Award recognizes University staff

by Fabiana Torreao

Leaving home, family and the desert Southwest is the topic of creative writing assistant professor Ray Gonzalez’s newest book, “Cabato Sentora.”
Gonzalez is one of 12 University faculty, affiliated faculty and alumni whose books have been nominated for the 2000 Minnesota Book Awards.
“Such recognition makes writers feel that they are not doing the work all alone,” Gonzalez said.
The Minnesota Center for the Book annually honors 10 book creators, including writers, illustrators and editors.
“This is a comprehensive recognition of all of the various players that are involved in the book community,” said Lisa Brienzo, the center’s director.
Gonzalez’s “Cabato Sentora,” the favorite of his seven books, is a collection of poems bidding goodbye to his home, El Paso, Texas.
“(‘Cabato Sentora’) is the idea of saying goodbye to your home, acknowledging your cultural origins and being able to write about it in different ways,” Gonzalez said.
Although Gonzalez, a Mexican descendant, left the Southwest almost 20 years ago, he keeps going back to get writing ideas.
The process of writing “Cabato Sentora” took Gonzalez one year. The book, finished in 1995, was only published this year since his publisher only puts out a limited number of books per year.
Leslie Cooney, director of the University creative writing department, said these awards call attention to the number and quality of Minnesota authors.
Minnesota’s book industry is the second largest industry after agriculture contributing to the state’s economy, Brienzo said.
This year’s awards received 260 entries divided into 10 categories. University nominees were scattered among six of those categories.
A panel of 25 librarians, scholars, book reviewers and avid readers selected the nominees for each category a month ago. Now a group of three judges for each category, comprised of a librarian, a greater-Minnesota representative and a new judge to the awards have six weeks to read all books in their category and make a final decision.
“Given the literary climate in the state and this year’s 260 entries, it’s an honor just to be nominated,” Brienzo said.
Minnesota has the second most active publishing community in the nation after New York. The Center for the Book has received up to 450 entries during past years.
The University’s history department has one Regents’ professor nominated for an award. The other 11 nominees come from the creative writing department’s faculty, associated faculty and alumni.
Gonzalez moved to the Twin Cities to teach at the University two years ago, where he started a poetry magazine called “Luna,” Spanish for moon.
The College of Liberal Arts-funded project consists of 150 pages of poetry published yearly. “Luna” collects work from poets all over the country and translations of poems from the rest of the world.
Gonzalez finds the recognition of awards, such as the one he is nominated for, especially important to poets.
“This is encouraging because poets always have a small audience and don’t always sell lots of books,” he said. “When recognized, it encourages you to keep writing.”
The winners of this year’s awards will be announced April 14 at 7 p.m. at the Minnesota History Center. The event is free and open to the public.
“Getting the award is not as important as knowing that there are people out there that respect your work,” Gonzalez said.

Fabiana Torreao covers St. Paul and welcomes comments at [email protected]