Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

I’ve been Freshly Pressed again November 30, 2013

“I HOPE YOUR BLOG is ready to welcome some new readers…”

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

That’s my post, labeled “Barn Memories,” featured today on Freshly Pressed.

With those words, I recently learned that my November 25 blog post, “An essay of barn photos & memories,” earned Freshly Pressed status on WordPress.com. (Click here to read that post.)

In the WordPress blogging world, that’s akin to winning an Emmy or an Oscar or something similar, although you could perhaps argue that I am exaggerating. I think not, though, given the half a million plus WordPress bloggers world-wide. (Click here to reach the Freshly Pressed page on WordPress.)

That said, I’d like to thank you, my readers, for your faithful following of Minnesota Prairie Roots. Just over 600 of you now follow my blog via subscription and I am grateful for each of you.

I’d also like to thank my husband, who is very much a part of this blogging journey via his support and company.

The Freshly Pressed tweet about my barn post.

The Freshly Pressed tweet about my barn post.

And, finally, I’d like to thank the editors at WordPress who daily hand-pick eight posts to feature on Freshly Pressed. My barn post is featured today on Freshly Pressed.

Here’s what WordPress editor Ben Huberman wrote in an email:

You struck such a delicate and moving balance in this piece between letting the photos you took speak for themselves, and sharing with your readers the memories and emotions they invoke in you. It’s a lovely, well-executed post that deserves a wider audience.

How sweet is that to get an editor’s comment on your work? It’s invaluable and uplifting and reaffirming.

An old-fashioned farm along Wisconsin Highway 21.

An old-fashioned farm along Wisconsin Highway 21. This is one of the photos published in my winning post.

About the barn photos featured in my winning post… I shot all of them in mid-October while traveling through northeastern Wisconsin. And by traveling, I mean traveling. All six images were photographed from the passenger side of our family van while traveling down the highway at 55 mph. I had one, maybe two, opportunities to capture each photo I showcased. There was no stopping to compose a frame. Rather, I set my camera at a fast shutter speed, anticipated and clicked. That’s it. Either I got the photo or I didn’t. Clean windows help, too. Ask my husband about bottles of window cleaner and paper towels.

The words I paired with the six barn photos came from my heart, from my memories of laboring in my childhood dairy barn on the southwestern Minnesota prairie. Images and smells and textures and sound flowed from my memory onto the keyboard in a piece rich in imagery, heartfelt in emotions.

That combination of from-the-heart writing paired with just the right photos made this post stand out among the hundreds of thousands of others published on WordPress, apparently. For more information on how Freshly Pressed posts are selected, click here.

The homepage of WordPress.com, as photographed Thursday morning. My "In praise of preserving country churches" blog post is on the lower right.

The homepage of WordPress.com, as photographed in July 2010. My “In praise of preserving country churches” blog post is on the lower right. The story focuses on Moland Lutheran Church, rural Kenyon, Minnesota.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been featured on Freshly Pressed. My July 7, 2010, post, “In praise of preserving country churches,” (click here to read) was Freshly Pressed as was my June 11, 2012, post, “Testing the track during a Soap Box Derby trial run in Faribault” (click here to read).

A screen shot of the Tuesday, June 12, 2012, Freshly Pressed on the WordPress homepage. My post is featured in the bottom center. I've been Freshly Pressed twice since I began blogging, meaning my posts were chosen, for a single day, as among the top 10 WordPress posts in the world.

A screen shot of the Tuesday, June 12, 2012, Freshly Pressed on the WordPress homepage. My post is featured in the bottom center.

To earn Freshly Pressed status three times rates as rewarding for a blogger like me, who is undeniably passionate about writing and photography. Thank you for joining me on this blogging journey.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Four reasons to be thankful November 21, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:01 AM
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FOUR. It’s a four-letter word. One. Two. Three. Four.

Today I present to you four good reasons why I am thankful.

My husband, Randy, left to right, daughter Miranda, son Caleb, daughter Amber and me in a photo taken after Caleb’s high school graduation in June. The photographer is Marc, Amber’s boyfriend, another blessing in our family this year.

FAMILY: Hands down, family is among the most treasured of my blessings. I have a husband who loves and supports me (in more ways than one) and always, always encourages me. My three children (now all officially adults) are also loving and caring and just the best, and fill my mother’s heart to overflowing with love.

My extended family’s pretty great, too. I credit my mom, who turned 80 this year (so thankful to still have her in my life), for passing along her faith and compassion to me.

FRIENDS: For years, a group of us have met for bible study twice a month in each others’ homes. We’ve shared laughter and tears, given each other support and hope and prayed for one another and for those we know and love. Comforting peace comes from being held in the circle of such deep and caring friendship.

I have been blessed with many more friends, beyond this close group, who have woven their way into my heart and life. And that includes many of you readers out there whom I’ve never met.

A photo of Christ’s face from a stained glass window in my church, Trinity Lutheran, Faribault.

FAITH: Short and simple, my faith in God sustains me and gives me hope and joy.

A screen shot of the Tuesday, June 12, 2012, Freshly Pressed on the WordPress homepage. My post is featured in the bottom center. I’ve been Freshly Pressed twice since I began blogging, meaning my posts were chosen, for a single day, as among the top 10 WordPress posts in the world.

FANS: Perhaps “fans” is not the correct word for you, my readers. But since I’m going with “f” words here, I chose “fans.”

Because of you, I am encouraged daily to continue blogging, to share via words and photos the discoveries I make and my thoughts on life. You pushed my total monthly views to an all-time high of 28,467 in October and to a current average daily view of 940. I expect to surpass more than one-quarter of a million total views for 2012, more than 250,000 views in just this single year.

Amazing.

Thank you.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

I’ve gained Freshly Pressed status on WordPress for the second time June 12, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:44 PM
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WordPress likes me. Or at least this online content management system and host site for Minnesota Prairie Roots likes my writing and photography enough to once again feature my work in Freshly Pressed. My writing was last highlighted on the WordPress homepage in July of 2010.

The photo from my Soap Box Derby post featured on the WordPress homepage in Freshly Pressed on Tuesday.

Today my post, “Testing the track during a Soap Box Derby trial run in Faribault,” was selected as one of the 11 best WordPress blog posts in the world. The whole big wide world, folks.

Yes, I am thrilled to have my post on the WordPress home page, chosen from among 834,622 new posts written by 401,667 bloggers. Those stats were as of 2:15 p.m. Tuesday when I took this screen shot:

A screen shot of the Tuesday, June 12, 2012, Freshly Pressed on the WordPress homepage. My post is featured in the bottom center.

“These (Freshly Pressed) posts represent how WordPress can be used to entertain, enlighten or inspire,” WordPress Weblog writer Joy Victory wrote in an April 28, 2010, post, “Five Ways to Get Featured in Freshly Pressed.” (Click here to read her post in its entirety.)

“It’s all about the content,” she says before listing five ways a WordPress blogger can increase his/her chance of making the homepage in Freshly Pressed:

  • Write unique content that’s free of bad stuff.
  • Include images or other visuals.
  • Add tags.
  • Aim for typo-free content.
  • Cap off your post with a compelling headline.

Check. Check. Check. Check. Check.

If you’ve followed Minnesota Prairie Roots for any length of time, you know that I adhere to all of those guidelines. But I’d like to add one more—write with passion.

When a writer writes for the pure joy of writing and takes photos for the pure joy of taking photos, it shows.

So what does making Freshly Pressed mean for me as a blogger? It equals a substantial increase in traffic to my site, recognition among my blogging peers, more subscribers and a confidence boost.

I don’t know the odds of making Freshly Pressed. I’ll leave that to the math whizzes out there to determine. I may be good with words, but I’m certainly not good with numbers.

Of one thing I’m certain, though. It feels good, absolutely fabulous in fact, to realize that my writing and photography are resonating with readers and that my posts (at least two of them) have been chosen as among the best in the world.

Moland Lutheran Church, a Norwegian Lutheran church south of Kenyon in Steele County, the subject of my post which was Freshly Pressed in July 2010.

FYI: To read the post “In praise of preserving country churches,” which was Freshly Pressed in July 2010, click here. Click here to see the post I wrote then about being Freshly Pressed.

To read “Testing the Track during a Soap Box Derby trial run in Faribault,” click here.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

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

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:33 PM
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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

 

And the winner is… July 9, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:37 AM
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DEAR READER,

Please allow me to humbly boast today. (Can I be humble and boast?)

On Wednesday I won the equivalent of the Oscar or the Emmy in blogging. Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but…WordPress.com featured my blog post, “In praise of preserving country churches,” on its homepage, in Freshly Pressed.

Big deal, you say. Yes, it’s a very big deal. You see, among the hundreds of thousands of WordPress blog posts out there in the world—and we’re talking like 330,000 or so published on Wednesday—mine was selected as among “the best.” Only 11, that’s as in 10 + 1, were picked for Freshly Pressed.

I shot this picture of Freshly Pressed on my computer Thursday morning. The numbers change often, reflecting changes in post counts. Go to WordPress.com and click on "Earlier" at the left bottom of the screen to find my post.

So now you can understand why I’m giddy, thrilled, happy, elated, and whatever other adjective you may select to describe a blogger who’s overwhelmed with this sudden rise to notoriety in the WordPress blogosphere.

And here’s the interesting aspect of this whole event. I had no clue, absolutely no clue, that I was in contention for this prize. Until Wednesday, I had never heard of Freshly Pressed. Sorry, WordPress.com. But I expose this ignorance to clarify that I don’t write for the fame.

My first hint that something big was brewing for me came in a reader comment. Jason wrote, in part: “I was glad to see this on the freshly posted category on WordPress!”

Huh? So I googled and discovered that WordPress.com daily chooses about 10 posts that “represent how WordPress.com can be used to entertain, enlighten or inspire.” Five guidelines are listed for writing posts that increase your odds of making Freshly Pressed:

  • Write unique content that’s free of bad stuff.
  • Include images or other visuals.
  • Add tags.
  • Cap off your post with a compelling headline.
  • Aim for typo-free content.

Apparently “In praise of preserving country churches” met those criteria.

The homepage of WordPress.com, as photographed Thursday morning. My "In praise of preserving country churches" blog post is on the lower right and was categorized under "art."

And then I got to the warm and fuzzy part: “Why do we do all this? It’s our way of saying we like you. We really like you.”

Well, Freshly Pressed, I really like you, too. As promised, traffic to my blog has soared. Typically I get about 150 views daily. On Wednesday that skyrocketed to 1,052. The following day my numbers still remained high.

Likewise, more readers than ever are commenting, which is good, but also sucks up a lot of time screening and posting. But, hey, I’m not complaining. I value reader interaction.

This “award” from WordPress.com validates that I can blog, and blog well. Considering that I launched Minnesota Prairie Roots only a year ago, I am truly amazed that I have achieved Freshly Pressed status.

My work also has been noticed here in Minnesota as my posts have been featured on Minnesota Public Radio’s Minnesota Today “Blog Box.” and in MinnPost’s “Minnesota Blog Cabin.”

Yet, I don’t blog for the glory, at least not my glory. I blog because I am passionate about writing. I have to write. I love to write. And if in the process my writing is recognized, then that is just reassurance that I am using my God-given talents as I should be.

Audrey

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling