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.