Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Minnesota Prairie Roots blog post 1,000 April 15, 2012

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The prairie just outside of Walnut Grove in southwestern Minnesota, the first photo I published on my blog.

TODAY MARKS a memorable occasion for Minnesota Prairie Roots.

This very story—the one you’re reading right now—marks my 1,000th post.

On July 15, 2009, I published my first piece here on WordPress, introducing a new audience of readers to my blogging which began 18 months earlier at a Minnesota magazine.

The publisher/editor of that magazine decided he couldn’t keep up with my daily blogging. So he cut the blog. While at the time I was upset and disappointed, I see in hindsight that it’s the best thing that could have happened to me as a blogger. My blog has reached new readership levels that I never could have attained within the confines of blogging for the periodical. I was freed to write whenever, and about whatever, I chose.

Let’s look at the statistics to see how my readership has grown. In 2010, my first full year of writing here at Minnesota Prairie Roots, I averaged 201 views per day. A year later, that number reached 442. And this year I’m averaging 697 daily views. In March, I reached a new monthly readership high of 24,484 views. I have no idea how that compares to the stats of other bloggers, but I’m pleased.

Sometimes even I am amazed that so many people are drawn to my stories. They hail from all over the world, to places I haven’t even heard of such as Qatar and Mauritius.

I am grateful for every reader and especially for those who take the time to comment. An exchange of ideas and expressions of thought are integral components in any blog.

Through the nearly three years of blogging at Minnesota Prairie Roots, I have never once struggled with writer’s bloc. Often times I have more material, in words and photos, to share than I have time to post. I write here nearly every day. Not because I “have to,” but because I “need to.”

Rachel Scott, the inspiration for Rachel's Challenge. Photo courtesy of Rachel's Challenge.

What interests readers? Consistently, my top post remains “Rachel’s Challenge: Start a chain reaction of kindness.” I wrote the story in November 2009 after Rachel’s Challenge, a national non-profit that travels the country promoting kindness, presented a program at Faribault High School. The organization is named after Rachel Scott, 17, the first person killed in the 1999 Columbine High School shootings. The presentation made a powerful impact on me and I wrote an equally powerful post that has now been read by thousands.

I am proud of that piece as I am of a series of posts I wrote about the flash flooding in Zumbro Falls in October of 2010. The stories were unplanned, but happened after my husband and I drove into the flood-ravaged community on a Sunday afternoon. Our intentions to view the autumn colors along Minnesota Highway 60 that day vanished when we saw the devastation. I pulled out my camera and notebook and recorded the stories of several women,all flood survivors, both in Zumbro Falls and neighboring Hammond. They showed incredible strength and determination. I still keep in touch with Katie Shones of Hammond, whose home was spared but whose community was nearly destroyed.

When I met Tracy Yennie in downtown Zumbro Falls, the 31-year-old mother of four young boys was living in a shed on her property along the Zumbro River. Her home was flooded during the late September 2010 flash flood. I often wonder what happened to Tracy, who called herself "a redneck," and her family.

To share those stories, to give those women a voice, to publicly recognize their fortitude moved me deeply. There is power in words and images shared with honesty and passion.

Writing is my passion. It is the reason I blog.

I savor sharing my discoveries with you in words and photos. My blog has been termed “probably the best ‘place’ blog in the state,” by respected Iron Range blogger Aaron Brown at Minnesota Brown. He nails it with that “place” tag. My writing has always been rooted in the land. I consider myself an unpretentious, down-to-earth, honest writer.

My blogs have been featured online at Minnesota Public Radio in the News Cut column crafted by Bob Collins. At MinnPost, you’ll find my work often in Minnesota Blog Cabin, which daily features the best work by bloggers from around Minnesota. I’m honored to be part of these respected publications, to offer a glimpse of life outside the metro area.

Beyond that, I have connected with other bloggers and non-bloggers. This world, despite all the negativity, is still brimming with good people. Finding individuals who, like me, possess a passion for writing has been a bonus of blogging.

With that, I want to thank each of you for reading Minnesota Prairie Roots. It is my hope that, through my words and images, I will take you to places you’ve never been or offer you insights you’ve never considered or cause you to pause and savor the simple things in everyday life.

I’ve always appreciated the basics of life and landscape: the fiery glow of a prairie sunset, the scent of freshly-mown alfalfa, a row of just-laundered clothes snapped onto a clothesline, the weathered wood of a once-majestic red barn, the handmade sign marking a Main Street business, the tight clasp of a tulip bud, the unexpected hug of my teenage son, the surprises along a back gravel road…

My writing and photography remain firmly rooted in my rural upbringing on the southwestern Minnesota prairie, the place that inspired my blog name and the place that still holds my heart.

CLICK HERE TO READ my first post on Minnesota Prairie Roots, published 1,000 posts ago.

Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Kudos from MPR for Minnesota Prairie Roots March 29, 2011

OK, I’M NOT EVEN GOING to apologize for tooting my horn here today. It’s not something I’m all that comfortable doing. But, hey, every once in awhile it’s alright to let everyone know you’ve been recognized.

That latest recognition for me as a writer comes via Minnesota Public Radio’s Bob Collins. He publishes a popular online MPR weekday column, News Cut. He’s a professional blogger, meaning he gets paid for blogging, which I aspire to accomplish.

I’m a News Cut fan, and not just because Collins has referenced my Minnesota Prairie Roots posts numerous times. I sincerely enjoy reading the content he pulls together and comments and encourages discussion on.

MPR Public Relations Manager Christina Schmitt interviewed Collins about News Cut for an article published in the Plugged In Minnesota Public Radio highlights section of Minnesota Monthly’s March issue. The “Behind the Blog: Bob Collins” article titled “Looking Sharp,” runs on pages 6 and 7.


This two-page spread in Minnesota Monthly's March issue features an interview with MPR's Bob Collins in which Minnesota Prairie Roots is mentioned.

And that’s where I’m mentioned, on the second page, when Schmitt asks Collins which online sources he trolls for information.

He taps into Twitter. And, like everyone else, Collins says he checks the BBC, National Public Radio and The New York Times. But then Collins shares that he also reads blogs like…ta-da, drum roll here, please…Iron Ranger Aaron Brown’s Minnesota Brown and Audrey Kletscher Helbling’s Minnesota Prairie Roots.

I’m honored, humbled and more than a tiny bit giddy that Collins would single the two of us out from among the hundreds, if not thousands, of writers out there in the Minnesota blogosphere.

Such an endorsement from a well-respected entity like MPR means a lot to me as a professional writer. It validates that I can blog, and blog well, or at least blog well enough to grab Collins’ attention and interest.

In the interview, Collins tells Schmitt that Minnesota Brown and Minnesota Prairie Roots “are intimately tied to what’s going on in their parts of Minnesota. They’re not news sources per se, but they quite often touch on a topic that is interesting and give me ideas to expand it a little bit.”


Right here, in the fourth paragraph, Collins talks about Minnesota Brown and Minnesota Prairie Roots.

So there you have it. Direct from News Cut.

To read the full story, track down Minnesota Monthly’s March issue. I’m looking for copies now as I only learned several days ago about this article. Gotta show my mom, you know. So…, if you have any extra copies of the magazine, send them my way.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling