Category Archives: Awards

Lambda results

The Lambda is the most prestigious prize in LGBT literature, and the winners were announced Monday at a ceremony in New York City.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz took the LGBT Young Adult Fiction Award. (It was published by Simon & Schuster/ Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.) Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, by Kirstin Cronn-Mills, didn’t get the Lambda.

The YA Lambda winner

The YA Lambda winner

I’m certain Aristotle and Dante is a fantastic book, and I intend to buy it.

Kirstin and I are in a writing group, and I’ve read countless submissions of Beautiful Music. I remember the night when she told us about a new character, some ideas for a plot, and the title. If Kirstin is the book’s mother, I am its aunt. I watched the novel grow into a final draft and find the world through the publisher Flux.

That’s part of the writing life — sharing disappointment with your writing friends. When Kirstin comes home, we’ll tell her that we’re proud of her and that it’s a “win” to earn such a prestigious nomination. We’ll applaud her for tackling a controversial topic with dignity, grit, and humor. It’s all true.

If Gabe, the protagonist in Beautiful Music, helped one young person from the transgender community, then Kirstin is a heroine. That’s more important than being a “winner.” (Ditto for all the nominees.)

Gabe brought readers into the world of a young transman. Kirstin didn’t want Gabe to be a “lesson” character. And he’s not. He’s just Gabe. Gabe stressing out about college, Gabe dealing with his feelings for his best friend, Gabe butting heads with family members, Gabe finding his passion in radio. It’s a story — a great story.

So, congratulations to winner Benjamin Alire Saenz. His book is on my must-read list.

And congratulations to Kirstin and Gabe. Aunt Shelley is proud of both of you.


Cronn-Mills stirs up YA market

Also featured at Barnes and Noble!

Also featured at Barnes and Noble!

My friend and YA writer Kirstin Cronn-Mills is featured in today’s Star Tribune. The entertainment section headline: “Two transgender YA fiction titles by Minnesotans up for Lambdas.”

The Lambda is the most prestigious prize in GLBT literature. There’s a ceremony Monday in New York, so I’ll be sure to provide an update.

Her book, Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, is challenging, but it’s not an “issue” book. The character just happens to be a girl who’s really a boy. Is it funny? Wait until you read the scene where Liz/Gabe orders a MANGO online. Then Gabe attempts to use a man’s restroom for the first time. MANGO. Get it?

Congrats, Kirstin.

Little Rock Girl: A Midwest Book Award finalist

Little RockMy book, Little Rock Girl: How a Photograph Changed the Fight for Integration, is a finalist for the 2013 Midwest Book Awards. I’d like to play it cool, but why? I’m so excited!

The program recognizes creativity in content and execution, overall book quality, and a book’s unique contribution to its subject area. Winners will be announced at the Midwest Book Awards Celebration on May 8 at the Bloomington Center for the Arts. The award is sponsored by the Midwest Independent Publishers Association (MIPA), a regional affiliate of the Independent Book Publishers Association.

Off to celebrate by indulging in Girl Scout cookies.

Mankato writers rock it!

The Minnesota State Arts Board released the names of grant winners. The pool was dominated by metro-area artists, but Mankato, my old stomping grounds, made an impressive showing.

My dear friend Kirstin Cronn-Mills won money to complete her novel Original Fake. I’ve read early chapters. The novel is funny and quirky, and how about that great title?

Diana Joseph, an amazing writer, ultra cool human, and a former teacher of mine, won to work on a memoir about motherhood and postpartum depression. Diana is the author of a book of essays, I’m Sorry You Feel That Way. The Astonishing but True Story of a Daughter, Sister, Slut, Wife, Mother, and Friend to Man and Dog.

Steve Almond, author of Candyfreak, endorsed Diana by saying, “…You should buy this book. Immediately.”

Yes, sir!


When You Reach Me

I love when I read a book’s last page and think wow, and I want to go back to page one and start over, looking for clues and re-working the mystery.  Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me is one of those books. My daughter and I took turns reading it to each other. Lucky kid: She got to stay up late all those nights because I couldn’t put the book down. (A precedent has been set. Now, when I tell her lights out, she insists, “But I can’t put it down!” Captain Underpants? Really?)

Stead’s middle grade novel is like Audrey Niffenegger’s Time Traveler’s Wife for tweens. That description, however, underrates the book’s sophistication. Stead writes a clever guessing game I couldn’t figure out. When the end finally reveals all – in its quiet way – I was thrilled. There were no tricks or ridiculous plot turns.

When You Reach Me is the book you want your friends to read so you can discuss its complexities over several glasses of wine. And with fancy cheese so you feel refined in your writing uniform (jeans and a sweatshirt).

I didn’t discover the library’s best-kept secret. Stead won a Newbery and, from a quick scan of the inside cover, about a thousand other honors. When my daughter brought home her book order sheet last month, she couldn’t make a decision. She asked for my input. I pointed out the books with the gold circle on them. “That’s a Newbery,” I told her. “The gold circle means you’ll probably love it.”

And that’s how When You Reach Me came to us.

So, for all of my (three) readers, buy the book. Stead deserves the royalty.

Of course she’s got a cool web site. Check it out here.

National Book Award Winners

The National Book Award is like one of those big movie awards shows, only it’s not on TV. And most people have never heard of it. Tell most people you won the National Book Award, you’ll get a blank stare. Tell them you won the Super Bowl, they’ll buy you a beer.

Here are the winners!

Louise Erdrich – she’s from Minnesota, you know – won for her novel The Round House. In nonfiction, Katherine Boo won for Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Slum, won the nonfiction award.

And for poetry: David Ferry, Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations.

And for literature for young people: William Alexander for Goblin Secret. Another Minnesota writer, by the way.

Read NPR’s coverage here.