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Authors, poets heat up bookstore

Although "poetry on a stick" was the gimmick du jour, the main attraction was the talent in the house.

Eleven Minnesota authors and poets gathered Friday evening at Sister Wolf Books in Dorset Friday night to discuss and sell their works. It was standing room only in the tiny bookstore.

And then the air conditioning petered out, so one might have speculated that the literary crowd generated a lot of hot air.

"We've never done this before so we had no idea what to expect," said bookstore owner Sally Wizik Wills as she was jostled by eager readers.

David Bengtson, a retired Long Prairie English teacher, presented his works on sticks, the brainchild of his wife. He'd done a gig at the Minnesota State Fair and she suggested he attach his prose to tongue depressors "since everything at the fair is on a stick."

The result was 6,600 pastel writings on brightly colored, autographed wooden sticks. They were an instant hit. He was also selling books of his works, but the giveaways were irresistible.

Carol and John Gall of Walker were selling their book, "Low Flying Goose," a metaphor for their married life together. He's a retired pediatrician; she's a hands on healer. One vignette, called "Smitty and the Cat," is about the mixed signals married couples give each other.

Smitty's a dog. He and the cat have different communications styles and signals. A dog wags its tail in friendliness. A cat warns of pending anger by wagging its tail, they said. So, too, do married folks give off mixed signals, they said.

Arvid Williams and Bonnie Shallbetter write a series of "factual fiction" about Minnesota historical events. Called the "Hawk" series, one book will enter a second printing soon, Williams said.

LouAnn Shepard Muhm is an English teacher in Nevis making her second appearance at Sister Wolf Books. She held a reading two weeks ago that was well received, Wills said.

Muhm said she's not sure who her audience is. "People I don't even know are taking my book home," she said, adding that it was a good sign.

Mark Munger is a district judge from Duluth who writes as a "cathartic" experience. He has his own press, but there are no tell-all tales from the bench. Two of his books are nonfiction, four are novels and one is a biography.

But one, called "Pigs, A Trial Lawyer's Story," draws on his days as an attorney suing numerous seed companies for moldy feed that nearly wiped out entire populations of North Dakota swine. The litigation took years. So did writing the book.

Judy Merritt edits the Northwoods Press. Her collection of personal narratives is based on observations from her journalism career.

Nearly all of the authors accepted their invitation to come to the event, surprising planners.

"We were really pleased with the evening," Wills said. An encore will be scheduled in the near future, probably when cool air returns to the outdoors - or inside.