Festival and Amery Classic

A week ago I had the pleasure of reading a short story (“Snow Job and the Four Dwarfs”) as a fundraiser for the Amery Arts Alliance to help its quest to purchase Amery’s Classic Theatre and fix its roof. I was joined by poet LaMoine MacLaughlin, adventurer Lois Joy Hofmann, celebrity chef and columnist Peter Kwong, pastor Randy Dean and educator-historian Dan Girtz. The turnout was disappointingly small, at least in terms of the money raised by the ticket purchases of the people attending (there may have been unknown contributions) but the readings were mostly good. Just about every writer spent time describing his/her background, which I found a bit odd.

Last night I read three stories as a fund raiser for St.Croix Festival Theatre. I was joined by poet LaMoine MacLaughlin, who did his usual good job of making poetry understandable and entertaining. This was a return event; we read for Festival last year. Turnout was a bit less than last year, perhaps half full, and I knew many of those attending. I wish there were more time to visit with each person who comes to those events. I enjoy doing readings (Marina calls them my one man shows) and why not? I can put drama into my own words. The trick it to read stories that are not too long and I barely succeed at that.

Next up is next weekend speaking in Cushing, Wisconsin at the Old Settlers picnic. I’ll talk about growing up in Hollywood and what this City Slicker learned by living in our rural area for 30+ years.


Daughter Alice is in town briefly on her way to International Falls/Rainy Lake/Camp Koochiking where she will spend most of the summer teaching songwriting. (Yes, I misspelled the camp’s name and the county it’s in. Ah, well.) It’s upset time as the family dog was injured by an encounter with a large truck at the camp and is in Duluth for emergency care. Duluth is a three hour jaunt from the camp. Alice has a new recording out and I listened earlier this evening. Two of the cuts made me cry–hard.

Marina and I spent a delightful afternoon with three of my former foreign student advisees, one from China via Austria, an Ethiopian-Italian entrepreneurial dynamo, and a delightful guy from Palau who was a pioneer in computers and their applications. The latter two became residents here and Jane married an Austrian and has a business not far from the Italian border. I’m not doing them justice in my descriptions; they are highly successful people, three among a remarkable group of people I was privileged to “advise” almost half a century ago. They credit me with much of their success, which is untrue. I tell them that we at Macalester College had scholarship money and selected people we felt had the potential to make the world a better place. And as much as I can tell, they have done just that! We met at Cafe Latte, which is a noisy venue, but their food (especially the desserts like strawberry-rhubarb cheesecake) makes up for it. We’ve had a dry spell lately and so we drove through welcome periodic rain showers. Adding another 45 minutes to our drives to The Cities makes the travel seem much longer than it did when we were 20 years younger but coming home is nice.

And things are shaping up at home. Tomorrow carpenters come to finish off a bit of outside work, some electric and a heat duct to be cut into the bedroom. I hope to get the dock in on Tuesday and Wednesday I pick up an electric stove and range hood. We are switching out the stove because it’s dangerous for Marina to be putting her hand over flame and it’s hard for her to see whether a burner is lit or not. Thursday sees an electrician for powering up the new stove, a dryer line to be run, electric for future a/c, some floodlights for what will become a gallery downstairs and putting power to the wiring in my office.

The Amery Arts Alliance reading went well, although the audience was small. Writers generally don’t draw big crowds, or at least those of us who are not well known don’t draw big crowds. The Alliance has a matching grant of $20,000 and if Friday’s event is any indication they have a good ways to go to meet that challenge. The effort is to save the classic downtown theatre, a throwback to the 1930’s that has been restored but has a leaking roof that needs repair. The Alliance would love to do that and own the place, too. I’m hoping for a larger turnout this Friday when LaMoine MacGlaughlin and I read (it’s a return engagement) as a fund raiser for St.Croix Festival Theatre. If you’re looking for a cheap date, tickets are $10 with all proceeds going to Festival. We’d love to see you there!

Ta Da!

So we’re in (mostly) our new home above Bone Lake. It’s across the lake from where we were for 20 years and just a bit north. We don’t have the beach in our yard anymore, but we don’t have the taxes either that go with waterfront. We share a beach with 7 other property owners and it’s just down the hill from us.

We managed to exit Osceola just in time; we closed last Tuesday and had to be out, of course. This has been the most demanding move I’ve done and I intend to exit this life from out here. Much of the challenge has been that we are combining three places: our long-time Duluth apartment, our Osceola townhome, and Marina’s fully furnished office (mine, too!). In addition, there was stuff in the cabin that was left when we bought the place five years ago. Marina’s vision means that things go more slowly than with most people; she needs to be able to know where things are so she can find them in the future. (Right now we’re looking for tick protection for the animals that’s in a bag somewhere and for bird seed for the finches.) People Loving People in Dresser has been the recipient of many donations from us and there will be more. We have triplicates of some things and duplicates of others.

Meanwhile, life goes on. Unplanned last week was a pacemaker replacement for Marina, so that meant time in hospitals and clinics. Son John sat with me at Regions and that was a great assist. Daughter Hannah put some elbow grease into cleaning as we left Osceola and that was a great help. This week I have a truck brake repair and front axle to fix and Friday night I’m also reading a short story (“Snow Job and The Four Dwarfs”) to benefit the Amery Arts Alliance’s efforts to buy the Classic Theatre and fix its roof. There will be six writers reading; we’ll see if we get an audience. Meanwhile, I’m locating and putting in place more stuff!


Still lugging stuff to the new location; that’s the report. Moving is such fun! On the other hand I drop a good ten pounds per move so it’s not all bad. I still have some sheetrock work to do and some electric in my office-to-be but we are making good progress and should be out of here and in the new place by the end of the month.

The “possible” event I mentioned in my last post–the one in Amery–now is firm for Friday, June 7th at 7 p.m. at the Classic Theatre. It’s a fund raiser for Amery’s Arts Alliance to help them purchase the theatre and fix the leaking roof. I will be joined by some fine writers: Peter “Wok & Roll” Wong, renowned chef and columnist; Lois Joy Hoffman, author, adventurer, photographer, and circumnavigator; LaMoine MacLaughlin, Amery’s first poet laureate and executive director of Amery’s Northern Lakes Center for the Arts; Dan Girtz, educator and writer of history; and Randy Dean, pastor and author.

Movin’ on

Our Osceola place is sold and we are on our way to rural Luck, WI. Actually, our Osceola townhouse sold twice. The first sale lasted 24 hours. The buyer decided she couldn’t afford owning a home and preferred to continue renting. So we had a showing the next day and the place sold. Both buyers paid our asking price.

And so Marina and I have been hefting stuff out to what was our Bone Lake cabin. We did the 7 foot overstuffed sofa ourselves and I was amazed at what a woman in her 80’s still can lift. Aside from hauling and boxing stuff, I’ve been doing electrical wiring and sheet rocking in what will be my new office space. It’s a race with time: we close here on May 28th and our favorite movers come the 20th. I’m still trying to find a storage garage to keep stuff we will be selling–no luck so far; everything is full. What an amazing society: so much stuff we have that we have no place to put it.

My latest “mangled” fairy tale, “Snow Job and The Four Dwarfs”, got plenty of laughs at the Amery writers’ group so I think I’ll read it at the Festival Theatre fundraiser. There is a tentative authors reading evening set in Amery at the restored theatre there. It will be the week before the Festival Theatre reading (that’s June 14th) on June 7th. Some of the Osceola writers group may be interested in reading at the Amery evening.

Gotta go now and start dismantling this office. Oh, joy!

it’s “official”!

We’ve set the date now for story reading at St.Croix Festival Theatre. I’ve asked LaMoine MacLaughlin, Amery’s first poet laureate, to join me again for an evening of story and poetry readings with ticket proceeds going to help Festival Theatre.

The date? Friday, June 14th. The time? Probably 7:30 p.m. The tariff? Last year tickets were $10. C’mon out and enjoy an evening of good stories, good poetry and know that you are supporting a worthy theatre group at the same time!

I’m happy to have this reading set, especially since for the past two days I’ve been under the weather–something uncommon for me; I rarely crash. You know how it is: things that are important to get done just don’t get done and, somehow, life manages to on and what needs to happen does happen “in the fulness of time”, as the Bible says.

possible Festival Theatre fund raiser repeat

I’m in early discussions with the people at St.Croix Festival Theatre about donating another evening of story reading with all proceeds going to Festival. LaMoine MacLaughlin and I did this last year and there were calls then for a repeat this year. It’s easy money for the theatre; all we need is a dead night for the theatre, some lights, ticket takers and Peter, who’ll scrounge up a chair, side table and a lamp to suggest a comfortable reading room.

If this happens, I’ll limit the reading this year to just two stories. Last year I did three and I felt it went too long.

A New Chapter

As of Valentine’s Day, the day of the official end to 50 years of ministry in our area by Good Samaritan Society-St.Croix Valley that was brought about by the purchase of the nursing home by Plainview Health Partners, I was out of a job. Chaplains were cut from the employee roster.

I didn’t hear that from the new owner, who has not connected with me yet, but by phone from my colleague, fellow chaplain Chuck Arndt. He had a face-to-face with the new owner.

Fortunately, the Lord has been preparing Marina and me for this possibility. I serve Wolf Creek United Methodist Church quarter time and have fairly frequent fill-in opportunities at other churches. I still do a quarterly series of national ads for a client of more than 30 years standing. On top of those things, our downtown Osceola office building is supposed to close for its sale on March 1st and the bedroom and additional downstairs room we’ve added to our Bone Lake cabin is close to being finished. In the event that finances force a consolidation and a move, we have a place to go that we enjoy already.

So the plot thickens. What I would like to see is a gigantic uptick in sales for my short stories, both the Kindle versions and the paperbacks. I am grateful for the two days of unstructured time I now have and I’m praying that I will use that time wisely. One thing that may happen is that I may be able to produce more fiction; much creative energy lately seems to have gone into sermons, rather than into stories.

So we shall see. I, for one, will be staying tuned!

The Second Gathering is in print!

I’ve just published my second paperback, “The Second Gathering of The Break Time Stories”. It’s available through Amazon.com for $10 and includes the two most recent Kindle books, “Four More Break Time Stories” and “Yes, More Break Time Stories!”

In the meantime I’ve done two more short stories, “I Loved That Bike!” and At Midnight’s Stroke”. I’m mid-way through another “mangled” fairy tale, “Snow Job and The Four Dwarfs”, so just you wait!

Of paint and prose

“Paint” refers to priming the new sheetrock at our cabin addition. I think I did manage to get more paint on the ceiling than on me, but some may disagree with that assessment.  I did a funeral in Webster, Wisconsin last Saturday and then read the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke, Chapter Two in Amery at the Northern Lakes Center for the Arts. The reading is part of the Northern Lakes Chamber Orchestra’s annual Christmas concert and sing-along and is something I’ve done with them for at least a dozen years and probably more like sixteen years. I’ve become an institution! (Actually, I think I’m too young yet to be an institution but I’m moving on the age when one can qualify.) Coming up is participation in the candlelight service for Christmas at the Taylors Falls United Methodist Church, an occasion that customarily is jam-packed and very affecting for everyone participating. Wolf Creek has its own Christmas Eve service, along with a Sunday presentation that bodes  to be plenty of fun. I get to be the voice of Herod in that extravaganza. (Cue the wicked sounding chuckle.)

I’ve also done two new stories, one of which will be read in January at the Northern Lakes Center when authors read their stuff from the Center’s publication “Soundings”. The newest one will be inflicted on the writers’ group there in early January. The “Soundings” story will get its recording this week for broadcast on WPCA-FM along with “Green Card” from the third collection, “Yet More Break Time Stories”.