Julie Barton remembers exactly the moment she figured out how to write Dog Medicine. We remember exactly the moment when we knew we had to publish it. She was in a cemetery; we were on a lake. And so here we are. And what a book it is. It’s not exactly what you think it is. Yes, it involves a mystical connection with an animal. That much you see on the cover. But it’s also a meditation on emotional pain, and an archaeological dig into its sources. There’s not one narrative at play here. There’s three. It’s a tone poem as much as anything. It’s filled with unforgettable moments and images, and features a star for the ages in the unforgettable Bunker. Steve Almond calls it a “glorious howl in the darkness that leads the reader into the light.” We can’t top that. That’s exactly what it is.
Read the Q&A: Julie Barton
A year ago I walked into a mental health conference being held at Temple Israel in Minneapolis to listen to Adam Levy talk about grieving his son Daniel, whom he lost to suicide. It left me profoundly moved and led directly to the making of his record Naubinway. I sat down recently with Adam to talk about Daniel, the album, mental illness, his family, art, life, and the values that hold his life together.
Read the Q&A: Adam Levy
“This is what I know this morning. Post-coffee. Pre-wine.” This is how author Amy Ferris begins the book, “Shades of Blue: Writers on Depression, Suicide and Feeling Blue,” which she edited. She knows a lot of things. One of them is about attempting suicide. She tried it with pills when she was 19. She made it through after getting her stomach pumped. It’s an event she had kept to herself for most of her life. Then Robin Williams died and she had to do something. She posted about her attempt on social media and the love came flying at her. She thought maybe there are others willing to go public. A book idea was born, which Seal Press was smart enough to snap up.
Read the Q&A: Amy Ferris
Bruce Kramer and Cathy Wurzer
I had no idea how to greet Bruce Kramer. My instinct was to offer my hand, but his hands were tucked under a blanket and a cat. Also, he has ALS. I wasn’t sure he could move his hands. So I just waved a hello and sat on the couch in front of him. I’m here in his Hopkins condo to ask him what it’s like to die. I know this is appropriate because he’s been describing the process on his “Dis Ease Diary” blog, in segments with Cathy Wurzer on Minnesota Public Radio (MPR), and now in a book co-authored with Wurzer called We Know How This Ends: Living While Dying. He wasn’t uncomfortable. I was uncomfortable. But he and Wurzer help ease me into the conversation. It’s what they do. If you’ve listened to MPR’s “Morning Edition” at all in the past four years, you’ve heard their conversations. The segments show up every now and then in between news and weather, and often last up to 10 minutes, which is a lifetime on drive-time radio. They’re remarkable. MPR has aired 35 of their conversations and more are coming, right up to the end. Their book challenges readers on the assumptions we all make in our lives. Their requests are earnest and valuable. Can you be more vulnerable? Can you break free of safe social patterns and learn to openly express love? Can you learn to love your own death? And can you start now?
Read the Q&A: Bruce Kramer and Cathy Wurzer
Ann Bauer loves the advertising industry. She wants us to know this. She’s worked in the business for many years and has nothing but good things to say about it. And while her novel Forgiveness 4 You does send it up a bit — it involves an ad agency that markets forgiveness in the form of redemption sessions with a charismatic, fallen priest — it’s a lovingly drawn depiction filled with hard-driving but well-intentioned people. And it’s hilarious. The book is Wodehouse-level social criticism, not industry snark, and it’s deeply empathetic. Bauer got the idea on a snowy day in Montreal and wrote it fast. We’re so glad she did. We got together in Minneapolis recently to talk about the book, the state of publishing today, Paul Thomas Anderson, Jonathan Franzen, and why regret plays such a big role in her work.
Read the Q&A: Ann Bauer
“I’m really bad at dying.” This is what Kristina Morgan, author of Mind Without a Home: A Memoir of Schizophrenia, told me. It’s quite a thing to say. But when you’ve survived “10 to 16 suicide attempts” — she’s not sure of the total number as she doesn’t trust her memory, think about that for a moment — that seems like a logical conclusion. What she is good at is writing. It’s therapeutic to her, and keeps her rooted in reality. To be sure, it can take effort to follow her work. Her writing, like her mind, isn’t linear. It jumps around. There are bursts of images shot-gunned out. Her book, which was published last year by Hazelden, is strange and thrilling, sometimes terrifying, often funny. She writes about how the Steve McQueen movie The Blob creeped her out as a kid. (It creeped us out, too.) She describes spirituality as “living with the whisper of owls,” a phrase that we love. It was quite a conversation. Published at Think Piece Publishing.
Read Q&A: Kristina Morgan
Empathy is one of those words everybody likes. President Obama wants it in Supreme Court justices. Atticus Finch teaches Scout to have it. Bill Clinton was famous for feeling it. It’s been decided: America is pro-empathy! But do we really know what it means to have it? Has anyone ever examined that question? Leslie Jamison does in 11 essays in her book The Empathy Exams and the results are spectacular. In her groundbreaking book Jamison looks at empathy from a multitude of perspectives: hers, others, others related to hers, hers related to others, others related to others, and still others. Each essay is an event in itself. There’s one about sufferers of Morgellons disease, a condition in which people believe that insects or parasites are plaguing their body. One where she talks to participants in the grueling 100-mile Barkley Marathon race and asks the simple question, Why? Another has her revisiting the city in Nicaragua where she was assaulted and had her nose broken. It’s a remarkable collection. Published at Think Piece Publishing.
Read the Q&A: Leslie Jamison
It’s no exaggeration to say that Janet Burroway is the person most responsible in the past 30 years for teaching America college students how to write. Her book Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft is in its eighth printing and is considered biblical in MFA programs. And of course she’s no slouch at it herself. She’s penned several acclaimed novels, including Raw Silk, which was nominated for a National Book Award, and The Buzzards, which went up for a Pulitzer. She’s also dashed off plays, children’s books, volumes of poetry, all while teaching at Florida State University. Writing is joy for her. But Losing Tim was hard. It’s about the grief she experienced after the suicide of her son, who was a military contractor in Iraq. It took her years to write and it helped her come to a level of understanding, if not acceptance, about her son’s decision. Published at Think Piece Publishing.
Read the Q&A: Janet Burroway
In 2002 Andrew Solomon wrote the definitive book on depression with The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression. In 2012 he wrote the definitive book on conditional behaviors with Far From the Tree, which took him 11 years to write. Everything this guy does is epic. I asked him what propels him to go so deep with his work. Published at Think Piece Publishing.
Read the Q&A: Andrew Solomon
William Cope Moyers
William Cope Moyers has a famous name. His father, William Moyers, is regarded as a saint by most of the western world. Big shoes to fill. This has led to some issues for Moyers, possibly contributing to an addictive personality, which almost killed him more than once. He writes about this beautifully and vividly in his book, Broken: My Story of Addiction and Redemption. We had a robust discussion about addiction, which is still a mysterious disease to nearly everyone, and how for most people a community of support is their best shot. Published at Think Piece Publishing.
Read the Q&A: William Cope Moyers
Marya Hornbacher has not had an easy life. As a young person she had a vicious struggle with anorexia, which she documented to international acclaim in Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia. She’s also had to learn to manage her bipolar disorder, which she wrote about vividly and beautifully in Madness: A Bipolar Life. In between she’s written novels, poems, and two books for Hazelden about the art of recovery, along with fitting in teaching at Northwestern University. Published at Think Piece Publishing.
Read the Q&A: Marya Hornbacher
Dan Buettner had already entered the Guinness Book of World Records for distance biking but that wasn’t enough. He wanted to go further into discovery. He wanted to learn the secrets of aging, so he traveled to various points on the globe, where local citizenry were notching consistently high rates of longevity, and studied their habits.The result was the best-selling book The Blue Zones. Published at Think Piece Publishing.
Read the Q&A: Dan Buettner
Don Shelby loves trees. So why did he accept a role voicing Paul Bunyan, that most famous of deforesters, in an opera performed by VocalEssence? Published in Minnesota Monthly.
Read the Q&A: Don Shelby
Ted Olson is arguably the most powerful lawyer on the planet. He’s argued, and won, Citizens United, Bush v. Gore, Proposition 8. This guy doesn’t play small ball. I got a chance to visit with him for an hour and it felt like a walk through history. Published in Washington, D.C. Super Lawyers.
Read the Q&A: Ted Olson
Andrew Humphrey helped engineer one of the biggest law firm mergers in Minnesota history, when he led his firm, Faegre & Benson, into a partnership with the Indianapolis-based Baker & Daniels. He calls the process combining and it took two years to pull off. I asked him what all went into it—a lot—and what advice he offers other firms tired of the single life. Published in Minnesota Super Lawyers.
Read the Q&A: Andrew Humphrey
Few attorneys in Minnesota have been as influential as the legendary Marianne Short of Dorsey & Whitney. Published in Minnesota Super Lawyers.
Read the Q&A: Marianne Short