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21st Annual NEMBA

Sunday, May 17, 2009


This year the Library worked in collaboration with the Lake Superior Writers in celebration of the 21st Anniversary of NEMBA. This gala joint event began with a writing workshop on Saturday, May 16, and continued with a public celebration on Sunday, May 17.  The workshop, conducted by Annette Atkins, was coordinated by the Lake Superior Writers group.

The Sunday festivities began with an expanded book fair and dessert reception in the lobby of the Marshall Performing Arts Center from 12:30 to 3 p.m. and continued with the awards presentation at 3:30 in the performance auditorium. The awards presentation was emceed by Duluth's first poet laureate, Barton Sutter, and included featured speaker Annette Atkins. This event was free and open to the public.

Nominations were evaluated in one of six categories: (1) Fiction, (2) Poetry, (3) Art, Photography,  (4) General Nonfiction,  (5) Children's Literature or (6) Memoir and Creative Nonfiction. Reading Teams chose a winner and honorable mention in each category. The winner in each category received a $300 cash prize.  The winning author and the honorable mention in each category received a beveled glass award.

Winner in Fiction:

A Finntown of the Soul

written by Patricia Eilola, published by North Star Press of St. Cloud

A Finntown of the Soul


Finntown of the Soul is the sequel to Finntown of the Heart. This book tells the story of four years in a Finnish family’s struggle to create a life on a homestead in Zim, Minnesota. Life in the 1920s is captured with authenticity and beautiful description of the land, the schools, and the importance of community. Eilola knows her subject well, and the authenticity of the young girl’s voice draws the reader into her world.






Honorable Mention in Fiction:

Shelter Half

by Carol Bly, published by Holy Cow! Press

shelter half
Shelter Half


Carol Bly was a master of the short story, and she brought the virtues of that form to this larger canvas--vivid and economically drawn characters; rich texture; and the incidental insights that arise from well-seen landscape. We learn to care deeply for the complex human beings who inhabit this book, and the way of life that has evolved in the town’s isolation will seem intimately familiar to northern Minnesotans.







Winner in Poetry:

Trail Guide to the Northland Experience in Prints and Poetry

by Northern Printmakers Alliance and Lake Superior Writers, published by Calyx Press Duluth

Thunder Bay
Trail Guide to the Northland Experience in Prints and Poetry


This self-styled “Visitor’s Guide to the Northland Experience” melds outstanding poetry and art by a variety of poets and other artists living in the wider Duluth area.  The skillfully crafted poetry, in voices ranging from sly to contemplative, conveys both joys and struggles of living in the beautiful, demanding landscape of northern Minnesota as well as universal human experience. We found that the mastery of poetry and art in this jewel renders it a classic.






Honorable Mention in Poetry:

Between the Ceiling & the Moon

by Deborah Gordon Cooper, published by Finishing Line Press

Ceiling Moon
Between the Ceiling & the Moon


This collection of poems evokes essential life passages, exploring upheavals and losses through the poet’s loving lens of deft insight.  The author possesses a rare talent for connecting a few simple words, seemingly with great ease, to arrive at the heart of a matter. Despite its slender size, the collection eloquently conveys the author’s strength and courage in the face of life’s biggest events.








Winner in Art, Photography

Driftwood: Stories Picked Up along the Shore

by Howard Sivertson, published by Lake Superior Port Cities


Driftwood presents the commingling of Lake Superior, its inhabitants, culture, history, and most enjoyably, the personal stories of Howard Sivertson. Through its many watercolors and short stories, readers are able to witness a variety of aspects related to Isle Royal.  This book thoroughly encompasses the mission of what NEMBA seeks to celebrate by preserving this piece of northern Minnesota history.  Books will come and books will go, but this is one our region cannot do without. Sivertson has done us all a great service in sharing his talent and perspective by capturing so much so well.





Honorable Mention in Art, Photography

Edge of Forever : Images of Lake Superior

by Peter Scott Eide, published by Monolith Publications

edge of forever
Edge of Forever


Edge of Forever is a stunning book. Its calming influence can be felt moments after opening it to enjoy each cool image, offered on generously large, glossy pages.  These black and white photos enhance the feelling of Lake Superior's timelessness, and its hint of magic. It seems as if a reader could reach into the photo and touch the bracingly cold Lake Superior water, or trace the edge of a smooth stone.  Beautifully bound and well printed, this book is a great addition to any collection of Lake Superior photography.




Winner in General Nonfiction

Hard Work and a Good Deal : The Civilian Conservation Corps in Minnesota

by Barbara W. Sommer, published by Minnesota Historical Society Press

hard work
Hard Work and a Good Deal


This is the story of the CCC in Minnesota, with many references to the camps in the northeast region. This well-researched book provides excellent detailing of the program’s progression, its virtues (and some faults), the lives of its workers, and its many accomplishments. The life in the Corps is made more vivid through the many interviews of actual participants, along with pertinent historic photographs of the work crews and the sites. This book is one to curl up with and enjoy.






Honorable Mention in General Nonfiction

Invincible: History of the Duluth Boat Club

by Michael J. Cochran, published by The Donning Company Publishers, sponsored by the St. Louis County Historical Society



Invincible is honored for its delightful and energetic narrative centering around an exciting competitive sport (rowing) but reaching beyond to many peripheral aspects, including the growth and change of the Duluth/Superior area in the early 20th century. This book is very well written and designed; with excellent illustrations.







Winner in Children's Literature

Someone Walks By: The Wonders of Winter Wildlife

by Polly Carlson-Voiles, published by Raven Publications

someone walks by
Someone Walks By


This lovely book takes us on a wintertime escapade through the northeastern Minnesota woods. Exploring their winter world, we discover the many animals living along the trail and how they survive the cold and snow. Polly’s intricate paper appliqué medium of illustration draws the reader into the page and each habitat, inviting the eye to see the woods and the animals in a unique way.  She uses figurative language, presenting each animal in an imaginative and informative manner.





Honorable Mention in Children's Literature

Face to Face with Wolves

by Jim and Judy Brandenburg, published by National Geographic Society

Face to Face with Wolves


The Brandenburgs capture the natural beauty of wolves in a wonderful book full of incredible photography and information that truly brings us face to face with the wolf. The reader can feel the special relationship they have created with wolves in each picture presented.  The wolf story is told clearly, with many interesting facts that will pique the curiosity of adults and children alike.





Winner in Memoir and Creative Nonfiction

Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range

by Aaron Brown, published by Red Step Press



This is a collection of wonderful essays written by Aaron Brown about growing up and living on the Iron Range in modern times. His narrative is oftentimes moving and also very funny.  He gives both those from the Range and those who have never been north of Duluth the incentive to think about the Iron Range in a new light. He has written a highly enjoyable book that presents a unique understanding of the region, its people, history, and future.






Honorable Mention in Memoir and Creative Nonfiction

Blueberry Summers: Growing Up at the Lake

by Curtiss Anderson, published by Borealis Books,
an imprint of the Minnesota Historical Society

storm codes
Blueberry Summers


This is a memoir written by Curtiss Anderson about his summers at a lake cabin in northern Minnesota in the 1930s and ‘40s. The cabin is shared with a large extended family along with family friends who serve as a much loved and appreciated second set of parents. The book is full of entertaining characters and includes moving stories about his summers--sometimes with humor and sometimes with heartbreak. It is a terrific read that brings one back to a long-ago time where summers at the lake cabin were a highly anticipated respite from regular life.








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winner seal  honorable mention book seal 
New NEMBA Book Seals now available!


Presented by the Library
416 Library Drive
Duluth, MN 55812

& Friends of the Duluth Public Library

in collaboration with The Lake Superior Writers

with additional support from Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Northern Lights Books & Gifts, and UMD Stores