Minnesota Street Market to Host 2nd Annual Litfest on Thursday, June 2nd, 2023

Press Release by Pia Lopez

A celebration of crime fiction, mystery and thriller with local authors Susan Sink and Jessie Chandler

When: 6pm-7:15pm, Thursday, June 22

Where: Minnesota Street Market (back lot)

27 West Minnesota Street, St. Joseph

The event is free, outdoors and open to the public

Love the journey of traveling with a main character working through a puzzle and life’s travails?  Following small details and piecing it all together? Delving into how and why a crime is committed?

The Minnesota Street Market in St. Joseph is hosting a free, outdoors Annual Litfest event at 6pm on Thursday, June 22.  The theme is: “Unsolved: On the Mysterious Wisdom of Not Knowing Who, What, Where, When or How.” 

This event explores Susan Sink’s Officer Down and Jessie Chandler’s Quest for Redemption (Winner of the 2020 American Fiction Book Awards: LGBTQ Fiction).

Neither of these books are the typical crime fiction mystery thriller.  

And neither novel is typical for these authors.  

Susan Sink, “Officer Down”: A poet, this is Susan’s first novel, inspired by the real-life event of the unsolved killing of a Cold Spring police officer outside Winners Bar on November 29, 2012.

Jessie Chandler, “Quest for Redemption”: A former police officer, Jessie is a prolific, award-winning mystery writer, to date mostly humorous, fast-paced capers.  This novel, the first in a planned new series, is much darker. There’s a heist, involving an antique document. But much of the book is an exploration of Flynn, a protagonist who descends into tragedy, comes to recognise things about herself, which spurs a change in action.

The annual litfest invites the public to spend an evening in the unique setting of the back lot of the Minnesota Street Market (the historic 1899 Loso Building) in St. Joseph, bringing people together in an outdoor atmosphere, with readings and conversation.  

This event offers an opportunity for local authors to take center stage — and for people from the local area to connect with some great local authors they may never have heard of.

The program features short readings and dialogue to create a varied, rich experience for our community.  

Tracy Rittmueller, an award-winning poet, founding director of Lyricality, and chair of the Local Authors & Books Committee, will introduce the program: Why this theme for the 2nd Litfest? What is it about the unsolved that engages us and brings us together? Why explore crime fiction, mystery, thriller? Why these two authors — Susan Sink and Jessie Chandler?

The two authors will each do a reading — and ask each other a question.  The audience also will have the opportunity to ask questions.  

Jessie Chandler says of “Quest for Redemption”: 

“I had the idea to write a simple art thief who would steal art that had been swiped or looted by others, and return the goods to the rightful owner. Sounded easy peasy, and turned out to be anything but.”  

She continues: “When I began working on Quest, I was in a pretty dark space and without intention, it showed up in my work. I more or less was leading a parallel life with the protagonist, Flynn, and it took me three years to finish the manuscript. … I was very able to pull on my personal experiences for a lot of what I put Flynn through. … I’d have to say that when my own feelings were darkest, so were Flynn’s. As the story progressed slowly toward the end, my own writing helped me to see the light at the end of the tunnel. … There is always hope, even when it feels like the dark will never relent.”

Susan Sink on “Officer Down”: 

The novel started, she says “because I wanted to try National Novel Writing Month, writing 30,000 words in one month.” She didn’t make the one-month goal, “but I liked it enough that I kept writing and rewriting it.” The real-life event of the killing of a Cold Spring police officer outside Winners Bar on November 29, 2012, grabbed her interest:

“I was pretty obsessed about the idea that the partner left the scene, and how both men were viewed after the murder. I wanted to explore ideas of heroism and cowardice. Also, I was trying to write the whole story in a month and it seemed like a great plot that wouldn’t get bogged down.” 

The reality was quite different: “I didn’t know the solution to the crime story for months. I actually thought another character did it until it was clear to me that they didn’t, and I had to work something out that made sense and would feel inevitable and true. … I really had to figure out who committed the murder as I wrote. It wasn’t clear at all when I started.”

Both Jessie Chandler and Susan Sink have given a lot of thought to what it is about crime, mystery, and psychological thriller that captures the human experience and draws us in:

For Jessie Chandler, “I think at heart mysteries, thrillers and all the other sub-genres give readers hope. Most of the time the ending works out, and even if it doesn’t, there’s a resolution to some degree.” 

She adds, “Especially in the era of such unrest, it’s a perfect escape.” 

People, she concludes, are generally fascinated with the way the mind works in regard to the who, what, why, when, and where of those who kill: “I think ultimately, readers are fascinated with the situations, events, and traumas which could push a regular, average joe into committing homicide. And it’s mighty gratifying to see justice served.”

Susan Sink echoes that: “It’s just so hard to believe a person could actually kill another person. What is their motive? What is the impact when someone transgresses this boundary? We’re committed to getting justice for the victim, which means finding the killer, who is now ‘outside’ of society, and possibly still dangerous. We need to cast that person out of our society.”

In the “Officer Down” fictionalized story and the real event in Cold Spring, “What was interesting in this case was that a person expected to be heroic, maybe even ‘catch’ the murderer, left the scene. And that person also got cast out of society.”

For Susan, a crime truly is a puzzle, a mystery, “whether it’s about finding the actual killer or figuring out the motive.”

She also brings in a poet’s perspective: “I think poetry often has a similar appeal– writing poetry, especially formal poetry, can be like putting together a puzzle. I really loved solving this puzzle.”

The aim of the Local Authors & Books Committee at the Minnesota Street Market is to  make St. Joseph into a literary arts hub for central Minnesota.  The store has a small book nook stocked with a diverse slate of local writers’ works. 

Minnesota Street Market is a small food & art co-op of 1,200 member-owners located on the historic main street in the thriving university community of St. Joseph. We opened in July 2011 and our mission is to provide high-quality, natural foods, art and books with a focus on locally produced products in a welcoming, educational and convenient environment. 

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