Professor's book garners awards

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

"American Compass," Bill Meissner's 2004 collection of poems.

Book cover for Bill Meissner's 2008 novel   Bill Meissner is a professor of English and director of St. Cloud State's creative writing program 

Bill Meissner is earning critical praise for his novel about a baseball player who discovers a Native American burial ground beneath a ball field he's building.

"Spirits in the Grass," a University of Notre Dame Press title, won a Midwest Book Award in the general fiction category from the Midwest Independent Publishers Association. Learn more at

Forward Magazine, a Michigan bimonthly that reviews titles from independent publishers, named the novel a finalist in its general fiction category.

Midwest Booksellers Association declared it a Midwest Favorite.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune said: "Meissner pulls together threads of race, romance and mystery in this novel about middle age, choices and change."

Wrote a reviewer in Booklist, the magazine of the American Library Association:

“Novels about baseball or small-town life often fall prey to a too-easy sentimentality and a tendency toward soft-focus prose. Meissner tackles both these topics but, remarkably, avoids both flaws. . . . [He] handles all his story lines — the centerfielder manqué, the ‘spirits in the grass,’ the troubled romance, the fight with city hall — with admirable subtlety, sidestepping the multiple clichés that can so easily attach themselves to all of these themes. This is a quiet novel but an emotionally powerful one, rich with ambiguity and with the scent of felt life.”

PEN/Hemingway prize-winner Susan Power, a Hamline University professor of Lakota ancestry, said: “His words are supple as grass, his language a graceful dance that is a pure joy to read.”

Meissner, an English professor, directs St. Cloud State's creative writing program.

Among his seven published books are two collections of short stories, “Road to Cosmos” (2006) and “Hitting into the Wind” (1994), and a collection of poems "American Compass" (2004).

"Hitting into the Wind," which was published by Random House and then by Southern Methodist University Press, earned book-jacket praise from novelists Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. and W.P. Kinsella.

Vonnegut, author of the classic American novel "Slaughterhouse-Five," called Meissner "a storyteller with remarkable gifts."

University of Notre Dame Press published “Road to Cosmos” and "American Compass."


- Jeff Wood

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