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Bright Lights, Twin Cities


A collection of stories from real Minnesotans

We’re proud to announce our new book: Bright Lights, Twin Cities. We’re psyched to be partnering with Thought Catalog, which has published Bright Lights, Twin Cities exclusively as an e-book, available now via iBooks and Amazon!

Bright Lights, Twin Cities is a collection of creative writing, illustration, and photography exploring different facets of life in and around our home state of Minnesota. 35 writers, six illustrators, and three photographers look at Minnesota with styles ranging from straight reportage to biting satire to personal narrative; almost all of the writing, illustration, and photography is brand-new and has never been previously published. Bright Lights, Twin Cities is edited by Tangential co-founders Becky Lang, Jay Gabler, and Katie Sisneros along with Colleen Powers of MPLSzine. The cover illustration was created by Caroline Royce—who also designed the cover for our first book, Future Cities.


Epigraph: Springtime never came (Becky Lang)
Introduction: Minnesota history as we know it (Jay Gabler)
Section I: The greatest place ever?
Minnesota mascots (Jay Boller)
Snow country for cold men (Andy Erikson)
Minnesota Tourette’s: The science of that thing that happens when you walk outside in winter and start swearing like a sailor (Maggie Ryan Sandford)
Ways in which we’re average (infographic by Leah Garaas)
Minnesota exceptionalisms (Jay Gabler)
Minnesota nice, translated (Amina Harper)
Cherry spoon bridge to nowhere: On the iconography of the Twin Cities (Guante)
Section II: You and your Minnesota
Part 1: You are here

North Minneapolis (photos by Scottie Tuska)
Minnesota music (Jack Spencer)
Three things I miss about Minneapolis and three things I don’t, after moving to Brooklyn (Rick Spadine)
Minneapolis techno in Detroit (Bobby Kahn)
State of the city: St. Paul (Martin Devaney)
People you see during a snowstorm (Jonathan Wilson)
Snow pics (Clint McMahon)
Let’s flaunt the Mississippi (Linnea Goderstad)
Flood note (MH Rowe)
Trivia weekend: The less cool (but no less great) Minnesota get-together (Mina Halling)
African-Americans, the 2013 elections, and the changing Twin Cities (Sheila Regan)
Minneapolis: Illuminati headquarters (Rose Powell)
Winter (Lauren Van Schepen)
First warm day of the year (Katie Sisneros)
Part 2: Surviving Minnesota
A user’s guide to skinny-dipping in the Twin Cities (Sean McPherson)
Seasonal affective dating (Stephanie O’Donnell)
Best and worst first date spots in the Twin Cities (based on personal experience) (Stephanie O’Donnell)
A straightforward guide to driving in the snow (Becky Lang)
Winter biking: It doesn’t suck any more than winter driving does (Jay Gabler)
11 meals for college students to maybe try in Minneapolis (Sarah Harper)
Part 3: Greater/lesser Minnesota
The girls of Hastings (Chrissy Stockton)
Fast times at Roseville High (Becky Lang)
Twin Portslandia (Walt Dizzo)
Winona (photos and captions by Mary Juhl)
Every Thursday night (Katya Karaz)
Next door in North Dakota (Kara Nesvig)
Part 4: Newcomers and expats
Nice curtains (Mike Fotis)
The Minnesota marriage (Maya Patel)
Minnesota: The social network (Xiaomi Qu)
Prison paper: What I learned about journalism from inmates (Colleen Powers)
On the bus (Stephanie O’Donnell)
My summer roommate (Kara Nesvig)
Reykjavik (Christopher Vondracek)
Nitrous sunrise (anonymous)
Nerd of the north (Lisa Olson)
Minneapolis 2000 (Safy-Hallan Farah)
M.N. 2014 (Patrick Stephenson)
Crystal Court (Christopher Vondracek)
After all (Sarah Heuer)
Can you leave Minnesota? (Becky Lang)
with illustrations throughout by Stacia Burtis, Kyle Coughlin, and Sara Larson


Jay Gabler (@JayGabler) is a digital producer at Minnesota Public Radio and a co-founder of The Tangential.

Becky Lang (@leckybang) is a creative at Zeus Jones in Minneapolis and is a co-founder of The Tangential. She likes Boo the dog and Netflix.

Colleen Powers (@colleen_powers) is a copy editor and occasional writer. She thinks about Kanye West a lot.

Katie Sisneros (@katiesisneros) is a PhD candidate in English Literature at the University of Minnesota and a co-founder of The Tangential. Her writing can be seen at Paper Darts and Revolver. She likes whiskey, history, and outer space.


Jay Boller (@jaymboller) is an editor/writer who’s been living in Minneapolis for 26 years now, and in no way is that depressing.

Stacia Burtis (@staciaburtis) is a designer at Zeus Jones. She likes eating soup in bed with her Turkish Van, Linda.

Kyle Coughlin (@moonguts) is an illustrator and designer living in Minneapolis. There is always a Sharpie marker in his pocket. See more of his work at and

Martin Devaney (@martin_devaney) is a songwriter and musician from St. Paul. Dubbed the “Unofficial Mayor of St. Paul,” he has released six full length albums to date, as well as one with his band Crossing Guards. If you want to talk about sandwiches or the Minnesota Twins, he’s your guy.

Walt Dizzo (@wdizzo) has called the Twin Ports home for the past 12 years. He hosts a couple of weekly radio shows, is the director of Duluth’s Homegrown Music Festival, and spends way too much money on records.

Andy Erikson (@andyerikson) is a standup comedian and graphic designer born and raised in the northern Minneapolis suburbs of Minnesota. She’s currently pursuing her dreams in Los Angeles, California, and you can follow her on Twitter for jokes and unicorn facts.

Safy-Hallan Farah (@safyhallanfarah) is a Minneapolis-based writer. Her work has been published in Gawker, Vice, and Thought Catalog, among other places. You can follow her infrequently updated blog at

Mike Fotis (@mikefotis) is a writer, comedian and improviser based in Minneapolis. He cries at almost every movie he sees. He enjoys sports, but is able to recognize how overblown it is in terms of media coverage. He enjoys photography and cooking. He has a dog named Madde. Mike is the co-director of the Brave New Workshop Student Union and is a writer for the public radio show Wits.

Leah Garaas (@leahgaraas) is a digital producer and marketer at Minnesota Public Radio. She works on website stuff and social media for the Current and Classical MPR. She was born and raised in Fargo (like the movie) and now lives in Minneapolis. Leah enjoys reading about feminism and cooking lasagna, and says hi to every dog in sight.

Linnea Goderstad (@linnealaqua) lives in Brooklyn but is moving back to Minneapolis ASAP. She blogged about her river trip at

Guante (@elguante) is a hip-hop artist, two-time National Poetry Slam champion, activist, and educator. The essay that appears here is the companion piece to Guante’s spoken-word poem “Cherry Spoon Bridge to Nowhere,” which is available on YouTube. See for more.

Mina Halling (@darkingsrock) is a trivia buff living in Minnesota.

Amina Harper (@aminaharperart) is a Minneapolis-based artist, writer, and snack enthusiast. Follow her at and on Instagram as missaminaharper.

Sarah Harper (@s424h) is an almost-done college student who spends a lot of time on the bus. She’ll watch anything on TV and she loves Gatorade.

Sarah Heuer (@heusar) is a producer at Zeus Jones in Minneapolis and co-blogger at PhiLOLZophy. Her cat, Frank, wears a thundershirt because he self-harms.

Mary Juhl (@Mary_Gen) is a former reporter who works as a political aide at the Minnesota Senate in St. Paul, Minn. Her work has appeared in MinnPost, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Minneapolis St. Paul Magazine, and a variety of other print and digital publications.

Bobby Kahn (@kobbybahn) is a performer, writer, actor, dance class instructor, and former cable access television show host. There is a high likelihood that he could beat you in a dance-off.

Katya Karaz grew up in Fargo and currently resides in Minneapolis. She is an infrequent writer of short fiction and essays, and is currently in pursuit of a career in clinical social work.

Sara Larson is a Minnesota-based artist who enjoys making ultra-colorful, free-form drawings on paper. Mainly using ballpoint pen, markers, and stickers, she creates strange figures in dense and colorful spaces. See more of her work at

Sean McPherson (@twinkiejiggles) is an accomplished accomplice. He plays bass for Heiruspecs, Dessa, and his solo project, Twinkie Jiggles Broken Orchestra. He is the co-founder of Trivia Mafia, the best trivia company in Minnesota. If you are attempting to engage him in a conversation, bring up salad bars, obscure hip-hop, or facts related to the U.S. Interstate System. Coffee: 2 creams, 9 Splendas. Drink: whiskey on the rocks.

Kara Nesvig (@myfakeyleashes) was born and raised on a farm in North Dakota, and though she escaped to Minneapolis as soon as she could, she still considers herself a country girl at heart. She likes red lipstick and Waylon Jennings and her “cool party trick” is an intimate knowledge of the geography of Mall of America.

Stephanie O’Donnell (@stephanieohdee) is a self-proclaimed not-so-crazy feminist cat lady with a penchant for counteracting hot yoga sessions with boozy brunches and sporting chipped nail polish. She over-analyzes everything and then tweets about all of it.

Lisa Olson (@lisasnaps) is a lifelong resident of the Twin Cities who has always preferred Minneapolis to Saint Paul. She has an art degree from the University of Minnesota as well as the kaleidoscope of work and life experiences that tend to accompany such a thing.

Maya Patel is a twenty-something medical student. Her favorite neighborhood in the world is Seward, Minneapolis.

Rose Powell (@maiarpowell) is a dilettante who loves to bake elaborate pies when she gets stressed out about making life choices.

Xiaomi Qu ditched journalism for a career in advertising, but in her free time enjoys writing things that are not work emails. She is a graduate of the University of Minnesota and a staunch opponent of the Oxford comma. Currently living in Brooklyn, she returns to Minneapolis often to visit Pizza Luce, her hairstylist, and her friends and family.

Sheila Regan (@sheila_regan) is a Minneapolis-based writer. She writes regularly about education and other issues for the Twin Cities Daily Planet as well The Uptake and writes about the arts for City Pages,, Classical MPR, and

MH Rowe (@mhrowe) has lived in Minneapolis since 2005. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, Juked, Spork, DIAGRAM, Word Riot, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and elsewhere. He has also written for The Awl, The Millions, Utne Reader, and Rain Taxi. Follow him on Tumblr:

Caroline Royce (@carolineroyce) is a graphic designer living in Minneapolis who has been graphic designing since 2009 when she begged Jake Rudh of popular dance night Transmission to give her a shot. She currently is a staff designer for The Tangential, L’etoile Magazine, Transmission, and She loves local and so should you.

Maggie Ryan Sandford (@mandford)  is a science journalist, writer, broadcast media producer, and researcher at the Science Museum of Minnesota. Her work has appeared in Slate, Smithsonian, mental_floss, McSweeney’s Book of Politics and Musicals, at, onstage with the Rockstar Storytellers in Minneapolis and at the People’s Improv Theater in New York, and on National Public Radio and Twin Cities Public Television. Learn more about her and dolphin science at

Rick Spadine (@rspadine) left the Twin Cities for Brooklyn in fall 2012. An editor and staff writer for The DJBooth, he has also been published on Refined Hype and The Tangential.

Jack Spencer (@emceeharv) is a music writer from Minneapolis who has done years of scene reporting, particularly his recent work covering the hip-hop scene for City Pages.

Patrick Stephenson (@patiomensch) is a copywriter at Minnesota Public Radio and the director of 30 Days of Biking. He tweets like 5,000 times a day.

Chrissy Stockton (@xsssy) is a producer for Thought Catalog. Portfolio:

Scottie B. Tuska (@AlleycatPhoto) is a freelance photographer who works in the intersection of documentary, architectural, and landscape photography under the pseudonym Alleycat. His work has been featured in Lincoln Motor Company’s Hello Again campaign, contributed to MPLSzine and shown at Intermedia Art’s 554Change. Throughout 2013 he worked with the City of Minneapolis and West Broadway Coalition, photographing the Great Streets Facade Improvement Program. See his website: or

Lauren Van Schepen (@laur_saurus) is a vocal proponent of important stuff: belly laughs, Bruce Springsteen, faith, feminism, Wellesley, whiskey, and writing. (Also alliteration.)

Christopher Vondracek (@krystofur_v) wrote a memoir yet-to-be-published half-about Lawrence Welk. He lives two hours down the Mississippi River from Minneapolis in Winona, Minnesota, where he teaches at Saint Mary’s University.

Grant Wilson (@grantwwilson) was born, raised and went to school in Iowa. He’s lived in Minneapolis for the last eight years working as a graphic designer. He currently works at Zeus Jones.

Jonathan Wilson (@jonathanbwilson) is an adult human American male living in Minneapolis. See his website:

Questions? E-mail Jay Gabler