Southwest Minnesota Read Local Program

The Marshall Area Fine Arts Council is soliciting published writing for its Read Local Program. Books in the program will be offered for sale at the MAFAC store in downtown Marshall for the 2014 Summer Offering running from June 1 – October 31, 2014 on a consignment basis (75% – Author / 25% – MAFAC).

The authors of books included in the program will be expected to participate in a minimum of two promotional events in Marshall, MN during the time period. MAFAC will attempt to coordinate these events with additional promotional activities hosted by local education, community and media organizations. The author or publisher of any book is eligible to apply to participate in the program including fiction, poetry and nonfiction, but there will be an emphasis on Minnesota Authors.

The Selection Committee will give special consideration for books published by authors residing in the Southwest Minnesota region or books with a regional focus in plot or setting. Applications not selected for the Summer 2014 Session will be put into a registry located with the collection called “Other Books You May Like” for customers to find via the book’s or author’s website.

Additional information can be found at http://www.mafac.net/read-local.html.

Crossing Arts Alliance Call for Submissions

The Crossing Arts Alliance (TCAA – Brainerd, MN) invites visual and literary artists to submit original work for the BEHIND THE BRICKS community art project. Artists, photographers and writers from the community may select a piece of artwork created by a Crow Wing County Jail inmate and create a companion piece (writing to art and art to writing) that reflect the mood, meaning and/or feeling of the original work.1

Artists can select a piece of inmate artwork at the Crossing office, 1001 Kingwood Street, #114, Brainerd Minnesota, April 22 through May 2, Tuesday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. or by appointment calling 218-833-0416.  Deadline for submissions is August 1. 4

The BEHIND THE BRICKS exhibit of original work with the companion pieces will be displayed at the Crow Wing County Jail for staff and inmates and at the Q Gallery, Franklin Arts Center, 1001 Kingwood St #222 in Brainerd, from September 25 – October 11 for the greater community.  An opening reception is planned for September 25.

3BEHIND THE BRICKS was designed to bring access to the arts as a vehicle for communication to a traditionally underserved audience. Instruction to develop artistic skills in inmates of Crow Wing County Jail began in the fall of 2013, where inmates began creating both visual and literary artwork.

A book of selected inmate artwork will be published by RiverPlace Press of Brainerd and will allow the artwork to be shared and distributed to a larger audience. The publication will be launched to the public at the September reception exhibit in the Q Gallery.2

Crossing Arts Alliance activities are funded, in part, by the voters of Minnesota through grants from the Five Wings Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund; and grants from Brainerd Service League, Mid Minnesota Federal Credit Union, Kohl’s, and the Anderson Family Legacy Fund. For more information visit www.crossingarts.org.

Extraordinary

The audience for the LRWN blog varies from university professors to creative writing teachers to high school teachers, memoirists, genre writers, librarians, bloggers, those who just love to read, and those wonderful folks who are brand new to writing. For most of those listed above, the world of writing is an ordinary part of every day.

But it’s not ordinary for new writers. For many new writers, entering the world of writing doesn’t even seem like a remote possibility, but rather it is a presumptuous, crazy aspiration. Meeting authors and beginning to write is a hand trembling, heart pounding, impossibly unbelievable, extraordinary dream. We should remember that.

The desire to write stories began one Christmas, when I was eight. Santa had given my older brother a white rocket with red fins and the letters USA decaled on the side. I wrote a story about a mouse commandeering that rocket and flying it to the moon. My mother was proud; my brother told me not to touch his stuff.

In my teens I spent two summers working with the Youth Conservation Corp in the Superior National Forest and the BWCA. I kept detailed journals that my naïve youthfulness knew I would need when I wrote that bestseller about my experiences. Positive I was compiling potential Pulitzer material, I even remember telling a dear friend to keep the letters I wrote to her because when I was famous they would be worth something. It’s okay to laugh here, really–I can take it. There were novels in my future, scads of them. I just knew it.

Then life happened. Marriage and a daughter. Quilting and crafts, church and volunteering, Brownies, dance lessons, swimming lessons, skating lessons, starfish costumes with hand-sewn spangles, birthday parties, lazy afternoons at the lake, road trip adventures. And I let my writing become rare and sporadic. Oddly guilt ridden, too. Perhaps because my readings tended to exact the same reply from my non-literary husband: “You have too much time on your hands.” The more of that I heard, the deeper I tucked the desire to write. Time, after all, is a commodity a stay-at-home mom might have too much of. But if there is none left over for me–for you, then really, is there too much?

The less I wrote, the further away the possibility being a writer became. Eventually it was something too amazing, too impossible to even dream about. Writing a novel would be like becoming a movie star; nope, sorry that ship has sailed. Then one day at Target I came across a book by one of my favorite authors: Stephen King. Except this book wasn’t a horror story, it was titled On Writing. I paged through it with a trembling hand, then placed it back on the shelf. I stared at it. My heart beat with anxiety. Is it possible? Could I be so presumptuous? I finally remembered to breathe, then took the book back off the shelf and placed it facedown in my cart. I underlined and scarred it with notes as I waited for my daughter at a Fargo track camp, glancing around to ensure no other parent could see what I was reading. I didn’t want even strangers to think I was so bold as to presume to be a writer.

But the more I read, the more the impossible became possible. Even to this day reading that Stephen King book evokes the heart-thumping trepidation I felt as I finally stepped into the writing world.

I devoured that book, then those by Sue Grafton, Janet Evanovich, and James Frey. Anything I could find related to mystery writing in particular. I took free online writing courses from Barnes and Noble: mystery, fiction, screenwriting, and forensics. Dozens of books and writing magazines later, I attended a summer workshop, which led to a crazy big adventure to the University of Wisconsin- A Weekend with Your Novel. (Disoriented, I ended up driving the family minivan out onto a dark pier, “Why is there water on both sides of the road?” (but that’s another story). The first LRWN Conference led to joining the Fergus Falls Writers group, then joining the LRWN Board and chairing the annual writer’s conference.

And suddenly, I look around amazed. Here I am immersed in the writing world and thinking of myself as a writer. How did that happen? Somewhere along the way, as I read and learned and wrote, I also changed. From a trembling housewife with impossible dreams to someone who thinks it just might happen.

I know you are out there, too: reading this and hoping. George Eliot said, “It’s never too late to be who you might have been.” Welcome to the extraordinary.

Author’s Bio.: Lois Reff has published a monthly motivational newsletter since 2002.  She enjoys learning about and writing in the genre of fiction.  She has participated in several Barnes and Noble writing workshops, and the Weekend With Your Novel workshop at the University of Wisconsin.  She is an active member of the Fergus Falls Writers’ Group.  She is currently working on a mystery novel. She and her husband, along with six pets, live north of Fergus Falls by Jewett Lake. Lois is serving as the LRWN Conference Director.

 

 

Book TV

Who’s familiar with C-SPAN? You know, the cable television channel that broadcasts proceedings of the federal government along with other public affairs programming. C-SPAN is an acronym for Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network.

I suppose, some people are C-SPAN junkies much like I am when it comes to the Food Network’s show Chopped or getting the latest from The Weather Channel.

I guess, I just don’t find legislators pontificating from podiums riveting. But hold the phone just a minute! It turns out C-SPAN defines public affairs TV as more than government driven. Who’s familiar with Book TV? This is the name given to weekend programming on the cable network’s C-SPAN2.

Primarily the programming begins at 8:00 a.m. eastern time on Saturdays and ends at 8:00 a.m. eastern time on Mondays, times when the U.S. Senate is not in session. The programming focuses on non-fiction books and authors. It includes interviews with authors along with live coverage of book events around the country.

The focus is mainly devoted to the subject areas of history, biography and public affairs. What’s amazing is that about 2,000 authors are featured every year; there have been as many as 60,000 titles covered in a year.

Do know that the production style of Book TV is “no frills.” It focuses on panel discussions, book signings, lectures, seminars, and visits to bookstores along with the author interviews. It is weighted toward the subjects of government, politics, and history. As with other C-SPAN programming, live viewer call-ins are featured which allow writers to hear directly from their readers.

You can find information on specific programming at the website booktv.org. In addition to C-SPAN2, Book TV can be viewed via live streaming on the C-SPAN website. An iPhone app streams the audio portion only.

Author’s Bio.: Ann Hermes holds a B.S. in Broadcast Journalism, a B.A. in Speech Rhetoric/Public Address, and an M.A. in Philanthropy and Development.  She has been a television reporter, TV anchorwoman, and a writer/producer of multi-media presentations.  She currently is the Artistic Director for Lakes Area Theatre producing weekly, half-hour radio theatre shows, which are broadcast on 15 radio stations across Minnesota. She also operates her freelance business, Choice Voice, providing writing services for multi-media productions, voice acting, and on-camera acting services.

Writer’s Schlock

Seldom, have I attended a writer’s conference, workshop or reading when someone didn’t ask one or both of the two big questions about writing:

1) – How do you deal with rejection?
2) – How do you deal with writer’s block?

I will take on both of these questions and preface my remarks by saying that what works for me may not work for you. However, as writers, we glean what we can from the fields of fellow writers and editors, proofreaders and publishers. So, take what you will, use what you can and forget the rest.

I once sat in the cab of a pickup truck with Norman Maclean. I had just returned from an overseas tour in the Marine Corps and had on my well-worn combat boots. We were overlooking a field where a combine was working at bringing in the wheat harvest.

Norman looked down and said, “You’ve walked some miles in those boots.”

I nodded and said nothing. We watched the combine as it spun on its front wheels, preparing to make another round, its massive grain-head churning hungrily in anticipation. I was thinking about how Norman had just accepted a large monetary offer from Robert Redford for his memoir A River Runs Through It after having rejected other offers for equivalent money because he did not like how the screen writers had depicted his brother. I wanted to ask him how he had dealt with all the rejection along the way toward his now renowned success and fame. For some reason I polar-ended the question.

“How do you deal with acceptance?” I asked.

He laughed heartedly, and said, “Carefully.”

We’ve all heard it before; “Rejection is just part of the game.” This is true. However, I believe it is better to focus on what you can learn from these inevitable rejections rather than bemoan them. My exposure to rejection started early in life. Having a father who was an English professor got me interested in books and writing at an early age. When I was about nine years old, I “self published” a book that ran roughly two dozen pages. Bound with corrugated cardboard and illustrated by the author himself. It was certainly due to rest alongside the great works that filled my father’s bookshelves. While sitting in my father’s office one day, I presented the autographed, first edition to him. He flipped through the title page and author’s acknowledgements, then began reading at chapter one. The first line went something like this: “They were wet and cold. . . “ Without turning another page, he handed the book back to me. “Never,” he said, “begin a sentence, let alone a paragraph, let alone an entire book, with a pronoun.” It was the harshest, but certainly not the last rejection I would receive in my career.

That’s tough love from an old-school English professor, and I can’t say that it didn’t hurt, but by God, by the end of the day – I damn sure knew what a pronoun was.

Now, as for writer’s block:

I can say that I have never suffered from writer’s block. But, saying so does not mean that I don’t deny its existence. I have successful, writer friends that have confided in me about their hang ups. The suggestions on how to proceed and helpful anodynes as well as placebos for the ailment are abundant.

Maybe it’s not that I haven’t suffered from writer’s block, but more on how I have avoided it or deal with it when I come upon it. I combat it with what I like to call, “writer’s schlock.” Sounds kind of funny, but here’s how it works. If for example, you have a character moving down a bank of a river and cannot find a motivation to move that character to the other side – you are stuck. Well, why not have a winged unicorn come down to fly your character across the river on a rainbow bridge? Reread it, and yes, it is utter “schlock.” Then ask yourself how you would write it better. Usually, there is a snippet of useful prose in amongst your schlock. Sure, unless you are writing children’s or fantasy, the winged unicorn and the rainbow bridge are a bit much, but in this situation, having your character coming upon something that will get them across the river is workable. Maybe not a winged unicorn, but maybe a conventional bridge, boat or shallow ford is more believable and fitting. I will sometimes spend countless hours and thousands of words on nonsensical verbiage. Sitting there and just hammering out schlock that I will go back to and work over and eliminate 97% of as I move toward a working draft.

The main thing is this; that when you may otherwise be stuck – with “writer’s schlock,” you are still putting words on the page. You are still scribbling or typing. This, of course, in my opinion and experience, is the single most important part of the process. Or as Norman Maclean once told me – “You keep putting one boot in front of the other. You just keep hammering away.”

Author’s Bio.: Paul Gremmels is a freelance writer and essayist, whose work has appeared in numerous publications and mediums. His most recent success was winning the 2013 Prairie Gate Literary Festival’s essay writing competition. Paul lives with his wife, Ann, on a farm in rural Pope County, Minnesota.

Prairie Gates Literary Festival

Readers and writers will be gathering at the University of Minnesota, Morris on March 28 and 29 to participate in the fourth annual Prairie Gate Literary Festival (PGLF). This festival brings noted writers from around the country to give public, free readings and to provide workshops to writers for a small fee.


This year PGLF will welcome six writers: Pulitzer Prize-finalist and novelist
Joanna Scott, author of nine novels, and the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Lannan Award, Her novels explore wildly different territory, from the noted artist Egon Schiele, to a girl on the island of Elba during WWII, to a taxidermist at the turn of the century. Debra Monroe, from Texas, has written short stories, two novels, and her new book, a memoir, explores being the mother of a black daughter in a rural Texas town. Rachel Hanel, from Mankato, MN, has written non-fiction for children and a memoir for adult readers subtitled “Memoir of a Gravedigger’s Daughter.” Poet Mart Hart, who has written four books of poetry and teaches in Cincinnati, and is the co-founder and the editor-in-chief of Forklift, Ohio: A Journal of Poetry, Cooking, & Light Industrial Safety. Filmmakers Jake Lloyd and Anthony Wayne come from California and Eau Claire Wisconsin before that.


The festival begins with a reading by Joanna Scott and Debra Monroe on Friday evening at 7:30 in the Briggs Library on the UMM campus. The reading is free and open to the public and the authors will be available to sign books afterward.


Hanel and Hart read Saturday afternoon in the library and Wayne and Lloyd screen a film Saturday evening in the Edson Auditorium, located in the Student Center.


Saturday morning all of the writers and filmmakers will lead writing workshops. The cost for the general public is $25 for one workshop or $35 for two. The cost for students is $15 for one workshop or $20 for two. Registration includes lunch with the writers.

Additional information and registration is available online at

morris.umn.edu/prairiegate.


This activity is funded in part by a grant from the Lake Region Arts Council through a Minnesota State Legislative appropriation. In addition, the PGLF is sponsored by Briggs Library Associates, the Alumni Association, the office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Friends of the Morris Public Library, the English discipline, the Commission on Women, Briggs Library, CAC Films, and private donations.

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

A well-meaning friend of my mother asked me the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” many years ago, and I had to think about it. In those days, if you were a boy, the common accepted answer would have been fireman or policeman. More often than not, little girls, being put on the spot, responded with social correctness by choosing nurse, teacher, mommy, or if they were dreaming big, ballerina. When I was a little older, I might have secretly confided that I would have added international film star or world famous explorer to my resume. But this was a time when I had only seen the movie, Dumbo, and I hadn’t yet read “I Married Adventure” by Osa Johnson (and wanted to be her).

I never coddled my dollies, drilled them on their numbers, or pretended to burp them. But I did regularly prop them around in a semi-circle, Melsina and Marcella, the large baby dolls in the choice rocker in the middle. Teddy and Jocko, the Australian koala bear, snuggled at their feet. Nurse Jane had to be propped on the side of the chair because her legs didn’t bend. Leilani, in her green grass skirt, and Elizabeth, the very proper English girl, sat together because they were unlikely but bosom chums. Beloved Belindy completed the grouping with the Raggedys, of course, sprawled in front. When they were quietly assembled, I sat on a small stool and opened a book. I hadn’t learned to read yet, so I turned the wondrous pages and told the stories of what I saw – tales of being bundled in bed with a stuffy nose, kept company by miniature creatures, who trounced among the covers and burrowed about the pillows; the adventures of a golden haired maiden, who rode in a chariot pulled by sweet tabby cats, up and over the rainbow; a winter world of icicles ruled over by a beautiful but scary queen. Eventually I learned to read and write and proudly shared my stories, written pain-stakingly in pencil on lined notepaper, and as the years passed I filled up many notebooks and read my tales to others beyond my little group.

All these years later, in retirement and after many different jobs and wearing a multitude of hats, I find myself in our upstairs office/all-purpose room, where whatever doesn’t fit in another part of the house is deposited. To my left sits Melsina and Marcella in a child’s rocking chair, Nurse Jane and Leilani and Elizabeth are propped about, Teddy and Jocko are on the bookshelf and the Raggedys are nearby. I sit in the middle, typing away on my computer keyboard, telling tales.

I know just what I want to be when I grow up.

Author’s Bio.: After retirement and a lifetime of living in California, Diane Johnson moved with her husband three years ago to her ancestral roots in Minnesota in order to be near family, to retreat from the hustle of the west coast, and to provide time and the environment to reflect and write. She is a member of the board of the Lake Region Writers Network, the Fergus Falls Writers Group, and she writes the blog: snowbirdredux.com.