The Free Press, Mankato, MN

March 21, 2013

More than Writing Conference at MSU on Friday, Saturday

The Free Press

MANKATO — Minnesota State University is hosting the More Than Writing Conference and Book Fair on Friday and Saturday.

The annual event includes, of course, a book fair as well as presentations on a variety of academic and writing-related topics, including: pedagogy, community college teaching, playwriting, editing and publishing. Twin Cities author Anya Achtenberg, who wrote the 2012 historical fiction novel “Blue Earth,” will participate in a question-and-answer session as well as deliver Friday’s keynote address (see accompanying story).

During the book fair, a variety of local publishers and authors will be in attendance, including North Star Press and Madison Lake author Rachael Hanel, whose memoir “We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down,” will be available in April from Minnesota History Press.

More about Achtenberg’s ‘Blue Earth’

 “Blue Earth” is the story of Carver Heinz, a distressed divorcee and farmer whose wife and child have left him just as he stands on the precipice of losing the farm that has been in his family for generations.

Caught up in the farm crisis of the 1980s that prompted farm foreclosures across the Midwest (and drove many desperate, and otherwise peaceable, farmers to murderous violence), Heinz is displaced to Minneapolis and forced to find menial work.

There he rescues a beautiful child named Angie from a tornado in an encounter he insists they keep secret. In the ensuing years, Heinze develops an obsession with Angie that culminates in a series of emotional confrontations with Angie’s boyfriend, a Dakota Indian named William.

Without his place (the farm), Carver becomes vengeful and hateful, exerting his control over people in lieu of the land he used to cultivate. William, too, struggles with place as the native land of his ancestors has long since been stolen away to feed the greed of European settlers.

As the novel thematically posits, such themes of ownership and control contributed to the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 — a historical incident that attracted Achtenberg’s attention because “it’s one of the central, and largely unknown, stories of this country” — and the 1980s farm crisis, as well as countless other conflicts.