Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

And the winner is… April 21, 2015

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SUE READY, I don’t know if you’ve ever won at bingo, or even played the game.

Not quite Vegas, but bingo balls at a church festival.

Bingo balls photographed at a Minnesota church festival. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

But today your number tumbled from the cage—or more accurately, your name was pulled from a hat—as the winner of 2015 Poetic Strokes and Word Flow, A Regional Anthology of Poetry from Southeastern Minnesota.

Poetic Strokes 2015 Publication Cover


Later this week I’ll drop an autographed copy of the collection, which includes my poems, “Wednesday Night Bingo at the Legion” and “Class Reunion” in the mail to you.

Thank you for entering this give-way and to all of the Minnesota Prairie Roots readers who shared their favorite poets as part of this contest.

Sue named Billy Collins, two-time U.S. Poet Laureate and perhaps America’s most popular current poet, as her favorite. Here’s what she had to say about Collins’ poetry:

His poems appeal to a wide range of literary tastes. He is a master at capturing the nuances of everyday life and inspiring readers to wonder and think about the simple things in their lives. Often Collins’ wry sense of humor comes across in the poems. He does not take himself too seriously. Collins is a master at engaging his reader in the first stanza by starting small not making too many demands and setting up the scene. Then he makes the poem more complicated and a little more demanding as he moves it along to completion. Each line is simply stated but layered in meaning.

Other readers’ favorites were Robert Frost, Lewis Carroll, Donald Justice, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, William Carlos Williams and Pablo Neruden. (Two readers also chose me as their favorite.)  Click here to learn why readers chose these poets.

Winner Sue is not only a reader, but also a writer of poetry. Visit her blog, Ever Ready, to learn more about this Minnesota woman and her love of poetry, cooking, travel and more. She coordinates the annual August Northwoods Arts Council Art & Book Fair poetry competition in Hackensack. I am blessed to call Sue my friend.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Celebrating National Poetry Month with a give-away April 15, 2015

WHAT IS POETRY if not a connection to a person, place, thing, emotion, event or time?

Poetry is rhythm and music, a poet’s voice versing words.

It’s love of language. It’s thoughts flowing from brain through fingers to keyboard onto screen. It’s words rolling off the tongue, pleasing the ear.

Strong verbs. Cohesiveness. Tight writing.

Poetry pushes the writer to write with conciseness. Sparse. Choose each word with care. Delete those words that don’t belong. Banish the cliché. Write. Set aside. Edit. Edit some more until you finally call it done.

Then dare to put your poetry out there.


In celebration of National Poetry Month in April, I am giving away an autographed copy of 2015 Poetic Strokes & Word Flow, A Regional Anthology of Poetry from Southeastern Minnesota. This collection includes 55 poems by poets from 10 southeastern Minnesota counties. Two are mine: “Wednesday Night Bingo at the Legion” and “Class Reunion.”

Southeastern Libraries Cooperating sponsors this annual competition and publication of this two-part anthology. The first section, Poetic Strokes, features winning poems from adult writers in the SELCO region, this year 30 poems by 27 poets. Word Flow is a competition for writers ages 14-18, with 25 poems from 25 young poets published in the 2015 anthology.

Poetic Strokes 2015 Publication Cover


Submit a comment on this post naming your favorite poet and why you chose this poet. I will then randomly select one winner from all qualifying entries. The winner’s name will be posted here next week with instructions on how to claim the prize.

Entry deadline is Sunday, April 19. Only individuals living in the U.S. are eligible to enter.


EVEN IF YOU DON’T WIN, you can still get your hands on this anthology. Copies of Poetic Strokes & Word Flow are available for check-out from all 37 public libraries in the SELCO system. Minnesotans who live outside this library region can borrow a copy through the statewide interlibrary loan system, MnLINK. 

Click here to read my poem, “Wednesday Night Bingo at the Legion.”

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


And the winner of the down comforter is… January 22, 2015

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The prize: a toasty warm white down comforter, left, with a green duvet cover, right.

The prize: a toasty warm white down comforter, left, with a green duvet cover, right.

I WISH I HAD MORE than one down comforter with duvet cover to give away.

But I don’t. So Virginia, who coordinated with me on the give-away of bedding she no longer needs because she lives in warm and sunny Arizona, and I chose a winner. One.

Drum roll….

Merri McElderry penned the winning entry. This Minnesotan’s poem best met our request for entries that were creative and proved a true need for Virginia’s king-sized down comforter.

Here’s Merri’s poem:

If I could win this downy gift,
It surely would make me feel less adrift,
In icy wind and blowing snow,
It would I am sure uncurl my toe,
And I would fall on unfrozen knees,
Giving thanks to God, for miracles such as these.

Merri, please claim your prize by commenting on this post with your mailing address. (Your address will not be published.) Congratulations.

Thank you to all who entered and to Virginia for her generosity. She is making a difference.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


A give-away: Win a down comforter January 13, 2015

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IF YOU LIVE in a cold weather state like me, where winters can be brutal and staying warm presents a challenge, I’d like to help.

Or more accurately, one of my readers, Virginia, would like to help.

The prize: a toasty warm white down comforter, left, with a green duvet cover, right.

The prize: a toasty warm white down comforter, left, with a green duvet cover, right. Photo courtesy of Virginia.

Virginia lives in Arizona. She has a king-sized down comforter that she can’t use because, well, Arizona is too warm. She wanted to gift the white comforter and accompanying green duvet cover to me after reading my recent post, “How I deal with some of winter’s challenges here in Minnesota.” I had complained about staying warm at night. Her king-size comforter, though, would be way too large for my full-sized bed.

That's Virginia, our generous donor, on the left.

That’s Virginia, our generous donor, on the left with children from Mexico, where she volunteers with Liga International, The Flying Doctors of Mercy. Virginia photographs the work Liga (means “League” in Spanish), a non-profit, does in Mexico providing free health care and education to the people there. For more information, go to ligainternational.org.

Then I had this thought. Maybe Virginia would be willing to give the warm bedding to someone else. I pitched the idea. She agreed.

Thus The Great Down Comforter Give-Away.

If you would like to win a gently-used (like half a dozen times) down comforter and duvet cover that Virginia will ship to you at no cost, then read on. Note that the bedding was used in a smoke-free home. Virginia has a cat, but the cat has not been on the comforter and she will have the bedding cleaned.

Here are the contest rules:

1) Will ship only within the United States, and preferably to a cold weather location.

2) Enter by submitting a comment on this post. You must state, in a maximum of five sentences or less, why you want to win this comforter. Hint: Judges (Virginia and I) are looking for creative answers that prove a true need for this bedding.

3) Entry deadline is noon Central Standard Time on Monday, January 19, 2015. The winner will be announced in a post published here on Thursday, January 22, 2015. The winner must reply with name and mailing address by Sunday, January 25, 2015, via the comments box to secure the prize. This information will not be published.

4) Members of my or Virginia’s immediate or extended families are not eligible to enter.

There you go. Enter The Great Down Comforter Give-Away. Now.


Thanks to Virginia for her kind and generous spirit.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


A sweet surprise on Small Business Saturday in Faribault November 24, 2012

A Small Business Saturday promotional bag with my purchases inside.

“THANK YOU FOR SHOPPING LOCAL,” she said, then handed me a Shop Small shopping bag that contained a $10 Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Chamber Check.

So how’s that for a sweet surprise at Faribault Ace Hardware on Small Business Saturday, a day to support and celebrate small businesses?

My husband and I stopped by our local, friendly hardware store this morning for a cordless drill (on sale already on Black Friday, but two still left on the shelves), drain cleaner and lint traps.

After paying $47.81, Randy perused the winter gloves. And that’s when Barb Larson from the local Chamber thanked us for shopping local, handed me the Shop Small bag and asked to take my photo with her cell phone.

The really interesting thing here is that I knew Chamber folks would be roaming downtown Faribault today handing out those Chamber bucks. I even told my college son we needed to wait until Saturday to shop for shoes at Burkhartzmeyer Shoes for that sole reason.

But I’d forgotten. So the Chamber thank you was, indeed, a surprise.

As soon as the son returns home from dining at Augusto’s Ristorante, a downtown Italian restaurant, which is fabulous by the way, we’ll head a few blocks away to Burkhartzmeyer Shoes, a third-generation family shoe store. At this shoe store, employees and store owners measure and slip shoes onto your feet and will even repair your shoes. How’s that for small town service?

About half a block from Burkhartzmeyer Shoes, I dropped more money in my downtown, at Keepers Antiques. I’m supporting my local small businesses.

Have you shopped local today or recently?

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling