For some reason I can add sidebars, but not new posts. Please check back later. I have been working on a variety of things including switching my blog soon from this one, which was set up with my now-defunct West Wisconsin Telcom account. I hope to have my new blog through Gmail up soon. I will provide a link and announcement when I've got everything straight. 7/2/11

Friday, July 31, 2009

Recently read: Minette Walters’ The Devil’s Feather

Walters is one of my favorite authors and many of her books rank close to the masterly novels of Ruth Rendell writing as Barbara Vine. This one is about a female journalist whose encounter in Baghdad with a mercenary has her tight-lipped and fleeing for home, where she tries to keep her hiding place secret. As is usual with Walters, the plot is complex, the characters deep, the action well paced, and the psychological horror depicted fully. Don’t start this book when you have anything scheduled or too late at night—it is VERY hard to put down once you begin it!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Today is . . .

Today is open-handed, free-spirited, tumbling to its whim down a white unpaved road through forests of fir and streams.

See September 21, 2008 for the genesis of my “today is . . . ” postings.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Recently read: Cartwright and Fishburn’s In This Garden

This delightful art book by Angela Cartwright (yes, it’s her—from Make Room for Daddy and Lost in Space) and Sarah Fishburn provides inspiration and instruction for mixed media artists. Beautifully illustrated and laid out, the authors provide a combination of art advice and gardening lore. Thirteen artists are featured with their three-dimensional representations of imaginary gardens, including descriptions of how they achieved their effects. Inspiring and entertaining. I can’t wait to start my own garden, with a gate that opens into my own magic world.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Advice for artists and other creative types

Brancusi’s 1910 bronze sculpture titled, “Sleeping Muse” (photo from Wikipedia, sculpture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art).

Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi once said, “Command like a king, work like a slave, create like a god.” Yikes, that must be why my creative output is less than monumental—my code is more akin to, “whine like a wuss, work like a sleeping toad, and create when I feel like it.”

Friday, July 24, 2009

Kaylin Haught and God

In the Palm of Your Hand, by Steve Kowit

I ran across Kaylin Haught’s poem “God Says Yes to Me” in Patti Digh’s book Life is a verb. I love the poem (and Digh’s book as well—more about that in a Recently Read posting soon). I’m neither a poet nor am I usually a poetry reader, but this poem really speaks to me. The poem is contained in Steve Kowit’s book, In the Palm of Your Hand, published by Tilbury House. I’ve ordered Kowit’s book, so look for a review of it, too, in a Recently Read posting later this summer.

I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said it sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly
what you want to
Thanks God I said
And is it even okay if I don’t paragraph my letters
Sweetcakes God said
who knows where she picked that up
what I’m telling you is
Yes Yes Yes

--Kaylin Haught, “God Says Yes to Me,”
From The Palm of Your Hand (1995)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Recently read: James Lee Burke’s Swan Peak

I regard Burke as one of the greatest novelists of the last 20 years. In this book, Dave Robicheaux, his wife Molly, and his buddy Clete head to Montana for a relaxing holiday of fishing and mountain hikes. Clete’s nose for trouble and Dave’s Quixotic spirit, however, make the hikes dangerous, fishing unlikely, and the holiday anything but relaxing. One of the main skills I admire about Burke is his ability to create in-depth characters that live and breathe outside of the readers’ expectations. We learn more about affable, drunken Clete; we get to know an escaped convict whose voice recalls the open roads of America last sung in the ballads of Woody Guthrie; and we are present to the unlikely partnership developing between a hardened prison guard and a young woman. The good guys have deep flaws and the bad guys are believable products of their past. As ever, the plot is as complex as the characters. All Burke’s books are worth reading.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Advice for all souls—not just those in the creative fields

Cecil Beaton’s 1927 self-portrait, property of the National Portrait Gallery in London (visit online at

Cecil Beaton, the great photographer and designer known especially for his fashion work for the theater and movie business, once said, “Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.”

Sunday, July 19, 2009

TED Talks for educators

This is my Instructor's Hat for Early Fall.

With Globe University’s Early Fall Quarter (for some reason, they use that term name instead of calling it Summer Quarter) starting tomorrow, I’ve got my Instructor Hat on. The Bachelor’s Degree Online web site has lots of excellent information for both instructors and students. Check out their list of TED Talks they recommend for educators at I love that the title of that page is Learn-gasm!

If you are not familiar with TED Talks, when I first heard about them last year, they were described as “you tube for intellectuals.” There are thousands of recorded lectures on a wide range of topics, so having this list that targets those of interest to instructors is most helpful.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Recently read: John Harvey’s In a True Light

This writer is new to me and I intend to track down more of his works. In this, Sloane (his first name is not used) is released from prison after serving time for art forgery. He wanders his old London haunts, finding his studio ruined by transients and finding a new friend in the immigrant community that has edged into the neighborhood. Word arrives that his old girlfriend, Jane Graham, from his wild youth is dying in Italy and wishes to see him before her death. Sloane travels to see Graham, who had become an internationally known artist after their affair, while he became a hunted forger. Now Sloane has to do the hunting himself, as he tracks down the daughter who was born after his brief fling with Graham. Harvey draws on the actual art scene of New York and London in the 1950s, and the emergence of a cadre of women artists from the time. Fascinating.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

When your muse runs off

Calliope, the Greek Muse of Poetry

This must be why I’m a terrible poet—the same thing happened to my Muse of Poetry as happened to writer John Updike, who said, “I would especially like to re-court the Muse of Poetry, who ran off with the mailman four years ago, and drops me only a scribbled postcard from time to time.”

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Support your independent bookstore

Writers and readers still need independent bookstores. Carl and I buy a lot of books from Borders and from Amazon, AND we also buy from local and independent stores. Don’t let faceless buyers on the East Coast decide what you will be reading in the future. Learn more, including where your local independent bookstores are at

Monday, July 13, 2009

Recently read: John Lescroart’s Betrayal

I enjoy a good legal thriller, and Lescroat is one of my two favorite authors in this genre (Robert K. Tanenbaum is the other). In this book, San Francisco attorney Dismas Hardy is asked to take on a thick case file compiled by another lawyer—one who has been missing for a while. The case is what appeared to be an open-and-shut murder of a Navy SEAL employed by a private consulting firm in Iraq. The accused murderer is a lieutenant who was also in Iraq and is now in prison. Much of the book details the background of the two men amidst the fighting in Baghdad, which is an interesting twist for Lescroat, who usually places his novels in California. As always, a griping read that is hard to put down.

Friday, July 10, 2009

A quote for readers

Book collage page from Artella

Edmund Burke, 18th century philosopher and writer, noted that, “Reading without reflecting is like eating without digestion.” I agree, yet there are sometimes when I don’t want to reflect—I want to just read without thought, to escape into a fantasy world where the good guys and dolls always win the roll of the dice. I find it helps to know when a book deserves reflection, and when one does not.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A tornado in Kansas

Photo of their camper from the Smith's private collection

Here's an article I wrote for this week's Dunn County News

I love being a writer and getting to spend time talking to people. Ed Smith is a retired UW-Stout professor who was delighted to talk about the Great Adventure. Next week I get to tour a winery. Is being a writer fun or what?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Recently read: Carlson and Bailey’s Slowing Down to the Speed of Life

If you don’t usually like to make time for self-improvement books, then just read the few pages of the preface where Carlson and Bailey describe their lives before they learned the principles provided in this small book. They have presented some of the key issues I have been dealing with over the past few years, such as living in the present moment and following your intuition, and shown me how to effortlessly incorporate them. The concepts of Processing Mode and Free-Flowing Mode of thought made an immediate difference in my daily life. I encourage you to make this book become a well-thumbed volume on your bedside table, as it has on mine.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Rhinelander School of the Arts

This is the 46th year for the arts program in this small Northern Wisconsin community, when more than 300 people come together with 30 instructors to explore, learn and create in a variety of disciplines. Workshops are available for art and folk art, computer skills, mind, body & spirit, music, photography, small business and nonprofit development, theatre and drama, and writing. This summer, the week-long session is being held from July 19 through July 24. For information, see

Monday, July 6, 2009

Recently read: Arturo Perez-Reverte’s The Flanders Panel

This is the second book I’ve read by this Spanish historian and author and it’s as good as the first one. In this, an art restorer named Julia discovers a mysterious message under the layers of paint. The Flemish painting is a triple portrait of two men playing chess, and a woman in the background. The trio, the Duke of Flanders, his wife, and one of his knights, were involved in a murder during their lives 500 years before. Now, people connected with the upcoming auction of the painting are also being murdered. Chess masters and art historians take their turns at solving the mysteries. This is a particularly compelling book if you play chess; however, lack of knowledge of the game doesn’t hinder your appreciation of a well-written book with a surprising ending.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Quotation for the day

I've always loved the statues of the Laughing Buddha. This one can be purchased from Acacia at

As part of my Dell home page, I signed up for the Buddhist Thought for the Day. Here is a recent one that particularly resonated with me: “The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.” - Buddha

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Recently read: William Kent Krueger’s Thunder Bay

Krueger is a local author for those of us in the Upper Midwest. I met him several years ago when he and his friends (who speak at events as Minnesota Crime Wave ) spoke at the Lake Menomen Writers Series that I arranged. His protagonist, Cork O’Connor, promises to help his friend Henry Meloux find the son Meloux has never seen. An Ojibwe medicine man (Mide), Meloux has special abilities to sense the truth. O’Connor tracks the son to the Canadian wildness beyond the city of Thunder Bay. A large part of the novel takes us back to the 1930s, when Meloux was a very young man trying to exist in a white man’s world while learning the skills of a Mide. Another excellent book from an exceptional writer.