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Creative writing submissions sought for book on 1918 Fires

Although many books have been written about the famous 1918 Fires that devastated this region, former Cloquet children's librarian Liz Boutang is hoping residents will tap into their creative side and join together to write a book filled with original creative poetry and prose commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Cloquet-Moose Lake Fires of 1918.

The fires record the worst disaster in state history, both in lives lost and in property destroyed. The ordeal affected thousands, and the experience left its mark on a whole generation. For decades afterward, people spoke of the past as either "before the fires" or "after the fires."

While there have been both fiction and nonfiction books written about the fires, Boutang said the writings in this book — funded by a grant from the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council — should be a mix of both.

Boutang and the members of the committee working to commemorate the 1918 Fires are looking for submissions of poetry and short prose depicting people and events surrounding the fires from individuals who have a personal connection or interest in this chapter of Minnesota history. They seek writing that combines creativity with historical inquiry, producing an original work based on research and personal narration.

For example, Boutang said, contributors may be inspired by a person who witnessed or perished in the fires and compose a first-person account of that experience. Or they may want to write a short descriptive narrative of a detail or incident recorded in newspaper accounts.

"Our project is a wonderful opportunity to learn, from research through literary creation," Boutang said.

Submissions should be approximately 50 lines for poetry or 500 words for prose, although exceptions can be made.

Area public libraries, courthouses, historical societies and museums possess books, documents, publications, photography, personal accounts, and reminiscences from the fires. As county curator, the Carlton County Historical Society (CCHS) will assist in any research endeavors.

Interested writers are invited (but not required) to attend a workshop from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 9, at the Cloquet Public Library. Author Katharine Johnson will assist participants in editing submissions and answer any writing inquiries.

Submission deadline is Nov. 1, 2017. If you have any questions, contact coordinator Lisbeth Boutang 218-626-7284 or CCHS at 218-879-1938. The book will be published in early 2018. Contributors whose submissions are selected will receive a free copy of the book and a small stipend.