Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Travels of a T-Shirt

Never underestimate the power of a reader. Or a book group. Or a librarian. I'll stop now, but you get my point, people read books - they talk about it to others - they get together to discuss - and it makes a difference. Reading, participating in something, it is important. We start thinking about topics we had never entertained before. We ask questions. And maybe we read the tag on that t-shirt we bought, wondering how it got into our hands.

Yes, I'm a word nerd who values reading, but more on that some other time....

Jeff Wartchow from the Grand Rapids Men's Reading Group joined me in KAXE's studios today to tape an interview with Georgetown University professor and author Pietra Rivoli about her book "The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy - An Economist Examines the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade" (that fuzzy book I'm holding). You can hear it tonight on Realgoodwords as well as Sunday morning or in the archive.

Pietra's book encompasses the global economy but it also gets to the fundamental questions of where do we spend our money? Does it matter if we buy clothes at Wal-Mart or buy food from the farmer's markets? How does it all affect the global economy?

Do these questions interest you? What questions do you have? What is your bookclub reading?

The KAXE Bookclub is getting together next Wednesday May 7th at 4pm to talk about Pietra's book, everyone is invited. If you want, bring a snack to share!

National Public Radio's Adam Davidson followed Pietra on her travels and you can read about and hear the series here.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Phil and Jackie Solem

Phil and Jackie Solem were in to talk about their life and the book they wrote about it, "Such a Road: Autobiography of a Marriage". Phil was a priest and Jackie was a nun when they met. What impressed me about them was their commitment to their community. How service to a community became a part of who they were as a couple. I also took to heart their take on work. Some time ago they made a commitment to work only 20 hours a week. They were willing to give up monetarily in order to gain spiritually and emotionally.

Tune in to Realgoodwords on Sunday April 27th at 9am for our conversation - or check the Realgoodwords archives. Phil and Jackie will speak on their life at the Grand Rapids Area Library on Tuesday April 29th at 7pm. It is free and open to the public. For information on how to get the book see their website

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

This Week's Show

I'm getting ready for Realgoodwords (from 6-7pm, CST, streaming at this morning, thinking about the guests that will be featured.

Up first is Steve Keillor - he's a Minnesota History professor at Bethel University in St. Paul and the author of a new book that is part of Minnesota's Sesquecentennial celebration called "Shaping Minnesota's Identity: 150 Years of State History". Steve and I talked yesterday about some of the things that make Minnesota what it is. One in particular is the geography and climate of the land of Minnesota.

I really took that to heart - especially this time of year. I always think of this as the "grateful" time of year. When you walk outside and sigh, smell and feel lucky that the seasons are finally beginning to change. Everything seems possible this time of year - things might actually grow from the land, trees will bud and lakes will open up.
It is part of what makes us Minnesotans I think, living through such drastic change. It goes beyond the land - the gratefulness. Right now is a time in my life that I'm especially grateful for the family that I have. What are you grateful for?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Minnesota Book Award Winners

From the Star Tribune

Awards honor Minnesota authors
Among this year's Minnesota Book Awards winners were a beer brewer, a daughter of St. Paul and a daughter of Beijing.

By SARAH T. WILLIAMS, Star Tribune
Last update: April 13, 2008 - 12:14 AM

Judges for the 20th annual Minnesota Book Awards celebrated the state's immigrants, its teachers and scholars, its prime crime writers and, well, its beer brewers on Saturday night.
About 700 people attended the ceremonies at the Crowne Plaza Riverfront, sponsored by the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library and hosted by TPT and MPR's Cathy Wurzer.

"These are not the Oscars," said Deborah Keenan, winner of the poetry award, in a nod to her fellow finalists. "Comparing one book to another is like walking in a blessed orchard."

Here are the winners in eight categories:
Children's literature: "Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat," by Lynne Jonell (Holt). A girl discovers that she and her parents are being drugged by her nasty nanny, and she and her animal friends must foil the plot. What the judges said: "Lots of fine details and great sympathetic characters -- even the mean ones."

General nonfiction: "The Art of Subtext: Beyond Plot," by Charles Baxter (Graywolf). The acclaimed fiction writer and essayist explores the hidden overtones and undertones in fiction. What the judges said: "Absolutely stellar explication of texts."

Genre fiction: "Thunder Bay," by William Kent Krueger (Atria). The seventh book in the Cork O'Connor series takes the protagonist into Canada, where he tries to locate the son of his friend, an Ojibwe healer. What the judges said: "Beautiful book that resonates after reading."

Memoir and creative nonfiction: "The Florist's Daughter," by Patricia Hampl (Harcourt). The author revisits her childhood as she experiences her mother's death. What the judges said: "Eloquent, bittersweet and consistently well-written."

Minnesota: "Land of Amber Waters: The History of Brewing in Minnesota," by Doug Hoverson (University of Minnesota Press). The certified beer judge and award-winning homebrewer tells the story of the state's beer industry. What the judges said: "Combines entertaining style and attractive, high-quality design."

Novel and short story: "The Last Communist Virgin," by Wang Ping (Coffee House). A window into the rapid transformation of an ancient culture, from New York City's Chinatown to the streets of Beijing. What the judges said: "Stories are compelling and balance social, cultural as well as literary appeal."

Poetry: "Willow Room, Green Door," by Deborah Keenan (Milkweed). Three decades of the poet's work, addressing love and rage, vulnerability and authority, distraction and focus. What the judges said: "Genuine, honest and original, the poems build on one another."

Young-adult literature: "Defect," by Will Weaver (Farrar, Straus and Giroux): A boy deals with features he was born with that are terrifying to some and magical to others. What the judges said: "Memorable imagery combined with a tender-hearted view of an underrepresented voice."
Other honors: Don Leeper, founder and president of BookMobile, won the Kay Sexton Award for lifelong contributions to Minnesota's literary community; Jill Kalz won the Readers' Choice Award (by a vote of more than 7,000) for "Farmer Cap" (Picture Window), an illustrated children's tale of an eccentric farmer who likes to plant spaghetti and popsicles, and Jody Williams won the Book Artist Award for excellence throughout a body of work (showing at St. Paul Central Library, 90 W. 4th St., through April 20).

The annual awards program is a project of the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library, along with the library and mayor's office. For more information on the judging process, other sponsors and a complete list of finalists and winners since 1988, go to
Sarah T. Williams is the Star Tribune books editor

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Power of Words

I thought it might be fun to have a "word of the day" today. Harmless, right? Educational, right? I went to and this was their word of the day:

portent \POR-tent\, noun:1. A sign of a coming event or calamity; an
omen.2. Prophetic or menacing significance.3. Something amazing; a marvel.

A comet that year was taken as a portent of some imminent but incalculable
change.-- Patrick Smith

So I was fine with PORTENT as our word of the day until I saw the word IMMINENT in the sample sentence. IMMINENT was the word I flubbed in 6th grade at the district wide spelling bee. I mean really, EMINENT is close enough to IMMINENT, isn't it? Sure I didn't get the glory of being the district wide champ, but I did get an Information Please 1981 almanac that has been really useful in my life. And a hamburger at McDonald's with one of my favorite teachers. Obviously I'm still a little touchy about it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Not So Good Words

Our friend John from Ideal Corners often lets me know about the words and phrasings that drive him crazy. First and foremost on his list are redundacies.


a: the quality or state of being redundant : superfluity b: the use of redundant components; also : such components cchiefly British : dismissal from a job especially by layoff 2: profusion, abundance 3 a: superfluous repetition : prolixity b: an act or instance of needless repetition 4: the part of a message that can be eliminated without loss of essential information

That being said, here are the redundancies that irk him the most:
- I've got ..... - I've is short for I have. To say I have got is redundant, why not just I have?
- it's a true fact....
-immediate vicinity.....
- my personal opinion....
- continue on.....
- first and foremost.....
- I hope and trust.....
- make a full and complete......
- any and all
- at this point in time
And many more.

John also sent us these
I also have a list of words, or usages, that I don't like. I call them ugly words.

Dove - as in the past tense of dive.
Gotten - it really grates.
Pretty - used to mean somewhat - how often do you hear the phrase pretty much・ That
doesn't mean anything.
Gone missing or went missing - commonly used in news stories.
Female - when referring to a woman. Female is non-specific - female what?
Sex - when referring to gender. Sex is something you do, not something you are.
Whether or not - whether implies ・or not・
For that matter - doesn't really mean anything.
Quite a little bit - ditto
Persons - as in persons of color.
Dreamt - past tense of dream is dreamed.
Lit - Lighted sounds so much better.
By and large - what does that mean?
Woken up - awakened is smoother.
Snuck - why not sneaked.

I haven't even touched on my wife's description of me as an apostrophe Nazi. Drive around any lake and count the signs by mail boxes that say. The Nelson's or what ever name. My daily nemesis is the sign along Crow Wing County Highway 16 that says. Veteran's Walking Trail・ I wonder which veteran - I'm a veteran, maybe it's my walking trail. Can I kick people off of my trail?
What words irk you? Post them here!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Will Weaver wins the MN Book Award!

Congratulations to Will Weaver for winning the Minnesota Book Award for Young Adult Fiction for his book "Defect".

"Defect" is the story of 15-year old David a boy born defective - with a pinched face, bug eyes and hearing aids. He also has a secret.

Will brings up an interesting issue of how we define ourselves. As we grow out of teenage-dom, eventually those things that we felt "defective" may come to define us in a positive way. What does it take for a "defect" to become an attribute?

Will wrote on his blog of "Defect"
This novel has much to do with some time I spent at the Mayo Clinic as a thirteen year old. I had a facial injury (my nose) which took some fixing, and that feeling of being disfigured (temporarily) stayed with me. Defect also has to do with the literary issue of the young adult "problem novel." Nowadays, fictional realism has hit a wall in terms of problems to explore; that is, the problem under investigation had better be really interesting!

Congratulations Will! We look forward to your "Saturday Night Dirt" series and the summer racing season!!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

KAXE's Next Bookclub Meeting!

The KAXE bookclub is getting together on Wednesday May 7th at 4pm to discuss Pietra Rivoli's "The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy - an Economist Examines the Markets, Power, Politics of World Trade"Here's an essay by Pietra Rivoli about her book:

When I decided to follow my T-shirt around the world, what I wanted most of all was to tell a great story. I didn't start out trying to prove a point or convey a lesson, though lessons surely emerged from my travels. I just had a sense that this very simple thing had a complicated, fascinating story to tell, a story that could resonate with anyone who gets dressed each morning, and I wanted to tell that story.

I found that all over the world people like to be able to explain things to professors. It must be some kind of perverse thrill. Whether I was at a Texas cotton farm or an African T-shirt stall, people wanted me to understand their place in the global economy, wanted to explain to me how their small microcosm of globalization worked, they wanted me to understand how complicated, how hard, but also how interesting it was to face their challenges each day..

As I traveled around the world doing interviews for the book, I heard a lot of contrary views, opinions about cotton subsidies and trade policy, about China and about job losses. But I didn't meet any villains. There are no bad guys in my T-shirt's life story. Every business, every entrepreneur, every politician involved in my T-shirt's life was just trying to make their way in a competitive market, a market that often changes under their feet.

I wrote this book through tumultuous and often tragic times, through 9/11 and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, through terrorist bombs in Europe and through a bitter contested election in America. But as I traveled from a Texas cotton farm to a Chinese factory, from Washington bureaucrats to a third-generation used-clothing dealer descended from Jewish immigrants, to Muslim importers in East Africa, I kept marveling at how well everyone got along. While bombs were dropping, these Muslims, Jews, blacks, and whites stayed friends because of my T-shirt. The yarn and cloth and clothing bound them together, world trade bound them together. They had no choice but to keep talking to one another. The little guys got along just fine while the big guys were fighting. Whatever the debates about trade, it was clear to me after my travels that trade is very clearly an instrument of peace and understanding. I feel privileged that everyone I wrote about is my friend now, and I hope the readers like all of the players in my T-shirt's life story as much as I do.

I have been teaching in a business school for a long time, so I know how easy it is to bore people with talk of trade deficits, or competition, or unemployment. But everyone loves a good story. Some business professors avoid stories in their teaching and research, concerned that stories lack credibility or intellectual heft. But as long as we do our best to tell the whole story, not simply anecdotes selected to prove our point, stories can go a long way in helping us to understand the complexities of trade and international business. I hope my T-shirt's story has done just that.

As a first time book author, I have had a few "pinch myself" exciting moments since the book was released. The first was when I learned that Time was reviewing the book, and the second was when I picked up the phone and found NPR international business correspondent Adam Davidson on the line. He loved the book, he said, and wanted to make an NPR series out of it. And then he gave me the highest compliment for a professor when he said the book had changed the way he thought about globalization, and even how he would report on international business in the future.

The National Public Radio series came together over a month or so, as Adam and I traveled back to many of the places that I had written about, back to Texas cotton farms and Chinese factories. On the radio, we had just twenty-four minutes to condense my work of five years and travels over thousands of miles, just twenty-four minutes to tell the biography of this most complicated simple thing. As I listened to the background sounds that Adam recorded for the radio series — tractor noises, sewing machine noises, cotton gin noises, and the creepy silence of a padlocked T-shirt factory in Alabama — I realized that I had never thought about the sounds that globalization makes. If you close your eyes and listen, you can hear it all working.

Click here to read/listen to the NPR series.
Everyone is invited to come to the KAXE bookclub - bring a snack to share!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Another good word

My husband and I were eating out tonight and said in unison the word "kibosh". I think the context was something like "they need to put the kibosh on those loud kids."

It's a nice sounding word. Hearty and strong. Like you have to have some chutzpah to use it!
According to Merriam-Webster it means : something that serves as a check or stop
e.g. put the kibosh on that

Post your good words here!!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Tonight's show on Foster Care

Tonight on Realgoodwords (from 6-7pm, CST - rebroadcast Sunday morning from 9-10 am) we're talking with Andrew Bridge about his memoir, "Hope's Boy". Andrew grew up in the foster care system in Los Angeles.

From the moment he was born, Andrew Bridge and his mother Hope shared a love so deep that it felt like nothing else mattered. Trapped in desperate poverty and confronted with unthinkable tragedies, all Andrew ever wanted was to be with his mom. But as her mental health steadily declined, and with no one left to care for him, authorities arrived and tore Andrew from his screaming mother's arms. In that moment, the life he knew came crashing down around him. He was only seven years old. Hope was institutionalized, and Andrew was placed in what would be his devastating reality for the next eleven years – foster care. After surviving one of our country's most notorious children's facilities, Andrew was thrust into a savagely loveless foster family that refused to accept him as one of their own. Deprived of the nurturing he needed, Andrew clung to academics and the kindness of teachers. All the while, he refused to surrender the love he held for his mother in his heart.

Megan Bauer, who works in the foster care industry in Northern Minnesota, joins me in our conversation. Megan also talks with a local young man who though not what we might think of as a typical foster parent, is doing a phenomenal job.

We'll also talk with Paul Nelson, a U of MN student who will do a poetry workshop in Grand Rapids at the Library on Friday April 11th at 6pm called "Poetry for the People".

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Favorite words

Do you have any? I just did a quick google search for favorite words and saw quite a few people's lists....they were filled with words I didn't understand, like Brobdingnagian which originates from Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels and means immense or enormous.

Brobdingnagian? Yup, I've been known to say "I've got a brobdingnagian headache right now". Brobdingnagian!

For me my favorite words are not necessarily long or complex. Like BUNGALOW.
I don't get why I like this word so much - and I know this may be crazy, but when you say BUNGALOW, it's like the sounds are walking down stairs. Okay, that IS a little crazy.
I first read the word BUNGALOW when I started reading Nancy Drew and found out she lived with her father, Carson Drew, in a bungalow. I had no idea what a bungalow was...but I knew it must be special if an attorney and his detective teenage daughter lived there. Imagine my surprise when years later I found out it was just a style of house that wasn't even that brobdingnagian!

A small house or cottage usually having a single story and sometimes an additional attic story.
A thatched or tiled one-story house in India surrounded by a wide verandah.

Verandah? Oh, I like that one too.... say it with me now, verandah.....

What's your favorite word? Post your favorites could win a free book!