Local is all in the eye of the beholder. I’m using it in the sense that these authors are local enough that I crossed paths with them AND absolutely loved their latest work. Equally as important was their ability to inspire me, encourage my writing (unknowingly), and reminded me to not compare my beginning to someone else’s middle-or-end. In other words, the writing runway is long and I’m barely at take-off, despite writing for more than two decades.
In no particular order, a few local favorites that left me wanting more.
William Kent Krueger
The first author to sign a book for my son Jake, William Kent Krueger has a special spot in my heart. Last fall, I had a chance to hear him speak at an area library about his writing journey and his calling to write books beyond Cork O’Connor mysteries (which I love BTW). Enter The River We Remember. I loved Ordinary Grace and This Tender Land for different reasons. But The River We Remember resonated with me on so many levels. I loved the comical nature of a man being eaten by a fish to set the stage for this book that ultimately pursued a series of tough topics in a way that left the reader open to imagination, interpretation and change. The hero’s journey in this narrative is flawed and messy, a mere reflection of what so many of us face in attempting to be the hero of our own story. Justification, betrayal, redemption and more are covered in the pages of what at surface level may seem like a mystery – but is in fact a reflection of the decisions we make and the impact it has on those around us.
Lake Superior Writers introduced me to Carol Dunbar at the start of 2022. I had just finished reading her debut novel The Net Beneath Us when I had the opportunity to hear her speak about her writing journey. The years it took to pen this novel to a place she believed was finished and how an author can determine when their book is finished. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and talk but then A Winter’s Rime came out this fall. Dunbar’s sense of place captures a place I love and millions visits, but shows the darker side to rural life. The need for connection and the power nature plays in healing generational trauma is alive and well in Dunbar’s realistic portrayal of abuse, but equally as satisfying, is the notion that happy endings aren’t as neat and cozy as storybook endings.
This fall I returned to the Grand Marais Writers and Readers festival. I took a class by a guy named Danny Klecko – a master bread baker/poet. An odd combination for me since poetry is a complicated genre for me and certainly not something I find myself drawn to reading or writing. But, I quickly discovered that life is full of unexpected surprises. Klekko is one of them. I was drawn to this authenticity. His no bullshit approach to writing and promoting one’s work. The realness of our conversation, even though many of the students in the class he had just met. A take it or leave it approach that I wish I was bold enough to possess. This theme continues in his matter-of-fact approach to truth telling book Hitman-Baker-Casketmaker: Aftermath of an American’s Clash with ICE. Odd title? Perhaps, until you learn of his involvement in the St. Agnes Baking Company being shutdown just days before the Super Bowl was in the Twin Cities. Part memoir, political narrative, and real-life baking stories, every word on the page is fought for in this tight compilation of hard hitting, truth telling.
I love Nikki Kallio and her debut novella Finding the Bones on multiple levels. This series of short stories cover a wide range of universal themes and emotions, all with a different twist. The writing is exquisite – the depth, clarity and authenticity coming through, even though the book straddles an unusual genre for me – sci fi/paranormal/magical realism. I ended the book wanting more and contemplating larger than life questions. This is something I’ve come to admire about this author’s ability to straddle real-life questions and challenges in a world we can almost imagine. An added bonus, I had the opportunity of attending a writing workshop with her several years ago and her soul is as beautiful as her writing.
And there you have it. There were so many other local authors I adored and loved this year, but these are just a few of the ones that really resonated with me.
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