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Sivertson inspired, complimented by second book award

For Howard Sivertson, summering in Canada and wintering in Grand Marais may be a life of inspiration, as his paintings and successful series of four books show. But it can also be isolating -- often his books go without much feedback, other than ...

For Howard Sivertson, summering in Canada and wintering in Grand Marais may be a life of inspiration, as his paintings and successful series of four books show. But it can also be isolating -- often his books go without much feedback, other than how many books have sold.
And how many have won awards, and that's why winning the Northeast Minnesota Book Award (NEMBA) is important to Sivertson.
"It's kind of a big deal to me," he said during a phone interview from his summer home in Ontario.
"When I get a group of people who are involved in books ... I find it a great compliment when they choose mine as the best of the year," he said. "That gets me going."
Sivertson won his second NEMBA award last month for "Schooners, Skiffs and Steamships: Stories along Lake Superior's water trails." (The first NEMBA award came for his second book, "The Illustrated Voyageur: Paintings and companion stories.")
The two award winners, as well as "Tales of the Old North Shore" (1996) and "Once Upon an Isle" (1992), follow a similar format. The books are centered on a series of watercolor paintings by Sivertson with accompanying stories or text -- "pretty much glorified cutlines, I suppose," Sivertson said.
"Schooners," reviewed by the Budgeteer in October 2001, has 39 original paintings by Sivertson based on scenes he's imagined from the area's history. This includes commonly known stories, such as Father Baraga's landing at the river now named for him, and lesser known moments. For instance, in "New Year's Eve at the Mouth of the Pigeon River -- 1800," {IMG2}Sivertson imagines what sharing "a dram of grog" must have looked like for employees of the North West Company at Grand Portage, based on a journal entry. The painting comes to life with northern lights in the background, a dry docked ship and a crew standing outside around a fire.
Sivertson said the amount of research for his books varied. For "Once Upon an Isle," all the research came from within -- he grew up on Isle Royale. But the other three books required a lot more outside research, drawing on library research and help from local experts at museums in the area.
The books also come from an innate curiosity. With the isolation, he does not really have an audience in mind when he paints and writes, doing it primarily for himself.
"I want to see what it looks like for myself," he said, noting that just that day he was sitting looking over Pine Bay in Ontario, where they used to anchor schooners, wondering at what it must have looked like.
Or take the introduction of "Schooners," in which Sivertson writes about the silence of the world before white people industrialized the North Shore. He was actually sitting along the North Shore, imagining it, enjoying the quiet. "... You can hear the ringing in your ears anyplace up there, especially in the winter," he said.
Trying to imagine how it must have been before television commercials and video games, he said, "We'd probably go crazy in that much quiet."
Sivertson's book, which retails for $24.95, was published by Lake Superior Port Cities, the company which also publishes Lake Superior Magazine. He is at work on a fifth book in a similar format on the same themes, and he said there was no working title as yet. Each book takes 3 to 4 years to make, he said.
The 2001 award was the 14th in NEMBA history, with recent winners including Josephine Nobisso, Howard Fenton, Barton Sutter, Louis Jenkins and Joan Drury.
This year's runner up was "These Granite Islands," a novel by Sarah Stonich. Stonich won acclaim for having a first novel acepted by Little, Brown, and Co. "These Granite Islands" is the story of a woman who, on her deathbed, recalls a haunting summer of 1936 that forever changed her life. "These Granite Islands" is now available in paperback for $13.95 and in cloth binding for $24.95.
Last year's runner up was William Durbin, and William Kent Krueger won it the two previous years.
In all, 17 titles were nominated for representing northeastern Minnesota's history, culture, heritage or lifestyle. The winner received $250 and the honorable mention garnered $100. The award is sponsored each year by the University of Minnesota-Duluth library and by Friends of the Duluth Public Library. Additional support this year was provided by two bookstores, Barnes and Noble and Northern Lights Books and Gifts.
News to Use
This year's Northeast Minnesota Book Award nominees were as follows:
*"After the Leaves Fall," Jack Becklund,
North Star Press of St. Cloud
*"Betty's Pies Favorite Recipes," Betty Lessard,
Lake Superior Port Cities
*"Brief History of the Pioneers of the Cromwell, Minnesota, Area," Bennett A. Beck, Carlton County Historical Society
*"Butterflies of the North Woods," Larry Weber,
Kollath-Stensaas Publishers
*"Devil's Holiday," Robert O. Harder, Publish America, Inc.
*"Duluth, Minnesota (Images of America)," Sheldon T. Aubut and Maryanne C. Norton, Arcadia Publishing
*"Every Bird Is One Bird," Francine Sterle, Tupelo Press
*"Fawn Island," Douglas Wood, University of
Minnesota Press
*"Hibbing, Minnesota (Images of America)," Heather Jo Maki, Arcadia Publishing
*"Keeper of the Wild: The Life of Ernest Oberholtzer,"
Joe Paddock, Minnesota Historical Society Press
*"Purgatory Ridge," William Kent Krueger,
Pocket Books
*"Schooners, Skiffs & Steamships: Stories along Lake Superior Water Trails," Howard Sivertson, Lake
Superior Port Cities
*"Stealing Gunflint Trail," Gene Andereck, Rock
Creek Press
*"Strangers on the Shore," Claire W. Schumacher,
Zenith City Publishing
*"These Granite Islands," Sarah Stonich, Little,
Brown & Co.
*"Unraveled Sleeve," Monica Ferris, Berkley Prime
Crime Books
*"Winter Thunder: Retold Tales," collected and edited by Anne Dunn, Holy Cow! Press

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