professor of Literature at the University of Southern California. Treuer received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1999 and has taught at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and Scripps College in Claremont, California. His first work of nonfiction, Rez Life, was published in 2012 and he has had numerous essays and stories published in Esquire Magazine, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, among other publications. He received Minnesota Book Awards in 1996 and 2013. His novels include Little; The Hiawatha; and The Translation of Dr. Apelles.
b. 1969, Washington, DC
Anton Treuer is the author of 13 novels and currently serves as the Executive Director of the American Indian Resource Center at Bemidji State University. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota and his works about Native Americans in Minnesota have received numerous accolades. Treuer is also the editor of the Oshkaabewis Native Journal, which is the only academic journal published in the Ojibwe language. Some of his written works include The Assassination of Hole in the Day; Ojibwe in Minnesota and Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask.
b. 1949, Minneapolis, MN
Barton Sutter is a poet and novelist from Duluth, and the only author to win the Minnesota Book Award in three different categories. Sutter was raised in small towns in the Upper Midwest and received a degree from Southwest Minnesota State University and a M.A. in creative writing from Syracuse University. Though primarily a poet, he works in several genres and has published poems, essays, and stories in dozens of magazines and written seven books. His work includes: The Reindeer Camps and Other Poems; My Father’s War and Other Stories; The Book of Names: New and Selected Poems; and Cold Comfort.
b. 1916, Darfur, MN;
d. 1982, Santa Barbara, CA
Adrien Stoutenburg was born in Darfur, Minnesota in 1916. A poet and children’s novelist, Stoutenburg was inspired by folklore and used the imaginary as a way of interpreting history and her own perspective on real life. Before becoming a published author, Stoutenburg studied at the Minneapolis School of Art and worked as a reporter, librarian and editor. Her poetry has been featured in several anthologies and she authored more than three dozen children’s books. Some of her works include Heroes Advise Us; American Tall Tales; A Short History of the Fur Trade; and the biography Listen America: A Life of Walt Whitman.
b. 1943, Browerville, MN
Lavyrle Spencer is a best-selling romance author, with 12 New York Times bestsellers, 5 RITA Awards, and a Minnesota Book Award. She was inducted into the RWA Hall of Fame in 1988. She grew up in Browerville and married her high school sweetheart. She was working as a teacher’s aide in Osseo when she was inspired by fellow Minnesotan Kathleen Woodiwiss to write a novel, The Fulfillment, which was published in 1979. After twenty-four novels, she retired from writing in 1997 and lives in Stillwater. Other works include: Separate Beds, Hummingbird, Morning Glory, and Then Came Heaven.
b. 1903, Herman, MN;
d. 1991, Medford Township, NJ
Mabel Seeley began writing in high school and won a scholarship to college, graduating with honors from the University of Minnesota in 1926. She authored seven mystery novels, receiving rave reviews from The New York Times, The New Yorker, and the Saturday Post. The Chuckling Fingers won the Mystery of the Year Award in 1941. She met her second husband, Henry Ross, while promoting one of her books, and then gave up writing in the early 50s to focus on her marriage. Other works include: The Listening House, The Crying Sisters, The Beckoning Door, and The Whistling Shadow.
b. 1895, Hobart, IN
d. 1982, Osceola, WI
Calvin Rutstrum was a conservationist and author of fifteen books on wilderness camping, nature, and canoeing. He arrived in St. Paul with his parents in 1898, and held a variety of jobs prior to his writing career: as a cowboy in Montana in the early 1900s, a medical corpsman in the Marine Corps, and as a detective investigating bank robberies for the American Banking Association. With Sigurd Olson, he and other conservationists campaigned successfully to restrict airplane travel across the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in the 1940s. His work includes: Way of the Wilderness, Paradise Below Zero, and Back Country.
b. 1876, Donna, Norway;
d. 1931, Northfield, MN
Ole Edvart Rolvaag immigrated to the United States in 1896. He earned a B.A. and M. A. from St. Olaf College and was a professor of Norwegian language and literature there from 1906-31. He authored Norwegian language textbooks and novels, essays, and poems about the Norwegian-American immigrant experience. His novels, Giants in the Earth and Peder Victorious, originally written in Norwegian, were published in English translation. They received international acclaim as accounts of immigrant pioneer life on the Dakota prairies in the 1870s. He is also the author of The Boat of Longing.
b. 1945, Albert Lea
Cheri Register grew up in Albert Lea, Minnesota, the daughter of a Wilson and Company millwright, and she recounts her childhood amidst the 1959 meatpacker strike that divided her hometown in Packinghouse Daughter, winner of a Minnesota Book Award and an American Book Award. Register has taught creative non-fiction writing for over twenty years, primarily at the Loft Literary Center. Her other work includes Beyond Good Intention, The Chronic Illness Experience, and Are Those Kids Yours?
b. 1917, Jacksonville, FL;
d. 1999, Collegeville, MN
J. F. Powers was born in Jacksonville, Illinois in 1917. After studying at Northwestern University in Evanston, Powers spent over a year in jail as a conscientious objector of World War II. He later taught creative writing at various universities and was the writer-in-residence at St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict from 1975-1993. He is the author of many novels and short stories, the majority of which touch on religious themes. His works include Morte d’Urban; Wheat that Springeth Green; and The Prince of Darkness and Other Stories
b. 1900, Haukeland, Norway;
d. 1963, Seattle, WA
Martha Ostenso emigrated from Norway with her parents in 1902, living in Clear Lake, South Dakota and several Minnesota towns before moving to Winnipeg, Canada. She attended the University of Manitoba and Columbia University before returning to live in Minneapolis and Gull Lake until 1963. She wrote twenty-five novels, many based on farm life in Minnesota. Her first novel, Wild Geese, received a $13,500 cash prize for best novel of the year from Dodd, Mead, and Co. in 1926. Other works include O, River Remember!; The Dark Dawn; and And They Shall Walk: The Life Story of Sister Elizabeth Kenny .
b. 1897, Minneapolis, MN;
d. 1989, Cohassett, MA
Walter O’Meara was the author of sixteen novels and works of historical nonfiction. He grew up in Cloquet and served in the Army during World War I. Afterwards, he continued his education at the University of Wisconsin and spent several years writing for the Duluth News Tribune. O’Meara began an advertising career in Chicago with J. Walter Thompson and relocated to New York where he worked until 1952, at which point he retired to focus on his writing. Some of his books include: Minnesota Gothic, Grand Portage, and We Made It Through the Winter.
b. 1899, Chicago, IL
d. 1982, Ely, MN
Sigurd Olson was a conservationist, author, and leader in wilderness preservation who was educated at the Universities of Wisconsin and Illinois. He was a biology instructor at Ely High School and Ely Junior College (currently Vermilion Community College) and became dean of Ely Junior College in 1936. Olson advocated for environmental conservation from the 1920s until his death and played a significant role in the establishment and protection of northern Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Quetico Provincial Park. His writings include The Singing Wilderness, Wilderness Days, and Listening Point.
Tim O’Brien earned a B.A. from Macalester College in 1968, after which he was drafted to serve in the Vietnam War. He was assigned to Third Platoon, A Company, Fifth Battalion, Forty-sixth Infantry as a foot soldier and awarded the Purple Heart. He wrote several novels based on his war experience, including The Things They Carried and Going After Cacciato. O’Brien has won several awards including the O. Henry Award and the National Book Award for Fiction. His war memoir, If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home, was named Outstanding Book of 1973 by The New York Times.
b. 1943, Fond du Lac Indian Reservation, MN
Jim Northup is Anishinaabe, a writer and memoirist from the Fond du Lac Indian Reservation where he and his family live the traditional life. He writes a syndicated column, Fond du Lac Follies, which describes life on the reservation with candor and wry humor. It is distributed in the The Circle, The Native American Press, and News From Indian Country. He is a Minnesota Book Award winner in 1994 for Walking the Rez Road and his other work includes Rez Road Follies, Dirty Copper, and Anishinaabe Syndicated: A View From The Rez.
b. 1916, Watkins, MN;
d. 2005, Washington, D.C.
Eugene Joseph McCarthy was an author, poet, and teacher who served as a U.S. congressman from Minnesota’s Fourth District from 1949-58 and as a U.S. senator from 1959-70, with an unsuccessful bid for president in 1968. McCarthy became senior editor at Simon and Schuster in New York City in 1973 and authored a syndicated column. He wrote several books and contributed articles and poetry to numerous publications. His work includes collections of poetry, histories, and memoir: Frontiers in American Democracy; The Limits of Power: America’s Role in the World; Up ‘til Now: A Memoir; and Ground Fog and Night: Poems.
b. 1912, Doon, IA;
d. 1994, Luverne, MN
Frederick Manfred was a novelist whose works were largely autobiographical, inspired by his travels across America. A graduate of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Manfred (born Frederick Feikema) worked in politics and journalism before starting his career as a novelist. He was given a University of Minnesota writing fellowship in 1944, which enabled him to publish his first novel, The Golden Bowl, that same year. The author changed his professional name to Manfred after a few poorly received efforts and his later rumes (or autobiographical novels) were very successful. His other works include Boy Almighty; Lord Grizzly; and Conquering Horse.
b. 1892, Mankato, MN;
d. 1980, Claremont, CA
Maud Hart Lovelace is the author of over 18 books, including ten children’s books in the Betsy-Tacy series. The series, for which she is best known, was published from 1940-55, and is set in early twentieth-century Mankato. Lovelace had her first booklet of poems printed at age 10 and sold her first story to the Los Angeles Times at age 18. Other works include Early Candlelight and One Stayed at Welcome, co-authored with her husband, Delos Lovelace. The Maud Hart Lovelace Book Award for children's books was established in 1979 by the Mankato Friends of the Library association.
Sinclair Lewis left Sauk Centre to attend Yale University in 1903. After graduating, he worked as a reporter for a number of publishing companies and began publishing stories regularly in 1915. He first drew attention with his controversial novel Main Street, satirizing the American small town. Arrowsmith won the Pulitzer Prize in 1925, but he turned it down. He became the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in recognition of his book Babbitt. He lived in Minneapolis and Duluth periodically and authored twenty-two novels, including Ann Vickers, Elmer Gantry and The Innocents.
b. 1951, Chisholm, MN
Peter Leschak has been a firefighter in both wildland and municipal settings for more than twenty years. He is the author of several acclaimed works of nonfiction, including Letters from Side Lake: A Chronicle of Life in the North Woods; Ghosts of the Fireground and The Bear Guardian: Northwoods Tales and Meditations, winner of the Minnesota Book Award in 1991. Leschak has written for numerous periodicals, including Harper's, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, and Outdoor.
b. 1892, Preston, MN;
d. 1967, Rochester, MN
Agnes Mathilde Larson was an educator, historian, and author. She earned a B.A. from St. Olaf College in 1916, a M.A. from Columbia University in 1922, and a Ph.D. from Radcliffe College in 1938. For five years Larson was a high school teacher and principal in Walcott, North Dakota; Harmony, Minnesota; and Northfield, Minnesota. She was also an instructor at Mankato State Teachers College and a history professor at St. Olaf College. Her written work includes History of the White Pine Industry in Minnesota; On the Trail of the Woodsman in Minnesota; and When Logs and Lumber Ruled Stillwater.
b. 1905, Friberg Township, MN;
d. 1976, Sioux Falls, SD
Herbert Krause was born on a small farm in Otter Tail County, north of Fergus Falls. He received degrees from St. Olaf College, where he hoped to study under Ole Rolvaag, and the University of Iowa. As a college instructor, he wrote his first novel, Wind Without Rain, a chronicle of farm life in western Minnesota, which was both a critical and financial success. Krause began teaching at Augustana College in the English Department and was the founding director of the Center for Western Studies – posts he held until his death. It was there he wrote his final two novels, The Thresher and The Oxcart Trail.
b. 1906, Barrington, IL;
d. 2001, Grand Marais, MN
Justine Kerfoot is a memoirist and nature writer who was born and raised in Illinois. She moved to the Boundary Waters area of Northern Minnesota and Ontario in 1928 and lived there until her death in 2001. She was an integral part of shaping the Gunflint Trail and was the owner-operator of the Gunflint Lodge for over 50 years. Kerfoot also wrote a weekly column for the Cook County-News Herald beginning in 1956. Her writing gives a rich sense of the world of Indians and fur trappers in the far North. Her work includes Woman of the Boundary Waters and A Life in Two Worlds.
Garrison Keillor was born in Anoka, Minnesota. He earned a B.A. in English from the University of Minnesota where he edited the student-run Ivory Tower and worked as an announcer for the campus radio station. After going to work for Minnesota Public Radio, he created the radio show A Prairie Home Companion in 1974. His work has garnered several awards, including Peabody and Edward L. Murrow Awards. His books include Lake Wobegon Days, We are Still Married, Liberty, and Pontoon. He has also edited several books of poetry. He is the proprietor of Common Good Books, an independent bookstore in St. Paul.
Louis Jenkins is a contemporary master of the prose poem and has lived in Duluth for over 30 years. He was awarded two Bush Foundation Fellowships for poetry, a Loft-McKnight fellowship, and was the 2000 George Morrison Award winner. He is a two-time Minnesota Book Award winner for Nice Fish in 1995 (which later served as the basis for a play co-written by Jenkins and Mark Rylance debuting at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis in 2013) and Distance from the Sun in 2005. Other poetry collections include: Tin Flag: New and Selected Prose Poems, Before You Know It, and North of the Cities.
b. 1890, Decatur, IL;
d. 1972, North Oaks, MN
Florence Page Jaques was a budding writer when she met and married Francis Lee Jaques, a wildlife painter, in 1927. The couple spent time camping in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, inspiring several books on which they collaborated, including Snowshoe Country and Canoe Country. The couple lived in New York for 25 years before moving back to Minnesota, where Jacques’ husband worked at the Bell Museum of Natural History. Their final years were spent in North Oaks, and upon her husband’s death, Jacques published his biography Francis Lee Jacques: Artist of the Wilderness World.
b. 1910, Greenfield, OH
d. 1984, Fort Collins, CO
Helen Hoover spent several years living in a small cabin on the south shore of Gunflint Lake with her husband, Adrian, having moved from Chicago in 1954. With no steady income, the Hoovers struggled through their first Minnesota winter, and Hoover began writing magazine articles. Her first book, The Long-Shadowed Forest, which recounted life in northern Minnesota, was published in 1963. She followed it with three more books inspired by the Gunflint Trail: The Gift of the Deer, A Place in the Woods, and The Years of the Forest, as well as a children’s book The Great Wolf and Good Woodsmen.
Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center
b. 1943, Minneota, MN;
d. 2009, Sioux Falls, SD
Bill Holm was an essayist, poet and memoirist from Minneota, Minnesota. Although he taught at Southwest State University in Marshall, he spent his summers in Iceland, where he did the majority of his writing. A world traveler, many of Holm’s works focus on his accounts of everywhere from Iceland to Madagascar in addition to his native Minnesota. Some of Holm’s works include Coming Home Crazy; The Heart Can Be Filled Anywhere on Earth, both Minnesota Book Award winners; and Windows of Brimnes: An American in Iceland.
b. 1880, Sauk Centre, MN:
d. 1963, Traverse City, MI
James Beardsley Hendryx grew up in Sauk Centre, where his father owned and published the Sauk Centre Herald. Hendryx worked as a reporter, insurance agent, hardware salesman, and as a purchasing agent for a tannery. He is the author of more than 50 novels and anthologies, and wrote hundreds of stories - best known for his characters from the outlaw community of Halfaday Creek in the Yukon. Set during the Gold Rush of the late 1890s, Hendryx penned over a hundred stories featuring these characters over the span of 25 years for magazines such as West, Dime Western, New Western, Argosy, and Short Stories.
b. 1933, Minneapolis, MN;
d. 2008, St. Louis Park, MN
Jon Hassler grew up in Staples and Plainview, MN. After teaching high school English for over 15 years, he published his first novel in 1977. He went on to serve as writer-in-residence at St. John’s University and later as Regents Professor. The author of novels, short stories, plays, and more, he was best known for his depictions of Minnesota small town life in such books as A Green Journey and North of Hope. He set several books in the same fictional town of Staggerford, MN. The New Woman, set in Staggerford, was the last of his 12 novels, finished weeks before his death in 2008.
b. 1947, Montevideo, MN;
d. 2004, Duluth, MN
Paul Gruchow was born in Montevideo, Minnesota in 1947. Often compared to Henry David Thoreau and Aldo Leopold, Gruchow was an author, editor, teacher and conservationist who wrote about Minnesota nature and the environment. Much of his writing critiqued industrial farming’s negative impact on the Minnesota landscape and promoted a positive connection between people and the land they inhabit. After serving as Minnesota Public Radio’s director of news and public affairs and editing Minneapolis Magazine, Gruchow taught at various Minnesota colleges and lectured about environmental issues at the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center. Gruchow’s book Grass Roots: The Universe of Home received a Minnesota Book Award in 1995. His final work, a memoir entitled Letters to a Young Madman, was published posthumously in 2011.
b. 1904, Elmer, MN
d. 1969, Santa Monica, CA
Frank Gruber was one of the most prolific writers of pulp fiction, with over 300 stories for more than 40 pulp magazines, as well as over 60 novels, and more than 200 screenplays and television scripts. He grew up on the family farm, and after a stint in the Army, Gruber took on various jobs, before moving to New York in 1934 to be a full-time writer. One of his popular series was a long string of short stories featuring crime-solving encyclopedia salesman Oliver Quade, some of which were collected in a book called Brass Knuckle. Other work includes: The French Key, The Laughing Fox, and Gunsight.
b. 1893, New Ulm, MN;
d. 1946, Henderson County, NJ
Wanda Gág was born in New Ulm, Minnesota in 1893. She was the illustrator and author of ten books for children, including the classic Millions of Cats. As an artist, Gág was known for her prints of landscapes and moody portraits of everyday life. After teaching at a rural Springfield school for a time, Gág studied art in the Twin Cities as well as New York. In addition to her English translations of the Grimm Fairy Tales, Gág’s works include ABC Bunny; Gone Is Gone; and Nothing at All.
Erdrich was born in Little Falls, Minnesota. She received her B.A. from Dartmouth College and her M.A. in writing from Johns Hopkins. She has written thirteen novels as well as books for children, volumes of poetry, and a memoir. Her awards include the National Book Critics Circle Award for her debut novel, Love Medicine, and the National Book Award in 2010 for her novel The Round House. 2009’s Plague of Doves won the Anisfield-Wolf Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Erdrich is also the recipient of the 2014 PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction. Erdrich is the owner of Birchbark Books, an independent bookstore in Minneapolis.
b. 1956, Sauk Centre, MN
Lin Enger grew up near Osakis, Minnesota, and has spent most of his life in the state. He has an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is the author of two novels, Undiscovered Country (2008) and The High Divide (2014), as well as a series of mysteries co-written with his brother Leif Enger in the 1990s. He is the recipient of a James Michener Fellowship, a Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship, and other awards. His short stories have appeared in a number of journals, including Glimmer Train, Ascent, Great River Review, and American Fiction. He teaches English at Minnesota State University in Moorhead.
b. in 1961, Sauk Centre, MN
Leif Enger grew up in Osakis, Minnesota and studied English at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He and his brother Lin published five crime novels under the pen name L.L. Enger. He was a reporter for 16 years at Minnesota Public Radio until the success of his first solo novel, Peace Like a River. Published in 2001, it went on to win the Book Sense Book of the Year Award for Adult Fiction. His second novel, So Brave, Young, and Handsome, won the High Plains Book Award for Fiction in 2009. He lives on a farm with his wife Robin in northern Minnesota.
b. 1856, LaCrosse, WI;
d. 1932, Marine on St. Croix, MN
William C. Edgar moved to Minneapolis in 1882 to work for the trade journal Northwest Miller. During his career he founded the literary magazine The Bellman, penned a weekly column for the Minneapolis Tribune, and wrote several books, including The Russian Famine and The Medal of Gold: An Industrialist Achievement. He worked with two U.S. presidents to organize and regulate the American milling industry and was honored by several countries for his humanitarian efforts, such as leading a nationwide campaign to donate flour to starving peasants in Russia and directing relief to Belgium from 1914-16.
b. 1858, Redwood Falls, MN;
d. 1939, Detroit, MI
Charles Eastman was a memoirist and lecturer whose openness about his traditional Dakota upbringing gave him public renown. Born with the Dakota name Hakadah, Eastman joined white American culture in 1873. Traveling back and forth between the two cultures, Eastman spent much of his life trying to improve American Indian and white American relations while also attempting to modernize the Dakota way of life. His memoir Indian Boyhood was hugely popular and this success allowed Eastman to travel the country as a public speaker. Other works include From the Deep Woods to Civilization and Soul of the Indian.
b. 1831, Philadelphia, PA;
d. 1901, Minneapolis, MN
Ignatius Donnelly grew up in Philadelphia and was educated in both English literature and law. He entered politics with the Democratic Party, but frequently changed party affiliations. Donnelly moved to St. Paul in 1855 and explored several different careers, all while staying active in politics. He was elected as lieutenant governor in 1858 and to Congress in 1862. He published his first novel in 1882, Atlantis: The Antediluvian World. Other work includes Ragnarok; Caesar’s Column and The Great Cryptogram: Francis Bacon’s Cipher in the So-Called Shakespeare Plays.
b. 1884, Little Rock, IA;
d. 1963, Staples, MN
Margarette Ball Dickson was a lifelong educator and poet. She established the Dickson-Haining School of Creative Writing in Staples, Minnesota in 1931 and co-founded the League of Minnesota Poets and the St. Paul Poet’s Seminar. She was president of the League of Minnesota Poets from 1935-38, and in 1934 she was named Minnesota Poet Laureate by the national Poet Laureate League. Dickson was awarded the American Legion prize in 1921 and the Rockefeller Center Gold Medal in 1938. She is the author of several collections of poetry, including Fuel of One Flame; Patterns and Poems; and One Man and a Dream.
b. 1867, Red Wing, MN;
d. 1957, Red Wing, MN
Frances Densmore was an ethnographer, musician, and writer. She studied at Oberlin College Conservatory of Music and then moved to Boston to study with composers at Harvard University. Densmore became a student of Native American music and culture and began working with the Smithsonian Institution’s Bureau of American Ethnography. She recorded nearly 2,500 songs of the Sioux, Yuma, Cocopa, Yaqui, Pawnee, Northern Ute, and various other tribes. Her work includes: The American Indians and Their Music; Dakota and Ojibwe People in Minnesota; and many more.
b. 1939, St. Louis, MO
Philip Dacey has written thirteen books of poetry and is a former professor of English at Southwest Minnesota State University. After receiving master’s degrees from both Stanford University and the University of Iowa, Dacey served two years in the Peace Corps and taught at Miles College in Alabama before moving to Minnesota. His 2013 collection of poetry, Gimme Five, was recently given the Blue Light Press Book Award. Dacey has received critical acclaim for previous collections The Mystery of Max Schmitt: Poems on the Life and Work of Thomas Eakins and Vertebrae Rosaries: Fifty Sonnets.
b. 1831, Moorestown, Ireland;
d. 1916, Minneapolis, MN
Patrick Cudmore emigrated to the U.S. in 1846 and settled in Faribault, Minnesota at a law practice. He fought in the Civil War and traveled extensively through the United States, Mexico, Central and South America. He ran for several political positions, served as a town clerk in Merton, as a notary public in Rice County, and was elected the county attorney of LeSeuer County in 1868. Cudmore used his travels as an inspiration for Constitutional Histories, The Irish Republic, and Buchanan’s Conspiracy, the Nicaragua Canal and Reciprocity. He also published Poems and Songs in 1885.
b. 1918, Stillwater, MN;
d. 2002, Dublin, Ireland
Ann Chidester was a novelist from Stillwater, Minnesota. She graduated from what was then called St. Catherine’s College and published her first novel at age 23, in 1942. Many of Chidester’s works may be called feminist, as they focus on women’s issues in the lower class. Her first novel, the autobiographical Young Pandora, describes her journey toward becoming a young writer. Other novels by Chidester include The Long Year and The Lost and the Found.
b. 1871, Otter Tail County, MN;
d. 1940, Los Angeles, CA
B.M. Bower was a writer of western novels, short stories, and screenplays for silent films. She was born in Otter Tail County, MN, with the name Bertha Muzzy, though she wrote with her gender-ambiguous pen name to appease her publishers and sell more books in the male-dominated sphere of western novels. Bower’s family moved to Montana when she was in her teens, where she got much of her inspiration for her books. She was the first woman to support herself by writing popular novels in this genre and is known best for one of her first books, Chip of the Flying U, published in 1906.
b. 1926, Madison, MN
Robert Bly was born in Madison, Minnesota in 1926. After spending a year at St. Olaf College, he received a B.A. from Harvard University in 1950 and an M.A. from the prestigious University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop in 1956. An accomplished poet, Bly has garnered numerous awards for his work, including the National Book Award for his 1967 collection The Light around the Body, and a Minnesota Book Award in 2002 for The Night Abraham Called to the Stars. In 2008, he had the honor of being Minnesota’s first Poet Laureate. Also an editor, essayist and translator, Bly has contributed a great deal to Minnesota’s literary scene, particularly by helping establish the Minnesota Writers’ Publishing House in 1970.
b. 1891, Buffalo, MN
d. 1982, Tryon, NC
Margaret Culkin Banning was the daughter of Minnesota State Senator William E. Culkin. Banning authored thirty-six novels and more than four hundred essays and short stories, usually concerned with the problems of religion, youth, women, and social change. Banning was a Vassar College trustee, a Duluth Public Library trustee, the first woman admitted to the Duluth Hall of Fame, and a member of the British Information Service in World War II. Banning’s last novel, Such Interesting People, was published in 1979. Other selected novels include Spellbinders and The First Woman.
b. 1950, Sioux Falls, SD
Anette Atkins received her B.A. from Southwest State University, and her M.A. and Ph.D. from Indiana University. She is a professor of history at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University and specializes in the field of 19th Century America. Her areas of study include immigration, Minnesota history, and women’s history. She is the author of Creating Minnesota: A History from the Inside Out, We Grew Up Together: Brothers and Sisters in Nineteenth Century America, and other books. She is featured regularly on Minnesota Public Radio as a history commentator.
b. 1938, Detroit, MI
Joseph Amato moved to Minnesota in 1969, when he started teaching at Southwest Minnesota State University. He received a Ph.D. in History from the University of Rochester in 1970. In addition to founding SMSU’s History department, Amato taught a wide range of classes that focused on European culture, ethics and social science. He is well-known on the state’s lecture circuit and in 2003 was recognized by the Minnesota Humanities Commission as a “Friend of the Humanities.” Amato is best known for his books Rethinking Home: The Case for Local History; Dust: A History of the Small and Invisible; and Jacob’s Well: A Case for Rethinking Family History. He received a Minnesota Book Award in 2004 for A Place Called Home.
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