Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Authors’ Category

IMG01991-20100903-1627.jpg

red Ravine At The MN State Fair — Minding Our P’s & Q’s, September 2010, photo © 2010 by Liz Schultz. All rights reserved.


We spent hours at the Minnesota State Fair yesterday. Fall made her official debut with a cloudy, blustery 68 degrees. I bundled up in my Lily and Hope North American Bear Center sweatshirt and made the rounds with Liz and two friends we go to the Fair with every year (it’s a Fall ritual!). We also met our friend Teri for the few minutes she could steal away from her duties at the Fair. We had a fabulous time.

This year’s annual Minnesota State Fair post (along with a list of 71 foods-on-a-stick) focuses on writers, and our day at the Fair did not disappoint. Author Peter Smith did a book signing at the MPR booth for his new book, A Porch Sofa Almanac. You can hear an interview with him sharing his favorite Minnesota State Fair memory at MPR. We also attended a book signing by this year’s Minnesota State Fair Foundation Author-In-Residence, Debra Frasier. We met the author at the J.V. Bailey House and bought her new book, A Fabulous Fair Alphabet.

After chatting with Debra about the Alphabet Forest, we decided to stop by her little log cabin at Baldwin Park, across from the 4-H building. Kids and adults alike love it here. You can spell out your name in Fair alphabet letters and your banner will be posted on her website the next day. I spelled red Ravine (the last “e” in Ravine is from the Cheese Curds stand) and Liz took the photograph for me. The Alphabet Forest is one of the most peaceful stops at the Fair! There are benches and lots of activities for kids.

We came home last night with a bucket of warm Sweet Martha’s cookies, a new pair of cornflower blue Brasko shoes for Liz (bought from a man from Kansas with a Swedish accent), and both of the author’s books. They were all out of Camel on-a-stick but other food highlights included Peaches & Cream, and Deep-Fried Bacon Cheddar Mashed Potatoes on-a-stick with the best honey mustard I’ve ever tasted. Yes, I think we have to buy those again on Monday. We’ll be there for a ride on Ye Old Mill and the last concert at the Grandstand, Dukes of September Rhythm Review (featuring Boz Scaggs, Donald Fagen, and Michael McDonald). See you there!


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, September 4th, 2010

-related to these posts with tons of history about the MN State Fair: MN State Fair On-A-Stick, MN State Fair On-A-Stick (Happy B’Day MN!), On-The-Go List Of Must-Haves (MN State Fair), Nightshot – Carousel, MN State Fair On-A-Stick II – Video & Stats, food on-a-stick haiku, Peach Glazed Pig Cheeks On-A-Stick, the fine art of Princess Kay of the Milky Way (and the Butter Queens), Minnesota State Fair poster artists, the history of Fairborne and Fairchild, and the tradition of Tom Thumb Donuts.

Read Full Post »

MN State Fair -- Fairchild & Fairborne

MN State Fair — Fairborne & Fairchild, MN State Fair, St. Paul, Minnesota, August 2010, all photos © 2009-2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


The Minnesota State Fair kicked off this week and it’s time for our annual State Fair post on red Ravine. We’ve covered a lot of history over the years, including the debut of Peach Glazed Pig Cheeks On-A-Stick, the fine art of Princess Kay of the Milky Way (and the Butter Queens), Minnesota State Fair poster artists, the history of Fairborne and Fairchild, and the tradition of Tom Thumb Donuts.

This year we honor the work of two writers who have written about the Minnesota State Fair. In 1928, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote his classic short story “A Night at the Fair.” And this year, Debra Frasier, author of On the Day You Were Born and the Minnesota State Fair Foundation’s current Author-in-Residence, has written and illustrated A Fabulous Fair Alphabet.



Debra Frasier — A Fabulous Fair Alphabet


What started as a collection of photographs taken by Minneapolis author Debra Frasier on daily visits to the Minnesota State Fair, has turned into a work of book art. A Fabulous Fair Alphabet is Frasier’s tribute to the “Great Minnesota Get-Together” and the impetus for the State Fair Alphabet Project, a labor of love for hundreds of Minnesotans who are passionate about early learning. The book has also gained national acclaim, with the New York Times noting,  “Frasier brings to life a jaunty Ferris wheel, a sunburst-yellow pitcher of lemonade and a swirling roller coaster.”

The book is interactive and there is a wonderful article about Frasier’s process in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. She intentionally left the front-piece page blank in hopes that families will use the page to personalize their copies of the book as a keepsake, a place to store their own Fair memories, images, and words:

Going to the State Fair together is a ritual for many families. Grandparents have passed along their favorite Fair traditions to their grandchildren. The book is a place for all generations to record their experiences together. Imagine if we had a list of favorite words from our relatives’ 1901 trip to the Fair, or 1945, or 2010 for fairgoers of 2060!

-Debra Frasier

Debra Frasier will be giving book signings from Noon to 2 p.m. daily at the J.V. Bailey House (across from the Space Needle) and I plan to visit her there. You can also visit the Alphabet Forest at Baldwin Park, across from the 4-H building. There are teaching materials based on the book, coloring sheets, instructions on making animals-on-a-stick or a cereal box stage, a bibliography of fair-themed books, display letters, a script that deepens the story and a look at how Frasier created the book at her official website.



F. Scott Fitzgerald — A Night at the Fair


IMG00661-20100723-1957.jpgF. Scott Fitzgerald is a Twin Cities icon who continues to live on through art and author happenings at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul. Most Minnesotans know that he penned the short story, “A Night at the Fair,” but after a comment from one of our readers, I started to wonder how many had actually read the story (myself included).

It begins like this:

The two cities were separated only by a thin well-bridged river; their tails curling over the banks met and mingled, and at the juncture, under the jealous eye of each, lay, every fall, the State Fair. Because of this advantageous position, and because of the agricultural eminence of the state, the fair was one of the most magnificent in America. There were immense exhibits of grain, livestock and farming machinery; there were horse races and automobile races and, lately, aeroplanes that really left the ground; there was a tumultuous Midway with Coney Island thrillers to whirl you through space, and a whining, tinkling hoochie-coochie show. As a compromise between the serious and the trivial, a grand exhibition of fireworks, culminating in a representation of the Battle of Gettysburg, took place in the Grand Concourse every night.

–F. Scott Fitzgerald,  A Night at the Fair

If your imagination is captured, you can read all 15 pages at Project Gutenberg. One of my favorite parts is when Scott writes about Ye Old Mill. Fitzgerald - Commodore HotelThe same Ye Old Mill at the Fair today. Located at the southwest corner of Carnes Avenue and Underwood Street, and touted as the “original tunnel of love,” Ye Old Mill is the oldest ride on the fairgrounds and is owned by the same family who first operated it in 1913.

The ride runs on a 40-horse power engine that turns the mill wheel and keeps water running through the 1300-foot channel. When you read Fitzgerald’s descriptions, you can imagine Basil and Riply chugging along on the Fair rides and Midway of the 1920’s. Memories preserved through story.



F. Scott Fitzgerald Walking Tour — St. Paul, Minnesota


I’m a writer who has lived in the Twin Cities for over 20 years. Until this summer, I had never seen the place where F. Scott Fitzgerald was born, walked on the steps of St. Paul Academy where he went to school (with a Fitzgerald IMG00657-20100723-1952.jpgstatue created by Aaron Dysart), or taken a photograph of the sign at the Commodore Hotel where Scott and Zelda lived when their baby girl, Scottie, was born. Those old hotel walls have breathed in tales we can only imagine, real life stories of their drinking and partying at the Commodore bar.

For my birthday this year, our Poetry & Meditation Group walked the 13 stops of a self-guided Fitzgerald tour, from 481 Laurel, where Scott was born, to Mrs. Backus’ Boarding School at 586 Holly, the building where Scott enrolled in dance class. However, the heart of the tour is a four-block radius surrounding the intersection of Kent Street and Summit Avenue, “one of the grandest rows of Victorian Boulevard architecture anywhere in America.” From there, Summit IMG00643-20100723-1938.jpg stretches nearly five miles to the Mississippi River in the country’s longest span of residential, Victorian architecture.

Slip on a comfortable pair of shoes, and walk in the footsteps of the writers who came before us. Francis Scott Fitzgerald (named after Francis Scott Key) has a birthday coming up on September 24th; take the tour to celebrate his birth, brushing oaks along streets his parents walked in 1896. At the time he lived in St. Paul, F. Scott visited with writers like Sinclair Lewis and Donald Ogden Stewart. Here’s a link to every stop on the F. Scott Fitzgerald Walking Tour.



_________________________________________________________________

Spaghetti & Meatball Dinner On-A-Stick, Fried Fruit On-A-Stick, Macaroni & Cheese On-A-Stick, Bull Bites, Deep Fried Tater Tots On-A-Stick, Grilled Shrimp On-A-Stick, Vintage Kids & Fair Food!, Leprechaun Legs, MN State Fair, St. Paul, Minnesota, August 2008, all photos © 2008-2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



MN State Fair – Foods On-A-Stick


Our Minnesota State Fair post wouldn’t be complete without the annual foods on-a-stick list. Here’s the lineup for 2010. If you are looking for the location of specific foods at the Fair, here’s a link to their FoodFinder with a map of the Fair. The Minnesota State Fair runs through Monday, September 6th. From the 20,000 gallons of milk served by the the American Dairy Association, to the 338,000 dozen mini-donuts consumed, and the 22,000 rolls of toilet paper used at the Minnesota State Fair, there is nothing else to do but ENJOY!

  1. Alligator Sausage on-a-stick
  2. Baby Potatoes on-a-stick
  3. Bacon (Fried) on-a-stick
  4. Bananas (chocolate covered) on-a-stick
  5. Beef Kabobs on-a-stick
  6. Bologna (deep-fried) on-a-stick
  7. Bomb Pops on-a-stick
  8. Butterscotch Cake on-a-stick
  9. Camel on-a-stick
  10. Candy Apples on-a-stick
  11. Candy Bars (deep fried) on-a-stick
  12. Caramel Apples on-a-stick
  13. Caramel Apple Puppies on-a-stick
  14. Catfish on-a-stick
  15. Cheese on-a-stick
  16. Cheesecake (chocolate covered) on-a-stick
  17. Chicken on-a-stick
  18. Chicken Bites on-a-stick
  19. Chocolate Tornado on-a-stick
  20. Coffee (frozen) on-a-stick
  21. Corndogs on-a-stick
  22. Cotton Candy on-a-stick
  23. Dessert Pizza on-a-stick
  24. Dixie Wings on-a-stick
  25. Espresso (frozen) on-a-stick
  26. Fruit (fresh) on-a-stick
  27. Fruit (fried) on-a-stick
  28. Fry Dog on-a-stick
  29. Fudge Puppies on-a-stick
  30. Hot Dago on-a-stick
  31. Hot Dish on-a-stick
  32. Hot Dogs (wrap) on-a-stick
  33. Jerk Chicken on-a-stick
  34. Key Lime Pie Dipped in Chocolate (frozen) on-a-stick
  35. Kufta Kabob on-a-stick
  36. Lamb (leg of) on-a-stick
  37. Macaroni & Cheese on-a-stick
  38. Marshmallows (Chocolate-dipped) on-a-stick
  39. Mashed Potatoes (deep-fried) on-a-stick
  40. Meatballs (porcupine wild rice & ground pork) on-a-stick
  41. Meatballs (Scotch) on-a-stick
  42. Meat Kabobs on-a-stick
  43. Nut Roll (chocolate-dipped) on-a-stick
  44. Pickles on-a-stick
  45. Pizza on-a-stick
  46. Poncho Dogs on-a-stick
  47. Pork Chops on-a-stick
  48. Pronto Pups on-a-stick
  49. Sausage on-a-stick
  50. Sausage and cheese stuffed jalapeno poppers on-a-stick
  51. Scotch Eggs on-a-stick
  52. Shrimp on-a-stick
  53. Shrimp (grilled) on-a-stick
  54. S’mores on-a-stick
  55. S’mores (deep-fried) on-a-stick
  56. Spaghetti & Meatballs on-a-stick
  57. Spudsters on-a-stick
  58. Steak on-a-stick
  59. Taffy Pops on-a-stick
  60. Tater Tots (deep-fried) on-a-stick
  61. Texas Steak Dinner on-a-stick
  62. Texas Tater Dog on-a-stick
  63. Tornado Potato on-a-stick
  64. Turkey Tenderloin (bacon-wrapped) on-a-stick
  65. Turtle Puppies on-a-stick
  66. Vegie Fries on-a-stick
  67. Vegetable Kabobs on-a-stick
  68. Waffle (Belgian) on-a-stick
  69. Walleye on-a-stick
  70. Wild Rice Corndog on-a-stick
  71. Wonder Bar (chocolate-dipped ice cream) on-a-stick


Total Number of Foods-On-A-Stick: 71*


New Minnesota State Fair Foods In 2010
(including *2 new foods on-a-stick not on list above)

    Caramel Apple Puppies (a Fudge Puppy with baked apple and covered with caramel)
    @Fudge Puppies, located on the outside west wall of the Food Building
    Cheese Pizza Served With Corn Dogs (a cheese pizza topped with corn dogs sliced the long way)
    @Pizza Shoppe, located inside the Food Building
    Chicken Fried Bacon (thick cut bacon, battered, breaded and fried, and served in a boat covered with gravy)
    @Giggles’ Campfire Grill, located on Cooper Street and Lee Avenue
    Chocolate Tornado (spiral-cut Tornado Potato dipped in chocolate)
    @Sonny’s Spiral Spud, located inside the Food Building
    Cincinnati Chili (spaghetti noodles smothered with chili and topped with shredded cheddar, beans, and diced onions)
    @Sabino’s, located inside the Warner Coliseum
    Danny Boy Burger (burger made with corned beef and covered with kraut, Swiss cheese, and Thousand Island dressing)
    @O’Gara’s, located on the corner of Dan Patch Avenue and Cosgrove Street
    Deep-Fried Avocado (avocado pieces batter-dipped, deep-fried, and served with Ranch dressing)
    @Tejas, located in The Garden
    Deep-Fried Bacon Cheddar Mashed Potatoes On-A-Stick
    @Potato Man and Sweetie, located on Liggett Street, south of Carnes Avenue
    Deep-Fried Bologna On-A-Stick
    @Netterfield’s Food Court, located on Cooper Street, north of Dan Patch Avenue
    • Deep-Fried Breakfast Wrap (scrambled eggs and bacon in a soft shell wrap, deep-fried and smothered in cheese)
    @Axel’s, located outside on the southeast corner of the Food Building
    •Deep-Fried Shortcake (shortcake batter deep-fried and covered with strawberries and ice cream)
    @Granny’s Cheesecake and More, located on Dan Patch Avenue at Underwood Street
    Fresh Fruit Salsa and Chips (salsa made on-site with fresh fruit and covered with tortilla chips)
    @Fried Fruit, located in Carousel Park on the east side of the Grandstand Ramp
    Fried Pig Ears (thinly sliced pigs ears dusted in seasoned flour, fried until crispy, and served with lime chipotle glaze)
    @Famous Dave’s, located on the corner of Dan Patch Avenue and Liggett Street
    Ghost Wings (chicken wings covered in a habanero pepper sauce)
    @Wings and Things, located inside the Warner Coliseum
    Grilled Marshmallow Chocolate and Banana Sandwich
    @Moe and Joe’s, located on Judson Avenue by the CHS Miracle of Birth Center
    Korean Moon BBQ (Korean “street vendor” style tacos with beef short ribs, spicy/sweet pork or chicken)
    @Blue Moon Dine-In Theater, located on the corner of Carnes Avenue and Chambers Street
    Sausage and cheese-stuffed jalapeno poppers
    @Sausage Sister & Me, located inside the Food Building
    Sloppy Joe served over spiral-cut potato chips
    @Sunny’s Spiral Spuds, located inside the Food Building
    Turtle Puppies (Fudge Puppy covered in caramel and nuts)
    @Fudge Puppies, located against the outside west wall of the Food Building


State Fair photos on Flickr.


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, August 29th, 2010

-related to posts: MN State Fair On-A-Stick (Happy B’Day MN!), On-The-Go List Of Must-Haves (MN State Fair), Nightshot – Carousel, MN State Fair On-A-Stick II – Video & Stats, food on-a-stick haiku, F. Scott Fitzgerald: On Money & Mess, Runes, Oracles, & Alphabets

Read Full Post »

In 1997, Toltec nagual (shaman) don Miguel Ruiz published a small book called The Four Agreements. The book laid out in practical terms four agreements one can make with oneself, a code of conduct to live by to transform one’s life. The idea is that these four agreements would replace or at least augment the many agreements we’ve carried with us since we were children—many harmful to our well-being—about our self-worth, our abilities, and life in general.

I learned about the book in 2000, after a particularly difficult year. I was on the brink of leaving my career. I was struggling in my marriage and with being a mother. I was unhappy and didn’t know what to do about it. My boss at the time, with whom my relationship was all but broken, gave me the book. She had just returned from a short sabbatical from work. She seemed transformed and credited the change to the wisdom of Ruiz. She handed out copies of the book to members of her staff, and then within a matter of a few weeks or months, she retired.

I remember when she gave me the book, at first I saw it as an olive branch. I had at one point before my boss left on her sabbatical become so enraged at her over matters at work that I let loose with a verbal assault that surprised even me. In my younger days I had the mouth of a sailor, but I rarely let my emotions get out of hand. Not so that year. I dropped the F-bomb on my boss like it was going out of style. In hindsight, it was amazing that she didn’t fire me for insubordination. That she could give me any gift at all seemed hugely generous.

Later, when I opened the book and saw what it contained, I took the gift as an insult. A category tag on the back of the book identified it as Personal Growth / Self-Help. I felt my former boss was trying to tell me that that I needed help; I was immature enough then to believe that I was perfectly fine and that she was the one who needed help. Reluctantly I read the book.


Fast forward to 2010. I think about my former boss now and again. I know now that not only did I in fact need help those many years ago, The Four Agreements was exactly the right kind of help. Had I been living them at the time, I would not have made the assumption that my former boss was giving me the book as way of trying to tell me something.

Recently I had the opportunity, thanks to the generosity of my good friend Patty, to see don Miguel Ruiz in Albuquerque and hear him and his son, don Jose Ruiz, talk about a new book they jointly wrote called The Fifth Agreement: A Practical Guide to Self-Mastery. This was the first time I’d seen either Ruiz in person. I didn’t take notes during the packed talk. I sat in the back of the Unitarian church where they spoke. I listened with an open heart. After the talk, the elder Ruiz left (we learned he had only partial heart functioning after a near-fatal heart attack in 2002) while the younger stayed in the church and signed books.


don jose ruiz and pattydon jose ruiz and roma

light and love, photos of Patty (left) and Roma with don Jose Ruiz, emanating light and love, May 19, 2010, Albuquerque, photos © 2010, all rights reserved.




Don Miguel Ruiz came from a family of healers. His mother was a curandera and his grandfather a nagual. From the book jacket of The Four Agreements, “The family anticipated that Miguel would embrace their centuries-old legacy of healing and teaching, and carry forward the esoteric Toltec knowledge. Instead, distracted by modern life, Miguel chose to attend medical school and become a surgeon.”

After nearly losing his life in a car accident, Ruiz devoted himself to becoming a nagual. He has passed on the knowledge to his son, Jose Luis, and together they are promoting The Fifth Agreement. I am reading The Fifth Agreement now, and already it has hit home for me the wisdom and power of that original small book.

I have in small but perceptible ways been transformed by Ruiz’s four agreements. They’re not easy to live by. Some are harder than others. Some I recall daily. Here they are, with a short excerpt about each:



be impeccable with your word


Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.



don’t take anything personally


Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.



don’t make assumptions


Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.



always do your best


Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.





Perhaps you are familiar with don Miguel Ruiz and his books of wisdom, or maybe this is the first time you’ve heard of any of this. In either case, reflect on the four agreements and think about what they mean to you. Write each agreement at the top of your notebook and then do a 10- or 15-minute Writing Practice on each one. If this is your first exposure to this Toltec wisdom, buy the books or check them out from your local library and take the time to learn more about them and their author. Let us know if your writings about the agreements resonate with the writings in the books.

Read Full Post »


By Teri Blair



The Big Read, all photos © 2010 by Teri Blair, all rights reserved.





Have you heard of The Big Read?


I found out about it completely by accident. I was perusing the CDs at my library, and saw one entitled The Big Read: An Introduction to My Antonia by Willa Cather. I took it home, and was enraptured by the 25-minute program. Ted Kooser talked about the significance of Cather to Nebraska, Garrison Keillor read excerpts from her book, and Colin Powell talked about the immigrant experience. What was this? The Big Read?


The Big Read began in 2006 by the National Endowment for the Arts, and is the largest reading program in American history. Their mission is simple: to restore reading to the center of American culture. Communities all over the country can apply for grants to explore one of the 31 Big Read titles. In addition to reading the book, related events are planned to last approximately one month.







When I plugged my zip code into The Big Read’s website, I was happy to find there was an event within an hour of where I live. On a Saturday in February my friends and I jumped in my Subaru and headed east to the small river town of St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin. As Thornton Wilder was from the Badger State, this community had chosen Our Town and The Bridge of San Luis Rey. We walked into a packed house at the Scenic Riverway Park building. The local organizers of the program spoke, a representative from the National Endowment talked about what is happening with The Big Read across the country, and we heard from Wisconsin author David Rhodes. He read excerpts from his book Driftless, talked about Thornton Wilder’s writing, and led a group discussion about what Wilder accomplished in his work. At the end of the program, we were all given two new books, a CD audio guide (just like the one I had found at the library), bookmarks, and a reader’s guide.


We were invited to join book discussion groups, and to come back for follow-up events. Wisconsin Public Radio will be performing a reader’s theater, and the local community playhouse will present Our Town.


I love to read, but like most readers, I get worried about the future of books and people to enjoy them. A faster and faster world makes a luxurious afternoon with a good book harder to claim. I am happy to support a program that is doing something tangible…something to bring reading back to the people.


To find out more about The Big Read (and to plug in your own zip code) go to:

http://www.neabigread.org.


Thornton Wilder, David Rhodes, From The Big Read Series, all photos © 2010 by Teri Blair, all rights reserved.




About Teri Blair: Teri Blair is a freelance writer living in Minneapolis and founder of the Poetry & Meditation Group of which QuoinMonkey fondly and frequently writes. (See Letter From Poet Elizabeth Alexander for the latest post on that group and Teri’s piece titled Desire And A Library Card — The Only Tools Necessary To Start A Poetry Group for a step-by-step on how to start your own.)

Teri has written many posts on red Ravine. Her first guest post, Continue Under All Circumstances, was written on the road during a 2007 trip to Holcomb, Kansas. She journeyed back to Holcomb early this year and wrote a follow-up piece published on red Ravine in March, Back To Holcomb, One Last Time.

Read Full Post »





In honor of Women’s History Month, the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, NM, in partnership with local arts organizations, artists, writers, and businesses has organized a month-long celebration: Women & Creativity 2010. All over the city, you can attend workshops, exhibits, panels, and many other fun activities. Case in point:




creativity + the artist

Seeds: The Spirit of Women Writers



6 p.m. March 11 at National Hispanic Cultural Center
1701 Fourth St. SW, Salon Ortega

A featured event in the Women & Creativity series





Join us for an invigorating evening of readings from women writers featuring poet Kathleen Driskell, whose collection of poems, Seed Across Snow, was on the Poetry Foundation’s best seller list twice in 2009; Lisa Lenard-Cook, author of Dissonance and Coyote Morning, as well as The Mind of Your Story; Carolyn Flynn, award-winning literary fiction and creative nonfiction writer, as well as author of numerous books and editor of the Albuquerque Journal’s SAGE magazine; and yours truly (aka ybonesy, Roma Arellano), writer, artist and co-founder of this wonderful writing and art community blog.

Santa Fe poet laureate and organizer of Women & Creativity, Valerie Martinez, will kick off the evening with an introduction and reading.

The theme of the panel will be the interrelatedness of the arts — other forms of art as inspiration for writing. Admission is free.


If you are in Albuquerque or the surrounding area, please join us!

Read Full Post »

By Teri Blair



Clutter Memorial Monument, photo © 2010 by Teri Blair. All rights reserved.





The town of Holcomb has been on my front burner for years. It began when I saw Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote, built momentum when I read In Cold Blood, and culminated with a road trip to Kansas to see the spot on the map that writer Truman Capote made famous. I was pulled into the 1959 story with everyone else—the lonely farmhouse, the two ex-cons who drove through the night to a place they’d never been, the murdered family. Truman’s stellar writing made me want to see it all—the Clutter Farm, the courthouse where the death sentence was pronounced, and the hotel where Truman stayed while he wrote.

The first time I drove the 850 miles I was a just a sightseer, a tourist. It was a one-time thing. I couldn’t have predicted the story would keep going, that months later I would find some long-lost relatives in Holcomb who had known the Clutters, that I would interview some of the same people Capote had, that I would make the long trip through the relentless wind several times.



Windmills of Kansas, grain elevator towering over Garden City
(seven miles from Holcomb and the site of the trial), Chinese elms
leading to the Clutter farmhouse, and the Clutter farmhouse.
Photos © 2010 by Teri Blair, all rights reserved.





Fifty years ago Perry Smith and Richard Hickock drove across Kansas on a false tip that there was a rich farmer who had thousands of dollars hidden in a safe. Their botched robbery turned into carnage. The two were captured six weeks later, tried, convicted, and hung at a federal penitentiary. The crime was horrific, but everyone agrees, the story would have faded in time—if not for Capote. Though life would have been forever altered in Finney County, it would have returned to normal.

But it didn’t work that way. Truman wrote his book, it became a best seller, and he was catapulted to the top of the literary world. Then Hollywood got on board with a string of successful movies based on the book. Because of one author, there has been a constant, unending stream of people like me in Holcomb. Curious. Prying. Asking. Looking. Bringing it up. Over and over and over. When I interviewed Duane West a few years ago (the local lawyer who got the murderers convicted), he asked why people like me don’t think of something else to do. He’s been pestered for so many interviews since 1959 that he won’t talk to anyone unless they make a donation to the Boy Scouts of Finney County.




         

                             

Finney County Courthouse and stairs Capote climbed during the trial to
the courtroom. Photos © 2010 by Teri Blair, all rights reserved.





In September, Holcomb dedicated a monument to the Clutters. Its intent is to honor the four people who died: Herb, Bonnie, Nancy, and Kenyon. They were upstanding, involved members of their community. That’s what the monument focuses on, not what garnished the attention: their brutal deaths described in the book In Cold Blood. It was a solid community step to take the Clutters back from Truman and Hollywood and bring them home to their people.

The last time I was in Kansas, I went to the annual Ground Hog Supper held at the Methodist Church. It was the Clutters’ church, the one where the four-family funeral was held in 1959. I sat in the same Fellowship Hall where the mourners would have eaten their post-burial lunch. The room was packed. Just like in 1959. And the people were the same as then—farmers, insurance salesmen, clerks. I liked them. They reminded me of people I grew up around. And I didn’t want them to be bothered with gawkers like me any longer.



Park sign leading to Clutter Memorial Monument,
photo © 2010 by Teri Blair. All rights reserved.





Was Truman right or wrong to tell their story? I loved the book and what it did for American writing. But was it worth the price Holcomb had to pay? Though I won’t pass judgment, one thing is clear: a good writer’s work leaves results. When Capote left New York to set up shop in Kansas, he pulled us in. The pull has lasted five decades. His book kept a wound open. And Truman suffered, too. Researching and publishing In Cold Blood punctuated his dramatic descent into alcoholism.

So for me, for this one writer, I’ve decided to set it down. If I go back to Holcomb someday to visit my cousins, I’ll enjoy the Arkansas River that flows through the town, and I’ll buy a Cherry Limeade because I can’t get them where I live. But that’s it. No more questions.

I’ll just let the people be. It’s time.



Wheatlands Hotel, where Truman Capote stayed,
photo © 2010 by Teri Blair. All rights reserved.






About Teri Blair: Teri Blair is a freelance writer living in Minneapolis and founder of the Poetry & Meditation Group of which QuoinMonkey fondly and frequently writes. (See Letter From Poet Elizabeth Alexander for the latest post on that group and Teri’s piece titled Desire And A Library Card — The Only Tools Necessary To Start A Poetry Group for a step-by-step on how to start your own.)

Teri has written many posts on red Ravine, but this current piece is a follow-up and closure of sorts to her first guest post here, Continue Under All Circumstances, which she wrote on the road during a 2007 trip to Holcomb, Kansas.

Read Full Post »

[February 3, 2010, UNM Sub Ballroom]


By Carolyn Flynn





Elizabeth Gilbert in Albuquerque, February 3,
2010, in the UNM Sub Ballroom, photo © 2010
by ybonesy. All rights reserved.






From The “You Can’t Hurry Love” Department:


The age at which people marry is the greatest predictor of a failed marriage, so marry late and lower your expectations.

“You almost can’t wait long enough,” says author Elizabeth Gilbert to an audience of about 720 book lovers that gathered in the University of New Mexico SUB ballroom in Albuquerque this month to hear her read from her newest book, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage.

“The expectation thing is huge,” Gilbert goes on to say. “We have overloaded this institution.”

American marriage is supposed to be the safe harbor for soul gratification, life partner, wealth building, child rearing and everyday companion.

“I don’t want to become the goddess of lower your expectations,” Gilbert says, “but manage them.”

In an interview before the event, Gilbert says more about that: “People who marry at heat of infatuation. The only one way to go from there is to speed down. People who marry from place of love and friendship find that over the years they find their love just deepens.”

Gilbert didn’t set out to be an expert on romance and marriage. Rather, the author of the mega-best-selling Eat, Pray, Love set out to be the “bride of writing,” as she proclaims on her Web site, elizabethgilbert.com.

“I married it,” she tells the audience, which, judging by the questions, has more concerns about what she will write next and how she writes it than fixing up their love lives. “This is what I’m for. This is my purpose.”


The “unidentical twin”


Gilbert set out on a career in writing with this simple goal: “I just wanted to see something published before I died. And people in my family live a long time.”

She also set out to travel, to do yoga and to recover her heart after a brutal divorce and an even-more brutal breakup in a rebound relationship. That led to Eat, Pray, Love, which took readers from Italy to India to Indonesia, where she met the man she loves and shares her life with, the Brazilian gem importer she calls Felipe in her books.

What she didn’t plan on was that her journey would lead her to Committed, released in January 2010.

That book opens with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announcing to Gilbert and her sweetie that their 90-day chunks of commitment — which resembled marriage in every way but weren’t marriage — weren’t going to pass muster. Felipe, an Australian citizen, was in the U.S. on a limited visa that allowed him to stay with Gilbert in their non-wedded state of bliss in Philadelphia about three months at a time. Then, he would have to depart to parts elsewhere, sometimes with Gilbert, only to return. This activity appeared suspicious in the post-9/11 world. Homeland Security announced they would deport him… though a friendly official known only in the book as “Officer Tom” gently advised them that they could solve this problem with the M-word — marriage.

“What we determined, quite swiftly there in the bowels of the Dallas-Fort Worth airport was that it would be hugely to our benefit to do this,” says Gilbert.

Thus, another journey began — and another book.

The route to writing a follow-up to Eat, Pray, Love, was, shall we say, a learning experience.

“The notion that we (as writers) are supposed to be defeating ourselves strikes me as cannibalistic and a little scary,” Gilbert says.

The author considered that Eat, Pray, Love, was her last book “and maybe she would be selling scented candles.”

But she also reminded herself that writers have long careers, and she planned to be writing at least until she was 80. Now 40, she realized that she had 40 more years of writing ahead of her, of which Eat, Pray, Love, would be a small part.

The struggle that she believes every writer has is that the final product is often the “unidentical twin of what you had in mind.”

It took 500 pages and some time off to shed the mantle of expectations for what her next book would be. She freely admits she rejected the first 500 pages, making the painful decision that she could not turn it in to her publisher, which was expecting a manuscript.

She had to take six months off and do something completely different until it became clearer how to approach the next book. That meant a lot of gardening. “Your hands are in the dirt, it’s restorative, and every so often you get a cherry tomato,” she says.

One day in the fall, the first line of Committed came to her. It was in a different voice.

“The problem with the early draft was trying to write in an imitation of my Eat, Pray, Love voice,” she says.


Lessons about love


That version of the draft was a completely different way to tell the same story she tells in Committed, which gets us back to what Gilbert has learned about marriage.

At the Albuquerque event, Gilbert read from the opening of the book, in which she and her sweetie, whom she calls Felipe in both books, were averse to marriage, though there was no absence of love. Both were survivors of nasty divorces. Gilbert had borne witness to what she referred to in Committed to the fact that every relationship has buried within it the “ever-coiled makings of a catastrophe.”

In an interview before the event, Gilbert says her yearlong search to define marriage for herself, she came to understand what had doomed her first marriage was not going to doom her second. “What doomed our marriage — pretty simply, (is we were) young stupid, selfish and immature.

“You take those traits and apply them day-to-day and watch them get eroded.”

But Gilbert also had to make her peace with how much of her marriage was public – owned by the government and the community – and how much was private. “It’s not just your own story,” she says.

Yes, two people who are in love write their own code, governing the graceful balance of give and take.

But their relationship also belongs to the community. And to the U.S. government, as she learned. And to history. “And some would say it belongs to God,” she says in the interview.


‘Waiting to be born’


Gilbert worked through the tremendous expectations not only about marriage, but about her next book. She admits to big time writer’s block. In a 2008 TED lecture on creativity, she wonders why writers put this on themselves. Her father, a chemical engineer, never had chemical engineering block.

Gilbert tells the audience in Albuquerque that what saves her is her work ethic. “I’m a little bit sloppy.”

The newspaper columnist Russell Banks admitted to being lazy and a perfectionist.

This is a difficult aspect in a writer, Gilbert says. “You need to be the opposite.”

“I just refused to die as a person who had 30 pages of a novel in her drawer,” she says.

The biggest thing that kept her going through Committed, is she wants to get to the next project, which she says will be fiction. There are “those things lining up waiting to be born.”





Carolyn Flynn, an MFA candidate in fiction and creative nonfiction at Spalding University, has seen her literary short stories published in Ellipsis and The Crescent Review, as well as the German anthology Wilde Frauen. She is the winner of the Renwick-Sumerwell and SouthWest Writers fiction prizes and has been short-listed for the Tom Howard Prose Prize in creative nonfiction and the Danahy Prize in fiction. For the past ten years, she has been editor of SAGE magazine, published monthly in the Albuquerque Journal. The author of seven nonfiction books on body-mind-spirit topics, she lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with her 10-year-old twins.

Carolyn also wrote red Ravine posts An Evening With Elizabeth Gilbert & Anne Lamott after seeing the two writers together in 2008 on the UCLA campus and The Devil Came Down To Austin about seeing ghosts of her father while attending the 2007 Agents & Editors Conference. You can find out more about Carolyn at carolynflynn.com.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »