Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Embracing the writing & art of the Northern Great Plains at SDSU April 19, 2017

“The Prairie is My Garden,” a painting by South Dakota artist Harvey Dunn, showcases the prairie I so love. Here I’ve photographed most of a print which I purchased at a yard sale. I bought the art because I liked it and only learned afterward of its value and prominence. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

ONE OF MY FAVORITE PRINTS, “The Prairie is my Garden,” is rooted in South Dakota. The artist, Harvey Dunn, was born in a claim shanty near Manchester, west of Brookings.

I’ve been to Brookings. Once. While in college, I accompanied a roommate to her hometown where her dad owned the John Deere dealership. I don’t remember a lot about that visit except the fancy house in which my roommate’s family lived and our attendance at the annual Hobo Day Parade. That tradition of South Dakota State University, which peaks in a Jackrabbits football game, is going on its 105th year.

As you’ve likely surmised, Brookings is rural oriented, the university known for its ag focused majors. Students, for example, make ice cream and cheese from milk produced at the SDSU Dairy Research and Training Facility. This is a hands-on college that draws many a rural raised student.

 

The cover of Oakwood 2017 features “Dancing with Fire,” the art of Samuel T. Krueger. Promo image courtesy of Oakwood.

 

This university, where students work with farm animals and where the prairie paintings of a noted Plains artist are housed in the South Dakota Art Museum, seems the ideal setting for Oakwood, a literary journal. Featuring the work of SDSU students, staff and alumni and also of greater Brookings artists/writers and others in the Northern Great Plains region, the magazine releases this Thursday. According to the Oakwood website, the journal embraces a regional identity.

I am happy to be part of that identity with the inclusion of my poem, “Ode to my Farm Wife Mother,” inspired by my mom. She raised me and five other children on a dairy and crop farm about 1 ½ hours northeast of Brookings in Redwood County, Minnesota.

 

A gravel road just north of Lamberton in Redwood County. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Most of the poetry I write is based on prairie life. I write with a strong sense of place. The endless open space and wide skies of the prairie lend themselves to creativity. Within the stark setting of rural southwestern Minnesota, I noticed details—the strength of the people, the blackness of the earth, the immensity of the setting sun, the sharpness of a winter wind, the quiet of stillness. I can trace my poetry, my photos, everything I create, to that rural upbringing. I am honored to have my latest poem selected for inclusion in Oakwood 2017 as a writer from the Northern Great Plains.

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FYI: A public reception will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 20, at the SDSU Briggs Library & Special Collections for writers and artists whose work is included in Oakwood 2017. Readings and talks will be featured. Because I live nearly four hours away, I can’t be there. When I can share my poem with you, I’ll do so.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

My award-winning water story publishes April 8, 2017

 

 

“Water Stories from a Minnesota Prairie Perspective” has published in southern Minnesota based River Valley Woman’s April issue. My story won the nonfiction category in the “We Are Water” writing contest sponsored by Plum Creek Initiative with the support of The League of Women Voters and River Valley Woman. That honor includes a $250 prize.

I don’t have a hard copy yet, but I viewed the story online. And so can you by clicking here and advancing to page 50 of the April issue. The piece is lengthy per submission guidelines requiring 5 – 12 pages of copy.

No matter how many times I’ve been published, I still thrill in seeing my words out there for others to read and perhaps appreciate. You can find print copies of the magazine in many locations like Mankato, St. Peter, New Ulm, Redwood Falls and surrounding smaller communities. Click here for a complete list.

In reading my story, you will learn of my growing up years on a southwestern Minnesota dairy and crop farm, the place that shaped me into the person, writer and photographer I’ve become. Farm life as I remember it from the 1960s – 1970s no longer exists. So this story, while written for a competition, was also written for me and my family. There’s an importance in reclaiming memories through written words, in telling the stories that define a place, in sharing my roots with you, my readers.

FYI: Click here to read my first blog post about winning this writing competition.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots needs your nomination July 11, 2015

Best of Southern MN 2015 logo

ONCE AGAIN, I INVITE YOU to nominate Minnesota Prairie Roots as the best local blog in southern Minnesota, this time for 2015. But nominate my blog only if you consider me worthy of the honor bestowed by SouthernMinn Scene, a regional arts/entertainment/lifestyle magazine.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots has been voted the best in southern Minnesota.

Minnesota Prairie Roots was voted the best local blog in southern Minnesota in 2014.

 

Last year, because of your support, my blog was chosen as the best in southern Minnesota. Thank you.

To nominate Minnesota Prairie Roots, click here to reach the miscellaneous section of the ballot and scroll to the bottom. You are allowed one nomination per category per email address. You can vote for lots of other southern Minnesota favorites, too. Nomination deadline is July 31.

Top nominees will then move on to the official ballot with voting beginning August 3.

Thank you for your consideration and for reading Minnesota Prairie Roots. I am grateful.

 

Creativity unleashed at Bethany, my alma mater January 14, 2013

TYPICALLY, COLLEGE ALUMNI magazines hold my interest only long enough to thumb to the section where class updates are printed. I read those and then toss the publication into the recycling bin.

But recently, the bold, artsy cover of the November issue of the Bethany Report, the alumni magazine of Bethany Lutheran College, caused me to take a closer look at an article detailing the school’s new media arts program. I’m a Bethany grad, which in 1976 offered only a two-year associate arts degree to undergraduates.

Today this scenic hilltop campus in Mankato offers an array of four-year degrees, including one in communications, my eventual major at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Oh, how I wish majors and minors had been available back in my Bethany years, because I loved that small Christian college.

All of that aside, today’s Bethany students with an interest in communications, the fine arts and technology can enroll in the media arts major. I don’t pretend to know how Bethany’s program compares to that of other colleges.

I did my own editing on this recent photo of a Bethany billboard along U.S. Highway 14.

I did my own editing on this recent photo of a Bethany billboard along U.S. Highway 14.

But when I saw that magazine cover design emphasizing the media arts program and then an equally vivid, eye-catching billboard along U.S. Highway 14 near Janesville recently, I was impressed enough to visit the BLC website.

There I clicked onto a portfolio showcasing the creations of current and former students.

I’m no expert on the fusing of art, technology and communication. But I liked what I saw. And perhaps that uninformed spontaneous reaction counts for more than the dissected opinion of anyone in academia.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Meet 10 Minnesota bloggers, a contest winner & more January 11, 2012

THEY WRITE FROM EVERY section of the state—from the southwestern Minnesota prairie to up north on the Gunflint Trail and the Iron Range to the heart of the Twin Cities metro area and places in between.

They are your next-door neighbor, the guy in the office, the young mother down the street, the 20-something…just regular folks who write online.

They are bloggers.

Thus, dear readers of Minnesota Prairie Roots, begins a feature package on 10 Minnesota bloggers, plus one (that would be me), just published in the winter issue of Minnesota Moments.

As a writer for this central Minnesota based magazine, I have the opportunity to present story proposals to the editor and then, when approved, pursue those ideas.

In the blogger package, you’ll meet these Minnesota bloggers with distinct voices: Aaron J. Brown, Nina Hedin, Ada Igoe, Beth Johanneck, Laura Karsjens, Gretchen O’Donnell, Gary Sankary, Brenda Score, Michael Wojahn and Emily Zweber. (Click here to read the story online.)

Prior to my search, I’d already been following about half of these writers. Finding the remaining five proved more challenging than I anticipated. Eventually I found them and if you check out their blogs, I think you will agree that they write in a way that’s as comfortable as sharing conversation over a cup of coffee.

MY SECOND MAJOR PROJECT for this issue focused on a contest, “Snapshots of Love,” which I created and curated. Magazine readers were invited to submit vintage black-and-white candid photos on the theme of love and then share what the photos told them about love.

We received some truly impressive images and stories that made selecting a winner difficult. However, in the end, Jeanne Everhart of Erhard was chosen as the winner with a 1948 picture of her and her sister riding the tricycle they shared. Her story will move you. View all of our contest entries by clicking here.

Jeanne Chase hitches a ride from her sister Sylvia in this 1948 photo taken at the sisters' home in Inman Township, Otter Tail County, Minn.

Since I came up with this contest idea, I also had to find prizes for our winner. I didn’t need to look far. Nina Hedin, one of the featured bloggers, also runs an etsy shop, Camp Honeybelle, and agreed to contribute a $25 gift certificate toward the prize package.

Bernie Nordman Wahl, a Duluth native now living in Billings, Montana, graciously created a card-a-month collection of vintage style greeting cards for our winner. Bernie sells her handmade cards on her Budugalee etsy shop. You simply must see her cards; this artist possesses a delightful sense of humor. Be sure also to visit Bernie’s One Mixed Bag blog. If Bernie still lived in Minnesota, she most definitely would have been included in my Minnesota bloggers feature.

But…, Bernie is in this issue. Her story, “A simple wooden plate equals love,” was published in our “moments in time” reader-submitted stories section. It’s a sweet story of family love.

Mary Bruno of St. Joseph-based Bruno Press and the subject of a story in Minnesota Moments’ fall issue, rounded out the prize package by contributing a letterpress, vintage graphics fine art print. If you’ve read my post on the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, you know how much I appreciate vintage printing.

One of the 26 handmade cards with a vintage flair crafted by Bernie Nordman Wahl for contest winner Jeanne Everhart.

VINTAGE COULD ALSO DEFINE the subject of one other story I  wrote for this issue—a “back in the day” piece on The Last Supper Drama which will be presented for the 50th time this Palm Sunday at St. John’s United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township, rural Faribault. Yes, that’s right: 50 consecutive years.

I’ve attended this interpretation of The Last Supper twice and blogged about it. Click here to read that blog post. The photos published in the magazine printed way too dark, so the quality is not what you have come to expect in my photography. Please try to overlook that when you read the story.

A scene from the 2011 Last Supper Drama at St. John's UCC.

FINALLY, THIS CANNOT GO without mentioning. Swanville, Minnesota, native Joanne Fluke, who is a New York Times best-selling author, has a full-page ad on the inside front cover of this issue. She writes the “Hannah Swensen Mystery with Recipes!” series. She was the subject of a feature I wrote several years ago for the magazine. Her “Hannah” stories are set in fictitious Lake Eden, Minnesota.

Anyway, Joanne’s publisher, Kensington Publishing, is sponsoring a contest right now with a chance to win a Joanne Fluke gift basket.

So there, dear readers, you have just one more reason to check out the winter edition of Minnesota Moments.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Give the gift of Minnesota writing December 20, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 10:49 PM
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ALRIGHT THEN, I’m going to put in a days-before-Christmas gift plug idea here for Lake Region Review, a Minnesota literary magazine. Even though the founders, term it a “magazine,” I’d call this 138-page volume a “book.”

Anyway, magazine/book/journal, whatever word you choose, it’s a collection of fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry by 27 Minnesotans, including me.

In my “This Barn Remembers” poem, you’ll read my memories of laboring in my childhood dairy barn on the southwestern Minnesota prairie. You may want to pull on your old boots as you muck your way through my true-to-reality poem. I tell it like it was, right down to “putrid piles of manure” and “streams of hot cow pee.”

I’m not going to choose a favorite piece of poetry or prose to highlight from Lake Region Review. But you’ll find regional writing from those as well-known as New York Times bestselling author Leif Enger to unknown college student Travis Moore in a collection that melds work by experienced and emerging writers. By the way, getting published in the Review was a competitive process. You’ll read quality writing here.

That all said, Lake Region Review would make an ideal gift for anyone who appreciates regional writing.

You can purchase the $10 volume in these Minnesota, and one North Dakota, locales:

  • Becker County Museum, 714 Summit Ave., Detroit Lakes
  • Cherry Street Books, 503 Broadway, Alexandria
  • Lakes Area Theatre, 2214 Geneva Road, N.E., Alexandria
  • Minnesota Historical Society Bookstore, 345 W. Kellogg Blvd, St. Paul
  • Otter Tail County Historical Society, 1110 Lincoln Ave. W., Fergus Falls
  • Victor Lundeens, 126 West Lincoln Ave., Fergus Falls
  • Zandbroz Variety, 420 Broadway, Fargo, N.D.

Or click on this link for instructions on how to order. (Sorry, the anthology won’t arrive by Christmas.)

Thanks for supporting Minnesota writers like me (not that I earned any money from the Review—I didn’t). But I certainly appreciate readers who value regional writing.

IF YOU’VE READ Lake Region Review, I’d like to hear your review.

CLICK HERE to read a previous post I wrote about Lake Region Review and another Minnesota literary journal, The Talking Stick.

 

Seeking vintage photos November 12, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:22 AM
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THE OLDER I GET, the more I appreciate my past. That includes those black-and-white vintage photos held in place by gummy black corner tabs and tucked into old photo albums.

I don’t have all that many photos from my youth—only 48 black-and-white prints to be exact. That’s not many. But we were a farm family with little money, and film and photo developing weren’t exactly top budget priorities.

Yet, I am thankful for the precious few black-and-white images I have of myself and with my parents and siblings. Photos capture memories. And memories are integral in my writing, especially my poetry.

But I’m not going to talk poetry here today. Rather I want to talk about love and vintage photos and how you can share yours.

This contest promo image of Mary Nachicas and Don Anderson comes from Nina Hedin, who blogs at ArtsyNina.

I write for Minnesota Moments magazine. Awhile ago, inspired by a vintage image I saw on Nina Hedin’s The Adventures of ArtsyNina blog, I came up with a contest idea, “Snapshots of Love.” Yes, I’ve talked about it here before on this blog. But I want to give it one final push.

Tuesday, November 15, is the final day to submit an entry.

Here’s how you can enter: Look through your vintage black-and-white candid snapshots. (We’re not looking for professional, posed portraits.) Select one that speaks love to you—maybe a snapshot of your grandparents or parents, siblings, friends, cousins, person and pet…

Then write a paragraph of 75 words or less stating what the photo tells you about love.

Then click on this link, http://minnesotamoments.com/current/contest.html, and follow the instructions on how to submit.

I’d highly advise submitting electronically.

We at Minnesota Moments (yes, that includes me) will select a winner to receive a prize package valued at $150. I wish I could win these great prizes:

There, you have it. Please consider entering. And to those of you who have entered due to my pesky e-mails or blog reminders, thank you. I appreciate your submissions.

IF I COULD ENTER, here’s what I’d submit:

Me with the clown cake my mom made for my second birthday in 1958.

I grew up poor. That meant no birthday gifts from my parents. Instead, Mom crafted a cake, often in an animal shape, for each of her children as a gift. When I had children, I, too, created special birthday cakes, although I also had money for gifts. The presents are long forgotten, but my kids still remember their cakes, a tradition of love passed down from their grandma.

WE’LL FEATURE SELECTED entries (or maybe all, depending on space and numbers) in the winter issue of Minnesota Moments, publishing in January.

So let’s see some of those wonderful vintage black-and-white snapshots. Remember, you have only until Tuesday, November 15, 2011, to enter.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling