ST. PAUL -- Two area writers, whose literary themes are as indigenous to these parts as Ojibwes and tall pines, are in the running for the Minnesota Book Awards.
Peter Bundy of Crosby and David Treuer of Bemidji said they plan to be on hand when the winners are announced in a free public awards ceremony at 7 p.m. Friday in the Minnesota History Center.
Bundy's "Finding the Forest," a collection of nonfiction essays, is a finalist in the "nature and Minnesota" category, along with four other books of similar grain.
The Minnesota Center for the Book, an understudy of the state's Humanities Commission, sponsors the annual awards, given this year to 10 Minnesota authors, illustrators and editors who published in 1999.
Peter Bundy's "Finding the Forest" is a collection of essays that describe the forestry consultant's philosophy of preserving and using the area's woodlands, but the author's writing style is attracting the literary, as well as the naturalist, audience.
Three-person panels of judges in each category already have culled the winners from 41 finalists, an awards spokeswoman said this week, but the outcome is a closely guarded secret until Friday's official ceremony.
Treuer's highly acclaimed second novel, "The Hiawatha," is one of four finalists in that category.
The offspring of an Ojibwe mother and Austrian father, Treuer won the Minnesota Book Award in 1996 for his first novel, "Little," published in hardcover by a Twin Cities independent press.
"Little" impressed enough, however, to be picked up for paperback by Picador, an imprint of major book publisher St. Martin's Press, which later released "The Hiawatha" in hardcover. The paperback edition is due out in May, Treuer said this week.
Peter Bundy of Crosby is a finalist for a Minnesota Book Award in the "nature and Minnesota" category. Awards in 10 categories of writing, illustrating and editing will be announced Friday in St. Paul.
"Kirkus Review" has called Treuer "a new voice in the Native American literary landscape," but he said in an interview that his novels "weren't meant to be a reflection of how life really is for Indians and shouldn't be read as such."
"The Hiawatha" tells the tragic story of an Ojibwe mother and her four children who move off the reservation to begin a new life in Minneapolis. Its central event is the murder of one of her sons by another, setting off a series of devastating events.
"Kirkus" said the novel "is lyrical in its sadness, one demonstrating that most precious and rare of writerly gifts: the ability to reach equally well into both the heart and mind of the reader."
At 29, Treuer has attracted a wide following among the literary community, winning not only the state's book award, but also a Book-of-the-Month Club New Vision Award and a Pushcart Prize, both for "Little."
"It's an honor to be given an award in a state that is known for its amazing collection of writers," he said, adding that a Minnesota Book Award "sometimes brings a writer to the attention of readers."
A literature professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Treuer said, "there are kernels of life tucked away (in "The Hiawatha"), but it is pure fiction, a fantasy."
To Treuer, the mark of a good novel is that the "writing adds to the stock of available reality, not just recreate it," he said, quoting another author.
On the other hand, Bundy's "Finding the Forest" draws from the forestry consultant's personal experience in working with lakes area landowners to find a "third path" in preserving and using their woodlands.
Drawn from his daily journal, "Finding the Forest" outlines Bundy's "sustainable forestry" philosophy in a literary way, he said in an interview this week.
"I wanted to tell stories that told my insights with concrete information, but was enjoyable to read," the first-time author said. "It's storytelling nonfiction based on personal experience."
Bundy's series of essays advocates a "third path, which respects the need for ecological integrity but recognizes that we have many benefits from the forest, including paper and hardwood floors," he said.
One of a handful of self-published finalists, Bundy said winning the book award "would be a wonderful step for me professionally."
"But it would also be a step forward in having the book reach a wider audience and influence how people think about our forests," he said.
A former film studies professor at Carleton College, Bundy moved to Crosby three years ago, "opting for a simpler direction," he said. He is a native of the Boston area, with a master's degree in communications, as well as forestry.
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