Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Kansas Authors Club

I'm a native Kansas author currently living in Nebraska. A few weeks ago, Carol Yoho suggested I become a member of the Kansas Author Club. (I mistakenly believed a writer had to be a Kansas resident to join KAC.) Carol is website manager for KAC, a woman who treats her webmistress responsibilities with loving detail. Their website is visually attractive and easy to navigate.

Two of the KAC programs, especially, appeal to me: Writers in the Community and Writers in the Schools. These two programs work hand-in-glove with Kansas Center for the Book programs, in which writers reach out into the community.

Literacy is a pet concern of mine because reading and writing impacted my life as a young child. When I was five, just learning to read and write, Mother gave me Golden Books and fairy tales to read and often read them with me. She put a Big Chief tablet and a fistful of pencils in my hands and suggested I write stories or poems for her. Even at that tender age, I was a dreamer, spinning imaginary tales in my head. Mom's encouragement to read and write nurtured a creative spark in me that continues today. The reading and writing of poetry and prose has been a faithful companion through every sad and joyful moment of my life. Reading opened new worlds and realities for me when I was young. That benefit has continued to this day.

I believe reading and journaling can change lives in positive ways. One doesn't have to be a world class writer or scholar to reap the benefits. Transforming the jumble of thoughts in our heads into words on paper can free us from sorrow over time, or bring vibrant life to our joys. Writers can be the flint that strikes a spark of enjoyment for reading or expressing through words in others. That's literacy at its finest in my opinion.

Long story short, I'm thankful to Carol Yoho for encouraging me to join KAC. Many gifted Kansas writers are members so I'm in good company. Check out their website at www.kansasauthors.org. Maybe some day you'll see my name associated with a program in a school, a nursing home, or a public meeting, extolling the benefits of reading and writing in a chaotic modern world.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

the sweet, sour, and bitter of it.....

This morning I'm running vinegar through my coffee pot and thinking about politics. If only mean spirited political advertisements could be as easily dispatched as the lime in the inner workings of my coffee maker!

One ad in my state shows all the African animals a candidate killed on safari. Another features a candidate running, running, running on a narrow highway, up hills and down, trying to escape the fact that he's "gone Washington." Some use humor to soften the rhetoric, others shock my sensibilities so harshly and thoroughly I'm queasy after viewing them. Candidates for higher office admittedly spend millions of their own money and more millions from political contributions for these ads. When they discuss the problems concerning voters, all make the same big promises that never seem to get addressed once they reach office.

Who can we believe? More than one candidate has gone to Washington with stars in their eyes and the determination to make a difference, only to discover it ain't that easy once they get there. Political gamesmanship must be learned and practiced like a pro to reach their goals.

A friend told me recently that the problem with us -- citizens of the U.S. -- is that we want something for nothing and our checks for free. (Yes, she was quoting a popular song.) I don't believe that's true of the majority. If it were true, we would not be the richest nation on earth and politicians would not have a trillion dollar budget to juggle. So here are the concerns I have for any politician seeking office this year or next. And none of them have anything to do with safaris, how much land they own, or how many taxes they pay:
  • why is it that we can't afford as a country to raise minimum wage but we CAN afford to raise YOUR wages?
  • why is it that social security is going bust after being used for decades for spending projects other than what it was intended? Is it, perhaps, because Washington politicians have their own retirement plan that pays far better than Social Security, regardless of how long or how short your political career has been?
  • why the cuts each year to federal health care plans, such as Medicare and VA care? Can it be because politicians at the federal level have their own special health care plan firmly in place and don't have to pay a dime for anything? Not even a small co-pay?
  • why are wars a higher priority than health care, education, and infrastructure? It seems to me that the national budget should be like my own. Financial responsibilities have priority. Then if anything is left over, outside interests can be pursued. If my house, yard, and car are falling apart, that's my fault. If our schools, roads, and health care system are deteriorating, that's your fault because you've sent too much money out of this country.

We live in a wonderful country and I'm thankful to be a citizen. I take my right to vote seriously but I'm not sure any more whether votes have an effect on what happens in Washington. Still, I keep hoping with every election that my doubts will be proven wrong. Wouldn't that be sweet?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Part 2 -- Remsen and Marcus Iowa

My trip to Iowa was delightful in every way. First, I must mention the scenery. I've mentioned several times on my blog that people are mistaken to imagine Kansas and Nebraska as flat, featureless, and boring. The same can be said for Iowa. For miles past Council Bluffs, travelers see high plateaus and bluffs topped by hardwood forests. The poet in me imagined the Native Indian watch fires atop those bluffs in ages past. Bluffs along the Missouri River are easily as tall as many of the worn down mountains in the Appalachian chain. Iowa is blessed with fertile valleys and rolling hills, where corn grows in fields far as eye can see and sleek cattle graze along the roadsides.

My friend and I stayed at the Frontier Motel in Remsen. Remsenites say the Frontier has been there as long as they can remember. It is not fancy, but is clean and comfortable at $28 per double occupancy, and is within easy walking distance of an excellent restaurant, The Golden Pheasant. We chose Remsen as our home base because Marg Sanow and her uncle Dale Sanow live there, a town of about 1400 people.

My friend said she'd never eaten so often or so well as we did in Remsen. We had the absolute best pizza EVER at Greg's Pizza and Grill, made from scratch on site. We had a whopping big and delicious breakfast at Ruth's Cafe. If you ever eat there, order the breakfast sausages. OH YUM!! And one day we had a generous lunch at The Remsen Cafe. Dale fed us broasted chicken and potato wedges one evening from Mrs. B's, and cooked spaghetti sauce from scratch another night to top his perfectly al dente pasta. Grandma Esther Clara often said, "We Sanows like our grub." That appreciation has been carried down through several generations, and the food we had in Remsen was exceptional.

Friday night, Marg hosted a gathering of Sanow descendents in the basement meeting room of The Happy Siesta Health Care Center, where her mother resides. We Sanows snarfed ham and cheese sandwiches, pickles, chips, and cake while we gabbed a mile a minute and exchanged information. I was thrilled to meet so many relatives in one spot and only wish I had had longer to visit. But now I am armed with names, addresses, and emails so I can keep in contact with branches of Grandma's family.

Saturday, Don Sanow, another long lost relative, bought our breakfast at the Marcus truck stop -- good food, cooked to order. After our tummies were full, he took us on a driving tour so we could see Grandma's home place memorialized in My Name is Esther Clara. Much has changed in the years since the Sanows lived there, but seeing the place, walking the same ground they walked a hundred years ago, was a bittersweet experience for me. From there, Don drove us to the cemetery where Ma and Pa Sanow and several of their older children are buried. The last thing on his agenda was to show us Marcus, a town roughly the size of Remsen. Main street looks much like it did when Grandma was a girl, lined with stone and brick buildings built to last. Marcus has its own home-owned ethanol plant, a huge operation that awed us all with its size.

Later we visited Lois Krekow, the woman who originally put me in touch with Marg Sanow. I wanted to thank her in person for her kindness. Lois is on the Marcus Library board and read my post searching for Sanow relatives on the Marcus Iowa Blog. She and her husband live in a comfortable home in the country outside Marcus.

Sunday, suddenly, the visit ended and it was time to head home. Whether relative or non-relative, the people in Marcus and Remsen were friendly and helpful. I need to thank them all in writing, but will also thank them here, for making my visit pleasant and memorable. I miss everyone who lives in that pristine Iowa valley.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Marcus and Remsen Iowa

Next week I'll be visiting my grandma's birth place, Marcus Iowa. Regular readers and fans know that Grandma's life began on a farm near Marcus. Early chapters in My Name is Esther Clara feature that farm, Grandma's family, and the town of Marcus itself.

Grandma and Grandpa returned to Iowa regularly for visits, funerals, and family gatherings. Many Sanow relatives lived in Remsen. One of my happiest memories as a teenager is of a visit made to Remsen with Grandma and Grandpa. It's been decades since I visited there. All of Grandma's generation are gone now, and many of my mother's generation, but my generation and younger are very much alive and still kicking.

After my maternal grandparents died, I lost track of the Sanow relatives. I'm looking forward to meeting long lost relatives and renewing family ties. Stay tuned for a report when I return.

www.marcusiowa.com and www.remseniowa.net will tell you a bit about the area I'll be visiting. Marcus has it's own blog, which I'll place on my blogroll. http://marcusiowa.blogspot.com is that URL.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Kansas Book Celebration in Wichita KS

Is literacy really on the skids today? Evidently not in Wichita KS Friday and Saturday, September 29 and 30. When this first ever celebration of books, authors, the Arts, and Kansas heritage was scheduled, I wondered what the outcome would be. I don't have to wonder anymore because I saw the proof with my own eyes. Kansans, at least, value books, writers, the arts, and their heritage in great numbers.

Wichita author, Nancy Mehl, and I arrived at Lawrence Dumont Stadium on Friday to a crowd of several thousand people. While picking my way through the crowd, I noticed:
  • school children engaged in rapt conversations with writers;
  • adults in electric wheelchairs scooting from one tent to another;
  • people of all ages buying books from vendors;
  • TV, newspaper, and radio crews filming, photographing, or interviewing writers and vendors.

Kansas Governor Kathleen Sibelius kicked off the celebration which had been carefully planned by the Governor's Cultural Affairs Council and Kansas Center for the Book. A diverse group of authors spoke to attentive crowds in large tents. Topics included everything from the archeological history of Kansas to the cowboy life to fiction about American Indians.

Visitors to the event on Saturday demonstrated the same enthusiasm. Independent Book Store vendors seemed to be doing a brisk business selling books. Despite temps in the nineties, crowds fanned themselves while writers entertained them with stories from and about their books. An impressive array of sponsors, writers, entertainers, and vendors pulled off this two-day celebration without a noticeable hitch.

Enhancing this already exciting experience, I was privileged to socialize and break bread with a few of my favorite people. Wichita author Nancy Mehl provided transportation around the city and introduced me to a few new restaurants. We were privileged to have dinner with Tom and Lori Parker Friday night, lunch with Max and Carol Yoho on Saturday, and dinner with Todd and Cheryl Hunter Saturday night. Visiting with a few of my favorite writers was a bonus! (Max's book, The Moon Butter Route, was one winner of the Kansas Notable Book award. Tom's book, Dispatches from Kansas, and Nancy's book, Malevolence, were Notable Book nominees.) I also got to gab briefly with one of my favorite independent bookstore owners -- Stormy Kennedy of Claflin Books in Manhattan, KS -- and to meet Kansas Center for the Book Director, Roy Bird.

Today that weekend celebration is history. I returned home with fond memories of the experience and look forward to next year.

Do your part to stop hunger everywhere

The Hunger Site

About Me

My photo
I enjoy good writing by writers and poets who are not famous. My mother said I was born a hundred years too late. The older I get, the more I realize how right she was.

Twitter Updates

    follow me on Twitter