Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Weaving memories and thoughts into a winning water story March 2, 2017

AS SOON AS I READ the first six words of the email—I am so pleased to announce—from Plum Creek Initiative, I knew I had won.

I finished reading the good news, then burst out the kitchen door into the garage. “I won! I won! I won!” I shouted. My husband gave me a questioning look. “I won the contest.”

 

From the Plum Creek Initiative Facebook page.

From the Plum Creek Initiative Facebook page.

 

And then I explained. My nearly six-page “Water Stories from a Minnesota Prairie Perspective,” was selected as the winning entry in the nonfiction division of a contest sponsored by Plum Creek Initiative and the League of Women Voters. The placing earned me a $250 prize and publication in a New Ulm-based magazine, River Valley Woman.

 

I photographed these"We Are Water MN" pins in a jar at an exhibit last summer at the Treaty Site History Center in St. Peter.

I photographed these pins in a jar at an exhibit last summer at the Treaty Site History Center in St. Peter. “We Are Water MN,” telling the story of Minnesota water, accompanied a “Water/Ways” exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street Program. I participated in a “When Water Dreams: A Celebration” by reading my poem, “In which Autumn searches for Water.” Mankato photographer Kay Herbst Helms invited me and other poets to read our water poems, connecting with her photo exhibit, “Water Rights.” Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.

 

Tasked to write on the theme of “We are Water,” I tapped into my growing up years for water memories, weaving in my relationship with water and the importance of water. It worked. I felt really good about the story when I submitted it. But when I read that the sponsors were “overwhelmed with the participation and quality of the submissions,” I doubted myself. I shouldn’t have.

 

The Straight River churns at the Morehouse Park dam in Owatonna.

The Straight River churns at the Morehouse Park dam in Owatonna. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.

 

Here’s what nonfiction judge Renee Wendinger wrote in part about my story: …noted your ability to “retain a balance of idea, craft, and theme resonant to water…[she] reminds us that water is an integral component, making the processes of life possible, a resource we too often take for granted.”

As a writer, I appreciate such specific feedback. This judge, herself a noted author of orphan train fiction and historical nonfiction books, understood and valued my story. That’s reaffirming.

 

Water rushes over limestone ledges in Wanamingo's Shingle Creek.

Water rushes over limestone ledges in Wanamingo’s Shingle Creek. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Writing about water proved much easier than I expected. My stories flowed one into the other, including a reference to Plum Creek. I grew up only 20 miles from Walnut Grove, where author Laura Ingalls Wilder lived along the banks of that rural waterway. I’ve waded in that creek to the Ingalls’ dugout site.

 

The water runs clear in the North Branch of the Zumbro River in Pine Island. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

The water runs clear in the North Branch of the Zumbro River in Pine Island. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.

 

Plum Creek Initiative, a long-term water quality improvement and women’s leadership program focusing on water quality in southern Minnesota, draws its name from Plum Creek. The organization has launched a pilot program in my native Redwood County to address water quality issues. That pleases me.

 

The Zumbro River in Pine Island. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

The Zumbro River in Pine Island. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

I am pleased, too, with this opportunity to write on the subject of water in a way that will perhaps make a difference. Two North Mankato residents won the other divisions—Holly Ahlbrecht with her fictional “Weaving the Water” (selected by judge Nicole Helget) and Laura K. Murray with a collection of poetry (selected by judge Gwen Westerman).

FYI: Click here to learn more about Plum Creek Initiative. Read the official contest winners’ announcement on the Plum Creek Facebook page.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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40 Responses to “Weaving memories and thoughts into a winning water story”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    Congrats. Another feather in your hat!

  2. Wow! Well done! I can picture you running into the garage shouting the good news. I will be sure to read more

  3. Oh So COOL -CONGRATS – Doing a Happy Dance with Fist Pumps Over Here for You!!! Happy Day Indeed – Enjoy – Soak It In 🙂

  4. Wãshē Kōdä Says:

    Congrats 🙂 I miss the land of 10,000 lakes

  5. Almost Iowa Says:

    Congratulations!! Good for you!!

  6. Liz Says:

    Congratulations!

  7. Kathleen Ahern Says:

    How affirming of you and your talents, Audrey! So happy for and with you, dear friend!!!

  8. Ann Vohs Says:

    Wonderful!

  9. Virgil Says:

    Congratulations, Audrey!

  10. Valerie Says:

    Congratulations Audrey. That’s great news! I will look forward reading your water stories when you can post a link.

  11. Don Says:

    You have earned a big pat on the back, good for you!

  12. CONGRATSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I can’t wait to read it, Audrey!
    SO pleased for you, my darling!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  13. Jackie Says:

    Cant wait to read this one! How exciting for you to be published once again, I’m so happy for you Audrey!

  14. Bernadette Thomasy Says:

    Congratulations, Audrey. I have noticed your passion for water in some of your posts so this was a perfect topic for you. You have a stunning way with words. I’m eager to read this winning effort.

  15. Whooo hooooo!!!! Congratulations my friend!!!!!!! So well deserved and proves to the world that you’re a lovely writer. (We already knew that.) hopefully this will open even more doors!

  16. Littlesundog Says:

    How EXCITING, Audrey!!! Congratulations!!! 😀

  17. Congratulations. Water is precious.

  18. Sue Ready Says:

    What a great piece of news and indeed a tribute and affirmation to your writing talents capturing the simplicity of nature. You definitely are on a winning roll!


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