Saturday, March 22, 2008

Jon Hassler

One of Minnesota's most beloved authors, Jon Hassler, passed away on March 20th from Parkinson disease. He was 74.

I loved Jon Hassler's writing because he got the particulars of not only Minnesota, but small town life. I read "Staggerford" in high school and though I, as an 18 year old Lutheran girl had nothing in common with a single, catholic English teacher, I was entranced by the world of Miles Pruitt and Agatha McGhee.
When I read "Grand Opening" a story inspired by Hassler's growing up years in Plainview, Minnesota, I felt a little closer to my own grandfather who had also grown up in Southern Minnesota, the son of a grocer.

Jon wrote many, many books and touched the hearts and minds of people worldwide. Have you read his work? What was your favorite?

The Minnesota Book Awards

Minnesota mystery writer Mary Logue will be on Realgoodwords coming up on April 9th. Her latest Claire Watkins book "Maiden Rock" is up for a Minnesota Book Award. The awards ceremony (I mean GALA!) will be on Saturday April 12th in St. Paul at the Crowne Plaza Hotel - Riverfront at 8pm.

Other past guests on Realgoodwords/KAXE who are nominated for this year's Minnesota Book Award:

Will Weaver's "Defect"

Alison McGhee's "Falling Boy"

William Kent Krueger's "Thunder Bay"

Kevin Kling's "The Dog Says Ha!"

Patricia Hampl's "The Florist's

Catherine Watson's "Home
on the Road: Further Disptaches from the Ends of the Earth"

Doug Hoverson's "Land of
Amber Waters: The History of Brewing in Minnesota"

"Creating Minnesota: A History from the Inside Out"

Lorna Landvik's "The View from Mount Joy"

Congratulations to all the nominees!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Uncle Al's Geezer Salad

Scott and I talked with ol' Uncle Al this morning about his book "Uncle Al's Geezer Salad" as well as his upcoming appearance at the Grand Rapids Area Library on Thursday March 20th at 7pm. He'll be joined by travel writer Catherine Watson - Writing From Real Life: Two Former Journalists Discuss the Whys and Who-Fors in Their Work - Catherine Watson's Travel Essays and Al Sicherman's Humor Columns .

Uncle Al's book has his columns from the Star Tribune where he covered everything from household and automotive repairs gone horribly wrong and his wry observations on "geezerifcation".
Here's a sample from the book
"In today's episode, Uncle Al experiences the thrill of victory (over his kitchen floor) and the agony of the feet.

Readers may be accustomed to reading of Uncle Al's culinary triumphs in the Taste section. Today's tale of splendor in the grease is set in the kitchen as well, but it has a somewhat different focus.

It begins several months ago when Uncle Al was whipping op a mixture of oil, vinegar and garlic in his blender . Something caught his attention, and he turned suddenly, knocking the blender over and spilling several cups of really oily vinaigrette onto his kitchen carpet.

The vinaigrette disappeared instantly into the carpet, and his attempts to blot it up with paper towels were fruitless (or maybe bootless, and certainly hootless, since Uncle Al wasn't laughing.)
I hope you can make it- you are also invited to a no-nut potluck at KAXE right before their 7pm talk - at 5:30pm.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

More from Liza Palmer's interview

Liza is the author of "Seeing Me Naked" and "Conversations with the Fat Girl". I talked with her last night on Realgoodwords - check out the archive to hear it yourself.

There are so many books that are labeled "chick lit" - stories that concern younger women. Often times books like "Sex and the City" are confused with being the norm; centering on fashion and boyfriends. But there is a whole world beyond "Sex in the City" that is thoughtful, fun and mostly about relationships, like Liza Palmer's writing.
I talked with her about her main character, Elizabeth:
"Elizabeth is just your run-of-the-mill 30 year old - always trying to figure out where she fits into life - she's a perfectionist who doesn't quite know what decisions she needs to make - the big decisions of She's doing okay, but I think she's kind of waiting for her life to kick in - and it's not clicking in at the moment."

And Liza continued, about that in-between time in life, like her character Elisabeth experiences as she starts making pastries that are more comfort foods....

"I think we start moving in a certain way - in our career or our taste - the books we read or movies we watch - before we get that we're moving that way personally. It's like the outside of our our life starts changing before we even realize it. I really identified with that."

and Liza's thoughts on her writing process...

"My first drafts are very quick because I hate the blank page. So I vomit out very quickly the worst first draft ever. I don't really know any of the characters at that point - so then I will go back and edit and edit and edit. "Seeing Me Naked" was edited like 10 times or something like that - It is almost like the first time you write a draft its like you and the main character are at a Starbucks together - like maybe you are in line and chat a little bit and the next time you edit is like you are at a bar and maybe you've got a beer in her and she opens up a little more - then the 3rd edit maybe you are driving up the coast to go to San Fransisco so you've got her for 8 hours and she opens up more. So every single edit I get to know her AND you also get to know the main characters by our secondary characters getting fleshed out. Every single edit you get the idea of your main character's world."

Monday, March 10, 2008

Animal Vegetable Miracle recipe

I've finished the audio book of Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Mirace: A Year of Food Life" for tomorrow's KAXE bookclub. This book really got me thinking about where my food comes from. As we've heard Maggie's Local Food segments on KAXE, I've been inspired to incorporate more local foods into my diet - it's not that much yet (especially this time of year) but I do get milk, butter, potatoes, cheese, wild rice, berries, honey, venison, beef and maple syrup locally.

How about you?

I checked out the recipe section of Animal Vegetable Miracle and found one I want to try this summer, assuming the blackberry crop will be better than last year's.

2-3 apples, chopped
2 pints blackberries
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 large handful of basil leaves, chopped
¼ cup honey – or more, depending on tartness of your berries

Preheat oven to 400. Combine the above in an oven-proof casserole dish, mix and set aside.

5 tbsp flour
3 heaping tbsp brown sugar
1 stick cold butter

Cut butter into flour and sugar, then rub with your fingers to make a chunky, crumbly mixture (not uniform). Sprinkle it over the top of the fruit, bake 30 minutes until golden and bubbly.

Hope you can make it to the bookclub meeting - it's at 4pm on Tuesday March 11th.

Check out Maggie's latest post on the Morning Show blog!

Hope's Boy by Andrew Bridge

I'm getting ready to tape an interview tomorrow with Andrew Bridge. Andrew's book, "Hope's Boy" is his memoir about growing up in the foster care system of Los Angeles. It's a New York Times Bestseller, a Publisher's Weekly bestseller as well as garnering many other distinctions....

Hope’s Boy captures an unprecedented child’s perspective into the world of foster care…a personal and penetrating description of the deep wounds children suffer when placed in the cold and unnatural world of foster care.— Amy Pellman, Commissioner, Los Angeles Superior Court

Andrew begins chapter one with this stunning sentence:

My earliest memory of my mother is her absence.

I'll be talking with Andrew about Hope's Boy along with Megan, who works locally in foster care. Keep posted for more information on when you can hear this interview.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Weekend Reading/Perusing

What are you reading? This is in my stack for the weekend!*

Hope's Boy by Andrew Bridge
A Long Way Back by Mike Holst
Jacob's Well - A Case for Rethinking Family History by Joseph Amato
Happier Than God by Neale Donald Walsch

*not that I'll get them all read!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Tonight's Show with Martha Frankel and Rebecca Johnson

On tonight's show you'll hear a conversation with Rebecca Johnson, author of "And Sometimes Why". The book has been described as delivering a perfectly pleasant, even enjoyable read about a sad subject: the death of a 16-year old girl.

One of the things Rebecca and I talked about was the evocative title of the book. She said:

"It's a pun on when you learn your vowels as a child A-E-I-O-U and sometimes Y...I love this phrase because it just goes to the heart of this idea that we all try to memorize the rules so that we'll understand. As it turns out there is always an exception - maybe this is our first introduction to that as children - for every rule there is an exception."

We also talked about when tragedy strikes - we all worry about what could happen - what inevitably will happen - the characters in And Sometimes Why are thrust right into tragedy. Sophie, the mother, has been waiting for this horrible day. Rebecca told me:

"I think that some people are almost genetically programmed to expect the worst. Every morning I pick up the newspaper and it's really bad news. After awhile there is something in us that is drawn to it in some way.... and the hopeless contemplation of it over and over. And yet, when a tragedy actually happens we are just genuinely unprepared for it."

Also on tonight's show is my conversation with Martha Frankel. Martha Frankel, how can I describe her? I just kinda want to hang out with her. She's refreshingly honest and direct. Her memoir about her love affair with poker and subsequent addiction to online poker "Hats and Eyeglasses" is fascinating in terms of gambling but more importantly the culture of poker/gambling that shaped her. Martha started playing poker as an adult in her 40's - started playing a weekly game. She became obsessed with it - playing games by herself - consulting with others about the nuances of the game. When she heard from a dealer at a casino "Why play here when you can stay home in your pajamas?" she said, "Something changed in me almost immediately."

She fell into a life of lying, debt and anger. Tune in tonight at 6pm, CST or online by archive afterwards for our conversation.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Hats & Eyeglasses

Today I'm interviewing Martha Frankel about her new memoir "Hats & Eyeglasses - A Family Love Affair with Gambling". It was just published on February 14th but has already garnered great reviews, like:

"The thrill of the chase -- or rather, the chase of the thrill -- powers "Hats and Eyeglasses," a fast-paced and amazingly funny memoir by Martha Frankel. Even those of us who scoff at card games will gain a new understanding of the joys of poker, and if you belong to a weekly poker group, well, beware of Internet enticements." Times-Picayune

"A frank and unaffected memoir" Publishers Weekly

What I liked about this book was how Martha connects her growing up years to her adult life under the magnifying lens of poker. She writes of poker games in her house with her dad, known as The Pencil because he was an accountant, learning the ins and outs of poker. Later, when she comes back to poker as an adult, she comes to realize how life changed after her father died and the poker games at her house stopped happening. Learning to play with her cousin and the guys in the neighborhood brings her back to that loving house she remembered from when her dad was still alive.

Not to say that Martha's mom doesn't play a big role in "Hats & Eyeglasses". Martha's mom cheers her daughter on from the sidelines with shrewd advice all along the way.

The most fascinating part of this book is Martha's addiction to gambling. It's not the friendly poker games or casinos or gambling cruises that pull her into the underbelly - it's online gambling that does it in the end.

It's fascinating - the concept of what is addiction in this context.....she still plays poker now, but not online poker. What is an addiction? Do you have to completely abstain to get the monkey off your back? what monkey?

Monday, March 3, 2008

We're talking Locavores next Tuesday!

Locavore is defined as:

Someone whose diet consists of food grown or produced within an area most commonly bound by a 100-mile radius of their home. Locavores usually shun large supermarket chains, opting for farmer's markets and local gardens instead. It is also a current trend for many high-end restaurants as well.

This word was just declared Oxford American Dictionary's 2007 Word of the Year. It was coined in 2005 by a group of four women from San Francisco. It's also sometimes spelled localvores.

Is Locavore/Localvore a word you are familiar with?

If you are reading Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life" like I am, it's a word/concept I'm coming to understand more and more. We're getting together next Tuesday, 3/11 at 4pm to talk books and food. Everyone is invited to join us - whether or notyou've read the book - and talk about the concept of eating locally -specifically how to eat locally in Northern Minnesota. Maggie Montgomery will be on hand totalk about how she has been eating locally since last July.

Not only am I considering a more extensive garden this year, making cheese
has actually crossed my mind after reading the book! Kingsolver writes about the New England Cheesemaking Company where she learned to make homemade mozzarella and other cheeses. Have you ever made cheese? Let us know! What local food do you eat?