Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Insights into my blog featured in magazine article March 9, 2019

This photo shows the first page-plus of a feature story published in the spring issue of Fleur-de-lis. Nick Gerhardt photographed me in my dining room. My father-in-law, Tom Helbling, painted the winter scene behind me. The chest of drawers is a refinished Helbling family heirloom. And the chain of folded cranes were crafted and gifted to me by Sunny, a wonderful young woman from Boston. The four books represent a sampling of the many anthologies in which my writing has published.

 

EVERY DAY WE WRITE our stories. By the way we live. By what we say and do and how we act. Or don’t.

We craft our personal stories whether at a computer, working retail, raising a child… Each story differs. Each story matters. Every single person matters.

 

A selfie of Randy and me taken in September 2017 at the walleye statue along Mille Lacs Lake in Garrison. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo by Randy Helbling.

 

I am honored by the telling of my story in the spring issue of Fleur-de-lis, a lifestyle magazine published by the Faribault Daily News. Freelancer Nick Gerhardt wrote the piece which also features nine of my photos in a six-page spread. Plus Nick’s photo of me. And a selfie Randy took of us by the big walleye statue in Garrison because I am horrible at taking selfies.

Nick got my story right. He captures the essence of me as a person, a writer and a photographer in his focus on my blogging. I appreciate that. When a writer really, truly connects and understands the interview subject, as Nick did with me, it shows.

He spent several hours in my home, not only asking questions, gathering information and taking photos, but also talking shop. Although I haven’t worked in the newspaper field for decades, I can still relate to the profession and its challenges and rewards.

It is clear to me that Nick did his homework, researching my blog in advance of our interview. And it is clear to me that he fully understands my southwestern Minnesota rural background and its influence on my writing and photography. He digs into that in a section tagged “setting the roots.”

 

My husband enjoys his cheeseburger at the North Morristown Fourth of July celebration in 2016. This is one of my favorite close-up images and among those published in Fleur-de-lis. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.

 

Nick describes my blog as “a hotdish of Americana through a Minnesota lens.” I love that perspective. It accurately reflects my writing and photography style and the content of my blog. My images and words focus on rural Minnesota—Main Street, grassroots small town events, the Minnesota countryside, country churches, issues that matter to me and much more.

 

An abandoned farmhouse along Minnesota State Highway 19 east of Vesta on the southwestern Minnesota prairie. The image is published in Fleur-de-lis. The house, photographed in 2012, is now gone. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

When Nick interviewed me, I stressed to him the importance of noticing details. It is a skill rooted in my childhood. When you grow up on the prairie as I did, you notice details in that stark environment. I’ve always engaged all of my senses—not just visual. I can smell harvest, hear the howling wind, feel the bite of winter, taste sunshine in a garden-fresh tomato, see heat waves shimmering over a cornfield in July. That eye for detail weaves into my writing and my photography.

Through the decades, I’ve honed my craft, found my voice. But I’ve never lost touch with my prairie roots. Everything I write, everything I photograph, is rooted directly or indirectly in my rural upbringing. In my Minnesota prairie roots.

 

The cover of the spring issue of Fleur-de-lis.

 

FYI: Copies of the spring 2019 issue of Fleur-de-lis are available from the Faribault Daily News for $2. The issue also includes republication of my blog post, “Winter’s here, so we may as well embrace it,” illustrated by outstanding winter photos by area photographers. That post, I will note, published on January 2, long before this winter became the longest of cold and snowy winters in Minnesota.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

About this blog & commenting here August 10, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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That’s my post, labeled “Barn Memories,” published on November 30, 2013, on Freshly Pressed, a feature of WordPress, my blogging platform.  My work has been highlighted on FreshlyPressed thrice. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

I’M NOT A PARTICULARLY opinionated person, at least not publicly. I mostly steer from conflict, discord and disagreement. I’m more the mediator type, the “let’s work things out” and treat others with kindness and respect. That includes the topics I generally cover here on this blog. My blog.

In recent weeks, several particularly mean-spirited comments filtered into this site. They were inflammatory and accusatory and just plain awful, with some directed at me personally. I chose not to publish them. I refuse to allow this blog, my blog, to become a platform for hatred, false accusations and unproven allegations.

Yes, I’m aware some may term this as censorship or a denial of free speech. I have worked as a newspaper reporter and value freedom of the press. Suppression of the media rankles me. In recent months the media have been under intense attack unlike anything I recall. This scares me. Freedom of the press is essential in a democracy. I hope the general public understands that.

We may not like what the media report. But we also need to stop blaming the messengers for the news they deliver. They are just doing their jobs.

That brings me back to Minnesota Prairie Roots. This blog is not mainstream media. No one pays me to write here. I earn some income from photos that people/businesses/organizations find here and buy from me and also from writing jobs tracing to this blog. But I am not on anyone’s payroll nor do I have an agenda other than to share my images and words with you. Writing and photography are my passions.

If you choose to submit hateful, accusatory and inflammatory comments, I won’t publish them. This is my blog. It’s as simple as that. I won’t bend my values, morals and beliefs.

To the many faithful readers and commenters who write with respect, thank you. I appreciate you and value your thoughts.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Promoting Faribault March 10, 2017

A snippet of Faribault’s just-published 2017 tourism guide cover shows Faribault’s signature angled name graphic overlaid on a photo taken along Central Avenue.

 

NEARLY 35 YEARS AGO, I moved to Faribault, relocating to this southeastern Minnesota city after my May 1982 marriage. My husband had the more secure job in an area with more employment opportunities.

I’ve grown to love this community and its people. I can go almost anywhere in town and run into a friend or acquaintance. While Faribault, with a population of around 23,000 still seems big to me in comparison to my rural southwestern Minnesota hometown of under 400, I feel here the closeness of a small town. Paths cross at events and in churches, schools, grocery stores, shops, restaurants, parks and more. That creates a sense of community.

Among events fostering community closeness is the monthly May – August Car Cruise Night along Central Avenue in our historic downtown. The well-kept aged buildings in Faribault’s central commercial district are among our strongest assets and provide an ideal backdrop for car enthusiasts to gather.

For a blogger like me, Car Cruise Night presents an abundance of photographic opportunities. I enjoy the challenge of coming up with new and creative ways to photograph the car show, showcased many times on Minnesota Prairie Roots.

 

My July 2016 Car Cruise Night photo is the cover of the 2017 Faribault tourism guide.

 

Now my car shoots have extended beyond this space to tourism. A photo I shot at the July 2016 Car Cruise Night graces the cover of the just-released 2017 Visit Faribault Minnesota tourism guide published by the Faribault Daily News in collaboration with the Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism. I am delighted and honored to have my work chosen by a committee for this placement.

In a single photo, potential visitors get a snapshot of Faribault. In the backdrop architecture, they see the history and the care Faribault has taken to preserve historic buildings. In the people and cars, they see a fun event. In the green Faribault banner and lush, hanging flower basket, they see community pride.

 

My original photo from the July 2016 Car Cruise Night. The left side of this photo is printed on page 22 of the tourism guide in the section titled “Explore historic downtown.” Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

But there’s more to this photo than seen in the vertical tourism guide cover. I shot the image in a horizontal format, my view stretching along nearly the entire length of the 200 block (west side) of Central Avenue. The 1884 Fleckenstein building, beautifully renovated and restored by Faribault-based Restoration Services, Inc., anchors the image on the right. But just look at all those buildings beyond. I cannot say enough about how lovely the historic architecture in downtown Faribault.

Of course, Faribault is about much more, so much more. I’ve also had the opportunity recently to pen pieces on River Bend Nature Center and the historic murals in our downtown for the tourism website. I’m proud to promote Faribault, pronounced fair-uh-boh. That would be French in a community that’s today culturally diverse.

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TELL ME: What would you like to know about Faribault? Or, what do you know about Faribault? Or, what do you love about Faribault?

FYI: In addition to my cover photo, my Midway photo from the Rice County Fair is printed in an ad on page 20 and a photo I took of Twiehoff Gardens & Nursery is published on page 30.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots needs your “best of” vote August 5, 2015

TYPICALLY, I AM NOT ONE to promote myself. That is why, perhaps, I am not some famous worldwide blogger.

I have, though, made a name for myself in Southern Minnesota. Not because that’s highest on my priority list. Rather, I am passionate about writing and photography and my work seems to resonate with readers, Minnesotans or not. Minnesota Public Radio has noticed as has MinnPost.

Best of Southern MN 2015 logo

That all said, I am once again among nominees for the “Best Local Blog/Blogger.” The regional arts and entertainment magazine, Southern Minnesota Scene, is sponsoring a competition to choose the “best ofs” in Southern Minnesota. And I happen to fall in to the miscellaneous category.

Now, if you think my Minnesota Prairie Roots blog worthy of this honor, please vote for me in the miscellaneous section of the ballot. There are lots of other categories to vote in, too, such as art, music, theater, restaurants and more.

You can vote once a day per email address.

I am competing against four other blogs/bloggers. So your vote is important. Please share this on social media, if you wish.

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

Minnesota Prairie Roots was voted the “Best Local Blog/Blogger” in Southern Minnesota in 2014.

Thank you for your support as I defend my title of “Best Local Blog/Blogger” in Southern Minnesota.

FYI: Click here to vote.

© Copyright 2015 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.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots named “best local blog” in southern Minnesota October 17, 2014

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

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

WE DID IT.

Yes, readers, I use the plural “we” because, without you, I never would have garnered the award of Best Local Blog/Blogger in southern Minnesota for 2014.

I was notified several weeks ago of the honor bestowed upon me by the regional arts/entertainment/lifestyle magazine, Southern Minnesota Scene. Editor Rich Larson phoned with the news and then interviewed me. You can read his story by clicking here. Reverse roles for me since I’m typically the one asking questions or gathering information. I prefer holding the pen and notebook.

The cover of Southern Minnesota Scene's November issue featuring the 150-plus "best of" winners.

The cover of Southern Minnesota Scene’s November issue featuring the 150-plus “best of” winners.

Larson requested that I not share the news online until the magazine published. Fair enough. Look for a hard copy of Southern Minnesota Scene so you can read about all 150-plus winners in the “Best of SoMINN 2014.” Or go to the publication’s website by clicking here.

The process of being named best local blogger started late this summer with online nominations. Thank you to all who nominated me. Once ballots were tallied, the top three then entered the online voting process to choose the winner.

I was competing against Kevin Krein, who blogs at Anhedonic Headphones and also writes for Southern Minnesota Scene. Fiction writer Dennis Vogen, a Faribault native who has published three books and is working on his fourth and fifth, was the other nominee. He blogs, too, but has published only eight posts. Too busy, I suspect, working on those books. As Vogen suggested, maybe a category for “best writer” should be added.

I questioned editor Larson about the number of ballots cast in the blogging category. But he declined to release stats, indicating only that the voting was close. He reveals in print, however, that more than 25,000 individual votes were cast in the entire competition and that Owatonna produced the most winners. Last year it was Northfield.

While recognition of my hard work at Minnesota Prairie Roots is welcome, I can’t take sole credit for my success as a blogger. Without you, my devoted readers, this blog would not exist. Thank you for your ongoing support of my writing and photography, for continuing to read and appreciate the stories and photos I share.

You own this award, too.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Keep voting for Minnesota Prairie Roots as best blog in southern Minnesota August 16, 2014

southern minnesota scene best of logoVOTING CONTINUES now through Labor Day for the Best Local Blog/Blogger in southern Minnesota. “The Best of SOMINN 2014” is sponsored by the regional arts and entertainment magazine, SouthernMINN Scene.

And just to remind you all, Minnesota Prairie Roots is one of three blogs vying for this honor.

I’d appreciate your vote. I’m in the “miscellaneous” category. Yeah, I know…

Unlike other elections, you can vote once daily per email address. Yes. Hey, I don’t make the rules. So, please, exercise your democratic right and stuff my ballot box.

Thank you for your support.

I make this campaign promise: I will continue to blog about people, places, events and more with a passion. I love writing. I love photography. And I love this place called Minnesota.

And I appreciate all of you faithful readers, especially the nearly 1,000 of you currently subscribing to Minnesota Prairie Roots.

Click here to vote.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Update: Vote for MN Prairie Roots daily for best blog August 5, 2014

southern minnesota scene best of logoABOUT MINNESOTA PRAIRIE ROOTS‘ nomination for Best Local Blog/Blogger in southern Minnesota…

Turns out you can vote for my blog/me more than once, as in once a day per email address, until voting closes on September 1. I just learned that today.

If you’re so inclined, continue voting for me every single day by clicking here (I’m in the miscellaneous category near the bottom of the page).

I know it’s a hassle. But I didn’t make the rules for this contest sponsored by the regional arts and entertainment magazine Southern Minnesota Scene.

To those of you who’ve already endorsed my writing and photography by voting for Minnesota Prairie Roots, thank you.

A big thanks also to all who have spread the word via social media. I am grateful.

Most of all, I am grateful for all of you, my loyal readers.

 

Vote for Minnesota Prairie Roots as the best blog in southern Minnesota August 1, 2014

southern minnesota scene best of logoTHE NOMINATIONS ARE IN, dear readers, for the “Best of Southern Minnesota 2014,” sponsored by the regional arts and entertainment magazine Southern Minnesota Scene.

And, ta-da, Minnesota Prairie Roots/Audrey Kletscher Helbling is among nominees for best blog/blogger, along with Dennis Vogen and Anhedonic Headphones/Kevin Krein.

I am honored. Truly. To those of you who nominated me, thank you.

Now, you have one month, until 11:59 p.m. September 1, to vote.

Click here to cast your ballot for Minnesota Prairie Roots and nominations in more than 150 other categories of “best ofs” in southern Minnesota. You need only register your name and email (there’s a promise not to sell your information).

You will find the blog/blogger ballot in the miscellaneous category, near the bottom of the page.

If you are reading this post, you likely are already among the nearly 1,000 Minnesota Prairie Roots subscribers. You know that I write from the heart about places I go, people I meet, everyday life, area events, my native prairie, the arts, small towns, poetry and so much more.

Writing and photography are my passions.

I love Minnesota. I love sharing stories and photos from rural Minnesota. It’s as simple as that. I give this place, and you, a voice through my words and images.

If you are so inclined, please share this “vote for Minnesota Prairie Roots” request via good old-fashioned word-of-mouth or on Facebook and/or Twitter. I’m not on either social media outlet. I know. I’m among the last hold-outs, just like the last one to get a cell phone several years ago. My husband and I still get our TV reception from a roof-top antenna.

But that’s me—the woman who hangs her laundry on the line, finds the scent of freshly-mown alfalfa intoxicating and writes with a passion.

Again, click here to vote.

Thank you for your support, but most of all, for reading Minnesota Prairie Roots.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

2013 in retrospect January 1, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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REFLECTING ON 2013, it’s been a good year in many ways. Not without challenges—no one’s life is perfect or worry-free—but mostly the past year rates as a good one on personal and professional levels.

Newlyweds Amber and Marc with Amber's brother, Caleb, and sister, Miranda.

Newlyweds Amber and Marc with Amber’s brother, Caleb, and sister, Miranda.

I watched as my eldest daughter married the love of her life. I watched as my youngest, my 19-year-old son, headed off to Boston, to a university that challenges him.

My role as a mother is ever evolving as my three adult children (that always seems like such an oxymoron) stretch their wings wider and fly higher. I am thankful for the independence and confidence they possess, although at times I joke that I should have tossed them into the basement and locked the door, keeping them forever close.

Personally, I continue to be blessed by the presence of so many caring people in my life from loving family members to a supportive bible study group to bloggy friends who have become real-life friends, and more.

I am grateful, too, that God continues to bless me with a listening ear and a compassionate heart. My husband always tells me that I can make anyone cry, and he means that in the best of ways.

That's my post, labeled "Barn Memories," featured today on Freshly Pressed.

For the third time since I began blogging, my work was selected for Freshly Pressed in 2013. That’s my post, labeled “Barn Memories.”

On the professional side of my life, the past year has presented new opportunities and accomplishments. This blog continues to flourish with around 230,000 views in 2013 and a growing readership, now at 708 followers.

I am thankful for everyone who reads Minnesota Prairie Roots and to media outlets like Minnesota Public Radio (Bob Collins’ NewsCut) and MinnPost (Minnesota Blog Cabin), which occasionally pick up my work.

Me and my camera, a tool in the writing profession I love.

Me with my DSLR Canon EOS 20D.

I’ve always considered myself first and foremost a writer in my professional life. But in the past year, my confidence as a photographer has soared as I’ve sold numerous photos which have been featured in places like a cable TV show intro, a catalog in the UK, a corporate report and more.

Photos published on Minnesota Prairie Roots are for sale. Check my “About” page for a contact email address. Just don’t email and tell me you would like to use a specific photo and you will give me photo credit. I don’t give away my work (meaning photos and stories should not be lifted and used without my permission).

Me, next to my "Off to Mankato to 'get and education'" poem posted near Glenwood Gardens.

Me, next to my “Off to Mankato to ‘get an education'” poem posted near Glenwood Gardens in Mankato as part of the Mankato Poetry Walk and Ride.

Writing has always been my passion and that includes poetry. I don’t pen poetry as much as I should. But when I do, I often succeed in getting it published. This past year was no exception with, among other places, two of my poems published on signs posted in a park and along a recreational trail in nearby Mankato.

I wrote my first piece of fiction in years and won honorable mention for my short story, “The Final Chapter,” published in The Talking Stick, Volume 22, In Retrospect.

I continue to evolve as a writer and a photographer. Thank you, dear readers, for joining me on this journey, for allowing me to share my discoveries, insights and life with you via my images and words.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling