Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

My writing connection to a Fargo bookstore November 9, 2012

A snippet of the many bookshelves at Zandbroz Variety. So artful and colorful and inviting.

MY PURPOSE IN CHECKING OUT a downtown Fargo, North Dakota, bookstore/gift shop recently focused on a single reason—Lake Region Review.

I wanted to see this Minnesota literary journal on the shelves of Zandbroz Variety because, well, my poetry is published in volumes one and two. Recently-released LRR 2 features 34 pieces of writing by selected authors in Minnesota and the eastern Dakotas.

Lake Region Review 2, with wood print cover art by well-known Minnesota artist Charles Beck of Fergus Falls, nestles next to the first volume of LRR. Beck’s cover art is titled “Cardinals.”

Given that 430 fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry submissions were submitted to the Battle Lake-based Lake Region Writers Network for volume two, getting into the collection is an honor and accomplishment. I’m in the company of mighty fine writers, many of them with an impressive list of writing credentials.

I also happen to live in southeastern Minnesota, far, far away from most of the writers featured in LRR and also far away from events related to the release of the second volume.

The back room of Zandbroz Variety, site of readings, book club meetings and other events and gatherings.

Visiting Zandbroz Variety offered me an opportunity to connect with the Fargo bookstore which will host a Lake Region Review Two Reading Event at 2 p.m. Sunday, December 9. I didn’t know about the event when I visited Zandbroz and introduced myself. And when I photographed the delightful back room of Zandbroz, I was unaware LLR 2 contributors will soon be reading in this cozy and inviting space.

Artwork in Zandbroz Variety’s back room with a favorite quote of mine from the book, The Help.

It was pure coincidence that, two days later, I would receive an email from Luke Anderson, president of the LRWN inviting me and other LLR 2 writers to participate in the reading at Zandbroz. I wish I could, but a 300-mile (one-way) road trip to Fargo is not in my plans as I’ve been to that North Dakota city four times already since February. (My son attends North Dakota State University.) Gas, hotel and dining expenses add up.

Likewise, I couldn’t join other LRR 2 writers who recently read their works for a program to be aired November 30 – December 2 on nine western Minnesota radio stations from Worthington in the extreme southwest to Fergus Falls on the north.

So it goes. I’m not much anyway on public appearances, preferring to write rather than perform. But I’m learning, too, the value in reading poetry aloud to an audience, having done that thrice now.

Promoting is also part of this writing gig. And that, too, can be a challenge given my Minnesota predisposition not to call attention to myself.

However, I did inform the young man staffing Zandbroz Variety that I had poems in both volumes of Lake Region Review. “Perhaps you remember the first; I mentioned cow pee,” I told him. “And in the second, I mention beer.”

He laughed, considered for a moment and replied that “cow pee” sounded familiar to him. Maybe. Maybe not. But I expect he’ll remember me now.

The lines, the books, the setting…this a scene in the back reading room. Love the ambiance.

A close-up of the chair back in the photo above. I have no idea from what book these pages were pulled. But I’d place a literary chair like this in my home any day.

Jolts of color on a door in that welcoming back room.

A rug for sale in the variety section of Zandbroz where you will find an eclectic mix of funky and retro and otherwise interesting merchandise. This made me think of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.”

An enchanting Christmas display near the front of the store.

Outside a front door of Zandbroz, I found this lovely tile work. I apologize for the lack of exterior store photos. But a light mist was falling at the time and I was reluctant to pull out my camera. I also limited my interior shots as Zandbroz was busy, busy and other shoppers do not always appreciate someone aiming a camera at them.

FYI: To learn more about Lake Region Writers Network, click here to reach the writers’ group website.

To see where you can find copies of Lake Region Review, published in 2011 and 2012, click here. LRR 2 includes writing by the following: Maxine Adams, Luke Anderson, Joe Baker, Frances Ann Crowley, Holly Dowds, Cindy Fox, Yahya Frederickson, Susan Gilbert, Ruby Grove, Vinnie Hansen, Audrey Kletscher Helbling, Nancy Klepetka, Karla Klinger, Elisa Korentayer, Judy R. Korn, Ryan Kutter, Julie C. Larson, Kim Larson, Linda Frances Lein, Kathleen Lindstrom, Ethan Marxhausen, Linda Back McKay, Travis Moore, Kristine Price, Candace Simar, Doris Lueth Stengel, Liz Sweder, Francine Marie Tolf, Benet Tvedten and Kevin Zepper.

Click here to see where you can listen to readings from LRR 2 airing soon on nine western Minnesota radio stations.

Finally, click here to learn more about Zandbroz Vareity, founded by brothers Jeff and Greg Danz and with stores in Fargo (420 Broadway) and in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Do you see how they came up with the clever name for their business?

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


What’s with all those dangling bras in downtown Fargo? November 8, 2012

SO…MY HUSBAND and I are driving through downtown Fargo Saturday afternoon, en route to Zandbroz Variety because I want to see Lake Region Review on bookshelves there. Sometimes I am vain like that. But I’ve had poetry published in the first two volumes of LRR and, as any writer will tell you, there’s a certain thrill in seeing a book, which includes your work, shelved and for sale.

I digress.

Before we reach Zandbroz, which rates as a quite cool variety store, we pass the Hotel Donaldson, locally referenced as the HoDo. This stately brick building anchoring the corner of First Avenue North and Broadway in the heart of downtown Fargo was built in 1893 as an Odd Fellows Lodge. Today it’s been transformed into a hotel, cultural and entertainment center and fine dining establishment. Not that I’ve been inside; I’ve only read this.

My first view of Bras on Broadway at the HoDo.

And for the month of October and apparently into November, the HoDo has become the canvas for Bras on Broadway.

Looking up on the First Avenue side of the bras dangling from the HoDo.

Yes, you read that correctly. The exterior of the HoDo is adorned/decorated/covered (choose your verb) in strings of bras reaching from rooftop to first floor window level.

The Bras on Broadway art installment on the corner of First Avenue North and Broadway.

Fortunately, as we approach the HoDo, the stoplight turns red, thus allowing me enough time for a quick photo shoot while we wait and then turn the corner onto Broadway. I try not to think about the mist as I stick my camera out the van window and aim the lens upward, hoping I will get a few publishable shots.

Turning onto Broadway, I shoot this scene of Bras on Broadway.

With no parking spaces available, I will figure out what the whole bra thing is about later. And so, at the variety store, I ask, “What’s going on with all the bras on that building?”

“It’s Bras on Broadway at the HoDo, raising funds for breast cancer,” I am informed, but do not press for details given Zandbroz is teeming with shoppers.

According to the Bras on Broadway website, the event “supports those in our area fighting breast cancer by providing accommodations, gas cards and wigs.” Last year $102,000 was donated to the American Cancer Society, bringing the six-year donations total to $264,000. (I couldn’t find a total for 2012.)

This October marks the seventh annual Bras on Broadway with monies raised in a variety of ways: For a minimum $5 and donation of “any old bra,” a bra can be added to the garlands of bras. Teams and individuals collect bras and monetary gifts. Sales of event related merchandise go toward the cause. Artists reinvent wearable and non-wearable bras that are auctioned off.

The Broadway side of the HoDo exhibit.

All of this Bras on Broadway fundraising apparently is finished for this year. Even so, I want to share this story and photos with you because, wow, something like thousands of bras dangling from an historic building in Fargo, of all places, grabs your attention.

And get this, Bras on Broadway hosted a “Deck the Bras” event at the Fargo Civic Center where anyone could bring bras and enhance them with bling and trinkets for the HoDo installment. The mobile mammography truck from the local medial center also showed up at the decorating party.

One final shot of Bras on Broadway as we drive past the HoDo.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, the first two volumes of the regional literary journal Lake Region Review are stocked at Zandbroz Variety, 420 Broadway, just blocks from the Bras on Broadway at the HoDo.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling