Thursday, December 25, 2008

Reading for Comfort

One of the things I do at KAXE is pick out the selections for the KAXE Book of the Month Club (you can be in this by pledging your yearly support at our 1 dollar a day/$365 year level....I was talking with one of the members the other day and asked her what she was looking for in a book right now. "Something light!" I totally knew what she meant.... she described it as needing a "comfort" book and that she goes thru periods where she also needs her reading that is good for her/"vegetable" reading....

When it comes to my own reading, a lot of times that's exactly what I'm looking for - a very delicate balance between light reading and something engrossing....not a harelquin romance exactly, but something that I will get absorbed in and finish quickly.

The cool thing was that I had the perfect book for our KAXE Bookclub member - because I recently interviewed author Jennie Shortridge for Realgoodwords. I'd really liked her book "Eating Heaven" which was the story of a plus-sized food writer who has takes care of her ailing uncle Benny. In becoming a caregiver she comes to realize she needs to learn to care for herself and find what she wants out of life.

But back to the new novel by Jennie Shortridge that I passed on - "Love and Biology at the End of the Universe". This is the story of Mira Serafino - a biology teacher who works hard to appear to be perfect - at work, with her husband, with her daughter and father....when one element isn't quite what she envisions, she packs her bags and hits the road to find a new life. One reviewer wrote:

"Shortridge has tapped into what may be everybody's fantasy at some point or other: if you weren't saddled with the consequences of the decisions you've made over the years, who would you be now?"

You can hear my conversation with Jennie Shortridge at the Realgoodwords archive
or you can hear it Sunday morning at 9am, streaming live audio at

Let me know if you know what I mean about needing "comfort" books - got any recommendations?

Monday, December 15, 2008

'Tis the Season to Write Poetry!

I received an email today from Todd Boss, who joined me on Realgoodwords recently. (click here for the archive).


Please consider this a CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS, and spread the word among the Minnesota and North Dakota poets in your circles!

I have indeed heard from some of you ... forgive this repeat reminder ...

FLURRY--a seasonal online journal of wintry poetry from Minnesota and the Dakotas—will launch for its second season on the solstice, December 21, and publish original wintry poetry through the vernal equinox on March 20.

You can find last year's entire volume here:

Right now the site is inaccessible from anywhere but the link above (it's been "taken down"), but it will be accessible during its publication period from my web site.

Any previously unpublished poem is eligible that touches (however lightly) on themes of winter, cold, quiet, dormancy, darkness... (It must "have a mind of winter.") I'm open to all poets, writing in all styles. Submissions (in MS Word) should be accompanied by a cover letter with a short bio for use on the site. Send as e-mail to I do not pay for poems, but nor does Flurry claim copyrights; rights remain with the poets.

Poems will be accepted throughout the journal's publication run.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Romance of The Cabin

An expansive window looking out on white pine, frozen water and the lights from a house on the island across the way....the smell of coffee brewing and wood burning...time to play a game, read a novel...a place to breathe, to nap and to eat and BE slower.

Yup, that's the cabin. Have you ever noticed that when someone says "I'm going up to the cabin" or "My grandparents used to have a cabin there!" they have a buoyancy in their voice, a glassy smile on their face?

That's because the cabin is not just a cabin. It is a place of refuge.

This week I had the chance to talk with author and architect Dale Mulfinger. If you didn't get a chance to hear it, check the archive!

The Rawness of Grief with Ann Hood

This week I get the chance to talk with novelist Ann Hood. I talked with Ann last year about her novel, "The Knitting Circle", which was based in part on her own experiences. This video is a great explanation of that book.

Ann's latest book is NOT a novel. It's her first non-fiction in fact, about the process of grief. Death and losing people you love is often written about - but besides Joan Didion's "The Year of Magical Thinking" I haven't read this raw or real of an account of how grief can envelope you.

What I took away most strongly from "Comfort: A Journey Through Grief" was how telling our stories can help. Talking, connecting, listening....

In reading this you may think that "Comfort" is a sad book. It's not. It's as Ann describes the process of grief - horrible, gut-wrenching, life-altering, sad, but also in small ways, filled with the joy of having loved.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Music on this week's episode

On this week's show you'll hear my interview with Wally Lamb and Maggie Montgomery's conversation with author Terry Mejdrich. Here's the music I used for the program:

Michelle Shocked "Quality of Mercy" from the Soundtrack to the movie Dead Man Walking

Jackie Greene "I Don't Live in a Dream" from "Giving Up the Ghost"

Ian Ethan Case "DN16 - Appalachia by Air/Between Sky & Trees/View Through the Center of Time" from "Into Open Land"
*thanks to Ian for thanking KAXE on his latest CD. We had great fun and entertainment with him in-studio on the Friday Morning Show last winter!

The Hour I First Believed

....that I would have the reading endurance to read Wally Lamb's new 723 page novel "The Hour I First Believed". I first believed it when I became so engrossed in it over Thanksgiving weekend.

I had the chance to talk with Wally Lamb on this week's Realgoodwords. Wally had the daunting task of following up his first two (bestselling and Oprah bookclub picks) novels "She's Come Undone" and "I Know This Much Is True". It took him nine years and after finishing his book, I can see why.

"The Hour I First Believed" is not a light, beach read. In fact, it's probably a little too heavy for your tote bag. But it does make you think. About big issue stuff: like forgiveness, guilt, anger, shame, joy, family, addiction....

Does anyone else have the problem, when reading a meaty book like this, that it affects your mood? I read it over Thanksgiving weekend, and it wasn't exactly my most cheery holiday ever.

Do the books you read affect your mood? What books do you seek out to change your mood?
When I talked to Wally, we discussed what his mood was like as he wrote the book. If you missed the conversation listen here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

thanks to Karen O. for the beautiful photograph

Music on this week's episode

This week I talk with Holly Hughes about "Frommer's 500 Places To See Before They Disappear" and Martha Powers about "Conspiracy of Silence".

Music featured this week:
Robert Plant & Alison Krauss "Your Long Journey"
Mother Truckers "I'll Meet You There"
Oscar Peterson with Clark Terry "Mumbles" from Putymayo World Music's Swing Around the World
Marc Broussard "Home"

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ideas for writers retreats/workshops

Around this time of year I start thinking about writing - how to jump start my own, places I could go to study/write, etc. There are many opportunities out there.

The following are a list of Minnesota based conferences/opportunities. Some are not specifically writer's retreats, but are places to get away from the world - and even have a silent retreat if you want one. Check these out:

Split Rock Arts Program/University of Minnesota

Now in its 25th year, the Split Rock Arts Program is comprised of two entities: Summer Workshops and Online Mentoring for Writers, both of which offer intensive learning opportunities with outstanding faculty from throughout the world. Split Rock's 2009 schedule will feature 40 workshops and retreats in CREATIVE WRITING, VISUAL ART, AND DESIGN, all taught by eminent practicing artists and writers. The wide range of topics and top-notch instructors are sure to inspire artists and writers to treat themselves to an unforgettable learning experience in which they afford themselves the time and space to explore art in a supportive artists’ community.

Anderson Center for the Arts
Since 1995, the Anderson Center has served the artistic community and the citizens of
Minnesota through artistic leadership, program development, and support. It is the
mission of the Anderson Center to uphold the unique wealth of the arts in the region; to develop, foster, and promote the creation of works by artists of all kinds; and to provide leadership and services that help to insure a strong, healthy arts community and a greater recognition of the value of arts in society. The Anderson Center provides retreats of two to four weeks duration to enable artists, writers, and scholars to advance or complete work in progress.

Northwoods Writers Conference
Every June, writers gather at Bemidji State University on the shores of Lake Bemidji for an enlivening week of literary activity at the Minnesota Northwoods Writers Conference. Each morning, participants gather their thoughts, notebooks, and writing utensils and head off to their workshops where their teacher and fellow participants provide constructive feedback and encouragement.

The Dwelling in the Woods in McGrath, MN

The Dwelling is many things

A place for quieting your mind and opening your heart.

A place of solitude that allows the integration of your mind, body and spirit.

A place to grow through hospitality, peacefulness, solitude, meditation and prayer.

A time to honor nature, beauty and the arts.

An experience of abundance, healing and spiritual awakening.

We are committed to your comfort, growth and well-being.

We specialize in small groups and individual retreats.

Iceland Writer's Workshop with Bill Holm
The Hofsos workshops were begun in 2000, by Bill Holm of Minneota, MN and David Arnason of Manitoba, two writers with strong Icelandic roots, who find Iceland a great place to refresh their own writing. Hofsos is a small fishing village whose people, determined to keep their town alive, established a fine museum of the Icelandic migration to Canada and the U.S. and restored their older buildings.

Blacklock Nature Sanctuary Fellowships in Moose Lake, MN
The purpose of the Blacklock Nature Sanctuary Artist Fellowship Programs is to provide artists with uninterrupted time in a quiet natural setting to initiate or develop an artistic project. Professional artists in all media are eligible to apply as individuals or in collaboration with another artist or naturalist.

St. Benedict’s Retreats in Collegeville, MN
Gift yourself with some time away! An air-conditioned facility, spacious grounds and a wooded area provide atmosphere for prayer, quiet, reflection and relaxation. You are invited to worship with the monastic community in the daily Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours (Link to Liturgy and Worship/Worship Schedule).

Arc Ecumenical Retreat in Stanchfield, MN (near Cambridge)
ARC (Action, Reflection, Celebration), is a Retreat Center operated by a residential community, rooted in Christian tradition, emphasizing the values of simplicity, justice and healing, mercy and prayer, serving individuals and groups seeking time apart, rest and spiritual renewal.

Also see here for more retreats in Minnesota.

If you know of more opportunities for writer conferences of retreats, post them here!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday is the day of book reviews

On Sundays I like to take a look at what is new in books or what the book critics are saying out there.

There is of course The New York Times Sunday Book Review. This can get a little academic for me, and the criticism is pretty pointed and sharp, but it's also a good indicator of what the literary world is taking notice of. I was curious about the review they did of Carolyn Chute's new novel, "The School on Heart's Content Road". The novel is what they call "a depiction of contemporary American poverty"....

“The School on Heart’s Content Road” is as idiosyncratic as it is engaging. A mytho­poetics of the Second Amendment isn’t exactly common in modern American literary fiction. But neither is the depiction of contemporary American poverty: of the slow, relentless grind of never quite having enough, of the leaching of hope and ambition from those for whom a job at Wal-Mart is a rare opportunity, of the impossible double-bind choices made by the poor every day. This is a beautiful novel, a polemical novel, a messy novel. It’s a love song to a part of America that doesn’t have much of a voice, and is armed.

It wasn't completely glowing praise... the reviewer also wrote...

Form doesn’t just follow feeling in these pages, it chases it helplessly with a butterfly net, casting about in multiple directions, sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing. But watching Chute miss what she’s after is more interesting than watching a lesser, better behaved writer catch tidier prey.

The StarTribune also has a good book section that I look at regularly. Today they wrote about young adult authors in Minnesota, which I am interested in too. Louise Erdrich has a new book for young adults that sounds good, "The Porcupine Year" - it's the third in a trilogy. This one is about 12 year old Ojibwe girl Oakayas having to leave her homeland. I'd also like to check out the young adult book published by Milkweed Press, "Discovering Pig Magic" by Julie Crabtree.

Business North writer Beth Bily reviewed Aaron Brown's "Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range" here.

The Pioneer Press in St. Paul has a list of new Minnesota authors publishing books this holiday season.... check it out. I'm curious about all of them, but especially Lorna Landvik's and Mary Logue's new books.

has an interesting article on MN poet Larry Shug.

Where do you find out about books? Let me know if you have a book you'd think I'd like or would be good for Realgoodwords on KAXE.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Music on this week's episode

Besides poet Todd Boss and writer Martha Brockenbrough, here's what you'll hear on this week's episode of Realgoodwords:

Eric Bibb "Troubadour" A Ship Called Love
Erin Mckeown "Born to Hum" Grand (check out her blog!)
Martin Sexton "Free World" Wonder Bar (see his vlog!)

Check out this FANTASTIC photo of Martin in the KAXE tent from last summer, but KAXE's photographer extraordinaire, Karen Oodhoudt.

Words and more words this week

MN poet Todd Boss is my guest on this week's episode of Realgoodwords... along with the president of the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar, Martha Brockenbrough.

Though very different, these two conversations have similarities in their respect and fervor for words and communication. Todd Boss's new book "Yellowrocket" that house his poems that have been described as buoyant and elegant, but swift. See here for examples and readings of his poetry.

Martha Brockenbrough's book "Things That Make Us [sic] - The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar Takes on Madison Avenue, Holloywood, The White House, and the World" helps us finally learn the difference between lie/lay - how to write polite letters to officials and David Hasselhoff and the top 10 misused words.

Here's a sneak preview of those misused words:


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Those @#% words again

I hope you know by now that I am not a word snob. I like words (a whole lot actually) but I would never boast to know all that much about them - or know all that many of them for that matter. I'm getting ready for my interview with Bill Holm right now and reading through the press materials again.

Needless to say, I'm flummoxed by the words I am seeing there. Like:

Sere - (used especially of vegetation) having lost all moisture; "dried-up grass"; "the desert was edged with sere vegetation"; "shriveled leaves on the unwatered seedlings"; "withered vines"

Polemicist - a skilled debater in speech or writing

Flummoxed - to puzzle or confuse

MN writer Bill Holm this week!

"When Americans ask me to describe my little house in Iceland, I tell them not entirely disingenuously, that it is a series of magical windows with a few simple boards to hold them up, to protect your head from the rain while you stare out to sea."

from The Window Of Brimnes - An American in Iceland by Bill Holm

Read here for information on Bill being named the 2008 McKnight Distinguished Artist of the Year.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Be Honest

Do you ever go to bookclub without having finished the book? Do you admit it? Or do you nod alot?

The KAXE bookclub is meeting this Tuesday at 5:30 and though I'm reading a lot between today and Tuesday, it's possible I'm not going to get it done.

What should I do if I don't finish it? What have you done?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Music on this week's episode

Fairly often I get asked about the music that I include in Realgoodwords. I love the conversations I get to have with authors, but I also love the putting together of a show and finding music that to me, seems just right - in theme or tone.

Hackensaw Boys - "Suns Work Undone" from Love What You Do
Emiliana Torrini - "Sunny Road" from Fisherman's Woman
Willie Nelson - "Always Seem to Get Things Wrong" from the soundtrack to the movie "The Hottest State"
Aimee Mann "Nothing is Good Enough" from the soundtrack to the movie "Magnolia"
Adrienne Young "Room To Grow" from Room to Grow

Did you want to be a ballerina when you grew up?

Me neither! Neither did Whoopi Goldberg or the main character in her new book "Sugar Plum Ballerinas - Plum Fantastic". Alexandrea Petrakova Johnson's mother always wanted to be a ballerina and enrolls her daughter in the Nutcracker School of Ballet. Alexandrea Johnson wants to play hockey or be a speed skater.

I had the chance to talk with Whoopi recently while she was on a train from New York to Washington D.C.

Tune in
for our conversation this week, Wednesday evening from 6-7pm, CST or Sundaymorning from 9-10am.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Final week of the Fall Fundraiser at KAXE!

It's the Northern Observer Fall Fundraiser at KAXE and what better way to observe the world than to read? On this week's episode you'll get to hear the conversation that John Bauer and I had with Vicky Myron about her life as a librarian with a library cat. Her book is "Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat That Touched the World". We've got copies available if you pledge your support to KAXE at $10/month - $120/year or above. You'll get "Dewey" along with your regular thank you gift of a KAXE totebag or t-shirt.

Call us 218-326-1234/1-800-662-5799 or
pledge online!

You'll also hear an essay by our contributor Aaron Brown. Aaron's book, "Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range" is also available as your thank-you gift for supporting independent community radio in Northern Minnesota.

What are you reading lately? In honor of Dewey Readmore Books the library cat - here's what I'm reading:

"The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak (for the KAXE bookclub discussion on 11/11/08 at 5:30pm)
"Sugar Plum Ballerinas - Plum Fantastic" by Whoopi Goldberg (I'll be talking with Whoopi later today!)
"The Windows of Brimnes: An American in Iceland" by Bill Holm
"The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry" by Kathleen Flinn

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Greasy Rider on Realgoodwords tonight!

It's the fall fundraiser.... tune in tonight from 6-7 - Dan Houg (our own Grease Monkey) joins me to talk with author Greg Melville about his book, "Greasy Rider: Two Dudes, One Fast-Food-Fueled Car, and a Cross-Country Search to a Greener Future". It's the Northern Observer Fall Fundraiser at KAXE - if you pledge your support to KAXE - an independent public radio station that brings you thoughtful, in-depth interviews - at our $10/month, $120/year - you can get a copy of Greg Melville's book as an EXTRA thank-you gift. Call us 218-326-1234/800-662-5799 or pledge online.

Monday, October 20, 2008

I never meant to be a cat lady

I had a bad dream once - of appliqued kitty-cat sweatshirts with built-in polo shirts - little children in shopping malls saying, "Look at the crazy cat lady with her bag of books mommy!". And they were pointing at ME.

And then I went and fell in love with a fella who likes kitties. After I filled my allergy prescription, I started to like the furry little friends. Especially Sweetie - she's much friendlier than Jasper. And her purr is really loud.

But just because I like our cats at home, I didn't want to be someone who collected cat figurines or calendars or posters from Scholastic books with cats hanging off the chair and "hang in there" typed below.

And then a book came across my desk about a cat named Dewey ReadMore Books. I mean c'mon! What are they trying to do to me?

Here's the story:
Dewey Readmore Books was the resident cat at Spencer Public Library. He was put in the book return one cold January night in 1988. When the staff found him the next morning, they decided to adopt him. After the library's board of trustees and the city council approved, the kitten was declawed, neutered, and given the proper vaccinations. A contest was held to pick a name, and Dewey Readmore Books was officially added to the staff. The staff cared for Dewey and donated their pop cans to feed the kitty. Patrons and friends from as far away as New York have donated money for Dewey's food.

Librarian Vicki Myron has published the story of Dewey, called, "Dewey - The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World"... I'll be talking with Vicki on an upcoming edition of Realgoodwords. Stay tuned.

And PLEASE Mom! No funny kitty-cat figurines or sweatshirts.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Young People Today!

On this week's episode of Realgoodwords I talk with Kathleen Norris about the monastic traditions and Christianity in her life and in the contemplative world and I also tackle religion in a different sense. Documentary filmmaker and photograper Jona Frank joins me. She's just published a new book called "Right: Portraits from the Evangelical Ivy League". The Evangelical Ivy League is Patrick Henry College in Virginia

Published by Chronicle, this is the description from the publisher:

Right -- Patrick Henry College is the higher education institution of choice among politically far-right young people aspiring to enter the conservative power elite. The explicit mission of PHC is to cultivate leaders to take American politics and culture back to God, through careers in politics and entertainment. Acclaimed photographer Jona Frank presents an honest, intimate, and eye-opening portrait of the school and its students. Frank's photos eschew cultural politicking of the left or the right, allowing readers to draw their own conclusions about a school and a youth movement with the potential to produce many of tomorrow's leaders.

Jona Frank's photographs are in the permanent collection of the Getty and SFMOMA, among others.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

More words I don't know...Rumplestiltskin

Remember those words I don't know? The list continues.

Sure I'd heard Rumplestiltskin before... but I couldn't remember if it was the story about the giant and large green stalk or a girl who let her hair down or maybe it's that story of the gnome on stilts.

Wrong, wrong and wrong again.

Why am I thinking about Rumpelstiltskin? (if I had a nickel for everytime I asked myself that one!)

Here's the thing: in myrecent conversation with author Kathleen Norris she mentioned Rumpelstiltskin.

She talked about first finding out what the term acedia meant... she said that "just knowing the name of something gives you power over Rumplestiltskin."

"Yes, like Rumplestiltskin", I said.

To myself I said, "what does the girl with the long hair in the tower have to do with the word I only recently learned, acedia?"

Turns out Rumplestiltskin is a Grimm little story about a girl weaving gold and a little gnome or manikin (a what?) who makes her promise to give up her first born child. When the mean manikin offers her a plea bargain of finding out HIS name in 3 days time, hilarity ensues. Maybe I'm getting that mixed up with an episode of the Mary Tyler Moore show...

But anyway, Kathleen Norris was getting at the idea that if we know our problem, if we can name something, we can deal with it.

In our conversation, Kathleen and I talked about Merton's quote, "It takes real courage to recognize that we ourselves are the cause of our own unhappiness." For Kathleen, realizing that having acedia - or finding oneself in a state of not caring or being unable to care - is as destructive as pride and anger. She described acedia like this:
"spiraling thoughts - one following right after the other of boredom and restlessness and irritation and fear of the future. Depression and acedia share some of the same symptoms, but are different.... Back in the 4th century the monk Evagrius said that none of us can control whether the thoughts come to us - but we might be able to exercise over how we respond to them. "
Kathleen Norris' new book is "Acedia and Me: A Marriage, Monks and A Writer's Life". Tune in for my conversation this week - or check the archives!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Is Aaron Brown Overburdened?

That's the hard hitting question I'm asking this week on Realgoodwords. The answer is YES, Aaron Brown is definitely overburdened. But in a good way, really. (I'm not talking about his many jobs, his many sons or his lovely money-savin' wife.)

Aaron is probably no stranger to you - he's a frequent contributor to KAXE; especially to that other show I do, Between You and Me.

Aaron's a different kind of guy.
A) He's young and
B) he lives on the Iron Range.

And he's SUPREMELY interested in what exactly the Iron Range was, what it is and what it will be....

He's just published his first book called "Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range" published by Red Step Press. Aaron has a knack for unpacking history with a modern, slightly sardonic twist. I guess I mean to say he's serious about his work and his beloved homeland, but he's not so serious about himself.

I'm not an Iron Ranger, let me be up front about that. I came from the land of non-flouridated water. In fact, overburden had to be explained to me...

Overburden are those giant piles made from digging those giant holes in the earth that were mined. They consist of mineral waste products and have the dual distinction of being both industrially ugly and starkly beautiful. Overburden is also putting too much stress on something or someone.

Overburden, as Aaron puts it, is really the story of the Iron Range:

"Our entire existence is tied to the past - tied to those big piles of overburden on the edges of all of our towns - the area is in modern terms only 100 years old - so it's 100 years of earth piled up by our ancestors.

Anyone who grew up on the Iron Range in the 1980's knew it was only a matter of time before the whole thing shut down. Kind of 'last one out turn out the lights'. It was assumed that you were going to leave if you could. If you had any kind of talent - in anything - it was expected that you take that talent someplace else."
And yet Aaron wanted to not only stay put, but dig in deeper into those piles of earth, and understand those that had come before him, and those that will go after him.

Tune in for our conversation this week. Aaron will also be co-hosting Between You and Me on Saturday October 18th from 10-noon - we'll be talking about what the Iron Range means to you.

Congratulations to Aaron on the publication of his first book! Check out his upcoming appearances:

Thursday Oct. 16th, Howard Street Booksellers - Hibbing, 5-7pm
Saturday Oct. 18th, Village Bookstore - Grand Rapids, 12-2pm

Wednesday Nov. 12th, Barnes and Noble - Duluth, 6:30pm

Tuesday Dec. 2nd, Grand Rapids Area Library, 7pm

Monday, September 29, 2008

the amount of words I DON'T know is overwhelming!

I'm getting ready for an upcoming interview with Kathleen Norris about her new book. Wouldn't you know it? Right off the bat, words I don't understand.

Kathleen Norris is described as "a poet, a memoirist and oblate who has written the new book ACEDIA AND ME: MARRIAGE, MONKS AND A WRITER'S LIFE".

Crap, in one sentence I had work to do.

OBLATE: a layman living in a monastery under a modified rule and without vows

ACEDIA: spiritual torpor and apathy; ennui

TORPOR: The dormant, inactive state of a hibernating or estivating animal

ENNUI: Listlessness and dissatisfaction resulting from lack of interest; boredom

ESTIVATING: Passing the summer in a dormant or torpid state

I'm working on a way to fit these into my everyday conversation.... something like "Did you hear the one about the estivating oblate who walks into a bar? He was torpid and filled with ennui!"

I'm still working on it.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Author Videos - the latest trend

This week's guest on Realgoodwords, Philip Smith, has a video that explains his new memoir "Walking Through Walls". There's been a few authors I've interviewed in the last year who have done this, and I find it intriguing. What do you think?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Brainerd pays tribute to Jon Hassler

From the Star Tribune:

Brainerd college will rename its library to honor writer Jon Hassler

Last update: September 10, 2008 - 10:38 PM

Hassler, who died earlier this year of a Parkinson's-like illness, was an English and humanities instructor at the college from 1968 until 1980. In those years it was called Brainerd Community College.

Hassler began writing novels while in Brainerd and later became writer-in-residence and regent's professor at St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn. He wrote more than 20 books, most set in small-town Minnesota, and is probably best known for "Staggerford" and "The Love Hunter."

The dedication ceremony for the Jon Hassler Library will be at 2 p.m. Sept. 28, in the Chalberg Theatre on the college campus.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

is HOW and WHERE we read changing?

Author Melanie Lynne Hauser did something really interesting. After publishing her first two books (Confessions of SuperMom and SuperMom Saves the World) she decided to make the novel she wrote first, Jumble Pie, available as a free e-book.

It didn't take off that fast at first, until she found this eye-catching graphic and started using some targeted google banner ads.

Now she's had at least 1300 downloads of the book!

Besides the surprise that people were finding and reading her book, Melanie found out some interesting things by a survey she conducted of the people who downloaded Jumble Pie:

96.7% survey respondents were women
35.7% of readers who read all or part of the novel has so far forwarded the file to an average of 4 other readers

What she also found was that many of them women were reading her e-book during the day, at work.

Do you read e-books? Do you read them at work? Would you admit it?

Click here to download Jumble Pie by Melanie Lynne Hauser. Melanie is my guest on this week's Realgoodwords and I asked her about her experiment with e-books.
"I personally don't feel that stingy about my writing. Obviously I want to be paid to write. I have a lot of words in me and a lot of stories in me and I did not have a problem with sharing that book with people because I love Jumble Pie."

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

When do our family stories start to matter to us?

That's the question, isn't it? It's been on my mind lately, for the StoryCorps project but also as I talked with author Ariel Sabar today about his book "My Father's Paradise: A Son's Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq."

As children and young adults we often tune out when our parents and grandparents tell us stories about the "olden days". I asked Ariel if his dad had told him about his Kurdish roots as he was growing up in Los Angeles.
"I didn't give my dad the chance to tell me things. I didn't want him around. I wanted my mother who was American born to take me to things like soccer practice and picking me up after school. I looked at my dad as someone who was hopelessly mired in the past. Who refused to make any accommodations to the modern era - I didn't even let my dad get that close. So I really knew nothing."
He went on to say,
"In fact this was the 1980's when I was growing up and this was right after the Iranian hostage crisis and I remember skateboarding in the local public school yard and seeing graffiti on the walls along the lines of 'Iranians go home' and 'towel-heads go home'. I didn't think most kids made any distinction between Iraqis and Iranians and people from other countries in the Middle East and so I saw my father as a spoiler on my own yearning to fit in. I didn't know much at all."
At some point, sometimes as relatives age or are sick or when we have children of our own, we WANT to know the stories of the people that came before us. That's what happened to Ariel Sabar when he had his son. That's the genesis of the book about his dad's heritage.
"This book is about what happens when we leave an ancient culture for a modern one - and what happens. As children of immigrants we find ourselves just a few steps over that threshold - the folks who live in the old world are still alive - their memories are still with them. If we wait too long then their stories are gone.
You begin to see yourself more as a link in a chain. Are you going to carry forward this culture in some way or are you going to drop the ball?
For me, one of the things I learned about the Kurdish Jews is that against some very great odds they kept up their ancient language and their religion over 3,000 years as a minority in the mountains living among Muslims. I'm close enough to it that I was in this privileged position of being able to record some of this and bring it forward.

We have a choice to make: do we walk away and blaze forward into this great American future in which we can be whoever we want to be and reinvent ourselves? Or do we carry some of what came before us with us and do we connect ourselves to history in a way that allows us to be something bigger than ourselves? "
It's a question Ariel Sabar posed to himself, but it's something we should pose to ourselves too. Do you carry the traditions and heritage of your parent and grandparents and great-grandparents with you? How do you do that?

What I'm finding out, as are the folks who have signed up for StoryCorps, is that we should all carve out time to ask questions, and most importantly, to listen. It's a gift we can give to ourselves.

Monday, September 8, 2008

how quickly the world can change - a preview of this week's show

The world can change in just one lifetime - a culture and a language can die out...

Award winning journalist Ariel Sabar has just published a new book called "My Father's Paradise - A Son's Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq".

In some ways Ariel and his father Yona's story is thousands of miles away - geographically and culturally -from my own. And yet, as 91.7 KAXE hosts the StoryCorps crew in Northern Minnesota I am reminded how much our stories matter. The stories of our mothers and fathers inform and in some cases, define who we are. We live here, in the young country of the United States, knowing very little of the immigrant stories of our ancestors.

Ariel Sabar's father, Yona, was born in a mud hut in a tiny village in the Kurdish regions of Northern Iraq. Nestled in the mountains, this community of Zahko had been there for nearly 3,000 years. The people spoke Aramic - the language of Jesus - a language that has nearly died out. In the early 1950's Yona and 120,000 other Iraqi Jews were resettled in the newly established Israel. Life there was tenuous - cramped and filled with bigotry and poverty. Eventually Ariel's father made his way through night school in Jerusalem and on to Yale University. Today he is an expert in Aramic and is dedicated to preserving the heritage of the Jews of Kurdistan.

To outsiders this story is important and fascinating. But when it is your father's story, well, it's just something your sometimes embarrassing family tells you. At least that how it was to journalist Ariel Sabar. Until he had a son. "My Father's Paradise - A Son's Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq" is the father-son tale of retracing a family and a country's history.

Sabar offers something rare and precious – a tale of hope and continuity that can be passed on for generations. . . . Readers can only be grateful to him for unearthing the history of a family, a people and a very different image of Iraq. " – Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
Tune in to Realgoodwords this week (6-7pm, CST, Wed & 9-10am, Sun) for my conversation with Ariel Sabar and let us know what it was like for you to tell YOUR story in the StoryCorps Airstream trailer that is parked here, at 91.7 KAXE. Does having a connection to your family's story matter to you?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

50,000 year old wood!

It's called Kauri wood, and it is from the bogs of New Zealand.

I had a chance to talk with Minnesota writer Spike Carlsen about his new book "A Splintered History of Wood- Belt Sander Races, Blind Woodworkers & Baseball Bats". He covers just about everything you'd need to know about wood - from baseball bats, guitars, chainsaw carvers and the Kauri wood of New Zealand.

The Ashland, Wisconsin company Ancientwood harvests the wood and sells it for about $35 a board. As Spike put it, there's an almost hologram look to the wood...

Spike Carlsen will be at the Village Bookstore in Grand Rapids this Sunday, September 7th from 12-noon. He'll have a little show-n-tell that will include the Kauri wood as well as one of his most prized wooden pieces, a 30lb chunk of maple that is whittled down to a 7 oz cowboy hat.

For every copy of "A Splintered History of Wood" by Spike Carlsen, a tree will be planted in Tanzania.

Do you have a favorite kind of wood? The desks at KAXE (made by Timberdoodle Woodworks out of Bovey, MN) are made of a wood called lyptus. It's grown quickly and sustainably in the rainforest and is beautiful!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Can Books Save Your Life?

Nancy Pearl thinks they can. She believes her life was saved by books.

"I didn't come from a particularly happy family and reading was my sole means of escape. The librarians at my local library in Detroit really showed me what books there were and what the world was like outside what I knew. I knew when I was 10 that I wanted to be a librarian - a children's librarian in fact."

I was so excited to have a conversation with Nancy Pearl because we have similar backgrounds and interests. Libraries, book stores and radio about books specifically. I told Nancy how I could trace my love of reading to specific people. Namely, my mom, as well as my aunt Sue. My mom made going to the library more fun than anything. She read to me and she passed on her favorite books and we still trade books to this day. One of the best presents I ever got was from my aunt Sue (besides the bag of candybars from my sis).... she took me to a bookstore and let me pick out TEN BOOKS! TEN! One of those books was "A Wrinkle in Time".

I asked Nancy Pearl about her early reading years.

"I was one of those kids who began my reading with horse and dog books and that's all I used to read. But then this librarian - a woman named Frances Whitehead (who I really think in a lot of ways saved my life) said, 'oh Nancy I have a new horse book - would you like to be the first person to check it out?' And I would always fall for this, time and time again and I said 'Yes Ms. Whitehead, I'd LOVE to be the first person to read that book' and I would hold out my hand expecting her to give me the book. She would say 'oh but - wait - before you read that book - I just want you to try another book, first, and then as soon as you finish that other book I'll give you the brand new book. ' So by that sort of somewhat sneaky way I read Mary Poppins, The Wind in the Willows and the J.R.R. Tolkien books"

Tune in for my conversation with Nancy Pearl, a librarian so famous they made an action figure of her! Check out her great website for lots of book recommendations.

In our conversation, Nancy recommended the following books:

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
City of Thieves by David Benioff
Olive Kittridge by Elizabeth Strout
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

Nancy Pearl will be in Grand Rapids Wednesday September 10th at 1:30 to give a booktalk, "Great Books to Read - New and Old". The event is free and open to the public.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

so many stories,too little time to blog!

I'm getting so excited about the arrival of StoryCorps this week that I've been ignoring my blog duties. Duties is not the right word here, because I started the Realgoodblog to document my reading life and my radio life with books. Though I wasn't quite sure I had the time,I've often thought that I mark my life by the books I read. So noting my reading is in some ways, noting my life.

I want to tell you about Phyllis Montana-Leblanc. I had the chance to have a conversation with her last week and I was impressed by how candid she was.

Here's the thing: August 29th is the 3rd anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. I am sorry to say that though I remember the devastation of that storm and the devastation of the lack of government relief, because I live here, at the absolute OTHER end of the Mississippi River, it didn't have that much impact on me...which I know is a callous thing to say.

That's why I'm glad I had the chance to meet Phyllis Montana Leblanc. You may know Phyllis from Spike Lee's documentary "When The Levees Broke". She was the outspoken star who told it like it was. Now she's telling it through her writing in her memoir "Not Just the Levees Broke - My Story During and After Hurricane Katrina".

As we talked and she told me how it began, how the walls in her apartment bubbled - or like her husband said - he could hear the walls breathe... she admitted that even talking about it made her heart beat and her hands shake a little bit. She saw bodies float by, she saw helicopters come and helicopters go, leaving her behind. And yet, she is still here, just recently out of their FEMA trailer and in their very own house.

She struggles still, combatting fears, trying to help others who haven't been as fortunate as she has. But as she told me, she has faith. And that is why she made it.

You can hear our conversation here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Nothing is as it seems...

Or so we come to learn in the new novel "Somebody Else's Daughter" by Elizabeth Brundage. The wealthy good father who donates alot of money to the synagogue and his daughter's school is really making his money from the porn industry....The dedicated headmaster of the private school who has had great success at turning the school around has a secret side that drives him to young girls...the drug addict who gives up his child with a woman who dies of AIDS and becomes a teacher that inspires young people.

All of them are flawed and very real.

In our conversation Elizabeth said, "Nate becomes the unlikely hero in the novel and I loved that. I wanted to really show how you are not necessarily doomed by the mistakes you make early on in life. You can make changes and improve and climb out of a situation and find redemption."

More about "Somebody Else's Daughter":

In the Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts a group of families is connected through the prestigious Pioneer prep school. Into this community enters Nate Gallagher, a teacher and struggling writer haunted by the daughter he gave up for adoption years ago. The girl, Willa—now a teenager and one of Nate's students—lives with her adoptive parents, Joe and Candace, who have nurtured her with their affection and prosperity. When Willa wins a community service internship and begins working at a local women's shelter, her friendship with a troubled prostitute raises questions about her own biological past. Despite her parent's love and care, Willa can't shake her feelings of confusion and abandonment, and Joe and Candace are too preoccupied with their crumbling marriage to realize her unhappiness.

Tune in for my conversation with Elizabeth this week on Realgoodwords.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

I've been tagged?

It sucks to get old. All these new-fangled things the kids come up with! Tiny phones connected by a series of tubes. Yogurt in a tube. Who knew?

Anyway, my friend in blogging, Northern Cheapskate Christina Brown has tagged me. Which I guess means I'm it. Here we go, I'll start counting while you find your hiding place.

Here are the rules:
1. Link back to the person who tagged you
2. Mention the rules on your blog
3. Tell about 6 unspectacular quirks of yours
4. Tag 6 bloggers by linking them
5. Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger’s blogs letting them know they’ve been tagged.

6 unspectacular things about me. (testing, testing, is this thing on?)

1. I hate to see a seam of a lamp shade. Don't ask me why, but I not only turn it so it looks better, but I've been known to ask my husband to take care of it for me as well.

2. One of my dad's nicknames for me was Charlie Brown. Not sure why - it was either my shirt or my wishy-washiness.

3. I have a stuffed monkey on my bed.

4. I taught myself to play the piano with tv themes. St. Elsewhere, Hill Street Blues, The Jeffersons....

5. I like the Gene Simmons reality show "Family Jewels". (Not so much that I know when it is on, but I'll stop when I come to it)

6. I absolutely LOVE the old video game Galaga.

My tags:
Harbor Star Reflections
The Backward Pioneer
BC's Blog
DJ the DJ's blog
Old Enough to Swear
Beaver Creek Cabins blog

Just Do It!

I'm not talking advertising mantras here, I'm talking about writing. Many of us are "aspiring writers" who may write off and on, but don't diligently sit our butts down and get words on a page. Then there are those that do what they say - like this week's guests on Realgoodwords. Local men who have always wanted to write novels, and by gum, they are doing it.

Mike Holst is a columnist with Northland Press and has published two novels "A Long Way Back" and "Nothing to Lose". Both take place in Minnesota, but are very different stories. "A Long Way Back" is the adventure story of a family whose small plane goes down in the BWCA. In "Nothing to Lose" a widow of a police officer seeks justice her own way.

Jim Proebstle is the author of "In the Absence of Honor" a story set on the Leech Lake reservation that involves corrupt tribal councils - ancient burial grounds and getting to the bottom of a murder. It's been called "a modern day wilderness conspiracy with tentacles reaching Washington D.C."

Who is your favorite Minnesota author? Do you like reading books that are set where you live?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Fess Up!

What magazines do you read? Have you ever followed advice or a recipe from them? Cathy Alter changed her life reading and taking advice from magazines like Cosmopolitan, Real Simple and Oprah. Her book is "Up for Renewal: What Magazines Taught Me About Love, Sex, And Starting Over".

Okay, I'll go first. Last night I read Entertainment Weekly and Real Simple magazine. Phew, that feels better. I may use a recipe from Real Simple for dinner tonight... we'll see. Post your favorite magazines here!

Janis Ian

Grammy award winning singer-songwriter Janis Ian talked with me this week about her autobiography, "Society's Child: My Autobiography". Her book is her life certainly, but it also gives a glimpse into the times. Janis said to me:
"If I could make it a book thats as much about the times as it is about me then I might be able to write something that's not just a self-serving piece of crap."

Her first hit, "Society's Child" at 15 created a huge stir with its interracial marriage themes. She received death threats and radio stations were hestitant to play the song. To Janis, growing up in a neighborhood with more black people than white people, it was a song about life. Same with "At Seventeen". Remember the moving lyrics?

I learned the truth at seventeen
That love was meant for beauty queens
And high school girls with clear skinned smiles
Who married young and then retired.
The valentines I never knew
The Friday night charades of youth
Were spent on one more beautiful
At seventeen I learned the truth.
And those of us with ravaged faces
Lacking in the social graces
Desperately remained at home
Inventing lovers on the
Who called to say come dance with me
and murmured vague obscenities
It isn't all it seems
At seventeen.

What was evident to me, in reading "Society's Child" was that Janis had grown up in the world of music certainly, but more broadly in a world of artistic expression that included music, art and certainly, reading. She said to me:

"Books showed me that I wasn't a freak that there were other people like me in the world. I could basically know the world through books in a way that pre-internet you could never have known the world."

Tune in for our conversation this week. Or check the archive.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Another word of the day

Someone (they shall remain nameless) said this to me today:

"She sounded rather taciturn".

I know I should know what taciturn means. I've read it, and in context, I get it. But for the life of me, in that sentence, I was flummoxed.

Main Entry: tac·i·turn
Definition: temperamentally disinclined to talk

Function: adjective:

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

it's all in the details

Be obscure clearly. ~E.B. White

I talked with Park Rapids poet LouAnn Shepard Mumm this week about her new book of poetry "Breaking the Glass" published by Loonfeather Press in Bemidji. LouAnn said to me of her poetry, "I strive for what I call deceptive simplicity. On one level very simple and straightforward but ideally there are other levels a reader can go to if they choose to."

Here's her poem "Bird Sanctuary"

I don't know how
word gets out-
whether in song
or in movement
like the bees' waggle-dance,
showing the way to all the best nectar-
but somehow they know
I've learned form girlhood
to keep the feeders filled,
to open my doors
to the broken-winged
and lost.

I have no field guide
to tell by their markings
whether they are vultures,
or eagles,
or wrens,
but I take my own notes
and add more data
with each new check
on my lifetime

In our conversation LouAnn talked about the community of writers in the Park Rapids area including the Jack Pine Writer's Bloc and their publication "The Talking Stick". She also talked about some of the retreats she has gone to including St. Benedict's Retreats in Collegeville and

Arc Ecumenical Retreat in Stanchfield, Minnesota.

If you are interested in a retreat check here for retreat centers around the country. Post here if you've ever been a part of one and tell us what it was like!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Word of the day

parsimonious \par-suh-MOH-nee-uhs\, adjective: Sparing in expenditure; frugal to excess.

His mother became increasingly parsimonious over the years, and even if there were a good doctor around she did not like to pay one.-- Willard Sterne Randall, George Washington: A Life

Lehmann was famously parsimonious, and used postwar shortages as a cover for his economies.-- John Richardson, The Sorcerer's Apprentice

He was extremely parsimonious with his words, parceling them out softly in a deliberate monotone as if each were a precious gem never to be squandered.-- Michael Riordan and Lillian Hoddeson, Crystal Fire

Parsimonious is the adjective form of parsimony, from Latin parsimonia, "thrift, parsimony," from parsus, past participle of parcere, "to spare, to be sparing, to economize." Entry and Pronunciation for parsimonious

Have you ever used parsiminous? Can you even say it? I think I've read this word before, but never actually uttered it. Is this a word for our Northern Cheapskate?
Maybe we are all getting a little parsiminous about our persimmons. Or maybe not. At least I can say I learned something today.

Infinite potential in walking out our own door

Mary Rose O'Reilly is my guest this week on Realgoodwords. Her book is recently out in paperback from Milkweed Press* of Minnesota called "The Love of Impermanent Things - A Threshold Ecology". I asked Mary Rose to help me understand the title.

She started with what Threshold Ecology meant to her:

"Threshold is a laden word; its a kind of space that we pass from one reality to another when we cross a threshold.
There is infinite potential in walking outside of our own door and seeing what extraordinary things might be there.

Ecology reminds us of the interrelatedness of the things that we find on either side of the threshold - in the plant and animal world or in our own households."

She's right you know, there are extraordinary things out there. On our way to the lake last night my husband and I saw some wild strawberry plants, right there in the path, growing among the pine needles. We were just talking about putting some strawberry plants in the garden! How did they get there? How come we saw them that day? ( psst: I'm so glad you made me look!)

*Milkweed Press, a literary nonprofit publisher in Minneapolis has this mission:

Milkweed Editions publishes with the intention of making a humane impact on society, in the belief that literature is a transformative art uniquely able to convey the essential experiences of the human heart and spirit. To that end, Milkweed publishes distinctive voices of literary merit in handsomely designed, visually dynamic books, exploring the ethical, cultural, and esthetic issues that free societies need continually to address.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Word of the Day

gustatory \GUS-tuh-tor-ee\, adjective:Of or pertaining to the sense of taste.

In a land of ice and chains and endemic suffering, caviar provided gustatory salvation from grief and black days, a sensual escape from temporal woes.-- Jeffrey Tayler, "The Caviar Thugs", The Atlantic, June 2001

feel free to drop it into your conversation.... I know I'll try.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Summer Vacation Reading

Do your reading tastes change by season? Are there "beach reads" for you?

Maybe you are a mystery reader? Romance?

I'm headed off on a road trip this week and here's my odd mix of books that I'm taking for reading material....(I overload JUST IN CASE there's a book emergency of some sort)

"The Friday Night Knitting Club" by Kate Jacobs

The unpublished manuscript of Aaron Brown's first book

"Dedication" by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

"Lake Superior's Historic North Shore - A Guided Tour" by Deborah Morse-Kahn

"Up for Renewal - What Magazines Taught Me About Love, Sex, and Starting Over" by Cathy Alter

"Shining Big Water - the Story of Lake Superior" by Norman K. Risjord

What are you reading this summer? Send me some suggestions!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Love the One You're With

do it do it do it do IT!

Emily Giffin's latest novel is called "Love the One You're With". Besides getting the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song stuck in my head, this was a fun read.

It's the story of Ellen and Andy married and leading a seemingly perfect life together. Until Ellen runs into the man who broke her heart years before....and she feels that urgency and longing that aren't a part of her peaceful marriage.

Giffin’s fluid storytelling and appealing characters give her novels a warm, inviting air, and her fourth is no exception . . . Giffin’s snappy prose makes (her heroine) Ellen’s dilemma compelling, once again proving she’s at the top of the chick-lit pack." —Booklist
Tune in for my conversation with Emily Giffin, this week on Realgoodwords.