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Summertime and the corn is high

July 26, 2011 | Iowa,Summer

Posted by Becky @ 6:00 am | Comments  

Books: Authors in Iowa City

July 22, 2011 | Bonnie Jo Campbell,Books,Camille Dungy,David W. Dorris,Dori Hillestad Butler,Elizabeth Berg,Heather Gudenkauf,Iowa,Iowa City,Iowa City Book Festival,Jane Hamilton,Kevin Luthardt,Laurel Snyder,Mary Helen Stefaniak,Sarah Prineas,Shane McCrae,Tess Weaver

I went to the Iowa City Book Festival on July 16 and 17. Even though I saw some wonderful authors and visited some great independent bookstores, I barely scratched the surface. There were so many I didn’t get to see. It’s amazing what they’re able to coordinate and provide for FREE. I didn’t have to register or pay a fee. The festival has some generous sponsors.

Mary Helen Stefaniak (who reminds me of my husband’s Aunt Aud Solveig) and Jane Hamilton shared the background of some of their stories and how they put together information for their books. It was fascinating. Hamilton was hilarious when she told us a story of riding a train with a man who downloaded her book and read it right in front of her.

I met David W. Dorris, who said he wrote his books to inspire the kids he worked with over the years as a softball coach. He lives in Davenport, Iowa.

Dori Hillestad Butler and Laurel Snyder read from their books under the children’s tent. They each told how they got started with writing and some of the background to their books. They encouraged a 7-year-old writer (and all young writers) to keep writing. (I missed Tess Weaver, who read under the children’s tent at a different time. But I got her book!)

Sarah Prineas signed The Magic Thief for my children — including code they’ll have to figure out.

She has quite the dragon!

Bonnie Jo Campbell and Heather Gudenkauf both signed books for me. Campbell signed a whole stack of bookmarks for me, too! Keep your eyes peeled. Rumor has it Jane Smiley wrote a review of her book, and it will be published in The New York Times Sunday Book Review.

I tracked down Elizabeth Berg as she was getting ready to leave. She graciously signed one of her books for me.

June Melby, Megan Gogerty and Kate Aspengren spoke about humor writing. Their talk was called “Three Ladies Laughing.” They look awfully serious here, but they were seriously funny.

Camille Dungy and Shane McCrae read poems from their books. They chose what to read by listening to each other and finding connections in their work.

Kevin Luthardt showed children (and their parents) the step-by-step process of creating picture books. He also handed out paper and got the children to draw their own pictures. They were at The Haunted Bookshop.

What a great weekend!

Posted by Becky @ 6:00 am | Comments  

Books: Stephanie Kallos

July 20, 2011 | Books,Iowa,Iowa City,Iowa City Book Fesstival,Stephanie Kallos

My husband reminded me recently that, with Nebraska now in the Big Ten conference, I’d better get used to hearing more about UNL and football rivalry here in Iowa.

I put up my talk-to-the-hand hand and said, “I refuse to participate.”

Let me explain.

I don’t care about football. Any football. I have gotten unwillingly sucked in to other people’s football drama over the years, and it makes me uncomfortable.

I’ve been threatened with physical harm by fully grown strangers — men and women — for not wearing what they thought were proper colors on game days.

When ordering the new alligator postage stamps at a Tallahassee post office years ago, the woman behind the counter squinted her eyes, leaned in and asked, “Yer not a Gator fay-an, are ya?” I could swear I heard the click-click of a shotgun cock behind the counter. Or maybe that was the sound of my dry throat as I tried to swallow.

“Oh, no! No, ma’am! Not at all!” I said. (And I certainly didn’t tell her I’m originally from Nebraska.)

I recently had a slip-up where I went out in public in a red UNL sweatshirt. It was covered by my coat until I got warm and unzipped it a bit. That was just enough for someone to see it and give me a hard time. The teasing was all in good fun (I think), and I said something like, “Don’t worry, I wasn’t on the football team. I just graduated from college there.”

So? What in the world does any of this have to do with Stephanie Kallos and the Iowa City Book Festival?

Kallos read a passage from her book, Sing Them Home, in which the Nebraska fight song is mentioned. Then she did something I’ve never seen before and don’t expect I’ll ever see again.

She got an auditorium full of Iowans on the University of Iowa campus to sing There is No Place like Nebraska. Not once but twice. Wow, that took some guts. I have to admit, I was a little nervous for her. Folks take their football seriously. But it was all in good fun (I’m pretty sure). Besides, she also asked them to sing the Iowa fight song, too. Whew!

Kallos also read her essay, “How to Write Your Second Novel or if You Want to Make God Laugh, Show Him Your Outline.” It was brilliant. I can’t wait to read her book.

Posted by Becky @ 6:00 am | 1 Comment  

Books: Iowa City Book Festival

July 19, 2011 | Books,Iowa,Iowa City,Iowa City Book Fesstival

I attended the Iowa City Book Festival this weekend. Even though we were under an excessive heat warning (it felt like a slap in the face to walk into the air-conditioned campus library), it was fabulous. I got to listen to and meet several authors, visit some wonderful independent bookstores and see my friend Maren again!

More photos and info to come.

Posted by Becky @ 6:00 am | 2 Comments  

Barn swallows, part 2

July 18, 2011 | Iowa,Summer

Remember the nest of barn swallows we waited out so the baby birds could live? Well, the little boogers are at it again. They moved to the other corner by the front door. As if I wouldn’t notice.

My friend Tracy says barn swallows are good luck. John Switzer of The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch agrees.

But they’re supposed to be good luck in a barn.

Hey, I can use all the good luck I can get. But, c’mon, birds. Go back to the barn.

Posted by Becky @ 11:04 am | 4 Comments  

Barn swallows

July 12, 2011 | Iowa,Summer

We had barn swallows take up residence by our front door. We planned to take down the nest, but we were too late. It already had baby birds in it. So we waited them out. They all flew away last weekend, so we finally got to clean up our front step. Fly, baby birds! (And next time, try the barn.)

And then they were gone.

No more nest.

No more poop. Yay!

Posted by Becky @ 6:00 am | 3 Comments  

Books: Turn Left at the Trojan Horse

July 9, 2011 | Books,Brad Herzog,Iowa

I just finished reading Turn Left at the Trojan Horse: A Would-be Hero’s American Odyssey by Brad Herzog.

I noticed this on the shelf at Bookadee. I picked it up and read the back cover one day while I was straightening shelves. I felt he had a connection to Iowa, though I’m not sure why. He wasn’t on the shelf with Iowa authors. The inside flap said he lived in California. (Ah, but lots of Iowa authors don’t live in Iowa anymore, I thought.) I figured I’d look him up later and maybe I’d read this book someday. My to-read list is about a mile long, so I figured, sure. I’ll get to it in a few years.

Well, I got to it sooner than I thought. I bought it with a few other books from Bookadee. (It’s kind of a joke that I just endorse my paycheck over to the bookstore to feed my habit.) I picked it up a couple of weeks after taking my in-laws on the tour of Winnebago Industries. That’s when I looked him up and found that he writes a travel blog, as well as books.

So I started reading Turn Left. At the very end — almost on the last page, in the acknowledgments — I finally saw his connection to Iowa in black and white. He offered his gratitude to “the fine folks at Winnebago Industries” in Forest City, Iowa.

So, no. He wasn’t born here. He hasn’t lived here. I don’t even know if he’s been to Forest City.*** But there’s the connection. Go figure.

Turn Left is a story of a person in the middle of his life, looking back, looking forward and looking inward — all the while looking outward for connection and meaning. While trying to make sense of it all, he heads out on the open road and crosses the country on the way to his college reunion.

I picked the exact right time to read this book, although I’d trade my mid-life crisis for his any day. Still, I get it. I’m about his age and (I hope) somewhere in the middle of my life.

His theme was Greek mythology, heroes and fate. He went through enough characters and stories that I thought, it’s a good thing he studied so much about this … now I don’t have to. Although I admit I feel a nagging need to read Homer now. I even put The Iliad and The Odyssey on my Goodreads to-read list. Again … I’m sure I’ll get to them in a few years.

Herzog was searching for something heroic in himself, and he found heroes all along his path — a missionary-turned-county commissioner in Athena and an adventurer-turned-one-room-schoolteacher in Troy and everyone in between.

Coincidence (fate?) abounds. (My favorite is when he met in Siren, Wisconsin, a bartender named Dawn, who’d just finished reading The Iliad.) Enough to raise my skeptic’s hackles. But he says at the end of the book, “This isn’t a work of fiction. Every single event, every quotation, every location is real and true to life.”

So I’m taking his word for it. Because I want to believe. In fact, one of the strongest beliefs I have is in the power of words and books.

This book is a great one. He tells the stories of dozens of people he met on his journey and also those from his life. I loved learning about his grandparents. He describes people and places with a sharp eye, and he weaves his current stories with history.

Herzog had me laughing out loud in places, getting chills in others and reaching for a tissue in others. I’m not sure what most people think about at a tractor pull, but Herzog might be the only one to turn philosophical, thinking of ancient Greek gods and the meaning of life.

The photographs in the book are black-and-white. I found this video after reading the book, and it brings people and places to even more life with brilliant color.

***So, if he hasn’t been to Forest City yet, I hope he finds us on his trusty atlas. I see he will be in Minnesota this week. (He will be at Magers & Quinn Booksellers, 3038 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, MN 55408, on Tuesday, July 12, at 7:30 p.m.)

And we’re just two hours directly south of Minneapolis. There’s Winnebago, of course, and the 2011 WIT Grand National Rally starts Monday. And, hey, Bookadee is right in the heart of downtown Forest City on Clark Street.

Stop on by, Brad. Bring the family.

Posted by Becky @ 3:23 pm | 2 Comments  

Robin’s nest

July 7, 2011 | Iowa,Summer

We had robin’s eggs all over the place two years ago. It’s been fairly quiet until lately. They’re at it again. Whee!

Posted by Becky @ 6:00 am | 2 Comments  

Food: Potato salad

June 25, 2011 | Family,Food,Iowa,Marie's recipes,Norway,Summer,Vacation

Yes, there are hundreds of ways to make potato salad. One of my favorites, though, is the way my mother-in-law makes it. She shared her recipe.

16 ounces sour cream
6 ounces mayonnaise
3 tablespoons dill pickle brine
1/2 apple, chopped
2 dill pickles, chopped
1/2 leek, sliced
7 potatoes, cooked and diced

Mix all together. Let set. Serve with dinner from the grill.

Posted by Becky @ 6:00 am | Comments  

Blooming

June 12, 2011 | Iowa,Summer

My peonies are blooming late this year. On this day two years ago, I posted this progression of photos.

Oops. I forgot a photo.

Posted by Becky @ 4:20 pm | Comments  


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