Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by 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


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


Enter this vintage photo contest October 21, 2011

This contest promo image of Mary Nachicas and Don Anderson comes from Nina Hedin of Glencoe, who blogs at ArtsyNina. As part of the prize package, Nina is offering a $25 gift certificate to Camp Honeybelle.

TODAY WE’RE GOING to talk photos.

First, I’d like you to dig out your old photo albums or shoeboxes full of vintage black-and-white images. I am looking for a candid photo (not a formal portrait) that portrays love.

Easy, right? Perhaps you have an old snapshot of your parents or grandparents together. How about a mother-daughter picture? Cousins? Siblings? A person with a favorite pet?

Anything that depicts love will do as long as the photo is vintage, black-and-white and candid.

OK, once you’ve found that single image, I want you to enter it in the Minnesota Moments magazine “Snapshots of Love” contest. You’ll find complete information about this competition by clicking onto the website, minnesotamoments.com, here.

You’ll need to do a teeny, tiny bit of writing to complete your entry. Simply state in a paragraph of 75 words or less what your photo tells you about love. Easy.

If your entry is selected as the winner—and, yes, I’m one of the judges—you will win a prize package valued at $150.

Here’s the prize list:

You do not need to subscribe to this magazine to enter the contest, although we’d certainly love to have you as a subscriber.

The first contestant sent a sweet image of her and her sister riding their shared tricycle on their Otter Tail County farm in 1948. I’m not sharing her story with you, but suffice to say her words moved me to tears.

Entries must be received by November 15.

OK, NOW THAT I have convinced you to enter “Snapshots of Love,” I want to assure you that, yes, indeed, it is possible to win a contest.

Here’s proof. Last year I entered an image in the Thrivent Financial for Lutherans 2011 calendar photo contest. My photo of the cross-topped cemetery fence at Urland Lutheran Church near Cannon Falls was selected from among more than 300 entries to grace the October page of the calendar. Judges were seeking “unique and inspiring images,” according to a letter I received from Thrivent.

My winning image of the Urland church cemetery fence.

The really interesting thing here is that when I took this photo, I didn’t know about the contest. I shot the image when my husband and I stopped at the country church and cemetery while on a Sunday afternoon drive. Months later, when I learned of the “Connecting with the Cross” themed calendar photo competition, I knew I had the perfect entry.

Urland Lutheran Church, rural Cannon Falls

So if you have one of those Thrivent calendars hanging on your wall, that’s my photo you’re looking at during October. You can click here to learn more about the image.

This is not the first time I’ve won a calendar photo contest. My close-up of autumn leaves in the woods made the November page of River Bend Nature Center’s 2007 “Sights and Seasons” calendar.

Prior to that, I won first place, and $100, in a national photo contest sponsored by National Mutual Benefit for a close-up image of a butterfly in my daisy patch.

So there, enter. You could win, too.

TELL ME, RIGHT NOW, in a comment to this blog post, that you will enter the “Snapshots of Love” contest. That would make me happy. If you have questions, ask away. Be sure also to check out the sponsor websites. That would make me happy, too.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Autumn in words and photos, plus a contest October 8, 2011

I shot this cover image of pumpkins at Twiehoff Gardens & Nursery in Faribault.

WHEN YOU CONSIDER autumn, what comes to mind?

Pumpkins. Colorful leaves. Crisp nights. Harvest. Those top my list.

Because I’m a magazine writer, I pay attention to seasonal details probably more than your average person. If I want to submit a seasonal story and/or photos, I need to plan a year in advance of publication.

And so I did with the current issue of Minnesota Moments magazine. Inside the just-published fall issue, you’ll find 20 of my photos, all taken last fall.

I’m particularly proud of my 11-image, 5-page photo essay titled “Oh, fleeting days of autumn in Minnesota.” Not only will you find fall scenes from rural Minnesota, but you’ll read copy that is more poetic than straight-forward writing. For example, in the opening paragraph of that photo essay piece, I write:

Autumn slips into Minnesota on wisps of wind whirling wayward leaves onto sun-washed grass. And so summer fades and a new season begins.

You’ll also read my poem, “Preparing for winter, circa 1960,” based on embellished memories of my mother canning and freezing garden produce for the winter ahead.

I enjoy writing poetry that connects to my rural roots. And I’ve been fairly successful in getting published with seven poems printed in five anthologies, one on Roadside Poetry billboards and another recently published in a debut literary magazine. I really ought to write more poetry.

But, I have those magazine articles to work on and blogging and… I’m already pursuing stories for the winter issue of Minnesota Moments.

This contest promo image of Mary Nachicas and Don Anderson comes from Nina Hedin of Glencoe, who blogs at ArtsyNina. We are seeking these types of vintage black-and-white candid photos.

THEN I HAD THIS FABULOUS contest idea, “Snapshots of Love,” for our winter edition. And you know how that goes, when you have the idea you follow through and make it happen.

To summarize, we are seeking vintage black-and-white candid photos on the theme of love. Contest submission also requires a bit of writing—a maximum 75-word paragraph answering this question: “What story does this photo tell me about the theme of love?”

The winner, selected by me and other magazine staffers, wins a $150 prize package comprised of handcrafted greeting cards from Bernie (a former Duluth resident) at Budugalee, a $25 gift certificate from Camp Honeybelle (an etsy shop operated by Nina Hedin of Glencoe), a letter press, vintage graphics fine art print from Bruno Press and a one-year subscription to the magazine.

For “Snapshots of Love” contest details, click here.

For info about Minnesota Moments, with the current cover photo, 23 inside photos, and four stories and book reviews by me, click here.

To check out the ArtsyNina blog, click here. And to shop at Camp Honeybelle, click here.

To read Bernie’s One Mixed Bag blog, click here. To view her card collection at Budugalee, click here.

For more information about Bruno Press, click here. You’ll find a feature story about owner Mary Bruno in the fall issue of Minnesota Moments.

Enjoy! And get your contest entries in to “Snapshots of Love.” Entry deadline is November 15, 2011.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Minnesota Moments spring issue publishes April 13, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:54 AM
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I’VE SEEN THE IMAGES so often they’re practically imprinted upon my brain. Ditto for the words. I’ve written, rewritten, edited, proofed and read them. I can nearly recite the stories.

Yet, when I see my photos and words in print rather than on my computer screen, I am still thrilled. Every time. Nothing compares to ink upon paper for me as a writer.

That said, check out the spring issue of Minnesota Moments, a magazine packed with my writing and photos.

I’ve written two major feature packages—one on places to view roses in Minnesota and another on two great southern Minnesota hamburger joints.

I’ve reviewed three Minnesota-authored books, on barns, aging in a small Minnesota town and nature.

I’ve pulled together stories about a WW I veteran and a recipe contest winner.

These are the kinds of stories that don’t make the headlines, but which I find the most interesting. They are the real, at the heart of Minnesota, stories.

In this issue you will read nearly 20 pages of my writing and see 23 of my photos.

Not to worry, there’s more to this issue than just my work. You’ll find six pages of stories and photos from entrants in the Pet Portrait Contest. I helped select the winning essay about a dog, Meeka, who saved her owner’s life. We can all appreciate a good animal tale and, thanks to our readers, there are plenty.

Several essays grace our “Moments in time” section, including one written by 89-year-old Ethelyn Pearson of Wadena. This octogenarian can write. Consider this description of her grandfather: “Wreathed in smiles, teetering on his toes, Grandpa would say around a wide smile…” Now, that’s writing. I’ve told my editor that Ethelyn would make a mighty fine feature story.

And because this is my blog and I can write whatever I wish, I will mention that my uncle and aunt, Merlin and Iylene Kletscher of rural New London are the subject of a short “Faces & Places” article. They have hiked through all of Minnesota’s 72 state parks. How many of us can say we’ve accomplished that? And, no, I did not write this piece.

But I did find the photographer, Harriet Traxler, whose cow photo highlights our “Picture this” page. I’ve reviewed her Barns of Sibley County in the book review section. I met Harriet this past weekend and she is every bit as down-to-earth and sister-friendly as I expected.

Down-to-earth. That best describes the content of Minnesota Moments, the Cold Spring-based magazine I’ve written for since 2004.

If you haven’t checked out the magazine, do. If you’re so inclined, subscribe. If you like what you read, consider sending Editor/Publisher Mike Nistler an e-mail at info@minnesotamoments.com. We always appreciate feedback. And, we appreciate (need) advertisers too.


Stop and smell the roses in a trio of stories I've written about places in Minnesota to view beautiful roses.

It's always fun to discover good down-home restaurants. Pick up a copy of the spring issue to see where you'll find the restaurant with this kitschy decor.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Country churches & more in fall issue of Minnesota Moments September 1, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:51 AM
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THE FALL ISSUE of Minnesota Moments magazine has just published and I’m especially pleased with this issue.

Inside you’ll find an eight-page photo essay I’ve done on old country churches. Within the past year, I’ve been photographing rural churches in southeastern Minnesota, drawn by their history and beauty and by the peace I feel in their often bucolic settings.

Simply put, I can’t get enough of old country churches. Sometimes I’ve even been tempted to break a lock to get inside a sanctuary. But I haven’t and I won’t. That would be a sin, and against the law.

The September/October edition also includes a trio of stories from Austin, Minnesota, where I traveled in March. Downtown I discovered a kitschy little barbecue joint, Piggy Blue’s Bar-B-Que that’s a must-eat-at spot. To see the other sites I visited, you’ll need to read the magazine.

I have additional stories in this issue, plus my regular reviews of three Minnesota-authored books. As always, designer Amy Stirnkorb has worked her magic by transforming my submitted stories and photos into eye-pleasing page lay-outs.

Also, check out my Minnesota Prairie Roots promo on page 55 of the magazine. I designed it and I’m pretty proud of my work. I don’t claim to be a graphic designer. However, I had an idea, went with it and I think the promo truly projects my down-to-earth nature and style. See what you think and give me your feedback.

Of course, I’m not the only writer/photographer for Minnesota Moments. You’ll find an interesting feature about three friends who make wine, a nostalgic garage story, some entertaining essays, squash-growing tips and recipes and lots more.

Be sure to check out the ads too. Without advertising support, the magazine couldn’t exist.

Minnesota Moments should arrive in mailboxes and land on newsstands any day now, so watch for it, or look for it if you’ve never seen the publication.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Where will you find a log cabin library in Minnesota? July 6, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:42 AM
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The 2009 Rice County Free Fair.

MINNESOTA MOMENTS’ July/August issue has just published.

And it’s jam-packed with stories from through-out the state, reaching north to Ely and dipping south to Winona.

The cover story focuses on Ely, selected as the magazine’s “Best hometown” for 2010. Now, I’ve never been to this nearly-into-Canada town. But after reading the package of stories, I think this would be worth the long trip north.

As for Winona, my oldest daughter attended college there, so I am familiar with this beautiful Mississippi River town, the setting for Kent O. Stever’s Fourth of July essay.

The other feature story in this issue isn’t really a story, but a photo essay. The eight-page spread highlights images I shot last summer at The Rice County Free Fair in Faribault. As an added bonus, we’ve included a “fair” poem by Frances Ann Crowley. As a published poet, I’m thrilled that we’re occasionally incorporating poetry into Minnesota Moments.

But mostly, I’m pleased to take readers on a journey with me to some interesting places I’ve discovered in Minnesota: Treasure City in Royalton, Franke’s Bakery in Montgomery, the Hackensack Lending Library in Hackensack, Roberds Lake Resort & Campground near Faribault and the Stars & Stripes Garage in Heidelberg.

Treasure City, a kitschy store in Royalton, Minnesota.

A lake-side view of the Hackensack Lending Library. Who is that to the left of the building? Find out when you read my Minnesota Moments story.

This donut sign is posted outside one of the places I write about in the July/August issue. And it's not Franke's Bakery in Montgomery.

I meet the most intriguing people and explore the most interesting places, mostly off the beaten path.

Also, as I do in every issue of Minnesota Moments, I review three books written by Minnesotans. And one is a book of poetry.

Finally, consider entering the Gingerbread Cookie Murder Recipe Contest sponsored by Kensington Publishing Corporation, publisher of New York Times bestselling author and Swanville, Minnesota native Joanne Fluke’s books. She has teamed up with two other writers to pen Gingerbread Cookie Murder, which releases in October. Contest rules and an official entry form can be found on the Minnesota Moments Web site at http://minnesotamoments.com/current/index.html.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling