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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Indiana, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 20 of 20
1. 187 Reasons Why a Teacher Needs Books

Today’s guest blogger, Sarah Kilway, wrote to us after receiving hundreds of new books for her students. We couldn’t resist sharing her story with you.

Davis 9th grade center 7_croppedI teach 187 kids at Ben Davis Ninth Grade Center in Indianapolis, IN. The majority of my students live in poverty. Most have only one parent at home.

Not many of my kids own books, nor were they read to as children. Even as 9th graders, they lack basic common knowledge of fairy tales, fables and iconic book characters.

Our school has many great resources, but when something is lacking, my colleagues and I step in. This often means spending my own money on books and other items for my students, but it’s totally worth it. I also have First Book.

Davis 9th grade centerThanks to First Book, I was recently able to give a new book to every single one of my students – all 187! A few told me it was the first book they’d ever owned. Some said it was the first book they have ever finished. Such a proud moment for me and them – one that I wanted to share with you.

My students now ask me to go to the library on a daily basis.

Please give to First Book today so I can continue helping them discover and enjoy reading, and so other teachers can too. Your support puts a whole new world within their reach.

The post 187 Reasons Why a Teacher Needs Books appeared first on First Book Blog.

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2. From the Hearltand: Elsa Martson

Considering authors who write about African American, Latino, Arab or Muslim Americans, Native Americans in my state of Indiana has uncovered a true wealth of authors. It’s a bit funny to see such richness in this state when Indiana in YA is usually seen as the last place on earth. But, to those teens who live here, Indiana is the center of the universe. 

Elsa Martson is an Indiana writer who expands the universe of all young readers. She’s very active in the world of YA lit, whether she’s hosting a listserv chat, speaking at a local conference or writing another book that focuses on the people and cultures of the Middle East.Elsa has written over 20 children’s and young adult books including Santa The-Compassionate-Warrior-330Claus in Bahgdad And Other Stories About Teens In the Arab World and Figs and Fate: Stories About Growing Up In the Arab World Today.  Her most recent book, The Compassionate Warrior: Abd el-Kader of Algeria won the following awards. 

  • Co-winner of the 2013 Middle East Book Award for best “Youth Nonfiction”
  • Finalist for 2013 Midwest Books Award in the categories “History” and “Young Adult Non-Fiction”
  • Finalist for 2013 Foreword Review “Book of the Year” Award in the category “Young Adult Nonfiction”
  • 2014 Eric Hoffer Award, First runner-up in the “Culture” category
Later this year, she’ll release The Olive Tree. 
A story for all ages, about how an old olive tree in Lebanon caused conflict–and inspired reconciliation. Based on the author’s award-winning and much reprinted short story. With illustrations by Claire Ewart.
Let’s meet Elsa!


Where did you grow up?

I’m a New Englander from way, way back;  I grew up in Newton Centre, Massachusetts; and then my parents moved to a small town on the Massachusetts Dscf0689bw_web-330coast, Duxbury, just north of Plymouth.  It’s a beautiful place, with beaches, marshes, pine woods, and fascinating houses from the 17th-19th centuries.  I still feel steeped in the culture and history of  New England.  One of my current works-in- progress is set on the coast of Maine at the start of the American Revolution.

How did you end up in Indiana?

So I’m not a Hoosier at heart.  But Bloomington has been a great place to live!   I came here with my husband, Iliya Harik, who was Lebanese (I met him when we were students at the American University of Beirut).  He taught Middle East government at Indiana University for his entire career, with occasional leaves overseas. That made it possible for our family to live in such places as Cairo, Beirut, and Tunisia . . . wonderful inspiration for my writing.  But it was always nice to come home to Indiana.  (I have three sons: Ramsay, a secondary-school teacher of religious studies in Austin, Texas—and my first-line reader!  Amahl, proprietor of a fitness-training studio in Providence;  and Raif, a computer guy in Austin.  And grandchildren Savannah, starting health-care studies, and Kahlil, a 2-year-old ball of sunshine.)

What were some of the first books you found as a child that turned you into a reader?

I grew up in a book-filled home—my dad was a professor of English at Northeastern University in Boston—so becoming a reader was as natural for me as loving to climb trees. From my very young childhood I remember Barbar the Elephant, and in grade school I loved the E. Nesbit books and Mary Poppins—delightful blendings of fantasy and realism.

What three things would you like to add to a list of world treasures?

Oh my,  I’ll probably have some brilliant ideas tomorrow—but here’s what I’m thinking today.

The coast of Northern California, for the sheer beauty of its long, wide beaches, golden grass-covered slopes, redwood forests…..

Two or three piano concertos by Mozart—although I dare say he’s already on the list.

The translucent alabaster sarcophagus of Pharaoh Seti I, every inch covered with tiny hieroglyphs painted  a heavenly blue—for the beauty and sheer amazingness of the thing. (It’s in the Soanes Museum in London.)

What book(s) are you currently reading?

One I read recently that made a big impression on me was Big Fat Disaster by Beth Fehlbaum (Merit Press, 2014).  It’s about a girl in Texas, a compulsive eater, whose dad—a rising politician—has just been hit by scandal;  he abandons the family and they have to move, virtually penniless, to another small town.  So Colby has a lot to feel bad about, and she handles it by gobbling sugar.  What I especially liked  is that Colby is not particularly likable: she’s irritable, irrational.  But we always care about her and hope that eventually she’ll find the strength to become the confident, sympathetic person that’s hiding inside all that baggage. 

When did you realize that you are a writer?

My dad was a writer and a storyteller, who made up bedtime stories for my sister and me.  I think that gave me the idea that I could tell stories, too.   At the age of eight or nine, I started to write two “novels,”  one of them set in ancient Egypt.  Naturally neither got beyond the second page, but I enjoyed them while they lasted.  And discovered, many years later, that my novel The Ugly Goddess, set in a  fascinating period of ancient Egyptian history, was the realization of that very early dream! It may take 40 or 50 years to realize your dreams—but it can happen! 


What stories do you most enjoy telling?

I like to tell stories about young people who face challenges or troubles and somehow manage to end up in a better place.  When I started writing, wanting to use the unusual places I’d had a chance to spend time in (Cairo, Carthage, Greek Islands), I wrote rather complicated mystery/adventure stories about young Americans in those settings.  But at a conference the well-known author Avi once told me:  “I think you should write stories that move people.”  I now feel  that the stories in my collection Santa Claus in Baghdad and Other Stories About Teens in the Arab World best express what I want to do and perhaps can do best.  They still have an “exotic” element, being set in a variety of contemporary Arab societies, but my main concern is to depict young people trying to deal with the lives they were given, and make the best of it.

How did you decide to write about the Middle East and North Africa for young adults?

Since early childhood I’ve been intrigued by “other times, other places,” so I always had an international bent.   A Rotary Foundation fellowship took me to the American University of Beirut, and my marriage to the young man I met there—and the combination of his work and my own lifelong interests—led naturally to specializing in that part of the world.

But there’s another reason.  The Arab world is badly misunderstood, rejected, and disparaged in this country—even though Arab-Americans have always been exemplary as an immigrant community.  Since the founding of Israel in the Arab country of Palestine, in 1948, this prejudice has been drastically hardened by political complications, which are harmful not only to Arabs but to the interests of the U.S. and ultimately, I believe, to Israel.  I feel a mission as a writer to counter some of the ignorance and  politically motivated prejudice by presenting the people of the Arab world in ways that Americans can comprehend and relate to sympathetically.

You’ve described the whole Arab/Muslim world as invisible through use of the term “people of of color” and through their lack of representation in children’s literature.  Could you mention a few of the significant events, authors or books in children’s lit relating to books by and featuring Arab/Muslim Americans of which we should be aware?

Until the mid 1990’s there were very, very few books for young people with a positive Arab viewpoint—largely, I firmly believe, because of the prejudice mentioned above.  The door started to open with the publication of two very successful books by an already successful writer, Naomi Shihab Nye:  the novel Habibi and picture book Sitti’s Secrets, both about Palestine.  This showed publishers and writers that it was possible to produce books that give a favorable view of Arabs—without a storm of criticism.  Two other picture books published at about this time, by Florence Parry Heidi and Judith Heidi Gilliland, The Day of Ahmed’s Secret (Egypt) and Sami and the Time of the Troubles (Lebanon), were also important “door openers.” 

Since then, we’ve seen a slow but pretty steady increase in accurate, fair, and sympathetic books about Arabs, by British, American, and Israeli authors.  But very few Arab or Arab-American writers!  Although there are many Arab novelists, poets, and essayists, the idea that literature for children is an important and worthy use of literary talent has been slow to catch on.  Books for kids have been published in Arabic for years in such countries as Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, and Kuwait; but they very rarely attract attention for translation and publication in the U.S.  I keep hoping!

I keep a list of recommended books, mostly fiction, mostly about the Arab world,  which I think is as comprehensive a list as you could find, going back to the 1970s.  I’d be happy to send it electronically to anyone who gets in touch with me  (elsa.marston@gmail.com)   Besides the ones mentioned above, here are some that I especially recommend:

Ibtisam Barakat, Tasting the Sky:  A Palestinian Childhood

Anne Laurel Carter,  The Shepherd’s Granddaughter (Palestine)

Elizabeth Laird, A Little Piece of Ground   (Palestine)

Zeina Abirached, A Game for Swallows  (Lebanon)

Alalou, Elizabeth and Ali, The Butter Man  (Morocco)

Carolyn Marsden,  The White Zone  (Iraq)

Mary Matthews,  Magid Fasts for Ramadan (Egypt)

Jeanette Winter,  The Librarian of Basra  (Iraq)

Randa Abdel-Fattah, Ten Things I Hate About Me;   Does My Head Look Big in This? (Arab-Australians)

Claire Sidhom Matze, The Stars in My Geddoh’s Sky  (Egypt, Egyptian-Americans)

Cathryn Clinton, A Stone in My Hand  (Palestine)

Maha Addasi, The White Nights of Ramadan  (Gulf States)

What does diversity mean to you?

Talking about books, I take diversity to mean inclusion of good books about the Arab/Muslim world!  But of course I would include all cultures and countries—and encouragement of good writing and storytelling, that will hold up well in translation and publication in diverse societies.  I also welcome positive attention to all sorts of human conditions.  It’s wonderful to have books that broaden our understanding and appreciation of different experience—whether social, gender, religious, occupational, or virtually any other walk of life.   



Previous Posts From the Heartland



Filed under: Authors, Interview Tagged: Arab, Elsa Martson, Heartland, Indiana, interview, Middle Eastern YA Literature, Muslim

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3. From the Heartland: Kevin Waltman

My recent interview with Crystal Allen got me wondering who are the Indiana authors who write about teens of color? This is an important question when you consider how many YA books are set in NYC. Teens in Indiana , or any state, benefit from stories set where they live because setting can provide one more way for young readers to relate to their reading. Stories that mention the Pacers, Fort Wayne or Turkey Run State Park not only resonates with readers, but they also let readers  know that where they live matters and indeed they must, too.

Local authors are also important for teachers and librarians. Little can emphasize the importance of reading and writing more that a visit from these experts! Don’t we all get giddy around these rock stars of words and imagination?

You’ve met Crystal and I have several others for you to meet over the next couple of weeks. While some have lived in Indiana their entire life, others passed through for a few years. “Once a Hoosier, always a Hoosier!”

These are the authors those students I used to teach in Indianapolis would just love to meet!

Kevin Waltman lived in Indiana for his childhood, high school and college years. Indiana is where Kevin developed his love of basketball, partially because, well this is Indiana! But more important, his dad was legendary college coach Royce Waltman. Kevin currently lives in Alabama. Most recently, he’s been writing the D-Bow High School Hoops Series (Cinco Puntos Press). The first book in the series, Next came out in 2013 and Slump releases in October.

Where did you grow up?

            I was born in Bedford, Pennsylvania, where I lived until I was 11. After that, I lived in Bloomington, Indiana, for five years, then in Greencastle, Indiana, where I went to high school and college (DePauw University). After college I lived briefly in Washington, D.C., before moving to Indianapolis for five years before moving down to Alabama, where I’ve lived since 2001.

Do you have any pets?

          Our dog Henry. Technically, he’s my wife Jesssica’s dog, as she adopted him before we started dating—but we’ve been together for 9 years now, so Henry feels very much like my dog, too.

What were some of the first books you found as a child that turned you into a reader?

            As a little child, I read and read, but the series of books that stand out in my memory are the Black Stallion books. I just couldn’t get enough of those. Like a lot of boys, I hit a bit of dead period in my reading in my teens, but The Catcher in the Rye got me jump-started again.

Which famous person would you most like to write a review for your book?

           Roy Hibbert or Mike Conley, Jr. They’re both NBA players with Indiana connections, and they seem genuinely interested in helping young people—my potential readers.

What book(s) are you currently in the middle of reading?

            I just started The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon, but I’m only a couple pages in, so it hasn’t taken over my imagination yet. Before that, I read On Such a Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee, which is honestly one of the best books I’ve read in some time, at least since The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. And I’m also reading a tale from The Complete Sherlock Holmes in between every other book I read.

Is there much difference between life in Indiana and life in Alabama?

            Alabama’s hotter. Okay, that’s a bit of a joke, but in some ways that underscores other differences. The more rural nature of Alabamians, their relationships to the land, their penchant for comfort food—all of it seems influenced at least in part by the Southern weather. There are, certainly, other differences. Alabama, like other Southern states is more conservative, more religious, and poorer than Midwestern counterparts. However, though those traits are broadly true, the differences on those fronts don’t seem particularly pronounced when compared to Indiana.

                  Then, of course, there’s sports. I sometimes get rather quizzical looks when I tell Alabamians that I’m writing novels that focus in part on basketball, where in Indiana that is rather central to most people’s activities. Down here, it’s football first. And second. And always.

I have noticed that you teach writing at the university level. I would think teaching writing would be so difficult because there are just some things about writing that one cannot teach. What is it about teaching this skill that you enjoy?


Click to hear a podcast interview with Kevin.

            It depends on what type of writing you’re talking about. I teach a lot of English Composition, which is really about preparing first-year students to write academic essays: how to research information and cite it; how to analyze and develop arguments; how to explore a topic as even-handedly as possible. That seems quite teachable if a student is actually earnest in wanting to learn. Creative writing is trickier, and I think that’s probably what you’re referring to here. In some ways, teaching that is largely telling students to break all the rules that they’ve been taught in English Composition. Rather than one or two accepted styles, there are endless styles. Rather than painstakingly developing “argument,” they can let go of “having a point” altogether. They can fabricate things. They can make up words. They can re-invent themselves over and over again. English Composition is like teaching students how to make a good lasagna, with a few possible variations they might try once they master the recipe. Teaching creative writing is like taking students to a kitchen and pointing out all the possible ingredients, then saying, “Have at it.”

                  In both cases, though, there are times when, as an instructor, you can actually see moments of recognition in students. You’ve maybe told them something a dozen times, but for whatever reason that final explanation clicks for them, and you immediately see a breakthrough in their writing—which also means a breakthrough in how they conceive of themselves as scholars and writers. That’s rather rewarding.

What attracted you to writing about basketball?

            My dad was a basketball coach (in order: Bedford High School head coach; assistant coach at Indiana University; then head coach at DePauw University, the University of Indianapolis, and Indiana State University). Basketball was a part of me from the get-go. Though I played poorly and quit my high school team, I always loved to play—and I was an avid pick-up player until a few years ago when I hurt my knee. But more than playing, I watched endless hours of basketball. When I was a kid, I’d get dropped off after school at the Bedford gym where my dad was running practice. As a teenager, I watched every game on ESPN every single night. I went to hundreds of my dad’s games. I went to Pacers games, to random college games, to tournament games in Indianapolis and Milwaukee and Nashville. To Final Fours in Atlanta and Denver. Alabama games. Summer league games. I once tried to estimate how much time I’ve spent watching basketball—it came out roughly to a full year of my life.

                  So, to answer your question: writing about basketball feels almost as natural as breathing.

How did you decide you wanted to write for teens?

            This is a little trickier. I don’t know if it was ever a conscious decision, as much as it was a happy accident. Sometime in 2000, I met the now-somewhat-famous-y.a.-author David Levithan, and he was busy scouting authors for a new y.a. imprint at Scholastic, where he is an editor. I sent him some material. He liked it. And that’s how my first y.a. novel, Nowhere Fast, began. I followed that up with Learning the Game for Scholastic in 2005, and then after a hiatus where I was working on other projects, I returned to y.a. for Next. It’s good to be back.

Is it difficult to maintain Kevin’s character over 3 books? In what ways does he develop?

            Well, I’m in the middle of writing the third book now. And this is the first time that I’ve ever written a series. So the tricky part has been balancing “maintaining” characters while changing them enough so that there’s real development from book to book. At the same time, I can’t totally reinvent Derrick or any other character when I start a new manuscript—they need to have some consistency. In fact, Derrick—because his basketball goals keep him so focused—has been in some ways the slowest to change. He changes all right, but his end goal stays the same, and as I work on the third book I find that other characters—Wes, Jasmine, Uncle Kid—are undergoing more radical changes around Derrick.

It sounds like there are many generational messages in the D-Bow series. What influenced you to put those relationships into your stories?

            I think there are two forces. The first is that, with sports, it’s hard to separate the player from his parentage (in whatever form that may come). One of the most touching moments in sports over the last few years was Kevin Durant’s MVP speech, particularly his words for his mother. Any player, if he’s honest with himself, owes something. For Derrick, his parents keep him grounded and disciplined, and they keep him from taking an easier—and more questionable—path. Meanwhile, Uncle Kid has been vital to his development as a player. And even if it’s not about growth as a player and a person, the way people experience sports when they’re young is often a way to share an experience with a parent: watching or going to a game together.

                  The other forces are personal. I’ve recently become a parent, and as any parent will tell you that changes everything. There is not a single idea or object in my world that hasn’t been somehow altered and made more brilliant by our daughter’s presence. Her exhilaration at her world becomes mine. So while I’m not consciously putting anything in my books about her, I’m a fool to think that anything I do is left unaffected by her. And, finally, I recently lost my father. Again, that’s not something I’ve consciously worked into the books—in fact, I revised Slump so Derrick’s father’s health problems were less similar to my own father’s. But, again, my own relationship to sports is inextricably tied to my own relationship to my father. So my dad—and my history with him—hovers like a shadow beside every sentence I write in this series.

What does diversity mean to you?

            To me, it means a goal that Americans still need to meet. I don’t mean to deny the progress America has made, not just since the pre-Civil Rights era, but since I was a kid. Most students I encounter now almost reflexively champion the benefits of diversity, though there are still exceptions. That’s great, but I think sometimes it’s lip service. That’s true of individuals who praise diversity publicly because they’re “supposed to,” but who don’t embrace any policies that might actually bring such diversity about. And it’s true of America in general, too. I live just outside of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, which was recently featured in The Atlantic in a story about how our public schools are being re-segregated. It makes sense to focus on Tuscaloosa, since it’s in the self-proclaimed “Heart of Dixie,” but the sad truth—and I don’t offer this in any way to acquit Tuscaloosa of the charges that article leveled—is that such re-segregation is happening all over the country. And that kind of segregation creates a persisting “underclass” that Americans—or at least too few of the officials we elect to office—don’t seem to care that much about, no matter how much we extol the virtues of diversity.

                  So, yes, we’ve come a long way, but I think there’s a self-satisfaction because we see “diversity” all over our televisions, or at college graduation ceremonies, or even in some board rooms. Those images, important as they are, blind us from the segregation that exists between the haves and the disproportionately minority have-nots. There’s work to be done.

Filed under: Authors, Interview Tagged: basketball, Cinco Puntos, Indiana, Kevin Waltman, series

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4. Indiana Youth Summit Scholarships

Indiana Landmarks, Indiana Division of Historic Preservation & Archaeology and Indiana Freedom Trails invite students in grades 7-12 to participate in the Indiana Preservation Youth Summit.  Selected students travel to southern Indiana October 4-6, 2013, visiting Underground Railroad sites in New Albany, Jeffersonville and Madison while meeting with Underground Railroad experts, community leaders, and tourism and museum staff.

Students advise local communities on ways to engage youth in the study of preservation of local history and landmarks using Indiana’s Underground Railroad sites as the platform. Selected students also share their experiences during a town hall meeting October 31 at the National Trust for Historic Preservation Conference in Indianapolis.

Participants selected through a competitive application process receive a full scholarship for transportation, meals, lodging and materials.  Four educators will also receive full scholarships.

Please share the attached flyer with students or go to http://www.indianafreedomtrails.org/youth_summit_application.pdf  Application deadline is September 9.

Filed under: indianapolis Tagged: Indiana, scholarship, student leadership, underground railroad

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5. Southwest Meets Midwest

by guest-contributor Lucrecia Guerrero

Lucrecia Guerrero

            Saturday, October 13, 7:00 p.m. Melinda Palacio, award-winning writer and a regular contributor to La Bloga, will appear at the “Writing Out Loud” author series at the Michigan City Public Library in Michigan City, Indiana.    
This is the “Writing Out Loud” program’s twenty-eighth season and has, in the past, featured writers such as Frank Delaney, Joyce Carol Oates, Gwendolyn Brooks, Jane Hamilton, and Andrew Greeley. 
Robin Kohn, the library’s public relations and programming director, recently stated in The News Dispatch that she believes “each of the authors for this year’s program has demonstrated relevance to an area of public interest—including regional politics, history and current pop culture.”   Melinda’s novel Ocotillo Dreams, set in Chandler, Arizona during the migrant sweeps of 1997, fits nicely into Kohn’s description of this year’s lineup of authors. 
             It is certainly heartening to know that for the last two years, Kohn has included U.S. Latina writers.  This year Melinda Palacio presents, and last year I was one of the featured authors.  After an interview by Dr. Jane Rose, I introduced my novel Tree of Sighs, set in the Southwest and Midwest.  
This year, Robin invited me to interview Melinda Palacio before her presentation.  I eagerly accepted for I’m quite familiar with Melinda’s work and admire her writing, not only her prose but her poetry.
            Melinda’s Ocotillo Dreams and my Tree of Sighs were both published by ASU’s Bilingual Press in 2011, and that is how Melinda and I came to be acquainted.  Shortly after being introduced via email, Melinda invited me to join her at a reading at the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver, Colorado.  Our relationship as writer-supporting-writer and as personal friends has steadily grown. 
Lucrecia Guerrero and Melinda Palacio at the Tattered Cover
            For some of the audience at the Michigan City Library event, this may be their introduction to Melinda’s writing.  But I’m sure it won’t be the last that they hear from this talented author. 
Melinda holds a B.A. from UC Berkeley and an M.A. from UC Santa Cruz.  A 2007 Pen Center Emerging Voices Fellow, Melinda was more recently named a Top Ten New Latino Author of 2012 by Latino Stories.
 Melinda’s chapbook Folsom Lockdown won the Kulupi Press 2009 Sense of Place Award.  Ocotillo Dreams won the Mariposa Award for the Best First Book at the 14thAnnual Latino Book Awards 2012 and a PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award.  How Fire is a Story, Waiting a full-length book of poetry forthcoming from Tia Chucha Press, has garnered a blurb from none other than Juan Felipe Herrera, California’s Poet Laureate 2012.  He concludes an amazing quotation with these words:  “I don’t think there is anything like this book.  ¡Brilliantísima!” Need I say more?
Melinda always delivers a powerful reading, so her audience at the “Writing Out Loud” program will not be disappointed.  And during the interview I will ask Melinda  questions about Folsom Lockdown, OcotilloDreams, and How Fire Is a Story, Waiting, allowing the audience to learn more about her creative process   

Lucrecia Guerrero grew up on the U.S./Mexico border but has lived and taught in the Midwest for years.  She holds an M.A. in English and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing.  Her stories have been published in journals such as The Antioch Review.  Chasing Shadows, her collection of linked short stories was published by Chronicle Books in 2000.  Tree of Sighs, her debut novel, was published by Bilingual Press in 2011.  Tree of Sighs was awarded a Christopher Isherwood Foundation Award and the Premio Aztlán Literary Award.   

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6. Trinket From Beyond the Grave

Victoria from South Carolina sent me this tale about something that happened to her in her great-grandmother's house in Indiana. It has a creepy ring to it, as you'll see:

My great-grandma had just died 2 days ago and we were going through her house and getting the things she had let behind for us in her will. Now the one thing that was left to me was her turquoise ring. The only problem was that no one could find it.

I was up in her room and suddenly I got a chill. I looked around but no window was open. Then appearing in the doorway of the room stood my great-grandma dressed in the dress she had died in. She then knelt down and glided her hand under her dresser and picked out what looked to be a ring. She handed it to me and sure enough it was a turquoise ring! I gasped and when I looked up she mouthed the words "I love you" and departed.

I still have the ring 5 years later.

Hope you like the story!

I sure do. Not only did you get a ring that means a lot to you but you got a great story too! Thanks for sharing it.

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7. Poetry Friday: An Hommage to My Co-Blogger’s Home State

The Official Poem of Indiana, which is written by Arthur Franklin Mapes: “Indiana” God crowned her hills with beauty, Gave her lakes and winding streams, Then He edged them all with woodlands As the settings for our dreams. Lovely are her moonlit rivers, Shadowed by the sycamores, Where the fragrant winds of summer Play along the willowed shores. Click here to read the rest of [...]

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8. Photo Fridays: An Opportunity to Write About Photographs

Late Sunset over Lake Winona Originally uploaded by teachergal I marveled, twice, about the fact that the sun sets later in Indiana than it does in Rhode Island (i.e. because it’s on the western part of the Eastern Time Zone). Therefore, after Ruth, Christi, and I parted from Jen, Cathy, and Sarah, I detoured to the [...]

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9. Some photos

In case you’re interested to see some photos from our little reunion in Indiana, they’re in the digital scrapbook below. Make a Smilebox scrapbook

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10. American Nicknames Part 2: Hoosier


Jeffrey Graf published, on the website of Indianan Notes and Queries, an exhaustive survey (revised in February, 2007) of the surmises about the nickname Hoosier. In 1995 William D. Piersen, and in 2007 Jonathan Clark Smith devoted articles to Hoosier’s early days (both appeared in the Indiana Magazine of History), and I am returning to this chestnut mainly because all three authors, though extremely well-informed, missed a work that, in my opinion, deserves attention.

The starting point for everyone interested in the history of Indiana’s nickname is a brochure with the title The Word Hoosier By Jacob Piatt Dunn and John Finley By Mrs. Sarah A. Wrigley (His Daughter). Indiana Historical Publications, volume IV, number 2. Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1907, 29pp. John Finley was the author of the poem The Hoosier’s Nest (1833) that seems to have made the soubriquet recognized by a wide audience. The poem takes up three pages of small print. The painstaking research was carried out by Dunn, who knew most of the silly conjectures, as well as the few plausible hypotheses, on the etymology of Hoosier and offered an explanation of his own. He had a healthy attitude toward etymological folklore, for he realized how little trust one can be put into stories of the type “I was there and know the facts.” Thus, in 1929 Oscar D. Short brought out his recollections in the Indiana Magazine of History (volume 25) that begin so: “There has been a tradition in our family, which I have known since boyhood, that Aaron Short, an older brother of my grandfather, gave to the inhabitants of Indiana the name ‘Hoosier’.” The story appeared four years after Dunn’s death, but, if he had read it, he would have found nothing new for himself in it: a very strong man, so Short recounts, was victorious in a fight, jumped up, and shouted: “Hurrah for the Hoosier” (perhaps he tried to say: husher or hussar). Both versions—of Hoosier going back to husher or being a “corruption” of hussar—were familiar to Dunn. The editors of the Indiana Magazine of History had no illusions about the verisimilitude of Short’s recollections; yet they decided to add a new piece of legendary material to the Hooseriana. The authors of fibs like Short’s believe in them wholeheartedly, but such is all folklore. Even the storytellers who know the most fantastic fairy tales, when asked whether they think that enchanted castles and boys becoming ravens at the will of an evil stepmother exist, tend to answer evasively that, of course, such things do not happen here, but at one time and elsewhere…

Smith accords Short’s story a measure of respect. However, Hoosier, as far as we can judge, has always been pronounced with the vowel of hoo. For this reason alone, the suspicious word husher “stiller” (a person so strong that he can “hush, still” anyone) is an unlikely etymon (source) of Hoosier, and could hussar have been such an active word in the man’s vocabulary that he would recall it in midair? It is also Smith’s contention that Hoosier reflects “local pride” rather than “southern scorn.” The OED quotes from a letter allegedly written in 1826, the first extant text believed to have the word in question. As it seems, the date is wrong, and we have to accept Smith’s conclusion that there is no documented use of Hoosier prior to the thirties. But his other contention, namely, that Hoosier emerged with reference to the Indiana boatmen and, far from being a “slur,” showed how people reveled in being called Hoosiers, is harder to accept.

The traditional theory has it that Hoosier originated in the South as a term of contempt, a word like yokel, hayseed, rube, bumpkin, hillbilly, clodhopper, jake, backwoodsman, and dozens of others; that in Indiana it lost its offensive connotations; and that it retained its negative sense outside the state. This reconstruction agrees with what we know about such situations. Peripheral areas usually preserve archaic features, be it phonetics, grammar, or vocabulary. The adoption by political parties and religious groups of the opprobrious names that in the beginning their enemies and denigrators coined in contempt has often been recorded: such is the history of Tory, Whig, and Quaker. The ties of Hoosier to the rest of the South are too numerous to be ignored, and outside Indiana references to those who are called Hoosiers are never complimentary.

Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) treats the word in depth, and Graf has, naturally, consulted this work. Hoosier can mean “a rustic, especially in such combinations as country hoosier and mountain hoosier; an unmannerly or objectionable person; a White person considered to be objectionable, especially because of racial prejudice; an inexperienced or incompetent person among those skilled in a particular field, especially logging.” The verb hoosier “to be a farmer” and hoosier up “to work incompetently; to slow down or shirk on a job, usually on purpose” also exist. According to Smith, Hoosier came to mean “an inept person, a bad worker, etc.” later, and it is true that the word’s pejorative uses in written and printed documents do not antedate 1836. Yet the time gap is minimal, and slang makes its way into books and letters sporadically. Also, the connection between Hoosier and “Indiana boatman” will appear strong only if we disregard all other contexts. On the whole, it is easier to accept the fact of late attestation than of the development from “a doughty boatman” to “hillbilly; jerk.”

Several times those who investigated the origin of Hoosier have mentioned a similarly sounding family name and made it responsible for the rise of the Indiana nickname. Their hypotheses (Piersen is among the most recent advocates of one of them) do not go far and carry little conviction. But in 1999 R. Hooser published an article in Eurasian Studies Yearbook, pp. 224-231, and this is the article even Graf missed. The author documents the history of his extended family. The Hausers came to the United States from Alsace. In their dialect the diphthong designated in spelling by au had the value of Engl. oo in hoo. Consequently, Hauser and Hooser are variants of the same name. According to R. Hauser, the Hoosers migrated to Indiana from Salem, NC and were mocked for their beliefs and customs. He does not explain under what circumstances the nickname was extended to the rest of the inhabitants of the state, why the meaning of the slur was forgotten exactly where it should have been best remembered, and why such an obvious origin did not occur to the people who wrote about the subject in the thirties of the 19th century, but all etymologies of Hoosier are marred by similar inconsistencies (hence the never-ending debate). Especially baffling is the circumstance that even in Finley’s days no one knew why Hoosiers are called this, unless we “buy” the husher theory. Nicknames are invented to belittle or tease their bearers, even when applied to kings: consider such cognomens and Harald Bluetooth and Charles the Bald. The case is certainly not closed, but, if the first Hoosiers were the Hausers and “foreigners,” we begin to understand why there was no love lost between them and their new surroundings, why they chose Indiana as their place of residence, and why other southerners stick to what seems to be the word’s original meaning.

It is not for an outsider to solve the question that puzzled so many specialists in Indiana history, but if this publication makes R. Hauser’s article part of the debate, it will have served its purpose. I will add only a few phonetic details. DARE records the following spelling variants of Hoosier: hoogie, hoojy, hoodger, hoojer, hushier, and hooshur; from older sources hoosher has come down to us. They reflect two pronunciations: hooser and hoosier (-sier as in hosier). If the etymon is Hooser, a third variant emerges. All three can be reconciled. The use of sh for s is old in the history of English. The roots of banish, nourish, bushel, and so forth had final s in French, but they were borrowed with sh. This alternation can also be observed in living speech. In Minnesota, people say groshery for grocery. The same alternation affects the voiced partners of s and sh. For instance (drawing on what one hears in Minneapolis), Fraser is pronounced Frasier (we have Fraser Hall on campus, so that Fraser is a high frequency word where I live). It takes an effort to convince students that the name of Sir James Frazer, the author of The Golden Bough, should rhyme with razor. Hooser, that is, Hoozer, would have become Hoosier, as Fraser became Frasier.

Dunn’s attempt to derive Hoosier from a word recorded in Cumberland, with the resulting meaning “a large man,” has little to recommend it: the connection is tenuous, and the original Hoosiers hardly got their name for their physique. The other explanations rarely go beyond exercises in folk etymology. I very much hope to get numerous responses to this blog. They will probably attempt to demolish my cautious defense of the Hooser theory. This is fine; etymology is a battleground. But, if I dare, I would like to ask my prospective opponents not to write anything before they have read the articles mentioned above. The easiest way to find Graf’s survey is to Google Hoosier (the work will appear at once) or to use the website of the journal Indiana Notes and Queries: http://www.indiana.edu/~/librcsd/internet/hoosier.html (this journal, I believe, is an occasional online publication).

Anatoly_libermanAnatoly Liberman is the author of Word Origins…And How We Know Them as well as An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology: An Introduction. His column on word origins, The Oxford Etymologist, appears here, each Wednesday. Send your etymology question to blog.us@oup.com; he’ll do his best to avoid responding with “origin unknown.”


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11. The Box Under the Floor

Terry from Florida sent me this tale which took place when he was a boy in Indiana. It involves another boy who used to live in his house but died, then sent Terry a message from beyond...

My family moved to a small town in northern Indiana, into a large house where I got my own room. I was 15.

It started a few weeks after we had moved in. it was late and I was in bed ...really half asleep when I heard my closet door open. I quickly turned on the light and sure enough it was open. I just dismissed it and went to sleep . I truly did not give it a second thought until a few nights later it happened again but this time I was awake reading and watched the door slowly open. Ok now I freaked. But the rest of the family was sleeping. I didn't want to wake them and freak all of them too. So I just laid down on the couch. That is where my Dad found me the next morning. When I told him what was going on he just sort of laughed at me and told me it was probably just the air conditioning kicking on ..and causing a vacuum which caused the door to swing open. He said he would get to fixing the latch. I believed him.

So this went on for a while, the closet door just swinging open. Until one of the neighbors told me that the family that lived in the house before us had lost a son in a train accident two years before we had moved in. The boy had been in his senior year of high school--the same one I would be going to that September. I also learned that I was living in his old room.

Now I was either letting my imagination running away with me or I was tuning into something but I got it in my head that it was his ghost who was opening the door.

It kept happening, and strangely I got use to it ...until it was waking me up more frequently and I had school in the morning and was losing sleep so one night , that last night when it happened again ....I was mad ....and I said out loud ... I said his name ..... and told him he was dead .... he got hit by a train .... and he should go to heaven. The door never opened on it's own again.

Now for the really strange part ..... I started thinking about the closet door two or three weeks later ... if it was this kid's ghost, why was he opening the closet ... so I got out of bed one night ... turned on the light ... and looked in my closet. I moved my shoes and some boxes that were still unpacked from the move and peeled back the carpet. When I did that a section of the floor board popped up and hidden in the floor board was a cigar box. Inside of it was a bunch of stuff ...really nothing valuable, just things a guy would save, an old watch, a buck knife, pictures of friends and family and some cards and letters, just stuff. I just knew what to do with them. I put the box in a paper lunch sack and took it to school with me.

I knew from others that the younger sister of the boy that was killed was in my class. At lunch I went over to her. She was sitting with her friends and I told her who I was ....and after a strange look I let her know that I was living in her old home ... and had her late brother's old room and found something that I think belonged to him hidden in the closet of the bedroom. I slowly pulled the cigar box out of the bag and handed to her she smiled when she saw it and slowly opened it. A few tears came to her eyes..she thanked me as her girl friends comforted her, and I left.

A week later her mother came up to me as I was walking home. Her daughter had pointed me out, and she thanked me too ...and gave me the buck knife from the box as a reward ...I tried to say no but she was tearing up and I smiled and said thank you.

It's been over 30 years and I still have that Buck knife. I never told either of them that it was their son and brother that showed me where the secret box was.

That's it ...Not scary but a real Ghost Story


And a really touching one, too. You were very kind and I'm sure the mother, the sister, and, in his own way, the boy, appreciated your kindness. Thanks for sharing this one.

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12. You’ve Been McGuggenized!

By Michelle Rafferty

When my friend sent me a link with the subject line: Carmel in WSJ! I clicked with trepidation. The last time my hometown made national news it involved a sodomy hazing incident and the high school basketball team. Phew. This time, it was only about a local dispute over an expensive new piece of suburban architecture:

Photo by Melissa Rafferty

This is the Palladium, a $126 million concert hall, whose controversial price tag is heating up this spring’s mayoral election. My first thought was: why, when Indianapolis theater and concert venues reside a mere 20 minutes south, did Carmel do this?* I asked our resident city expert Sharon Zukin for her opinion on the matter and she wrote:

…so Carmel, Indiana, has entered the global sweepstakes of destination culture!…every city copies every bigger, more famous, more glamorous city to build cultural attractions in the hope of attracting tourists and (hope against hope) They hire starchitects (usually Frank Gehry but in this case…the long-dead Andrea Palladio!) to design flagship buildings that will get media attention (the Guggenheim Bilbao effect). They sign up for the Cow Parade (see the website) if they have a low budget and for “The Gates” (Christo in Central Park, 2008) if they have a big budget and for the Olympics if they have a huge budget. All of which puts them on a treadmill of cultural competition.

And the ironic thing  is that the more cities compete, trying to differentiate themselves with “cultural attractions,” the more alike they become. As Zukin also told me:

…so many cities do the same thing that they ALL wind up building the same kind of attraction, so the uniqueness of any of these attractions is submerged in the wave of same-old same-old spectacles; the resulting standardization is called, thanks to the geographer Donald McNeil, McGuggenization.

Think of the Guggenheims, Times Squares, MOMA’s, and MOCA’s across the world. That’s McGuggenization. And your city could be next!

*In the Palladium’s defense, I spoke with my mom and she happened to like the center (they offered a free concert for the grand opening).  And she didn’t have much sympathy for the outcry about a potential raise in taxes due to Palladium expenses. Turns out Carmel has one of the cheapest tax brackets in the area, meaning the residents have gotten a lot of bang for their buck over their years. Like a brand new Arts & Design District. Safer roads. And Waterslides.

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13. "Back Home Again in Indiana"

classic Indiana mini barn
I flew to my childhood homeland, Indiana, last week. It was nice to escape the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles for awhile. Driving through the open fields jarred special memories and reminded me of what's great about the Heartland.

Here's what I like most about the Hoosier state:
  • mass acreage 
  • thunderstorms
  • smelly rain
  • two-lane country roads
  • getting somewhere in 20 minutes when it's 20 miles away
  • bonfires
  • people "dressing up" in shorts, sandals, and t-shirts
  • hometown sports talk radio
  • clean streets
  • unguarded subdivisions (no guard gates!)
  • mom and pop shops
  • corn fields
  • little league fields next to corn fields
  • basketball hoops in driveways
  • riding lawn mowers
  • saloon doors in restaurants
  • screened-in porches
  • corn hole
  • horseshoe pits
My favorite thing about Indiana is the MINI BARN. Everyone has one. I mean, Everyone!  

On my way out of town, I bought several hats and t-shirts, including HOOSIERS t-shirts for Blondie and LC. They're two sizes too big, so basically I bought them nightgowns.

For the record, Blondie has this book about the Hoosier State. 

State Slogan: Hoosier Daddy????


You can't talk about Indiana without talking about legendary basketball coach Bobby Knight. During my time at Indiana, I was lucky enough to have a couple encounters with Coach Knight. He cursed in both of them. Here is my favorite Coach Knight video.

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14. Grannies Are Good

3:00 am on a Saturday morningGranny in her nightclothes,  repeats a welcoming ritual for our family. We’ve just arrived from Indiana to spend the weekend or a holiday.  She and Grandpa knew we were coming.

Granny had prepared for our arrival with her usual comfort feast. She knew we’d be famished by the time we stepped through her door. To stave off those awkward growling sounds that would surely keep everyone awake for the rest of the night, she loaded the groaning board with a southern breakfast. It doesn’t seem to matter to her or Grandpa that by the time we finish eating, and unwind enough to go to sleep, they will be preparing for their farm day.

My brother and I sit at that big farm kitchen table, eyeing the platters, bowls, plates, and jars that she arranges down the center of the space. Medium platter supports three different types of fried eggs: hard, soft, and scrambled.

Her infamous small square biscuit pan sits on a handmade potholder near the homemade jams, jellies, and syrup for the golden brown pancakes hoarding their own personal bowl. Sausage patties, country ham, and leftovers from last night’s fried chicken hold court on a large platter on Dad’s end of the table.

Fresh coffee perfumes the room, aided by fresh milk, and  rounds out the “impromptu” meal, along with real farm cream to use on cold cereal.

Yep, we’re down home. An hour later, family talk has dwindled enough to expose sleepy eyes and yawns. Bedtime has come at last.

If we’d come during the winter, those upstairs beds would act as ice cube trays waiting to be filled. The upstairs of that house had no heat of its own. Heck, the down stairs only had Warm-Morning stoves that could take wood or coal. Finances determined which fuel was used.

Mom and I would take one bed and Dad, with brother, would get the other one. There were so many of Granny’s homemade quilts on the beds that Mom would have to hold up the covers so that I could position myself. Once I was comfortable, she’d lower the bedclothes.

I had to be very certain of comfort in that position because once those quilts lowered; I wasn’t strong enough to shift my position under them. They were heavy and cold upon first entry to the bed. As a rule, I would try to put my back to my mom’s. Her body heat would keep me from becoming an ice cube until my own body heat took care of warming my space. Sleep was the only refuge until real heat came along.

In the summer, only those floor to ceiling windows gave relief from the sweltering upstairs heat. No quilts were required for that season. The fear then was melting into the feather beds.

Dawn and downstairs activity led to anxious dreams and disrupted, food-induced sleep. Grandpa had milking to do. Granny had to get lunch on the stove so that she could take a bit of socializing time once all the kin arrived for that meal. These things didn’t take care of themselves.

Throughout our visit, for however long it lasted, that lady of the South, cared for the feeding and comfort of her quests. She prided herself in always having enough for anyone who happened to drop by on any given day. No one left he home without taking a meal with them.

A weekend lunch would supply victuals for a minimum of sixteen to twenty people, depending on family sched

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15. Bullet Train

After what seemed like forever trying to get this project off the ground, I have reached the point where things are going very quickly lately, almost at lightning speed. The proof of the book is in my hands, electronically. The marketing consultant is calling me every few days. I received a new coordinator at the publisher 2 days after providing some feedback on the performance of my last one. I requested a consultation with the design team who did the layout and they called me this weekend (which they apparently don't usually do).  They normally go by email direction only. Once I decide on the final comments, there is only the final quality assessment and then it will be put in the line to be printed! I also discovered that the unusual accent, which I could not place, of my coordinator was due to the fact that she is in the Phillipines even though the publisher is out of Indiana.

I have consulted with a good friend of mine on marketing and decided to have her company help me with my website. Thanks to Facebook we were recently re-connected after 20 years! I bought a website domain name consistent with my company name. I used GoDaddy on recommendation from others. I need to sign up for web hosting. This is all new to me and I have no idea how much space I need. I most likely need to complete the layout to determine the space.  I will most likely go with the publisher's marketing deal for press releases in 5 major cities around the country. My friend will also tap her resources, and then there is the connection with the American Red Cross to make.

I am trying to control the speed of this train and make sure we don't hit any caribou along the way to the destination. And I am trying to keep my budget in check. I am starting graduate school in the fall and need to really take some time to figure what my budget can handle and how much I can put into it right now. For tonight though, this engineer needs some sleep. 

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16. 65. Half Mast

The flags are at half mast, even here in the CNMI. It's a small gesture, but appropriate, to honor all those who were gunned down in the middle of life on a beautiful college campus.

Details about the lives of some of those who died are here . All life is valuable. These tributes give a glimpse at how important individuals can be.

The personal accounts of survivors and colleagues help with processing the events at Blacksburg, Virginia. For example, see OnTheGroundDiary , NYT (login required) and photo .

It's really sad. Whether violence is perpetrated by a single individual or as part of a concerted action by groups or governments, the end result is immoral. I'm praying for peace here.

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17. 68. An Elegy from Edna St. Vincent Millay

In memory of the students who died recently at Blacksburg, Virginia, and all those young men and women who've died in the war in Iraq and elsewhere, and because it National Poetry Month (and I haven't posted any poems yet), I offer this poem of Edna St. Vincent Millay:

From "Memorial to D.C. (Vassar College, 1918)"

O, loveliest throat of all sweet throats,
Where now no more the music is,
With hands that wrote you little notes
I write you little elegies!

V --Elegy

Let them bury your big eyes
In the secret earth securely,
Your thin fingers, and your fair,
Soft, indefinite-colored hair--
All of these in some way, surely,
From the secret earth shall rise;
Not for these I sit and stare,
Broken and bereft completely:
Your young flesh that sat so neatly
On your little bones will sweetly
Blossom in the air.

But your voice...never the rushing
Of a river underground,
Not the rising of the wind
In the trees before the rain,
Not the woodcock's watery call,
Not the note the white-throat utters,
Not the feet of children pushing
Yellow leaves along the gutters
In the blue and bitter fall,
Shall content my musing mind
For the beauty of that sound
That in no new way at all
Ever will be heard again.

Sweetly through the sappy stalk
Of the vigorous weed,
Holding all it held before,
Cherished by the faithful sun,
On and on eternally
Shall your altered fluid run,
Bud and bloom and go to seed:
But your singing days are done;
And the music of your talk
Never shall the chemistry
Of the secret earth restore.

All your lovely words are spoken.
Once the ivory box is broken,
Beats the golden bird no more.

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18. Misunderstood Lands, Prairie Lands, and Dairy Lands: South Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin

So far we’ve gone 10,956 miles in 49 days, with only 6 days to go. As I type we’re whooshing down Route I-94 heading toward Michigan. Not too long ago we went into Indiana, a state we’re passing through for only a few minutes—but it still counts! :-) The grass and shrubs have definitely looked more shaggy since Illinois, but that’s new. For the past few days we’ve been in clean, manicured farm country.

Let’s catch up:

Wall Drug, SD and the Badlands

Wednesday, the day after we saw Mount Rushmore, was a long driving day (about 700 miles!), but Karen is never one to let a cool-sounding place pass by without calling out “Stop!” So that’s what we did in Wall Drug, South Dakota, where the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was in full swing. The entire town, which was originally built around a drug store, was filled with bikers, bikers, and more bikers. How could we pass up a chance to buy a Harley Davidson t-shirt in the biker heartland of America?


The badlands: Truly bad, or just misunderstood? Here’s Evan:

EVAN: The Badlands were covered with white rock and it seemed sort of like the moon. It was very hot and I liked it because in some places the rock was burned so badly that it made colors
(Mark’s note: actually, this was different levels of sediment—and way cool) and suddenly when you leave the Badlands it looks like you’re in the regular world again. There were a lot of motorcycle guys everywhere too.


So then we reached Minnesota. The photo above was the most difficult "entering a new state" photo we've taken. The sign was on the highway, and we had to climb up a hill, through some brambles, and then squeeze into a tiny area of dirt in the middle of some bushes. Note that Evan is parting a shrub with his arm so the state name can be seen.

In Minnesota we stayed Chaska, just outside of Minneapolis, with our friends Patricia Danielson, Vicki Boeddeker, and Mike Weinkauf. Patricia took a couple of days off work to show us around the Twin Cities. We saw first-hand the damaged remains of the collapsed bridge on I-35W—just awful. Five weeks and two days after crossing the Mississippi in the south (into Louisiana), we crossed it in the north. It’s a lot calmer in the north! We also saw the beautiful state capital building. Thanks Patricia, Vicki, and Mike!

A note from KAREN: Mark asked why I’ve only been writing about bad experiences. I don’t see it that way, I see them as different experiences than life in Wayland, MA. For example, my 2nd night in Vicki’s house. Here we are, comfy cozy, away from bears and rattlesnakes, what else could happen at night? My first big lightening storm on the prairies of Minnesota, that’s what!! Holy cow ! I got out of bed and was blinded by the flashing lightning, and then jumped out of my PJ’s when I heard the loud crack and kaboom of the lightning right outside the window! Did a tree fall down? Did we get hit by lightning? Another night of no sleeping because of fear!! The next morning, as usual, everyone including Mark said it was a normal storm, no big deal . WELL, we got an email from a friend in the area who said the storm blew out windows like a tornado and power was out for a few days. She asked if we were in the eye of the storm! See, I’m not crazy!!


Wild Rupus was wild indeed. An amazing independent bookstore in Minneapolis, the whole store was designed to look like it was transforming from an inside space to the outdoors. Helping to create the effect were a whole menagerie of animals, including chickens, ferrets, Australian flying squirrels, fish, tarantulas, rats and many more. The kids were in heaven. Here we are with Manager Kristin Bergsagel bookseller Josh Harrod, Poopsie the ferret, and a Japanese chicken named Elvis. Thanks, Wild Rumpus—you are terrific!


Like a matching bookend to Wild Rumpus in Minneapolis, St. Paul is home to another amazing bookstore called The Red Balloon. Susan Hepburn
was a terrific host, serving up lemon drops and lemonade. The Red Balloon is another must-visit bookstore for anyone the St. Paul area!

As a nice surprise, we were lucky enough to meet Shelley Swanson Sateren, fellow SCBWI member and author of the middle-grade novel Cat on a Hottie’s Tin Roof. Here’s Evan’s review:

EVAN’S REVIEW: Cat on a Hottie’s Tin Roof is a fun book about a girl who is geeky who when her friend moves away from Paris she finds a new friend who is stylish and cool. It was an interesting story because it’s interesting to see how a girl with so much smarts can try and be cool and fit in with everyone else. You should read it.

It was great to meet you, Shelley!


Penelope’s rattling got kind of dubious so we stopped at the Honda dealer in Hopkins, MN. $560 later, (replaced ‘severely cracked’ exhaust manifold and gaskets, oil change, new battery) the minivan sounded a bit better—at least for the first twenty miles or so. After that, we’re pretty much back to the rattling we started out with. Oh well, it’s only money. :-)

Here’s Shane Beals, the Honda guy who washed Penelope—she badly needed it. Thanks, Shane!


Next we drove through Wisconsin, a land of beautiful manicured farms and more red barns than you can shake a cheddar wheel at. So lovely!

In Green Bay we stopped to see a surprisingly large athletic facility where a local team plays a sport that apparently involves feet and leather hats. I hear that the locals are rather enthusiastic about it.


Just south of Green Bay, in DePere, is Butterfly Books, a roomy and cheerful independent bookstore run by Barbara Wilson. Barbara and her friendly team of booksellers were very kind, staying open later than usual on a Saturday afternoon just so that we could visit. Here I am with Barbara and Samantha Parker, bookseller and saxophone player. Great to meet you!


In Milwaukee we stayed with our friends Posh (really Josh, but he’s yet another friend with a mysterious nickname given by Karen) and Boris. They showed us around Milwaukee, and took us for custard at Kopps, a Milwaukee thing-to-do. The custard was a lot like ice cream except a lot denser—it’s made with eggs and who-knows-what-else and it sneaks up on you. Thank god I only had a small cone—by bedtime I felt so full that I rolled around in pain clutching at my stomach. But honestly, it was so tasty it was worth it! :-)


As any fan of Laverne and Shirley can tell you, Milwaukee is home to many breweries, so how could we pass up the opportunity to tour the Miller factory?


In beautiful Cedarburg, WI, about twenty minutes north of Milwaukee, is the terrific Creekside Books. Owner Glen Switalski is a man with an amazing story: After his doctor told him he needed to lose weight, he lost well over 100 lbs by exercise, diet and sheer force of will. Today he can be seen riding his exercise bike in and around his store every day. The guy is an aerobic, bookselling powerhouse! Creekside Books is a great independent bookstore, and Gary is a truly an inspirational guy.

Here I am with Lindsay McLaughlin, a reader and artist who came to see me. She was fun to talk with, and very helpful in suggesting places we could go in the area. Great to meet you, Lindsay! :-)

Illinois: An All-Too-Short Trip Through the Land of Lincoln

Southward from Milwaukee...! Unfortunately, we had only a few hours in Illinois. Still, it counts as state number 31 on our trip! :-)


In Grayslake, Illinois, about forty minutes north of Chicago, is a magical bookstore called Under the Sycamore Tree. A new independent store, owner Jackie Harris opened up shop this past November. It’s a roomy, bright place with a big “sycamore tree” inside. The store has taken inspiration from Wild Rumpus (see Minnesota) and filled its space with wild animals. My kids were in their element. Zoe ran at me with a giant grin and a very big python named ‘Snakey’. Under the Sycamore Tree is yet another example of how independent bookstores tend to be run by smart, thoughtful, nice people. Jackie, it was a pleasure to meet you!

Here I am with Jackie and her daughter, Haley:

Because we’re meeting a friend in Michigan later today, we had only about an hour or so to see Chicago. I know, I know—not even close to scratching the surface. So on top of just driving around a little, we decided that with our limited time we’d stop by Lake Michigan. As far as my eyes could tell, the lake might as well have been an ocean. Way cool. Next time, we’ll plan to spend more time here!

Our Trip Through Indiana: Don’t Blink Or You’ll Miss It

If you thought our stop in Chicago was too short, Indiana is only about a half hour of highway to us. Still, it counts as state #32. :-)

Next stop, Michigan!

LEMONADE MOUTH (Delacorte Press, 2007)
I AM THE WALLPAPER (Delacorte Press, 2005)

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19. The Neighbor in the Window

Sadie from Indiana sent me the following e-mail:

Okay, So I read your book, and (of course) absolutely loved it!
Have you ever heard of anybody who could see spirits?
Not just sometimes, but all the time, whereever they are.
Well I can, and I have a pretty creepy story about my neighbor's house if you'd like to hear...

Of course I'd like to hear! And so Sadie sent me this chilling tale:


When I first moved into my house, my mom made me meet the neighbors (ick). And the one on our left was an elderly man who I guess didn't like kids very much. I ended up being best friends with the girl in the house past his. But being the strange person I am, I had to investigate.

I asked my friend about him, and it turned out he was really weird (and he used to be a circus clown, but that's not important). I convinced my friend to help me. After a few months of living there, I was walking home from my friend's house late one night and I happened to see out of the corner of my eye, my creepy neighbor watching me from his window.

I was a little freaked out, but I didn't think much of it. After a few more times of that happening, I got really annoyed. I asked my mom about him (not telling her about him watching me), saying he was really weird.

Turns out he had died a month before!

Somebody else lives there now, but sometimes I still see the creepy neighbor looking out his window at me.


I've heard of being a good neighbor--this is ridiculous! And beyond CREEPY!! Thanks for sharing, Sadie.

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20. The Broken Back Twins

Both my wife and I have rather annoyingly been struck with some terrible back pains at the exact same time. This is especially sucky because both of us are hobbling around the house like a couple of injured camels, complaining, whining, and generally being a pains in the butt.

Yep...lots of fun at the ol' Novak household.

I put a few new zombie designs up recently over at redbubble, including one just in time for the new Indiana Jones flick. Feel free to check them out.


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