Letter exchange arts residency starts tonight at Thai Cafe

Playwright Katie Ka Vang and Kathy Mouacheupao, former executive director of the Center for Hmong Arts and Talent and recent Bush Leadership Fellow, team up this week for a short residency at Thai CafĂ© in St. Paul. Focused on letter writing, the project hosts a launch event this evening, and lasts through the weekend. It's a part of Springboard for the Arts' Irrigate program, a placemaking project focused on the Central Corridor LRT line.  More »

Dressing Room's top 10 most-read posts of 2013

One of the many awesome movies filmed in Minnesota...
The year might be coming to an end in the chilliest way possible, but the Twin Cities art scene was anything but cold. On the eve on a new year, we rounded up some of the most popular stories of 2013. Bike care, the Twin Cities dating scene, and a certain comedian with a star on First Avenue made this year's list of most-read Dressing Room posts.

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Writers hone their craft around the Twin Cities

Photo by Sharyn Morrow
Laura Brandenburg at the Riot Act 
The Twin Cities may not be known as the place to go if you want to become a famous writer, but if you want to develop your craft? Well, there are worse spots. With lots of opportunities to perform, and a strong institutional support network in the form of nonprofits and funders, Minneapolis and St. Paul offers a lot for the permanently struggling artist. 

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Ring Ring Poetry, a new choose-your-own-adventure literary hotline

flier by Cole Sarar
The first poem in the project, written by Sarar, takes a Choose Your Own Adventure style.
Call 612.223.POEM, and you are greeted with Cole Sarar's voice. If you press "1," you can hear the project's latest poem, or press "2" to explore the archives. The first piece in that back catalog, "The Beast," offers further options: Thirty seconds in, the poem stops and asks you to choose again.

"Press '1' if the library door is locked," Sarar's recorded voice says over the phone. "Press '2' if the library door swings open easily."

See Also:
- What is poetry? Women of the World Poetry Slam finalists

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Neil Gaiman's last book tour comes to Minnesota this summer

Award-winning author, cult favorite, prolific blogger/Tweeter, and beekeeper Neil Gaiman will embark on his last U.S. signing tour during this summer to celebrate the release of his latest novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Yesterday, Gaiman announced the first round of tour dates and locations around the country, which includes a pit stop in Minnesota.

See also:
Watch: Neil Gaiman with Josh Ritter at MPR's Wits
Enter Sandman: Why Neil Gaiman is about to become bigger than death

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Twin Cities writers, including Guante and Kao Kalia Yang, launch op-ed collective "Opine Season"

Matt Peiken, Kao Kalia Yang, and Guante, with Opine Season's banner and logo.
In early February, nine writers gathered at Pizza Luce to talk about what their new website, a writers' co-op focused on op-eds, would look like. One month later, they launched Opine Season.

In their two weeks of publishing so far, each of the nine core writers has, as on a newspaper's opinion page, laid claim to a specific day of the week. Mondays belong to Guante and Colleen Kruse, Tuesdays to Lolla Mohammed Nur and Matt Peiken. On Wednesdays, Vina Kay, Chaun Webster, and Ricardo Levins Morales weigh in, and on Thursdays, Kao Kalia Yang and Brian Lambert.

The writers come to the project with varying degrees of experience: Yang, for instance, is the author of the acclaimed memoir The Latehomecomers, while Ricardo Levins Morales is primarily a visual artist. But each is motivated to contribute, as Guante (a.k.a. Kyle Tran Myhre) explains it, in order to "feature voices and views you wouldn't get from the two big papers."

"Sure, the internet is full of opinions," Guante continues.  "But I think the thing that drew me to this project was the idea of solidarity: a dozen different writers from different communities, with different readerships, sharing different ideas -- but all connected to the Twin Cities -- coming together at one site to cross-pollinate those ideas and readerships. That's a powerful thing."

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How We Met contest winners: 'We were kindred dork spirits from the start'

Last month, the Valentine's Day spirit was in our hearts thanks to our feature about adorable couples around the Twin Cities. So, we decided to ask readers to share their own stories.

Your submissions brought meaning to Shakespeare's infamous line, "The course of true love never did run smooth." But they also showed how the most unpredictable run-ins can often make the best stories. You can't always choose how you meet your special someone -- whether it's at a bar, the zoo, or a friend's house -- but at least you can get some good memories out of the experience.

After nearly 100 votes, readers resoundingly chose the couple from "The Late Shift" story, Kiki and Aaron Rogers, who met during a chance encounter in Kiki's bed after she got home from work. We got in touch with Kiki, and talked about how that fateful night became the beginning of a life together.

See also:

How We Met: Vote on readers' love stories [POLL]
How They Met: Twin Cities couples on the moment they found love
Slideshow: How They Met: Awesome outtakes from adorable couples

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The winner of our state poem contest is...

Here's how the vote broke down.
When a state Senator introduced a bill mid-February to designate "Minnesota Blue," by Keith Haugen, the official state poem, we challenged you to write a few lines better than "Do wolves still howl at your full moon / Is Viking Land still Mother Nature's dream."

You did. We narrowed the submissions down to four, and then put the finalists up to a vote.

Nearly 200 readers weighed in, and now, we're ready to crown Minnesota's new state poem (City Pages edition).

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Coffee House Press fields two of the five finalists for prestigious PEN/Faulkner fiction prize

courtesy Coffee House Press
These two Coffee House Press titles are up for the award.
Earlier this week, the PEN/Faulkner Foundation announced that, after reviewing more than 350 works, three writer-judges had selected five finalists for the foundation's prestigious fiction prize. Two of those five picks claim local Coffee House Press as their publisher.

"To have even one finalist for the PEN/Faulkner is a remarkable achievement," Coffee House's publisher, Chris Fischbach, wrote us in an email from the AWP conference in Boston. "To have two on the list is something else altogether."

See Also:
- Top 15 books set in Minnesota
- Spotlight on Coffee House Press: Ed Bok Lee and Bao Phi
- Minnesota ranks 8th in the country for 2013 NEA grants


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How We Met: Vote on readers' love stories [POLL]

For our special Valentine's Day issue of City Pages, we showcased a bunch of extraordinary Minnesota couples who touched our hearts with stories of how they met. But we knew there were tons of couples out there who had stories just as romantic and funky as the ones we highlighted.

We asked readers to tell us how they met, and they delivered. From a hilarious late-night Goldilocks situation to rogue snowballs, these couples have gotten past funny, awkward, and weird meet-cutes to show that sometimes true love does conquer all.

We chose the best submissions, and now it's your turn to tell us who's got the ultimate romantic tale for the chance to win a date package.

See also:
How They Met: Twin Cities couples on the moment they found love
How They Met: Awesome outtakes from adorable couples [Slideshow]

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