Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Expressing my creative voice in “The Talking Stick” October 11, 2022

I’ve been published in 13 volumes ofThe Talking Stick,most recently InVolume 31, Escapes.” (Photo by Colton Kemp)

AS A WRITER, getting published adds to the joy of the craft. I write because it’s my passion, one which I want to share.

I laid the latest copy of The Talking Stick atop a page in a Minnesota atlas to represent escape in a sense of place. Reading and writing also provide an escape. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)

The newest opportunity to share comes via The Talking Stick 31—Escapes, the latest anthology released in September by Park Rapids area-based The Jackpine Writers’ Bloc. The Talking Stick, published now for 31 years, features a collection of creative nonfiction, fiction and poetry by Minnesota writers or those with a connection to our state. This year, editors chose 83 poems, 28 creative nonfiction stories and 18 fiction stories for publication from 82 writers. More than 300 submissions came from 140 writers.

The beginning of my story, “Barbershop Prompt.” (Minnesota Prairie Roots edited and copyrighted photo October 2022)

I’m delighted to announce that three of my submissions are included in Escapes. My story, “Barbershop Prompt,” won second place and a cash prize in creative nonfiction. “Plans” earned honorable mention in fiction. And my second fictional piece, “Between Sisters,” simply published.

My writing has published in all 13 of these “The Talking Stick” volumes. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)

To have my work selected and honored by peers is, for me, reaffirming. This marks the 13th year my writing—a total of 13 poems, eight creative nonfiction stories and nine fiction stories—have published in The Talking Stick. I’ve earned seven honorable mentions and two second placings through the years. Every year I’ve entered this competition, my writing has published. That proves personally validating.

When I first ventured into penning fiction, I did so with hesitancy. My journalism education, background and experience rooted me in gathering information and reporting the facts with no bend to fictionalize. I didn’t know I could write fiction until I tried. And I found I rather enjoy this type of writing. It stretches my creativity in a way that traditional factual writing doesn’t. Yet, even when I write fiction, there is some truth within. I weave into my writing (often in subtle ways) that which I know or care about or which has touched me. I expect most fiction writers would say the same.

Partial winning credits in fiction and the judge’s bio. (Minnesota Prairie Roots edited and copyrighted photo October 2022)

My award-winning short story, “Plans,” focuses on abuse within a family. Abuse has not been my personal experience. But it runs rampant in society. “Plans” focuses on abuse from the perspective of Henrietta, or Henri as her father calls her. He wanted a son, not a daughter. I’m not revealing more except to say the story leaves the reader wondering. And that’s exactly as The Talking Stick editors intend. Submission guidelines call for focusing on short forms, on compressed creations which hint of a longer, more complex story. You get that in my 457-word “Plans.”

Here’s, in part, what fiction judge Bonnie West said about my short story:

What a good story. Very clever, but also very poignant and surprising! Thanks for this delightful and entertaining revenge story!

Bridge Square Barbers, the inspiration for my award-winning story. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo August 2022)

I definitely appreciate West’s comment and that of creative nonfiction judge Marge Barrett. She evaluated “Barbershop Prompt,” praising the energy and cleverness of my story. A sign I spotted in the front window of Bridge Square Barbers by Bridge Square in Northfield prompted me to write this. I am an observer, someone who notices details. That often inspires. Like my winning fiction story, this fact-based story leaves the reader wondering, wanting more. The same can be said for “Between Sisters.”

The Talking Stick is an incredible collection of outstanding writing and I’m honored to be included with so much other Minnesota talent. Each year I see familiar names repeated, but then new voices, too. The small editorial team from the Jackpine Writers’ Bloc deserves recognition also for their hard work. This anthology truly is a labor of love. I’m grateful for their appreciation of Minnesota writers and for their dedication to the craft of writing.

FYI: I encourage you to support Minnesota creativity by purchasing a copy of The Talking Stick 31—Escapes by clicking here.

Colton Kemp, a reporter for the Faribault Daily News, wrote a feature on me which published in the Saturday, October 8, edition. I encourage you to read that also by clicking here. I am grateful for Colton sharing my story and for the opportunity to connect with him, another individual passionate about writing.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


22 Responses to “Expressing my creative voice in “The Talking Stick””

  1. beth Says:

    huge congrats, Audrey and it must be so affirming, even though you know you have talent, but nice to have other acknowledge it. I’ve followed the link and just put a copy in my amazon cart and can’t wait to read it –

  2. Colton’s write-up about you, your history, and your writing was excellent. It was a good read about a very creative person – I enjoyed it. 😊👍

  3. Oh, Audrey! I am so happy for you! 13 publications! Wow! I already have a copy of Volume 31 in my Amazon cart. 🙂 I treasure volume 26 that you sent me and can’t wait to see your work in this new book. You are amazingly talented and should be proud of this wonderful achievement. Congratulations on lucky 13! 🙂 ❤ ❤

  4. Ruth Says:

    Congratulations dear Audrey. What a beautiful author portrait. I can’t wait to get my copy and read your words. ❤️

  5. Valerie Says:

    Congratulations Audrey. Well deserved!
    The article was very interesting too. How exciting!

  6. Bernadette Arlene Thomasy Says:

    That’s an impressive track record of publishing/awards in the Talking Stick and along the way you’ve had your writing appear in many other interesting places, parks, museums, and more. Congratulations. I enjoyed the article with more about your growing up years.

    • Congratulations to you also, Bernadette, for your two poems and creative nonfiction story published in TS31, Escapes! Special congrats on earning honorable mention for your poem, “Land Lines.” I enjoy your writing a lot as I can really relate. We grew up in similar ways. Thank you for reading Colton’s feature.

  7. How wonderful!!! Congratulations Audrey.😊

  8. Congratulations, Audrey! That’s wonderful news. Now I’m going to follow some of your links so I can read more.

  9. Congratulations for well deserved recognition. You have proven time and time again that your writing hits a sweet note with readers. Recognition is so wonderful and you are so deserving. Congratulations again.


    Congratulations on 13 years of published work in the Talking Stick! Wow! I enjoyed the newspaper article. That’s really nice recognition in your home community.

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