Awards go to Northeastern Minnesota authors

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Local authors and book aficionados filled the Kirby Ballroom at the University of Minnesota Duluth on May 26 for drinks, fellowship, a book fair and to hear who won the Northeastern Minnesota Book Awards.

Possibly the most high-profile of those winners was former Mayor Don Ness for his memoir, "Hillsider: Snapshots of a Curious Political Journey."

"It's always refreshing and energizing to be around other writers," said Marie Zhuikov, a member of Lake Superior Writers and an author herself.

The audience of about 150 waited with bated breath as the winners were announced. Several Duluth authors walked away with awards.

Some 44 books in six categories were nominated. The categories were memoir, poetry, art and photography, fiction, nonfiction and children's literature.

Several Duluth authors besides Ness won, including Jim Johnson in the poetry category for his book "Yoik." Peter Spooner won in the art and photography category for "The Way of Cheng-Khee Chee: Paintings 1974-2014."

As he accepted the award, Spooner gestured to Chee and his wife, Sing Bee, who were sitting in the audience, to give them credit.

In the fiction category, former St. Louis Deputy Sheriff Marcus Bruning and the late Jen Wright, formerly a superintendent at Arrowhead Regional Juvenile Center, won honorable mention for their crime mystery "Relentless: A Striker Mystery Novel." After the ceremony Bruning told the Budgeteer that Wright, who died in March of this year, was there in spirit.

In the poetry category, Duluth editors Jim Perlman, Deborah Cooper, Mara Hart and Pamela Mittlefehldt, won honorable mention for their edited book of poems, "Amethyst and Agate: Poems of Lake Superior," published by Duluth-based Holy Cow! Press.

Former Duluthian Ann M. Lewis won honorable mention for her memoir "Ship Captain's Daughter: Growing Up on the Great Lakes," published by Wisconsin Historical Society Press. Lewis grew up in Duluth, graduated from UMD and taught English at Duluth East High School before moving to St. Paul in 1972.

Sarah M. Brokke, assistant professor of art at the College of St. Scholastica, won honorable mention for "Portrait of an Artist," published by Holy Cow! Press.

Before the awards, former Duluthian and author Michael Fedo spoke about the trials and tribulations of getting published, negative critiques and meager earnings. Fedo is the author of nine books including "The Lynching in Duluth" and "The Zenith City: Stories from Duluth."

Budgeteer columnist Eddy Gilmore was one of the 44 authors whose book was nominated. Though he did not win an award he did appreciate the mix of people. "Mainly what I got out of it was that I made a friend," he said. "There was such a wide-array of talent."

Gilmore said his new friend was the complete opposite of himself. "It's interesting what will resonate with people," he said. He sat at the same table as author Elliott Foster, a lawyer from St. Paul.

Winners received $200. Both winners and honorable mentions received glass plaques and NEMBA book seals.

Established in 1998, the NEMBA recognized books that best represent Northeastern Minnesota in the areas of history, culture, heritage or lifestyle.

Awards to Duluthians

Memoir

Winner: "Hillsider: Snapshots of a Curious Political Journey" by Don Ness, self-published.

Honorable mention: "Ship Captain's Daughter: Growing Up on the Great Lakes" by Ann M. Lewis, published by Wisconsin Historical Society Press.

Poetry

Winner: "Yoik," by Jim Johnson, published by Red Dragonfly Press.

Honorable mention: "Amethyst and Agate: Poems of Lake Superior," edited by Jim Perlman, Deborah Cooper, Mara Hart and Pamela Mittlefehldt, published by Holy Cow! Press.

Art/Photography

Winner: "The Way of Cheng-Khee Chee: Paintings 1974-2014," curated by Peter Spooner of the Tweed Museum of Art

Honorable mention: "Portrait of an Artist," by Sarah M. Brokke, published by Holy Cow! Press.

Fiction

Honorable mention: "Relentless: A Striker Mystery Novel," by Marcus Bruning & Jen Wright, published by Riverfeet Press

Winners and honorable mentions outside of Duluth include:

Nonfiction

Winner: "Taconite Dreams: The Struggle to Sustain Mining on Minnesota's Iron Range, 1915-2000" by Jeffrey T. Manuel, published by University of Minnesota Press

Honorable mention: "North Shore: A Natural History of Minnesota's Superior Coast" by Chel Anderson and Adelheid Fischer, published by University of Minnesota Press

Children's Literature

Winner: "Wilder's Ghost" by Diane Bradley, published by North Star Press of St. Cloud

Honorable mention: "Norman Loves the Lake," by Debbie Hoven, published by Beaver's Pond Press

Fiction

Winner: "Once Were Mountains" by Victoria Richards, published by Beaver's Pond Press

Jim Perlman, owner of Holy Cow! Press, places an honorable mention silver seal on "Amethyst and Agate: Poems of Lake Superior." (Photo by Naomi Yaeger)

Former Mayor Don Ness and his wife Laura smile as Don holds the winning award for memoirs. (Photo by Naomi Yaeger)

Paula Nuhring of UMD Continuing Education emceed the event. (Photo by Naomi Yaeger)