Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

To the Minnesota northwoods for a book release party September 20, 2017

 

 

TWO READINGS BEFORE MINE, Norma Thorstad Knapp stepped to the microphone to share “How Much She Had Lost.” As she read of her aging mother’s desire to waltz one more time, emotions rose. My throat constricted. Tears seeped from my eyes. Thinking of my 85-year-old mother, I wondered how I could possibly compose myself enough to read my short story.

 

I pose in front of Blueberry Pines Golf Club, setting for The Talking Stick book release party. Photo by Randy Helbling.

 

I signaled my husband for a tissue, then wiped my eyes. I sipped water through a straw. And I struggled to pull myself together before I stood behind the podium in this room full of writers and their supporters gathered at Blueberry Pines Golf Club between Menahga and Park Rapids for the release of Fine Lines, The Talking Stick, Volume 26.

 

 

Too soon, Sharon Harris, co-editor along with her niece, Tarah L. Wolff, introduced me and my story, “Art Obsession.”

 

Reading “Art Obsession.” Photo by Larry Risser Photography, Minneapolis.

 

I was on, reading the words that this year earned an honorable mention in fiction. Four other pieces, among the six I submitted, also published: “Grocery Shopping” (fiction); “A Lot of Prairie and a Little New York” and “The Weekly Phone Call” (both creative nonfiction); and “Not Quite Perfect Penmanship” (poetry).

 

 

 

 

It’s an honor to have my writing published in this outstanding collection of works by Minnesota writers or those with a strong connection to Minnesota. The 2017 anthology includes 152 pieces by 100 writers. I don’t envy the task of The Jackpine Writers’ Bloc editorial board in selecting stories and poems for publication from among 370 submissions by 159 writers. Noted writers LouAnn Shepard Muhm, Marge Barrett and Rochelle Hurt selected the first and second place winners from the board’s top picks.

As I listened to stories and poems for several hours with minimal comprehension of time, I delighted in the talent of these writers. Marlene Mattila Stoehr drew me in with her “Spurned Heirloom” poem that left me pondering whether my family treasures will some day, too, end up as thrift store cast-offs.

I laughed at Charles Johnson’s “Jimmy Gets an Earful” poem that sounded, oh, so Minnesotan to my ears.

 

The book cover photo was taken by Tarah L. Wolff.

 

A strong sense of place, of Minnesota, imprints upon the pages of The Talking Stick. I can relate to the settings, the experiences, the observations and more crafted into so many of the pieces in this exceptional anthology.

 

After the readings, some of us socialized. That’s Randy and me at the end of the table. I am seated next to Sharon Harris. Photo courtesy of Larry Risser Photography, Minneapolis.

 

This book is a labor of love for co-managing editor Sharon Harris. She holds a passion for writing and for this area of Minnesota. After the readings, a group of us gathered in the bar to celebrate and to talk. I’d never met Sharon, although we’ve corresponded and talked via phone many times through the years. Past commitments have kept me from attending previous The Talking Stick release parties. Sharon is as delightful in person as I anticipated. Her appreciation for the craft of writing is evident in her dedication to creating this anthology.

 

 

I felt an energetic vibe and sense of community among all of the writers. We share a love of writing. That passion flowed in words read to an appreciative audience gathered on a grey Saturday afternoon in a sprawling log cabin style building tucked among the jackpines of northern Minnesota.

Updated below at 4:30 p.m. September 20

FYI: I will be signing and selling (limited) copies of the anthology during a Local Authors Fair from 6 – 7 p.m. November 9 at Buckham Memorial Library in Faribault. Fine Lines, The Talking Stick Volume 26 is also available for purchase online. Check amazon.  Or order through The Talking Stick website by clicking here.

Photos by Larry Risser Photography are copyrighted and used with permission here.

Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Support regional writing this Christmas via the gift of words December 6, 2012

WITH ALL THE “SHOP LOCAL” buzz this time of year, have you ever considered how that applies to the printed word?

Are you supporting local and regional authors, writers from within your state?

Allow me to show you two Minnesota publications that would make ideal Christmas gifts for anyone who appreciates regional based writing. Both feature collections of fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry.

Lake Region Review, volume two, with cover art by  Charles Beck

Lake Region Review, volume two, with cover art by Charles Beck

Lake Region Review, a literary magazine centered in Battle Lake in the northwestern part of our state, showcases work by writers from Minnesota and the eastern Dakotas selected in a competitive process. This year 34 pieces were culled from some 430 submissions for publication in volume two.

In their introduction to this 160-page soft-cover book-style collection produced by the Lake Region Writers Network, co-editors Athena Kildegaard and Mark Vinz write in part:

Our aim in selecting writing for this issue is simply to look for the best writing that engages and enlightens through attention to language. In these pages you’ll find characters challenged by circumstances (and weather), poems charged with vitality (and weather), and essays that will provoke and move you.

How true. With topics like polio and Alzheimer’s, installing a satellite dish on a snowy rooftop and falling through the ice, unemployment and death, and even some stories—“Norwegian Love” and “Julebukking”—of Scandinavian influence, you are certain to find writing that entertains and evokes emotional reactions.

The writers themselves range from beginners to seasoned.

Visitors to the Kaddatz Galleries in downtown Fergus Falls peruse the art of Charles Beck.

Visitors to the Kaddatz Galleries in downtown Fergus Falls peruse the art of Charles Beck. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

A bonus to both volumes of Lake Region Review is the original regional-based cover art. This year’s cover features “Cardinals,” a wood print by well-known Minnesota artist Charles Beck of Fergus Falls.

Stephen Hennings painting on the cover of Lake Region Review, volume one.

Stephen Henning’s painting on the cover of Lake Region Review, volume one.

Last year a detail of an original landscape painting, “Christina Lake: View from Seven Sisters,” by nationally-renowned artist Stephen Henning of Evansville graced the cover of volume one.

Like Lake Region Review, The Talking Stick produced by the Jackpine Writer’s Bloc based in Menahga (near Park Rapids) offers a quality selection of works in a book-style collection.

The cover of The Talking Stick, Volume 21, Nightfall, also has a Minnesota bend with a stock photo of loons on a lake from iStockphoto.com.

The cover of The Talking Stick, Volume 21, Nightfall, also has a Minnesota bend with a stock photo of loons on a lake from iStockphoto.com.

According to the Jackpine website, “…we publish to encourage solid writing that shows promise, creativity and brilliance.”

Especially heavy in poetry (94 poems), volume 21 of this literary journal features 130 pieces (chosen from 278 submissions) by writers from Minnesota or with a Minnesota connection.

With titled works like “Bologna Sandwich,” “Memories of Duluth,” “And a Bier for Dad,” “January Snow,” “Iceout,” “Blueberry Woods Symphony,” and more, the Minnesota influence presses deep into the 192 pages of this volume, subtitled Nightfall.

Therein lies the beauty of buying local in the printed word: a strong regional imprint.

That local connection also ties into the financial support provided to these two literary collections. Otter Tail Power Company, an energy company servicing western Minnesota and the eastern Dakotas, provided “generous support” to Lake Region Review. And a grant from the Region 2 Arts Council with funding from the Minnesota Legislature financed, in part, volume 21 of The Talking Stick.

HAVE YOU PURCHASED/or will you buy local books or literary collections as Christmas gifts this year? If so, please share your recommendations.

FYI: To learn more about the two literary collections highlighted here and how to purchase them, click here for the Lake Region Review. Then click here for The Talking Stick.

Some of the writers published in Lake Region Review, volume two, will read from their works beginning at 2 p.m. this coming Sunday, December 9, at Zandbroz Variety, 420 Broadway Avenue, in downtown Fargo, N.D. (If only I was going to be in Fargo this weekend. But I will read some of my poetry beginning at 6:00 p.m. Thursday, December 6, in the Great Hall at Buckham Memorial Library, Faribault.)

Disclaimer: My work has been published in both volumes of Lake Region Review and in several volumes of The Talking Stick. However, I received no monetary compensation for that or for this review, nor was I asked to pen this post.

© 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.

 

Stone & Sky October 27, 2011

LARRY GAVIN once lived in Belview.

So, you’re likely thinking, “What does that matter and who is Larry Gavin and where the heck is Belview?”

Well, dear readers, especially readers of poetry, Larry Gavin is a poet. He moved to Belview, a southwestern Minnesota prairie town of 375, to study writing with great writers like Howard Mohr, Leo Dangel, Fred Manfred, Joe and Nancy Paddock, Phil Dacey, Robert Bly, Bill Holm, Don Olsen and many others. Do you recognize some of those names? You should.

I’m not trying to be uppity here. But Bly, who was born in Madison (Minnesota, not Wisconsin) and still lives in the western part of our state, is one of Minnesota’s most distinguished poets. Holm, a well-known essayist, author and poet, wrote numerous books, including Boxelder Bug Variations. Up until his death, he lived in his prairie hometown of Minneota (Minnesota without the “s”), where residents celebrate Boxelder Bug Days. Howard Mohr penned How to Talk Minnesotan, a must-read for every transplant to our state.

Driving through the southwestern Minnesota prairie near Morgan, about 25 miles from Belview.

Larry Gavin learned from these great writers of the prairie, where he lived for 15 years many years ago. Gavin made his home in Belview, just off State Highway 19 and some 10 miles or so from my hometown of Vesta. He served as the town’s mayor for two terms and taught English at Redwood Valley High School, back then Redwood Falls High School.

It is that connection to my home area and our shared love of language and writing and of the prairie that has connected me to Gavin, who today lives in Faribault and teaches English at Faribault High School. At least one of my daughters, if not both, has been taught by him.

We both won Roadside Poetry competitions–Gavin the first in 2008 and me, this past spring–and had our four-line poems showcased on billboards in Fergus Falls.

I once asked Gavin to read one of my poems at a local author event. Gavin is meant to read poetry. He has the kind of rich, deep voice from which words flow with the rhythm and inflection of someone who clearly loves language.

Larry Gavin during an author event at Buckham Memorial Library in Faribault.

Gavin is also meant to write poetry. And he’s written enough to fill three slim books—Necessities, Least Resistance and his just-released Stone & Sky. All have been published by Red Dragonfly Press, a noted not-for-profit literary press based in Red Wing.

When I read Gavin’s poetry, I can sense his deep connection to the land and to nature, shaped, I would like to think, partially by his years on the prairie. When you live on the stark prairie, where the land stretches flat and far and where the sky dwarfs all else and where the wind blows nearly unceasing, you can’t help but write with a strong sense of place and with detail. I see that in Gavin’s poetry.

In his newest book, Stone & Sky, I read of woods and firewood, of raccoon tracks and a walk along a deserted street. Of stone and sky and snakes. I recognize places from here, in Faribault. I recognize, too, prairie-influenced writing.

I don’t pretend to understand every poem in Gavin’s latest collection. But poetry is always open to interpretation and that which I may not find meaningful today I may come to understand at a later time.

All that said, I posed a series of questions to Gavin, who has written more than poetry. For fifteen years he worked as a field editor for Midwest Fly Fishing magazine, taught at the magazine’s school in Montana in the summer and helped with the Chicago and Minneapolis fly fishing expos each spring. He currently writes for Outdoor News.

My questions to him, however, specifically address his poetry writing. I found his answers insightful and, at times, surprising.

Q:  How long have you been writing poetry, why, and when did you consider yourself a poet?

A:  I started writing poetry in sixth grade and that’s when I started considering myself a poet. I’ve written ever since.

Q: What inspires you and/or influences your poetry?

A:  Work inspires me. Everyday I get up and write something. I don’t miss a day. Inspiration has very little to do with it for me. I like working out ideas and problems in writing each day.

Q:  How would you define your poetry style and content?

A:  I consider myself an inheritor of the great romantic tradition of poetry. That, in my mind, goes from Wordsworth to Yeats and Hopkins to Robert Frost and Wallace Stevens, to Gary Snyder and others. The natural world as reflected and defined by human thought and feelings. The great gift we give to the world is our thoughts and feelings about big issues: transcendence, hope, justice, peace, and love.

Q:  This is your third collection of poetry issued by Red Dragonfly Press. What was the process to getting published by this well-respected Minnesota press?

A:  Scott King is the publisher and I submit a manuscript to him. He responds either yes or no and if he accepts it the manuscript gets in line to be published. The most recent book took about four years to appear. Publication is based on press funding and a variety of other factors. I’m patient and not particularly ambitious.

Q:  Tell me about the content and theme in your first two collections, Necessities and Least Resistance.

A:  They are very different from one another. The poems deal with the natural world as seen through simple objects and ideas. They attempt to make sense of complex subjects like love and our interaction with nature in a pure form of language, and the tools poetry gives us like meter and rhyme. The poems are an explication of the world in the context of the universal individual.

Q:  Stone & Sky just released. It’s an interesting title. How does the title tie in with the content? What is the common thread running through the poems in this collection?

A:  Stone & Sky stretches the boundaries of what is real. It looks at the world in a more magical way. Not magical as fabricated but more magical as mystical – as another way of being real. The language, the images, and the poems stretch the boundaries of what is real and hopefully get at reality in a new way. They are still anchored in the natural world, still anchored in the local, but the themes, like the title, are basic, elemental.

Q:  If you were to select your favorite poem in Stone & Sky, which would it be and why? How about a favorite line?

A:  Actually they are all favorites right now. And you have to remember, I’m on to new things after four years.

Q:  Your love of nature shines in your writing. So does your love of language. How do you combine the two into poetry that sings with descriptive lines? How do you know when you’ve “nailed it,” when you have a poem exactly where you want it?

A:  The old elements of poetry combined in new ways. Rhyme, meter, repetition – give poems life. Everything is a work in progress; they’re never really finished.

Q:  Are you working on another collection? Or are you simply just always writing poetry?

A:  My next collection is called The Initiation of Praise and I’ll start sending it out soon. I also have a selected works which focuses just on outdoor poems. I’m also working on some short stories, and I write an article each week as well.

READERS, Stone & Sky is available from Red Dragonfly Press at  www.reddragonflypress.org and also at Monkey See Monkey Read (in person or through internet sales), an independent bookstore at 425 Division Street, Northfield. Eventually, Stone & Sky will also be available through Amazon. Cover cost is $10.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Photo and book cover courtesy of Larry Gavin