Twin Cities Book Festival Fun for Everyone

Especially for me as a volunteer. Last month I blogged about the Literary Punch Card and how MN book publishers, The Loft, and booksellers were doing their part to keep our literary community thriving, and I also mentioned the importance of everyone contributing as best we can, in any way we can.

I volunteered to work at the Information Desk at the 11th annual Book Festival hosted by Rain Taxi Review of Books, which took place at the Minneapolis Community & Technical College this past Saturday. Other than the occasional yo-yo hailing down on my head from the kids’ section upstairs, it was a lot of fun. I mean, what’s not to like about a place full of books and book lovers:

The all-day, free-admission book fair featured authors, booksellers, magazines, publishers, librarians, prizes,  author panels, readings, presentations, writer opportunities, and of course, books, books, and more books.

Eric Lorberer,  the festival director and Scott Parker, the volunteer coordinator worked with nonstop enthusiasm and were so busy all day they were nothing but blurs, otherwise I would have taken their pictures, too.

Hi ya, David!

At the Information Desk all I had to do was answer people’s questions and point them in the direction they wanted to go. I enjoyed meeting readers and writers, authors, and seeing friends. It was fun being a part of something so vibrant, so important. I loved every minute of it. I hope others will consider volunteering their time at the book festival next year. It’s easy to sign up. Just go to the Rain Taxi website and under the Twin Cities Book Festival section, click on the word volunteer.

To thank me for my time, I got a wonderful gift bag filled with books, magazines, coupons, a museum pass, and stationery. Many thanks to the other volunteers for making the day great, and especially to Mr. Parker and Mr. Lorberer for all that you do.


to the gentleman who left his writing journal by me after rearranging his backpack: I did not look in or read any part of your journal. I swear.

to the guy who lost half his bike light: no, it was never turned in. Hope you made it safely home in the dark.

to Paul Metsa: the answer is, sometimes.

to the woman looking for the diabetes expo: hope you found it

and to the security guard whose knees I took out with the flatbed book cart during cleanup: again, so sorry! those things were really hard to steer.

Ballad for a Friend

The weather couldn’t be more perfect. My mother is in town for the day and I take her to Nina’s Cafe for lunch. We have our sandwiches and coffee and we find the last table for two outside. This is city living the way I want it to be. The way I want my mother to see it. Easy-going and laid back. Autumn trees with the sun shining through. People chatting. People walking their dogs. Everyone friendly.

My mother is giving me an update of the people I grew up with–former friends, aging relatives. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a down-and-out man approaching. He looks like he’s here to beg for money. There might be a story about how he lost his job or how he needs bus fare to get back to Green Bay for his cousin’s funeral.

I try to ignore him but he’s getting closer. I’m about to tell him that I’m sorry. I don’t have any change. It’s then I realize that he is not bowing like a beggar, but crouching, like a cougar about to pounce, and his eyes are fixed on my mother. He lets out a cry and jumps magnificently. I am up out of my chair and push him away before he can reach her.

Now his crazed stare is fixed on me. He lets loose a long string of foul words as we circle each other. I’m scared like I’ve never been scared before and I’m wondering if some of the other cafe patrons are going to step in to help me, but they keep eating their lunches, looking on as if they’re watching some old rerun of a Jerry Springer show.

He takes a couple of swings at me which I avoid. I don’t know what to do. I think about the semester of karate I had back in college as a phy-ed requirement but remember nothing. I could employ my skills as a student of Bashido–the way of the Samurai–but man, I am nothing without my sword. Besides, it would take me fifteen minutes to warm up, bow, and say hello.

As quickly as he came unglued, he becomes subdued. All the madness and crazy light in his eyes has changed. I am no longer his personal demon. He turns  away. I go inside the cafe to have them call the police. They tell me they already have. Within minutes the squawking police car arrives. The man sees it and turns around. Puts his hands behind his back. He’s been through this before.

I can only imagine what will happen to him. Someone will write up a report at the station. They’ll add it to his records. He’ll go through another evaluation. They still won’t be able to assess him properly so he won’t get the treatment he needs. He’ll be released. He’ll perpetually go through our government’s revolving door. That’s the real madness.

Ellen Hart Launches The Lost Women of Lost Lake

She may be the mild-mannered type looking as if she were reading a bedtime story to her fans at True Colors Bookstore, but Ellen’s latest book, The Lost Women of Lost Lake, will do anything but put you to sleep.

In this, her 27th novel, Ellen’s characters are all lost for one reason or another. Ellen’s themes are expressed in several quotes at the beginning of the book:

“What can the England of 1940 have in common with the England of 1840? But then, what have you in common with the child of five whose photograph your mother keeps on the mantelpiece? Nothing, except that you happen to be the same person.”–George Orwell

“Conviction is a good motive, but a bad judge.”–Albert Einstein

Lost Women is a bittersweet novel. The all-important hook in the first chapter occurs when a stranger comes to town with questions that go back decades, unsettling those who know the answers but have everything to lose if those answers come to light.

As the stranger persists with his questions murder occurs. We know that mystery authors do not allow central characters to keep their heads in the proverbial sand where it’s safe. They are called to a higher good and to a restoration of calm and order. And we know that even with the best of intentions, characters can make matters worse by trying to protect their friends.

Ellen also addresses the concepts of redemption, starting over, living with the consequences of youth, being lost since youth, and being lost in the hometown you grew up in and can’t wait to get away from.

The ending is unexpected but touching. “The whole world could be an extraordinary place, when it wasn’t approximating hell. And yet, how could a person understand the difference if they didn’t exist side by side?”  The characters of The Lost Women of Lost Lake may spend their lives looking for answers, but we readers often do too.

Ellen Hart lives in Minneapolis. She is a five-time winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Best Lesbian Mystery, a three-time winner of the Minnesota Book Award for Best Popular Fiction, a three-time winner of the Golden Crown Literary Award in several categories, a recipient of the Alice B Medal, and was made an official GLBT Literary Saint at the Saints & Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans in 2005. In 2010, Ellen received the GCLS Trailblazer Award for lifetime achievement in the field of lesbian literature. For the past fourteen years, Ellen has taught “An Introduction to Writing the Modern Mystery” through the The Loft Literary Center.

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The Lost Women of Lost Lake is published by Minotaur Books and can be purchased at local bookstores as well as