Monday, January 31, 2011


Peeking into February, the photo on the Kansas 2011 Calendar is just about what I see outside my window, a cold, lone bird against a backdrop of bare tree limbs. If you are not a subsubscriber to Kansas Magazine, you can still purchase a calendar by calling 866-526-7624, or sending an e-mail to

(Oh-oh, looks like I haven't yet learned how to make that link work in a blogpost. Drat.)

If you have an idea about an article to submit, or since winter weather does create dramatic scenes just waiting to be photographed, you might want to look at the FAQ link for submitting your work.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


NOTE: This program was cancelled because of inclement weather.

Alarie Tennille will share her new poetry collection, which blends memory and imagination to create verse about the challenges and triumphs of everyday life, at 7 pm on Tuesday, February 1, at the Corinth Library, 8100 Mission, Prairie Village.

Among the twenty poems is one with the intriguing title of Daddy Hits A Policeman. Read a few samples at
Spiraling Into Control.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


Well, I haven't heard that Vicki Julian's new book, Simple Things to Make This World a Better Place, has really hit the bookstores yet, but the good news is: you can go here for a sample excerpt.

Vicki's previous books have been Christmas: A Season for Angels, and the sequel, Always a Season for Angels.

Friday, January 28, 2011


You can observe Kansas’ 150th Birthday at 2 pm Saturday, January 29, by joining Andrea Warren at the Cedar Roe Library at 5120 Cedar, Roeland Park -- that’s the far northeast corner of Johnson County.

Andrea writes to a young audience, tales of historic events and circumstances through the eyes of children. Her current titles include Orphan Train Rider, Pioneer Girl, Surviving Hitler, We Rode the Orphan Trains, Escape from Saigon, and Under Siege (the story of Vicksburg during the Civil War).

Expect from Andrea next a book about the street children of London in Charles Dickens’ time.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


It's going to take me a lot longer than this 150th birthday year to read through the list of 150 'BEST' Kansas Books. Not that I won't try.

The encouraging thing for me is that I have already read a good many of the excellent titles on the list. Check it out for yourself and see how well you know this wonderful state of ours.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


A poster exhibition that opened on January 15 at the
Lawrence Percolator,
9th and New Hampshire, will close Friday, January 28, with a book launch from 5-8 pm. Celebrate People’s History is a collection of artists’ posters which have been on display.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Are you a fan of prose, poetry or fiction?

Well, step right in, you’ll get a taste of all three at 7 p.m. on Thursday, January 27, at the Raven Bookstore, 6 East 7th in Lawrence, you know, just a half-block off Massachusetts.

You’ll hear prose from Daniel Rolf, poetry from Kenneth Irby and fiction from Natalie McAllister. All under the Ravens’ BIG TENT.

Monday, January 24, 2011


No, not the 550 pieces of Kansas in the jigsaw puzzle on sale at library and museum gift shops throughout the state, as well as many bookstores, with the proceeds going to support the
Kansas Center for the Book,
but instead Pieces of Kansas, a book of stunning photographs taken by Donald Stavenov.

Barns and windmills and sunflowers, oh, my!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

ANNE BABER'S "'Endless"

It’s not on the bookshelves yet, but you can order a copy of Anne Baber’s Endless from Finishing Line Press (Click on “New Releases”).

Stealing some lines from a review: “Anne Baber’s poetic eye captures images with unusual creativity, choosing exactly the right word and, more often than not, inventing the right word where none existed. Her unique gift for wordplay is matched by a sophisticated humor that readers will treasure.” This from Maril Crabtree, an accomplished poet in her own right.

Best to order before March 1, because the number of advance orders will determine the print run.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


The Lawrence Arts Center and the Raven Book Store are pleased to announce the winners of the 15th Annual Langston Hughes Creative Writing Awards. The LHCRA Committee has chosen two local writers of fiction and poetry:

Beth Reiber - Fiction Winner
Mary Stone Dockery - Poetry Winner

The Langston Hughes Creative Writing Award ceremony will be held on Tuesday, February 1, 7 pm at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire Street. The celebration and reception will include readings, music, and refreshments and is open to the public.

Friday, January 21, 2011


Release parties are great fun -- if you want to get in on the excitement, be at the The Raven 6 East Seventh in Lawrence at 7 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday, January 22, for the debut of Blue Island Review.

The Blue Island Review is . . . well, quoting "The members of the Blue Island Poetry Group hold these tenets: that poetry is the art of making all suffer; that hypergraphia is a disorder that should be incubated; that the experience of poetry is to induce emotion through image, sound, and association; that narrative is prose, and should remain such in its multiple nefarious forms; that economy of words is most powerful; that love as it is known is a most brutal form of chemical warfare, and that to inflict poetry on the unsuspecting, both in print and in voice, is the highest calling of very sexy people."

I have to ask: Why Blue Island? Isn't that one of the major southbound streets in Chicago, a route that Sara Paretsky often chooses for her P.I., V.I. Warshawski?

Thursday, January 20, 2011


You never know when reminders of Frank L. Baum's Wizard of Oz are going to appear. This time it's a winning entry in the Harvesters annual Canstruction, in which competitors use cans of food, and apparently also packages of Ramen Noodles, to create an eye-catching display. Black and Veatch's winning entry is "We're Off to Feed the Hungry."

Yep, there's the yellow brick road (cans of corn?), the round tornado uptight against Dorothy's house, and sure enough, the house has fallen on the wicked witch, because I can see her legs sticking out. And watching it all is the Tin Man, a tiny red heart gleaming on his chest.

All 13 of the competing creations will be on display until Feb. 7 at the Ward Parkway Mall, or you can look online by going to Harvesters and following the screen prompts. If you want to cast an online vote, it will cost you a $1 donation to Harvesters.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


The midst of a snow storm might not be the best time to be reading Howard Ruede's Sod-House Days, Letters from a Kansas Homesteader 1877-78.

Kansas was booming in those days, and in a forward by Scott G. McNall, he writes: "The boom mentality, the rise in agricultural prices, the belief that more farmland was available, and the railroads' offers to haul grain to market -- all made it very easy for the farmer to go in debt. And if that wasn't encouragement enough, agents of eastern mortgage companies were combing the plains, looking for people who would take out loans . . . Letters with enclosed checks would arrive at mortgage-company offices, instructing the company to 'Get me a Kansas mortgage'."

Sound anything like the mortgage crisis we're still struggling to get out of in the year 2011? Yet McNall, writing in 1983, describes the boom times as a "situation that seems nearly incomprehensible today." I wonder what he would have said in 2009?

Still reading my way across the Map of Kansas Literature, a journey that is hardly begun.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


And scads and scads more after everyone arrives from the four corners of the nation. It blows the mind.

Twenty poets laureate will converge on Lawrence March 13-14 for (plagiarizing from their website) "many events, including Spencer Museum of Art tours with poets laureate, two public readings, a silent auction to have dinner with a poet laureate, reception and celebration, and all-day conference featuring panels on poetry as it relates to social change, making a living, publishing, healing, sense of place, and the writing process. This event also includes the book launch for An Endless Skyway: Poetry from the U.S. Poets Laureate."

Go take a look for yourself at United Poets Laureate.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Robert Stewart and Suzanne Rhodenbaugh will be at the podium at 7 pm Tuesday, January 18, for The Writers Place Poetry Reading Series of the Johnson County Library.

The editor of New Letters magazine, Stewart's poems have appeared in The Iowa Review, Prairie Schooner,The Literary Review, and the anthology, The Girl With the Red Hair. Rhodenbaugh's work has appeared in Sou'wester, River Styx, Rockhurst Review, New Letters, and The Kansas City Star.

The location is the Central Resource Library at 9875 West 87th Street in Overland Park.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Well, never before like this Convergence will be, March 13-14 in Lawrence, two days of readings, workshops, sessions and talks, rubbing elbows with poets laureate (forget my Latin here) from all over the United States, including a keynote address from Ted Kooser, former US Poet Laureate, and a special auction to dine with a poet laureate of your choice.

There was a similar convergence last year, only a taster for this year's convergence to which poets from the four corners of the nation will be converging, set in motion by Kansas' Poet Laureate, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg.

I'm sure there will be plenty of room for someone like me, who doesn't claim to be a poet, but who has never met an accomplished, already-published poet who wasn't quite willing to help me polish and improve my pathetic attempts at poetry.

More here at Poet Laureati: A National Convergence of Poets Laureate.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


It's official! Clare Vanderpool has won the 2011 John Newbery Medal.

From the website of the Association of Library Services for Children :

The 2011 Newbery Medal winner is Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool, published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, a division of Random House, Inc.

The town of Manifest is based on Frontenac, Kan., the home of debut author Clare Vanderpool’s maternal grandparents. Vanderpool was inspired to write about what the idea of “home” might look like to a girl who had grown up riding the rails. She lives in Wichita with her husband and four children.

“Vanderpool illustrates the importance of stories as a way for children to understand the past, inform the present and provide hope for the future,” said Newbery Medal Committee Chair Cynthia K. Richey.

Friday, January 14, 2011


What’s your take? When issuing reprints of treasured classics, should the editors remove, or replace, the language of the author (now long gone and no longer able to defend -- in this case, his -- choice of words) in order to conform more closely to contemporary sensibilities?

You’ll want to read “Whose Sensibilities Should We Respect?” Warren Bull's blog about the question. Which author are we talking about? The picture of Mark Twain gives you a clue, and you probably know -- without my spelling it out -- which word we are talking about.

Find the blog at Writers Who Kill. Look for the January 14 posting.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


As mentioned in the previous post about Sod-House Days, Howard Ruede did indeed set out in 1877 from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, for Kansas. Howard wrote: "Now you might suppose that Kansas City was in Kansas, but it is not -- it is in Missouri, about half a mile from the state line."

Howard was not the first to be confused by the existence of a place named Kansas City in a state named Missouri, nor was he the last. One of the most comically ludicrous experiences in my life was being introduced to a Brit, who wouldn't let me go until he explained to me that despite what logic might dictate, Kansas City was not actually in Kansas!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


None of the trees around me look like Brad Neff's Hoarfrost Tree on the cover of the Winter issue of Kansas Magazine -- not yet, but winter isn't over yet. Mark Janssen's article about "Winter at the Lake" takes the reader to three of Kansas' lakes, Tuttle Creek, Cedar Bluff and Perry.

Cabins are available at many of the state's lakes, including those three, and visitors come from all over North America. Todd Lovin, manager at Tuttle Creek, says, "And we had an author from New York City use us as an escape to write a book."

I can't help but wonder who that was, and wish I knew the name of the book.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Do you know what "KANSAS READS"?

Hopefully, every one in Kansas will be reading What Kansas Means to Me, the 2011 KANSAS READS selection.

I love the cover -- there are stalks of wheat at the bottom, a meadowlark trilling at the top. A golden sunflower nestles in one of Dorothy's red shoes, and I do believe that's Leo Murdoch astride a horse getting ready for "The Last Cattle Drive."

Every book is a work of art, a thing of beauty to which many people contribute: the author, of course, and the typesetter, the illustrator, the designer, the printer, the binder, artists, all of them, whose creation is an absolute delight to hold in the hands. As a physical object, What Kansas Means to Me is a true work of art.

Thomas Fox Averill, the editor, will facilitate one of the first book discussions on Wednesday, January 12, at 6:30 pm at Emporia Library.

If you can't get to Emporia, look for a book discussion at your local library.


My New Year's Resolution is to drive my way across the Map of Kansas Literature. I can already see it will be a crooked road, both geographically and chronologically. I started with Thomas Fox Averill's Secrets of the Tsil Cafe, (actually set in the other Kansas City) and of a fairly modern time, but now I'm in Osborne County, in 1877 with Sod-House Days: Letters from a Kansas Homesteader 1877-78.

Author Howard Ruede's diary starts in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on Wednesday, March 7, 1877, with "After supper had a long talk on the Kansas question and finally decided to go with Levin Brunner."

(As someone who didn't go to high school in Kansas, I spend a lot of time with Kansas maps and I've already learned that there is more than one Kill Creek.)

Sunday, January 9, 2011


It's nice to be so popular you have to change your travel plans to meet your fans' requests, but that's what Zortz has to do. Zortz is moving her appearance at the Magnolia Health and Home Care in Independence back to Saturday, January 29, so that on Saturday, January 22 from 1-4 pm she can be at Edmond Museum, Edmond, OK . Zortz' creators, Joyce Long and her sister, Margie Trotter, will be participating in the Edmond Authors Book Fair.

If you can't get to Edmond (just north of Oklahoma City) you can visit Zortz at Misadventures of Zortz.

(Joyce, while you're in Oklahoma, let them know about the KAC convention October 7-9 just across the state line in Coffeyville.)

Saturday, January 8, 2011


There's more than one Manhattan. And it seems like readers will find both Manhattans in Warren Bull's new book, Murder Manhattan Style. Warren will be signing at noon on Saturday, February 5, at I Love a Mystery , Johnson Drive in Mission.

To borrow from a review: "In this collection, Warren Bull takes his readers across the American landscape with stories of justice and injustice, truth and speculation; and humor and noir. The Manhattan in the title sometimes refers to the suave part of New York and sometimes to its prairie twin in Kansas."

Friday, January 7, 2011


QUICK CORRECTION: This book signing has been re-scheduled for Saturday, January 29 -- see post of January 9 - NOTHING BEATS POPULARITY.

Her name is Zortz, and you can meet her at 2 pm on Saturday, January 22, at Magnolia Health and Home at 106 North Pennsylvania in Independence.

Zortz is the puppet creation of Joyce Long, and her story is being told in a series of books beginning with The Misadventures of Zortz: The Real Me. Book Two has just come out, The Misadventures of Zortz: Zortz Saves Black Friday.

You don't believe me? Well, we're going to try to get a picture, but in the meantime, why don't you just go to the booksigning?

Thursday, January 6, 2011


I've discovered, early this year, that the Kansas Reads selection for 2011 is What Kansas Means to Me, edited by Thomas Fox Averill. Most years, I have my head in the sand, and never know what the book is until all the discussion groups have been scheduled. I was with the schedule last year, read Barack Obama's Dreams of My Father, went to one discussion group. What I really would like to know is what does Kansas mean to Barack Obama? I like to think that some of his more sterling qualities can be attributed to his Kansas heritage, which runs fairly deep. I've been surprised to learn that a great (?) grandfather is buried right here in the Olathe Memorial Cemetery.

Go to for MORE about the book.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


In other words, barbecue smoke, Thin Blue Smoke, a new novel by Doug Worgul. With a background of Kansas City's barbecue traditions. Doug will be talking and signing at 8 pm on Tuesday, January 11, at the Corinth Library at 8100 Mission Road in Prairie Village.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


What motivates writers? Sometimes when I'm stuck, haven't been able to write a single word for days on end, I thrash around looking for something, anything, to motivate me.

From 2-3 pm on Sunday, January 9, Reaona Hemmingway will talk about what motivated her to write a dozen novels in three years. When her grandmother lost her ability to communicate, family members read to her when visiting. One day when Reaona's father forgot the magazine he intended to read, and found in his hands instead a manuscript he was editing for Reaona, well, there began the challenge for Reaona to write fast enough to keep ahead of the reading schedule. Wow!

Catch Reaona at the Topeka Public Library, 1515 SW 10th, and you can ask her how she managed to meet the challenge. OR, visit her blog .

Monday, January 3, 2011


Jennifer Brown will be talking about the inspiration behind her young adult novel, Hate List, maybe do a little reading from it, talk about her new book, Bitter End, coming out in May, talk about being a writer and then open up to questions on Monday, January 10, at Lackman Library in Johnson County. Everything starts at 4:15 pm (after school is out).

Lackman Library is at 15345 W. 87th Street Parkway in Lenexa, south side of the road, a little tricky to find and navigate the driveway, but worth the effort. Don't give up. Jennifer's blog is at jenniferbrownya.

Sunday, January 2, 2011


Heather Smith Jones will be signing copies of Water Paper Paint, Exploring Creativity with Watercolor and Mixed Media 7-9 pm on Friday, January 7 at the Lawrence Arts Center.

An exhibit of a selection of the original paintings created for the thirty projects in the book will be on display until February 4 at the center, 940 New Hampshire.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


I loved the food critic, Carson Flinn, who became dependent on a wheel chair, had a succession of young female assistants, and I know the characters were entirely fictional, after all, Secrets of the Tsil Cafe is a fictional novel, but all the same, I couldn't help but think of the legendary Walt Bodine. (I can say all that without really giving away the story.)