BEST LOCAL GIRL MADE GOOD - 2006
The editors at the Minnesota Historical Society Press must have suspected they had a winner on their hands before they got their first glimpse of Helget's memoir, The Summer of Ordinary Ways. After all, Helget, a writing instructor at the Minnesota State University Mankato, had already been pegged as one of the state's fast-rising literary talents. In 2004 she won the Speakeasy Prize for Prose; last year, she collected Minnesota Monthly's 2005 Tamarack Award for short fiction. But it was The Summer of Ordinary Ways, published in October, that made her a name. The raves came from all corners: Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, People, the Washington Post, and, naturally, the usual local outlets. In its year-end roundup of notable Minnesota books, the Star Tribune deemed the memoir "clear-eyed" and "truthful." For our part, City Pages characterized Helget's depiction of her bleak upbringing on a Minnesota farm as a "gemlike haiku." By December, the book was headed for a third printing, talk of a movie deal was in the works, and a novel underway. Not bad, especially considering that just a few years earlier Helget was a stay-at-home mom with scant writing experience, zero name recognition and, evidently, a lot of unhappy childhood memories.