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Bemidji Library Book Festival: Authors provide background on their art

Author Catherine Friend hosted a children's storytime Wednesday morning at Bemidji Public Library as part of the weeklong Bemidji Library Book Festival. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

It's hard to believe that the Bemidji Library Book Festival is half-over; a year in the making and yet it is going so quickly for the committee and the audiences.

Yesterday, Catherine Friend enjoyed an appreciative audience at both of her readings. The weather was not cooperative in the morning for outdoor activities, so the children from the Gym Bin joined children already seated on the floor in front of Friend at the Bemidji Public Library. One of her books, "The Perfect Nest," won the 2009 Pennsylvania Keystone to Reading award and was a finalist in the Minnesota Book Award.

"It is hard to write a picture book story," said Friend. "You have to be able to write on two levels: it has to be interesting enough for a child to hear over and over, and it has to be interesting enough for an adult to read over and over."

In the afternoon, Friend spoke about her most recent book, "Sheepish: Two Women, Fifty Sheep & Enough Wool to Save the Planet."

Friend used a quote from Lily Tomlin, "I always wanted to be someone. I just wish I was more specific," to explain how she left her chosen field of economics to become a farmer.

Her talk aroused lots of laughter from the audience as she showed pictures of her farm animals and explained some of the intricacies of animal husbandry.

This morning, at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, we're heading back to the children's reading room at the Bemidji Public Library to see and hear Lynne Jonell who writes middle-grade novels. Her "Emily and the Rat" series: "Emily and the Incredible Shrinking Rat," "Emily and the Home for Troubled Girls" and the forthcoming "Emily and the Rats in the Belfry," are popular among young readers. A prolific writer, Jonell lives in a house on a hill in Plymouth, Minn., she looks out the window at children playing and dreams of eating chocolate - just for the joy of it. "Hamster Magic" was a finalist for the 2011 Minnesota Book Award, and the "Secret of Zoom" was chosen by President Barack Obama as a gift for his daughters.

At 2 p.m., we travel over the Irvine Street Bridge to the Rail River Folk School to hear local author Roy C. Booth. Booth is a Bemidji native who graduated from Bemidji State University with a BA and MA in English. Booth is a published author, poet, journalist, essayist and scriptwriter and owner of Roy's Comic and Games of Bemidji and Hibbing. It will be interesting to hear Booth talk about his genre: Science Fiction and Fantasy.

In the evening, we will listen to the poetry of Heid Erdrich at 7 p.m. at the American Indian Resource Center on the campus of BSU. Erdrich is a member of the Turtle Mountain band of Ojibwe and grew up with her German-American father and Ojibwe mother in Wahpeton, N.D. She now lives with her husband, their two children, and their dog, Boozhoo, in St. Paul. Erdrich is pursuing her Ph.D. at Union Institute University in Cincinnati, Ohio, on the topic of how Ojibwe authors integrate the use of Ojibwe and English languages in literature and poetry. Erdrich looks back to her childhood when she and her six siblings listened to the stories told by a father who loved to read aloud as one of the reasons why she is so successful in her literary pursuits. Erdrich will be giving a writing workshop "Bringing in the Sheaves," for writers in all genres and at all stages of writing in Bemidji this weekend.