Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

To the Minnesota northwoods for a book release party September 20, 2017



TWO READINGS BEFORE MINE, Norma Thorstad Knapp stepped to the microphone to share “How Much She Had Lost.” As she read of her aging mother’s desire to waltz one more time, emotions rose. My throat constricted. Tears seeped from my eyes. Thinking of my 85-year-old mother, I wondered how I could possibly compose myself enough to read my short story.


I pose in front of Blueberry Pines Golf Club, setting for The Talking Stick book release party. Photo by Randy Helbling.


I signaled my husband for a tissue, then wiped my eyes. I sipped water through a straw. And I struggled to pull myself together before I stood behind the podium in this room full of writers and their supporters gathered at Blueberry Pines Golf Club between Menahga and Park Rapids for the release of Fine Lines, The Talking Stick, Volume 26.



Too soon, Sharon Harris, co-editor along with her niece, Tarah L. Wolff, introduced me and my story, “Art Obsession.”


Reading “Art Obsession.” Photo by Larry Risser Photography, Minneapolis.


I was on, reading the words that this year earned an honorable mention in fiction. Four other pieces, among the six I submitted, also published: “Grocery Shopping” (fiction); “A Lot of Prairie and a Little New York” and “The Weekly Phone Call” (both creative nonfiction); and “Not Quite Perfect Penmanship” (poetry).





It’s an honor to have my writing published in this outstanding collection of works by Minnesota writers or those with a strong connection to Minnesota. The 2017 anthology includes 152 pieces by 100 writers. I don’t envy the task of The Jackpine Writers’ Bloc editorial board in selecting stories and poems for publication from among 370 submissions by 159 writers. Noted writers LouAnn Shepard Muhm, Marge Barrett and Rochelle Hurt selected the first and second place winners from the board’s top picks.

As I listened to stories and poems for several hours with minimal comprehension of time, I delighted in the talent of these writers. Marlene Mattila Stoehr drew me in with her “Spurned Heirloom” poem that left me pondering whether my family treasures will some day, too, end up as thrift store cast-offs.

I laughed at Charles Johnson’s “Jimmy Gets an Earful” poem that sounded, oh, so Minnesotan to my ears.


The book cover photo was taken by Tarah L. Wolff.


A strong sense of place, of Minnesota, imprints upon the pages of The Talking Stick. I can relate to the settings, the experiences, the observations and more crafted into so many of the pieces in this exceptional anthology.


After the readings, some of us socialized. That’s Randy and me at the end of the table. I am seated next to Sharon Harris. Photo courtesy of Larry Risser Photography, Minneapolis.


This book is a labor of love for co-managing editor Sharon Harris. She holds a passion for writing and for this area of Minnesota. After the readings, a group of us gathered in the bar to celebrate and to talk. I’d never met Sharon, although we’ve corresponded and talked via phone many times through the years. Past commitments have kept me from attending previous The Talking Stick release parties. Sharon is as delightful in person as I anticipated. Her appreciation for the craft of writing is evident in her dedication to creating this anthology.



I felt an energetic vibe and sense of community among all of the writers. We share a love of writing. That passion flowed in words read to an appreciative audience gathered on a grey Saturday afternoon in a sprawling log cabin style building tucked among the jackpines of northern Minnesota.

Updated below at 4:30 p.m. September 20

FYI: I will be signing and selling (limited) copies of the anthology during a Local Authors Fair from 6 – 7 p.m. November 9 at Buckham Memorial Library in Faribault. Fine Lines, The Talking Stick Volume 26 is also available for purchase online. Check amazon.  Or order through The Talking Stick website by clicking here.

Photos by Larry Risser Photography are copyrighted and used with permission here.

Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


32 Responses to “To the Minnesota northwoods for a book release party”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    I am so excited that you were able to do this and another great achievement for you and a feather in your cap! Note the exclamation mark. 🙂 I wish I could have been there to hear you—would have been so difficult to follow such an emotional reading I am sure. I would absolutely love to add a signed copy to my collection of authors I know bookshelf if “someone” could hook me up I would gladly send payment for book and shipping . Hint, hint.

  2. Congratulations! I love your writing and how you bring a reader into your world using all five senses. It’s an honor and enjoyment to read your blog, and I will definitely purchase this book. Congratulations, again! Dawn

  3. Jackie Says:

    Rick and I loved our “private reading”, thank you for sharing your heart & amazing writing abilities in the quiet setting of our place in the woods. I love my book… I picked it up several times this weekend to read a story or two.

  4. Wow, what an accomplishment, congratulations. I am hoping I will write and publish a book someday. It is now on my to-do list.

  5. Almost Iowa Says:

    What a wonderful experience!

  6. Congrats!!! There is just something about being surrounding by creatives to boost your whole being up 🙂 Happy Day – Enjoy

  7. Judy M. Says:


  8. Kathleen Cassen Mickelson Says:

    Congratulations on so much of your work getting included!

  9. Bernadette Says:

    Congratulations, Audrey, and I am happy you were able to enjoy the company of your writing colleagues. The book sounds like a lovely slice of Minnesota.

  10. Littlesundog Says:

    Congratulations! I may have to nab a copy of that book!

  11. Susan Ready Says:

    Great wrap up on the event. 5 Submissions truly is an honor to have been published in this year’s book . Impressive !!

  12. Valerie Says:

    Congratulations Audrey! It’s very exciting. I hope to make it to Faribault on November 9.

    • I’d love to see you there, Valerie. The November 9 event is from 6 – 7 p.m.

      That said, I will also be at Imminent Brewing in Northfield on Saturday, Sept. 30, to read my entry in the Beer Poetry Contest. That event runs from 4 – 6 p.m. and also includes an open mic. I’ll be there at 4, but don’t know what time I will read. So if you enjoy poetry and beer and want to vote for my poem…bring Gary, Trace and Becky, too.

  13. Congratulations 🎊 it’s exciting that you have so many published stories

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.