Book Launch Set, Poem Accepted, & Other Writer Stuff

I’m excited to announce that my book launch for Naming the Stars is set for Saturday, September 17 – from 2:00 to 5:00 pm, at Amore Coffee in West St. Paul. The event will be hosted by the fantastic Subtext Books. More events to be scheduled. As always, you can check my Events page for info.

A new poem is forthcoming in the 2017 Saint Paul Almanac. I have a few other pieces awaiting final word from the Almanac.

Importantly, I actually WROTE today, finishing a short story about a weather predication fail, father-son conflict, and a very strange fishing opener.

But it is time to put away digital screens and enjoy the summer day now. Waiting for raspberries and other summer bounty, dreaming of baking goodness ahead, like this yummy batch of raspberry ebelskivers from last summer.

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Ellery Queen Story Out on Newsstands Now

EQMDEC2015Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine has published my story in their December 2015 issue. In “Open-Ended,” a recent widow sets off on a cross-country train voyage. The issue includes a reader’s ballot, so you can cast a vote for my story as a reader’s favorite – if you so choose! You can find it on newsstands (at Barnes and Noble and other bookstores), or order it online from Ellery Queen, buy it at online at various book retailers, or order it at your favorite independent bookstore! Also available in Kindle, Nook, and other e-reader versions.
My  first  Ellery Queen story appeared in the December issue two years ago. December appears to be my lucky month for short mystery stories. Guess I better get cracking on a new story for a future December issue.

 

What They Never Taught in High School

Strange how nearly four decades have gone by, yet last night I recognized friends I hadn’t seen since high school and chatted with them as if it was only yesterday when we last spoke. As if nothing had changed.

We, a group of high school thespians from the 70’s, had a gathering to visit with our high school theater director, JB, and his wife, the high school art teacher, who were passing through town.

It looked for all the world like JB had stepped right off the stage of that last performance in the late 70’s, just the day before. His shirt, some commented, seemed straight out of the 70’s. (Or the bottom of our friend and favorite actor’s steamer trunk, lovingly preserved in the pages of his scrapbook.) His face had a few more wrinkles, for sure, but his eyes were still sparkling, his wit sharp.

35 or 40 years come and gone as if just one day passed.

Yet, far more has happened. Life has happened. We’ve married, split, remarried, (or never married), had children, some of us grandchildren. Some of us childless, by choice or not.

For others, it took those four decades to be legally allowed to marry the person they loved. Everyone knows how brutal high school can be to people who are “different” and theater kids are more different than most.

We’ve each had a share of happiness & heartbreak over the past, almost four, decades since high school. It seems to take about four decades to heal from that tumult of high school — to stop having the nightmares about forgetting locker combinations, the boys or girls we loved who didn’t love us back, or loved us for awhile and moved on to others, the dances we didn’t get invited to… all of that teenage stuff that – to be honest – doesn’t really end when we enter our 20’s.

Or our 30’s.

Last night was a graduation of sorts. We compared the wounds life gave us and the accolades we’d worked hard to achieve. We passed another test, and got rewarded for good results. It was a simple lesson that takes, ridiculously, three to four decades to learn: the greatest joy comes from the community of friends, the shared bottles of wine, the shared experience of art. As simple as that. You’d think you’d learn that in school, but you don’t.

One, Two, Three – On The Way

 

Click the elephant. I dare you.

Now that life has settled down a bit from the whirlwind that was college selection, graduation, open house, and extremely overwhelming work days (nights, weekends, dreams, etc.), I wanted to tell you about a few, exciting, upcoming bookish things.

Not zero, not one, not even two, but YES, THREE  stories are being published this September:

(1) “Everlasting Light,” Talking Stick 23 (Jackpine Writers Bloc, 2014) – September 2014
(2) “Gift Wrapped,” 2015 Saint Paul Almanac – September 2014
(3) “Iced,” Festival of Crime Anthology, Nodin Press – September 2014

Unknown-1Here’s the cool cover for #3.  This well-crafted anthology has great advance praise.  The collection will be launched at our famous local bookstore, Once Upon a Crime, on Thursday, September 11 at 7 P.M. It will be available where fine mysteries are sold, but I hope local folks can make it over to OUAC where I’ll be signing along with the other story authors. Foreword by the ever fabulous, Erin Hart.

#2 events are yet to be scheduled, but I will totally be there for the launch party late summer, and plan on reading at one or more of their events.

#1 will be launched in Northern Minnesota. Not sure yet whether I will make that party, but the Jackpine Writers are known for throwing a great event and crafting a wonderful collection of writing by Minnesota writers.

While you are all eagerly anticipating these stories, go ahead and click on the elephant above, and read my story that appeared in a previous Saint Paul Almanac. Another appearance in the works for the Minnesota State Fair. I’ll get my events page updated soon!

 

The Renewing Powers of Conversation

IMG_1311Driving through the Minnesota River valley as I made my way from the Twin Cities to St. Peter — where even though the calendar says it should be spring — I saw that it was clearly not spring at all. Not yet.

Yes, it’s true that the seven plus inches of snow that fell yesterday is melting fast, and there were quite a few puddles to splash through, but nowhere are there signs of green. Even big business marketing green.

I had thought I would be able to see the Jolly Green Giant from the highway, but he was nowhere to be seen, and I learned later that the statue is 60 miles down the road from Le Sueur, (home of the Minnesota Valley Canning company and the famous “Valley”): all 55-ft of him in gorgeous pea green fiberglass can be seen in the town of Blue Earth, Minnesota.

I did spot the billboard with the Giant, tucked between still denuded trees at the crest of the jolly not-quite-green valley. Even in the billboard, the Giant looked more sepia than green, as if he had not yet put on his spring bloom.

Even without much spring green to cheer me on, my spirits rose. I’m a river valley girl, born and raised on the river bluffs just south of St. Paul, and there is nothing so cheerful as a winding drive in river valley country.

I had travelled to St. Peter as a guest author at a book festival sponsored by the St. Peter Library, and even though I tend to the quiet side, conversation with readers about writing and books steadily energized me in the way that spring energizes so much.

After the event, a new reader friend, an author friend, and I made our way to a new winery in the area, Chankaska Creek Ranch & Winery. The vineyard can be seen on the hillside next to the tasting room. The photograph above is the view from the as-yet-closed terrace of the tasting room (it’s not quite warm enough for wine to be enjoyed outside).

Our new friend gave us a taste of a Minnesota rose, made from local grapes and I brought home a bottle for later. I drank a glass of cabernet sauvignon, made from Napa Valley grapes, and that brought back memories of my time last summer in San Francisco. A bottle was purchased for later. We dined on artisan pizza baked in a wood-fired brick oven.

Best of all was the conversation with two friends, one who had returned to St. Peter after spending much of her life in California, another who is a writer friend published by my publisher. I almost passed on the outing and I’m so glad I didn’t.

I don’t know why it always seems surprising how enjoyable and refreshing good conversation can be. We talked about our lives as working women, wives, mothers. How we have endured struggles with health, balancing the needs of our families and communities, managing creative time (both as writers and readers).

I used to think that conversation was the first thing to jettison when I was pressed for time. There never seemed to be time for socializing, as it always seemed like I “should” be doing something else.

The fact of the matter is that good friends, having good conversation, is the juice of life.  Companionship can be ambrosia, providing a renewing, rather than a draining experience.

Maybe after all this time I am learning how to find better friends, and it is a most rewarding thing to do. Friends and good wine? Even better.

 

How Spoken Words Transform Writing

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I watched the light filtering through colorful glass panes of the Black Forest Inn as my husband and I dined before Cheap Theatre’s “Oh Hell, a storytelling show,” featuring new performers Danny Klecko and Mike Finley, and Cheap Theatre veterans. More about how their performances went later in the post.

The colored light transformed the dim, old-fashioned interior of the restaurant into a magical place, filtering it without the need of Instagram help.  While there, my husband snapped a shot that I’ve saved as my author photo of the moment. Sitting in that light, in that place, and witnessing spoken word performances for the first time gave me much to consider. As I listened, I thought of whether I’d be up for spoken word sometime, how I could use spoken word techniques in my work, how reading one’s pieces out loud provide feedback you can’t get from just reading off the page.

Danny and Mike performed admirably – Danny, in fact, hit it out of the park, choosing ‘shame’ as his topic: he told both stories and poems about how  he rose above shame when he made his career choice – that of a baker.  He handed out loaves of Saint Agnes bread to select audience members, asking if there were any Republicans in the house who might appreciate the “fruity, Christmassy bread” he designed for then first lady Mary Pawlenty. His performance stunned longtime host Erica Christ, who commented that she had guessed wrong placing Danny so early on the night’s list and wondered how anyone was going to be able to follow him.

Those transformative performances and that transformative light are all part of the transformative year of being a McKnight artist fellow. I’m continuing to transform as an artist, and find inspiration and material everywhere, no longer concerned with what anyone else thinks of my artistic path. Lately I’ve been writing more poetry again, including finishing a children’s book piece that I’ve sent out to as many publishers as I can find. Several poems have found homes, in new June Cotner anthologies, in an upcoming Lief, and others are in process. I submitted my recording of “Singed” (you can hear it on Northern Community Radio – KAXE & KBXE) to another poetry audio contest.  I submitted a new poem for Common Good Books love poetry contest, and had a lot of fun working on that piece with my writing group.

I haven’t abandoned prose either. The novel I wrote in San Francisco is being edited now, and I’ll work those edits in a week-long writing retreat at the Journey Inn, later in April.

Writers fuss too much  about choosing one genre over another, developing  identities to separate their work in the marketplace (or to be able to write it at all) — writing under one  (or more) pen name for prose, maybe another for their poetry, and on. I think that while these choices may help free some artists, they aren’t for me.

I want to express my  artistic identity with a singular vision of an artistic spectrum, an enriching approach that borrows from all the forms I chose to write in – poetry, prose-poems, prose, and any other combination (I’ve even written interior monologs within a novel in a two-columned theatre-like dialog). I like that I don’t have to choose once the kind of artist I want to be and stick within that narrow definition. Most importantly, I’m guided by trying to have as much fun with the writing as possible. Slowing down. Lingering through revision. That’s what it’s all about for now, and what I’m all about for now, artistically speaking.