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First slate of authors present their works

Minnesota poet Todd Boss reads from a book of poems titled "Yellowrocket" at a private gathering Sunday evening. Boss read for the Bemidji Library Book Festival at 7 p.m. Monday at the Bemidji State University American Indian Resource Center. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

The long-awaited and highly anticipated Bemidji Library Book Festival opened Monday morning with children's author Phyliss Root, a well-published author of children's literature.

Root described in her biography how her father would catch her at night reading under the covers with a flashlight. Because our grandchildren are here for the Fest and because we can catch them every night reading under the covers, we decided to be in the front row of the Bemidji Public Library for her talk.

Root is a professor in the Master of Fine Arts program at Hamline University in the Writing for Children Program. She has been writing for the past 20 years, but still recalls those stories she wrote as a child where she was always the heroine; her cousins especially liked her ghost stories. But on Monday morning, her book about Paul Bunyan's sister Paula captured the attention of the many children and mothers dotting the floor in the children's reading room.

In the afternoon, Sandra Benitez spoke at Headwaters School of Music and the Arts. Benitez, although known as a fiction writer of award-winning publications, wrote her first nonfiction book, "Bag Lady: A Memoir." She was recognized as a recipient of the Great National Comebacks Award by ConvaTec and the Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis Foundation of American in 2005.

The last author of the day was Todd Boss, a Minnesota native, who was a guest at the 2010 Key West Literary Seminar. His poetry is reader-friendly and draws upon his rural upbringing.

"Apple Slices" - eaten right

off the jackknife in

moons, half moons,

quarter moons and

crescents - tells the story of summers spent working with his father in construction long years ago. As Boss wrote, "In this poem I used chewy words that would physically remind the reader of the pleasures of eating. Read it aloud slowly and you'll see what I mean."

"For me, words are a kind of food," said Boss, "and that poem with all those sounds in it creates a kind of chewing in the mouth."

Boss' first book of poetry, "Yellowrocket," was published by W.W. Norton in 2008 and is now out in paperback. The work was nominated for a Minnesota Book Award. Perhaps his new book coming out later this year will get the award.

With the publication of "Yellowrocket," Boss is now able to write full time and devote time to his motion poems. One such poem was shown to an appreciative audience: "The God of Our Farm Had Blades." Google "kickstarter motion poems" for examples of Boss's and other poets' work.

"Basically we are turning short poems into short films," added Boss.

Today's authors will include Mary Casanova, a children's author who will speak at 10:30 a.m. at the Bemidji Public Library, 509 American Ave. N.W. Casanova has authored more than 24 books for young readers, ranging from picture books such as "One Dog Canoe" to novels such as "Moose Tracks, The Klipfish Code." One of her "American Girl" books was made into an HBO film and DVD, "Chrissa Stands Strong."

Casanova grew up in a family of 10 and was a reluctant reader in her youth, so she writes for the restless, can't-sit-down reader. She is an invited speaker to many schools, having won the Parent's Choice Gold Award, accolades from the American Folklore Society and two Minnesota Book Awards. Casanova lives in northern Minnesota near the Canadian border with her husband, two horses and three dogs.

Cynthia Kraack will speak at 2 p.m. at Headwaters School of Music and the Arts, 519 Minnesota Ave. N.W. She is the winner of the 2010 Northeastern Minnesota Book Award for Fiction for her first novel, "Minnesota Cold," from which she will read this morning. It is a science fiction novel set a few decades ahead and it explores the central question: How much personal freedom are citizens willing to give up for their personal safety? Kraack writes of political, social and economic deprivation, which she claims helps her fears of the future.

Linda LeGarde Grover will speak at 7 p.m., at the American Indian Resource Center at Bemidji State University. Grover is a faculty member of the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, and a Bois Forte Ojibwe. Her book, "The Dance Boots," is a series of short stories linked to a common theme, an Ojibwe community trying to follow traditional ways in a changing world. The stories begin with an elder retelling the stories of Indian boarding schools to her niece. "Dance Boots," published in 2010, is a moving collection of stories of the beauty and comfort in large extended families, common language (Ojibwe), customs and history. Grover was the recipient to the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction.