Storyteller Anne Dunn presents program at Bemidji Library Book Festival
A rapt audience of more than 70 people listened to how the Creator laid down the rules for humankind as told by Ojibwe storyteller Anne M. Dunn Tuesday morning.
Audrey Thayer introduced her friend Dunn for the second children's program of the weeklong Bemidji Library Book Festival.
Dunn chose a youngster from the audience to be the "supreme rememberer." Nine-year-old Addie Dauner sat by Dunn's side and listened closely to the stories so she could give an accurate recounting. Dunn told the audience that the Creator gave us five rules to live by: Don't dig holes, don't tip over trees, don't pull out plants, don't take off mountain tops and don't turn over a rock.
On Tuesday afternoon, more than 30 writers turned out to hear author Laurie Hertzel during her workshop, "Writing your Life, Finding your Story," at the location for all the workshops, Headwaters School of Music and the Arts.
Hertzel spoke about the differences between writing a memoir and an autobiography, and talked talking about her experiences in getting her memoir to publication. She is the senior editor for books at the Star Tribune, and her memoir is the story of her growth in journalism, starting as a 19-year-old clerk at the Duluth News-Tribune and developing into an experienced reporter.
Her memoir, "News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist," won the 2011 Minnesota Book Award. Hertzel said the publishing house chose the jacket design by Mind*Spark Creative because it is the story of her life at the News Tribune: a collage of her belongings taken from her desk when she left the paper.
"I put everything into a box and took it home. When they needed to design a book cover, I sent the box in and they chose the items," said Hertzel. "There's my coffee mug, press pass, an ashtray that I never used because I didn't smoke, the tape recorder I took with me to Russia and a picture of my dog."
Hertzel began working in a newspaper world that was far different from that world today. She started to write about those days through a blog for those unknown yet faithful readers who occasionally left a message for her. At some point in time, someone told her that it would make a good book, and that's when the real work began on writing her memoir.
"Memoirs need to be truthful," said Hertzel. "Don't confuse the readers and don't ever mislead them either. Frank McCourt's book 'Angela's Ashes' changed the way that memoirs were written up until that time. Pick a story you want to tell, stay focused, don't make it too long because it loses shape, and don't confuse the reader. The common thread in good memoirs is humility; don't brag, because it appears less honest. Finally, don't use humor that makes fun of other people."
Hertzel drove the point of veracity home by telling how she did not just rely on her memory of that time. She interviewed past colleagues, read newspaper stories to recall the current events in Duluth and started a Facebook account to help her get in touch with those reporters she worked with back then but lost contact with over time.
The evening book session was given to talking about her memoir in more specific terms. In the first part of her book, Hertzel recalled the time in the 1970s when newspapers started to refer to a woman by her own name instead of names like Mrs. John Smith. It's difficult to believe today that only 40 years ago, a woman was called by her husband's name and not her own.
Sexism in the newsroom was an acceptable practice at the time. Hertzel fell victim to it by an editor who stood over her one time when she was under the desk trying to re-plug her typewriter. He commented on her anatomy. When she went to the assistant managing editor to ask for an apology, he asked her, "What for?"
In a smoked-filled room with fedora-wearing reporters, the offending editor came up to her and offered his apology.
"I'm not sure what I did that offended you, but whatever it was, if I upset you, I'm sorry," he said.
"It wasn't even an honest apology, and his giving it embarrassed us both," said Hertzel. "Bit by bit, the presence of young women in the room was bringing about some changes."
This morning, children's book author and playwright Margi Preus will read from her book. Her first novel for young people, "Heart of a Samurai," is a 2011 Newbery Honor Book. Preus teaches children's literature at the College of St. Scholastica and occasionally at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Her presentation will begin at 10:30 a.m. at the Bemidji Public Library.
At 2 p.m., Preus will give a workshop on "Writing a Children's Book" at HSMA.
Lise Erdrich will begin her presentation at 7 p.m., also at HSMA. An enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, Erdrich has worked in the fields of American Indian health and education for 20 years. Two of her children's books, "Bears Make Rock Soup" and "Sacagawea," were both Minnesota Book Award finalists. Erdrich has also written a collection of short fiction entitled "Night Train."
All the events are free and open to the public because of funds approved by Minnesota voters for arts and cultural heritage. Call the library to register for the workshop at 751-3963. Don't forget to pick up a ticket for keynote speaker Ann Bancroft's talk at 7 p.m. Friday after the Author Fair at Bemidji High School.