Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Meander west this weekend September 29, 2011

WEST WOULD BE my destination of choice this weekend.

Not west as in West. But west as in Fergus Falls or the Upper Minnesota River Valley.

Two arts events in western Minnesota this weekend will take you nearly into the Dakotas.

I’d like to be at the Lake Region Writers Network Conference at Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Fergus listening to author Leif Enger (of Peace Like a River and So Brave, Young and Handsome) talk about “place” in writing.

I’d like to be there picking up my copy of Lake Region Review, a literary magazine of regional writing. You see, two months ago I received this e-mail:

Dear Ms. Helbling,

The Editorial Board of Lake Region Review 2011, after careful consideration, has finalized selections for Lake Region Writers Network’s first literary magazine. While editors and readers were pleased with the number of submissions, the sheer volume of entries also made their choices much more difficult.

Regardless, the board is pleased to inform you that the work indicated below HAS BEEN ACCEPTED WITH REVISION for publication in Lake Region Review 2011, which will be released at the LRWN Oct. 1 writing conference at M-State in Fergus Falls:…

But I won’t be in Fergus on Saturday at the conference. It’s a long drive there from Faribault and I have this room to paint and…

…not only that, but back in June my husband and I traveled the 200 miles to Fergus Falls to see my winning entry in the spring Roadside Poetry competition splashed across four billboards near the college.

The last of four billboards featuring my Roadside Poetry spring poem.

So I’ll wait for the LRWN folks to send me a copy of their literary magazine, which I’m mighty pleased to be a part of because, well, any time you win a highly-competitive contest judged by others of literary talent, it’s an honor.

I’LL HAVE TO WAIT until another year also to attend an arts event that’s long been on my list of “things I want to do.” That’s Meander—Upper Minnesota River Art Crawl. Thirty-three art studios featuring the work of 45 artists will be open during a free self-guided tour that begins Friday (2 p.m. – 6 p.m.), continues into Saturday (9 a.m. – 6 p.m.) and ends Sunday (9 a.m.– 4 p.m.).

This event is happening in the Minnesota River Valley region of western Minnesota near the towns of Ortonville, Appleton, Madison, Milan, Dawson, Montevideo and Granite Falls. It’s beautiful land—prairie and fields, rock and woods, rivers, small towns, farms…

The region seems a mecca for artists, which doesn’t at all surprise me given I’m a southwestern Minnesota native. Something about this land fosters creativity. Remember my earlier mention of Leif Enger and his focus on place? At the writers’ conference in Fergus Falls, he’ll “look at how geography of a tale infuses it with gravity, wit and credibility.”

I suspect place, as much as anything, influences the photography, paintings, pottery, fiber art, woodworking and other art created by those artists featured in the Meander.

Meander featured artist Kerry Kolke-Bonk of Appleton created the painting, "What goes around comes around," to promote this year's art tour.

According to economic impact information I received from Kristi Fernholz, Community Development Planner for the Upper Minnesota Valley Regional Development Commission, the Meander brings in an average of $1,652 in art sales per artist (2010 and 2009 statistics).

Last year, art sales during Meander weekend totaled $69,395. In addition, attendees infuse the area with more money spent on food, lodging and other shopping.

I won’t be one of those shoppers this year. But you could be. If you have an open schedule this weekend, consider a trip west, as in western Minnesota.


FYI: Click here for more information about Meander—Upper Minnesota River Art Crawl.


Click here for more information about the Lake Region Writers Network. If you would like to purchase a copy of the first-ever Lake Region Review with my poem (sorry, not going to yet divulge its title), send $10 plus $3 for shipping and handling to:

Lake Region Writers Network, P.O. Box 356, Battle Lake, MN. 56515


Click here for more information about Roadside Poetry.

© Text and photos copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


14 Responses to “Meander west this weekend”

  1. ceciliag Says:

    Good for you being published, i am always too scared to send anything anywhere, maybe i should start with some magazines! c

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Oh, my goodness, do not be afraid to submit your writing to a magazine, enter a contest, anything…

      You’re already published, on your blog. Go for it.

      I’ve been pretty successful with getting my poetry published (read my “About” page) and am now just finally beginning to consider myself a poet. Don’t think my work gets accepted every time I submit. It doesn’t. But if you don’t try, you’ll never have even a chance of getting published.

      Start by checking regional publications and be sure to let me know when you get that first acceptance letter.

  2. That art crawl sounds amazing! Congrats on your winning submission, too 🙂

  3. Emily Says:

    Very cool, Audrey! The LRWN is doing such great things; makes me wish that I lived closer. Congrats!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Ditto. Makes me wish I lived closer also. That whole region seems to have a vibrant writers’ community and art scene.

      And, thank you.

  4. Amy Says:

    So excited for you! I will be meandering north and west this weekend, but only to Madison, WI, not quite to Fergus Falls! Congratulations and God’s richest blessings!!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thanks, Amy. Would you be meandering to a wedding?

      • Amy Says:

        Not this weekend. Pre-wedding party 🙂 Next weekend to Jasper/Pipestone/Slayton, MN for a wedding…..

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        Ah, pre-wedding party sounds like fun. So, next weekend you will be in my beloved southwestern Minnesota, in the region where I grew up. I hope you like the prairie.

  5. Jim Smith Says:

    I read of a similar art crawl in the Decorah Iowa area this weekend. 45 artists in their studios.
    Will there be one in Northfield?

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      These events are becoming much more popular. Thanks for reminding me of the art crawl in our area. The Studio ArTour of South Central Minnesota is set for 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. October 15 – 16 at studios in and around Faribault, Northfield and Cannon Falls. I’ve attended twice and found this most enjoyable. Here’s the website for more info: studioartour.com

  6. Paul Carney Says:

    Audrey –

    Congratulations on having your writing selected for inclusion in the Lake Region Writers Network literary magazine! You’ve certainly made your mark on the literary scene in west central Minnesota!

    Also, I read your affirming words and “tour guide” advice to Emily Brisse, this fall’s Roadside Poetry poet. Thank you for you continued support of the project.


    PS. I’m still planning to list the city in which each poet resides on the Roadside Poetry archives page. I’m on sabbatical this year, and the first month has been rather hectic. October should be a kinder month…

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thank you so much, Paul. West central Minnesota seems to be a thriving area for writers, and other artists, and I’m grateful for the opportunities.

      Roadside Poetry is such a unique public venue. Anytime I can spread the word about it, I will. Congratulations to you and your team for creating and continuing with this successful venture.

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