Lake Superior Writers Take Over NEMBA


The Northeastern Minnesota Book Awards have a new organizing body, Lake Superior Writers. As a fan of NEMBA, University of Minnesota Duluth and LSW, I think this is good news for everyone.

After three decades, the Northeastern Minnesota Book Awards have new organizers. In 2021, longtime library awards coordinators Kathryn A. Martin at the University of Minnesota Duluth announced that due to staffing changes, the university library would no longer be hosting the awards. With the awards facing an uncertain future, Lake Superior Writers, a local non-profit organization, has volunteered to take responsibility for the awards and expects to announce the next set of winners in the fall of 2022.

“We know how important these awards are to writers and readers in northeast Minnesota,” says Leslie Mehle, chair of the Lake Superior Writers board. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to help these awards continue.”

NEMBA recognizes books that substantially represent the history, culture, heritage, and way of life of Northeastern Minnesota. Authors do not need to be from Minnesota for their work to be considered, a distinction that Mehle says sets NEMBA apart from other awards that require authors to reside in a specific region to be eligible.

“NEMBA is different because the focus is on the subject of the book, not where the author lives,” says Mehle. “This award specifically celebrates the history, heritage and culture of northeast Minnesota. It’s an important distinction, and it makes NEMBA special.

The award recognizes six categories, naming a winner and an honorable mention for each, honoring authors, editors, poets, photographers and illustrators with a cash prize and a plaque. Community members are invited to participate in the review process by joining reading teams for each category. Recruitment of the reading team will begin in the spring.

As no awards have been announced in 2021, Mehle said books published in 2020 and 2021 will be eligible for awards in 2022.

“It wouldn’t be fair for authors who had the misfortune to publish a book during a global pandemic to be deemed ineligible,” she said. “We could not, in good conscience, exclude them from consideration.”

Due to changing award organizers and uncertainties related to COVID, there will be no public event for the awards presentation this year.

“We really want to focus on managing applications for two years and developing a strong committee to position NEMBA in a good position for the future,” says Mehle. “This year, the awards themselves are our top priority.”

She noted that they expect to return to an in-person awards show in the future.

Applications open on February 1 and the submission period ends on June 1. Categories include non-fiction, fiction, art/photography, children’s literature, poetry, and memoir. For pricing purposes, Northeast Minnesota is defined as including the following counties: Aitkin, Carlton, Cook, Itasca, Kanabec, Koochiching, Lake, Pine, and Saint Louis.

For more information on eligibility criteria and the submission process, visit or email [email protected] We have also created a mailing list especially for NEMBA. Click here to receive occasional updates on the Northeastern Minnesota Book Awards.


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