We write a lot on these pages about the many writers series held around the Twin Cities — Talking Volumes, sponsored by the Star Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio, as well as the library programs Club Book, Pen Pals and Talk of the Stacks.
But there’s plenty going on at the colleges, too. Take, for instance, the Good Thunder series held annually at Minnesota State University, Mankato. It hosted Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera last fall, and on March 14-16 it will host Lesley Nneka Arimah, the Minneapolis-based, Kirkus Prize-winning author of “What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky.”
Up in the northwest corner of the state, Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., has for the past 12 years hosted winners and finalists of the National Book Awards. This year’s program will be March 15-16 and will feature two nonfiction finalists, Nancy MacLean, author of “Democracy in Chains,” and Erica Armstrong Dunbar, author of “Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge.”
Lisa Lucas, executive director of the National Book Foundation, will also be on campus and will take part in a conversation with the two writers and National Public Radio correspondent John Ydstie.
Here in the Twin Cities, the University of Minnesota has a robust spring series planned, starting with an annual favorite, “First Books,” which features graduates of the MFA Creative Writing program reading from, well, their first books. So on March 22 at 7 p.m. in the Weisman Art Museum, you can hear Isaac Butler, Sally Franson and Jon Lurie.
Butler, who graduated in 2013, is the author (with Dan Kois) of “The World Only Spins Forward: The Ascent of Angels in America.” Franson, who also earned an MFA in 2013, is the author of a novel, “A Lady’s Guide to Selling Out.” And Lurie (class of 2006) is the author of “Canoeing With Jose,” published last summer by Milkweed Editions.
In April, the U will host a discussion on writing for young people, with a panel of stellar, prizewinning writers, moderated by stellar, prizewinning author and professor Julie Schumacher. (And winner of the Thurber Prize for American Humor.)
The panelists include M.T. Anderson, National Book Award-winning author of “The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing”; Kate DiCamillo, one of the few writers to have won the Newbery Medal twice; David Barclay Moore, whose novel “The Stars Beneath Our Feet” was a New York Times notable book and is being made into a movie; and Nicola Yoon, whose novel “The Sun Is Also a Star” was a finalist for the National Book Award and was named a Printz Honor Book.
You can hear them at 7:30 p.m. April 4 at the Northrop Carlson Family Stage, 84 SE. Church St., Mpls.
And finally — last but not least — Charles Baxter will host the 10th annual hunger relief benefit at 7 p.m. April 25 at McNamara Alumni Center, University Hall, 200 SE. Oak St., Mpls.
Baxter, author of novels and story collections, was a National Book Award finalist for “The Feast of Love,” and has won the Rea Award in the Short Story, the Award of Merit in the Short Story and two Minnesota Book Awards.
And let me tell you, things are only going to get more interesting. With last spring’s retirement of poet and memoirist Madelon Sprengnether, the U has added two more faculty members to the MFA Creative Writing program.
Welcome (this fall) to poet Douglas Kearney and to poet and essayist Kathryn Nuernberger.
I can’t wait to see what’s next.
Laurie Hertzel is the Star Tribune senior editor for books. On Twitter: @StribBooks. On Facebook: facebook.com/startribunebooks.