Six University Press authors up for awards

by Kelly Hildebrandt

Lake Superior, life on a hill and the area lift bridge are all part of Barton Sutter’s award-winning collection of essays “Cold Comfort: Life at the Top of the Map.”
Sutter’s novel, published by the University Press, won best book in the creative nonfiction category at the Minnesota Book Awards last week. Also, Kent Meyers’ book, “The Witness of Combines,” won best memoir.
The authors were two of six University Press authors nominated for awards among the 21 categories.
Sutter’s work is a collection of essays, which he originally wrote for Minnesota Public Radio.
“They’re kind of like crusty love letters from a guy that just loves Duluth,” said Todd Orjala, acquisitions editor at the University Press.
Sutter describes the essays as a personalized angle on the area. One of the essays, “God,” focuses on the enormity of Lake Superior, which he says “keeps us humble.”
Other essays focus on the area bridge, which Sutter describes as the “Eiffel Tower” of Duluth and life on a lopsided hill.
Meyers’ memoir, “The Witness of Combines,” is a memoir of the death of his father during harvest season and his family’s struggle to keep the farm going.
“They were thrown into the fire essentially,” Orjala said about Meyers’ experience.
The novel focuses on the structure of the farm community. The name of the book is derived from the first chapter, when the family is struggling to harvest the crop and all their neighbors suddenly came down the road with their combines to help, Meyers said.
Meyers, who has been a writer for 19 years, recently had his first three books published, the first of which was “The Witness of Combines.”
“It’s really spurred me on to keep writing,” he said.
The awards, sponsored by the Minnesota Center for the Book, consisted of categories ranging from picture books to nature books. This is the 11th year the awards have been held.
Anyone can be nominated for an award as long as they, or the novel, are connected to Minnesota in some way, said Dave Carlson, a coordinator of the awards. This year about 300 books were nominated.
Carlson said there is a large writing and publishing community in Minnesota. He attributes this high activity to quality presses, the Universities and an educated population.
“I think Minnesotans are typically a little more educated,” Carlson said. “They read more and watch less TV.”
The University Press is affiliated with the University but remains semi-autonomous, Orjala said.
“To continue publishing, we really need to publish books that will sell,” he said.
Since it is affiliated with the University, the press has a strong commitment to scholarly books. Out of about 110 books published each year, Orjala said about 20 to 25 are regional and public interest books.