2004: Unexpected Consequences and Wrenches in the Works

Twelve Branches

What happens when a city gets together, not to read a book, but to write one? Twelve Branches: Stories from Saint Paul, was a finalist for a Minnesota Book Award. The book was written by four professional authors working with community members in the Saint Paul Public Library. For six months, the writers—Nora Murphy, Josie Rawson, Julia Klatt Singer and Diego Vázquez—visited each of Saint Paul’s twelve library branches. People of all ages were invited to share stories about their library and their experiences in Saint Paul. The writers then faced the difficult task of sifting through these memories and forming them into stories. Facts blurred into fiction, truths were bent into tales, and soon the writers had a completed book on their hands. This innovative effort, initially called The Library Book Project, was coordinated by The Friends and published by Coffee House Press.

Monkeewrench by P.J. Tracy

P.J. Tracy introduced the Monkeewrench gang with a bang and won the Award for Popular Fiction. P.J. Tracy is the pseudonym of mother-daughter writing duo P.J. and Traci Lambrecht, also winners of the Anthony, Barry, and Gumshoe Awards. In “Plotting Mysteries,” the Minnesota Book Award winners are presented in conversation with William Kent Krueger, discussing their approach to writing as a craft, and mystery writing as a special challenge.

Pinot Noir grapes

“No, if anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving. I am NOT drinking any f**king Merlot!”
Stalled writer and wine snob, Miles Raymond (Paul Giamatti) in “Sideways”

The film, “Sideways” was released in 2004 and blew up the amateur wine-tasting community. An academic paper from the American Association of Wine Economists entitled The Sideways Effect: A Test For Changes In The Demand For Merlot And Pinot Noir, found that in the year following the film’s release, not only did the price of Pinot Noir increase, consistent with increased demand for the grape, but absolute sales rose as well—by as much as 16% across all price ranges. Sales of Merlot, on the other hand, dropped, particularly in the lowest-price bottles. And a person couldn’t order a glass of either without eliciting a smug sniff or eye roll.

Coming Late to Rachmaninoff

Coming Late to Rachmaninoff was the year’s winner in Poetry for Richard Terrill. Terrill, who has also authored three books of creative nonfiction, teaches in the MFA program at Minnesota State University, Mankato, and works as a jazz saxophone player. For the 2004 “Celebration of Minnesota Writers” at the Landmark Center, he performed with local musician Larry McDonough a program of music based on the poetry of his Award-winning book.


Swedish journalist and crime novelist Steig Larsson (born 1954) died of a heart attack. His Millennium series of crime novels, which were later published posthumously, eventually sold over 70 million copies and made Larsson the first author to sell a million electronic copies of his work on the Amazon Kindle.

V is for Viking: A Minnesota Alphabet

Detail from “V is for Viking: A Minnesota Alphabet” by Kathy-Jo Wargin, Karen and Rebecca Latham, illustrators

From its primeval Itasca State Park to the sophistication of its Twin Cities, the state of Minnesota is a study of contrasts and long-held traditions. Birthplace to many famous personalities and inventions, including Garrison Keillor and the Bundt Pan, V is for Viking presents the state whose name means sky-tinted waters in one of the most beautiful alphabet books ever written, with illustrations by noted wildlife artist Karen Latham – 1996 Artist of the Year for Artists of Minnesota, and her equally successful daughter, Rebecca Latham. Kathy-jo Wargin was born and raised on the iron range of northern Minnesota, and studied music composition at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. She is dedicated to the creation and promotion of quality literature for children, and regularly visits schools to perform large and small group presentations and teacher in-service programs.

Mystery Creek by Jim Brandenburg

‘Mystery Creek’ by Jim Brandenberg, from his Minnesota Book Award-winning (Nature and Minnesota) “Looking for the Summer: A 94 Day Journey”

Looking for the Summer: A 94 Day Journey – Beginning with the solstice, Jim Brandenburg set out daily with his digital camera to document life in Minnesota’s north woods. From June 21 to September 21, he spent each day capturing the spirit of the wilderness through his camera. At the end of each day, he edited the day’s shoot and picked the best shot to represent that day’s adventure. As was true of the best-selling Chased by the Light, Brandenburg’s exercise in photographic technique became a study in human perspective and vision. In addition to being a world-class photographer, Jim Brandenburg is a philosopher. His influences are broad: native American mythology; classical Japanese culture; and Zen Buddhism. Most of all, he is a dedicated student of the natural world – it is in the cyclical rhythms of the natural world that Jim discovers serenity and the meaning of life, and these lessons are conveyed brilliantly through the images and words married together in this Award-winning book.

One of the worst natural disasters in recorded history hit Southeast Asia, when the strongest earthquake in 40 years, measuring 9.3 on the Richter scale, generated an enormous tsunami that crashed into the coastal areas of a number of nations including Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Malaysia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Indonesia. The official death toll in the affected countries stands at 186,983 while more than 40,000 people are still missing.

Have you lived through an earthquake, tsunami or flood?

Click here to check out more 2004 Minnesota Book Awards winners and finalists!


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