Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Winter Writers Series Brings Award Winning Writers to Mineral Point

With no arts and crafts workshops scheduled in winter, you might think this is a slow time for Shake Rag Alley, but not so! The new Winter Writer Series has been very exciting, bringing talented Wisconsin writers to Mineral Point. The writers were winners of awards given by Council for Wisconsin Writers, Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, Wisconsin People & Ideas, and the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission. They were invited to spend a week in Shake Rag's historic lodging, affording  distraction-free time to concentrate on their writing projects. They also generously shared their time and talents with readings, workshops, and visits with local community members and students.

Last week was especially busy with two residency writers staying at Shake Rag - Bruce Dethlefsen, current Wisconsin Poet Laureate, and Children's Literature Award Winner, Jacqueline Houtman.

Wisconsin Poet Laureate Bruce Dethlefsen
Monday, the 6th, was a delightful evening at Foundry Books. Bruce Dethlefsen read a number of poems from his newest collection, Unexpected Shiny Things. Bruce's wonderful poetry, as one attendee noted, is quite "accessible", not the stuff that leaves you scratching your head wondering what that was all about. The poems ranged from perceptive and moving to down-right hilarious, as in The Hot Dog Man (other moms may caution their children to be good or the boogie man will get them, but the mother in Bruce's poem threatens to sell misbehaving children to the Hot Dog Man who makes his hot dogs out of ANYTHING).

Appropriately enough, the evening was rounded out with poetry set to music written and performed by Jen Logueflower. Bruce, who as it turns out plays percussion in a band, even joined in to accompany Jen on the bongos.

It was a very special evening. Thanks to Gayle Bull of Foundry Books for hosting.

Earlier in the day, Bruce met with the Mineral Point High School AP English Literature and Composition students where he shared some of his poetry, after which the students had the opportunity to read some of their own.

Jacqueline Houtman, winner of the Council of Wisconsin Writers Tofte/Wright Children's Literature Award also visited the Middle School/High School last week. Jacqueline, a Ph.D. in Medical Microbiology and Immunology, describes her award-winning debut children's book, The Reinvention of Edison Thomas, as "sciency fiction", a story about Eddy, "a kid for whom science is easy but friendship is hard". The 5th Grade Book Club selected the book as their book of the month and made Jacqueline their honored guest at lunchtime. A presentation after lunch for 5th and 6th grade students began with songs by the band They Might Be Giants (Eddy's favorite band) who sing about science, and treats consisting of sandwiches of peanut butter and "bee vomit" (honey, in case you haven't read the book). Jacqueline described the many steps needed to bring a book to publication (it took her five years!) and answered many, many questions from eager students.

Winter Writers Series Coordinator, Heather Murn with Amy Lou Jenkins

The series kicked off in November with Short Story Contest winner, Allison Slavick (see our November 18th post). December brought CWW's Ellis/Henderson Outdoor Writing Award Winner Amy Lou Jenkins. Amy participated in a free meet and greet at Shake Rag Alley, and talked about her book Every Natural Fact. We were astounded by her depth of knowledge of Wisconsin natural history. Coleman and John Fetters were her hosts at Maplewood Lodge located in the countryside outside of Mineral Point, the perfect setting considering her subject matter.

Christopher Mohar

Christopher Mohar, winner of CWW's Larry and Eleanor Sternig Short Fiction Award, stayed at Shake Rag Alley's Clowney House in January and read some of his new fiction at the January Shake Rag Alley board meeting. He told us he was thoroughly enjoying luxuriating in the old house, regaled us with his colorful descriptions, and described his use of an old manual typewriter which helped him focus because "typewriters don't have Facebook!".

Next week, Shake Rag will welcome Krista Eastman, Kay W. Levin Short Non-fiction Award Winner. On Monday evening, February 20th, Krista will do a public reading from her award-winning essay "Layers of Ice" about living in Antarctica, travel, and myth. (7pm in the Cabinet Shop at Shake Rag Alley, call the Shake Rag office for further details: 608-987-3292).

Later in the spring, Shake Rag will be host to David Krump, winner of the Lorine Niedecke Poetry Award.

We are so grateful for the Council for Wisconsin Writers partnerships that have given us the opportunity to welcome such talented and gracious writers to our community. We look forward to many more.

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