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Building & Branding Your Group Online

posted Sep 13, 2017, 6:37 PM by Cherie Dargan

Building & Branding Your Group or Organization Online

 
 
 The Ruth Suckow website -- for a literary organization The Cedar Falls Authors Festival website -- for a community-based effort to honor five authors with ties to Cedar Falls


    Whether you are working as a volunteer for a nonprofit, running a small business, or trying to raise funds for a good cause, you need to establish yourself in the community. For many people, that means creating a Facebook page or Twitter feed: for others, it means creating a website. I retired a year ago, wanting to focus on writing: today, I am a busy volunteer, updating several Facebook pages and maintaining several websites. What do you need to do to create a website? Let’s take a look.

    First, while there are a number of great tools, consider using Google Sites. It’s free, easy to use, and easy to maintain. Many web site tools require you to pay a monthly fee to host your website; however, all you need to get started is a free Google account. Then you can select from the many templates, making it easy to design a website, whether it is for your soccer team, book club or another group. Before you start clicking, however, you should do some planning: what content do you need to include? Are there specific colors, logos, slogans or other things that distinguish your group? Do you want to include a calendar? Google calendar is another free Application that you can embed into your website.

    After selecting a template, you will be asked to name your website and you will want to think this choice through before you enter a name. The URL of your Google Sites website will include that name without spaces. Once named, you can get to work! Notice that most templates generate a set of pages, and you will see the navigation menu at the left (the list of pages). You can also add pages by selecting the add page tool (a box with a plus sign) on the home page. Most websites include a page for contact information as well as a page, “About Us,” that explains your group’s purpose or philosophy.  You can embed the calendar on your home page or create a page called Events that includes photos and a narrative about recent events as well as the Google calendar.

    To edit the individual pages, you will first click on the pencil at the top right. You can then type text, copy and paste text, insert pictures, insert hyperlinks, and insert tables, as well as insert a Google Calendar. (You will need to add your dates to the actual Calendar, however). Tables are a great way to have text and a picture side by side. Any images must be uploaded to the website and then you can decide what size you want to use.

    Remember, to “brand” your organization, think about colors, logos, and slogans. You can add the logo to each page; you might not find a perfect color scheme but it is better to keep it clean and simple than to use an overly busy design.

One of the features of Google Sites is that you can select from several types of web pages:

  • One is like a file cabinet, where you can upload a series of documents, photos or links. It works well for archiving meeting minutes, agendas, or reports.
  • Another web page style is announcements, which is a place to create very brief blog posts or announcements.
  • The default web page is a blank page, allowing you to add text, tables or images.
  • The final type of page is called Lists and gives you the options of creating short lists (their categories include actions, units, issues, or create your own).

    Google Sites has a great HELP section and there are numerous videos and cheat sheets for beginning webmasters. Later, you can buy a domain name from Google or a number of other providers for as little as $1 a month: you will be given a list of choices, and some cost more than others. For example, one of my websites is www.cfauthorsfestival.org. Keep the name simple, short, and don’t make people guess about your website’s name and purpose.

    Even a simple website can help build awareness of your organization or group. However, to help build your online presence, you will want to create a Facebook page and use it to drive people back to your website. When you have a special event coming up, create a Facebook event. Link back to your website at every opportunity. If you are part of a state wide or even national organization, you probably receive periodic email messages, newsletters, or other communications. Use these for ideas about things to post: upcoming dates significant to your organization, special events, legislation that affects your group, or people in the news who are members of your group. Some groups will add a link to a YouTube channel, and this is a great idea. We are drawn to pictures and videos. Make sure your website and Facebook page includes visuals.

    Of course, if you create a very simple website and never update it, people will stop looking at it! You should enlist some help to watch Facebook to find and “like” similar pages, sharing their posts on your own organization’s Facebook page. Ask other group members to like and share your posts, as a way to build your online presence and establish your brand. Do not underestimate the power of social media: a recent post that introduced the new President of a local group had over 488 views while another post with dates of upcoming Forums had nearly 600 views and 11 shares.

    In a previous era, people wanting to tell others about their organization created a brochure: now, increasingly, we all turn to the web. If your group does not have a presence online with a website or Facebook page, you are invisible to much of the world. If you need help getting started, there are numerous videos on YouTube as well as tutorials and help from Google. You can also find workshops on Social Media through Hawkeye Community College’s Business & Community Education.

My Google Sites Websites

Writer, Blogger, Geek & Family Historian -- www.geekygrandma.org

Ruth Suckow Webmaster -- www.ruthsuckow.org

Cedar Falls Authors Festival Webmaster -- http://www.cfauthorsfestival.org/

League of Women Voters of Black Hawk/Bremer Counties webmaster (with Mike Dargan) http://www.lwvbhb.org/


Last updated September 13, 2017



Reflections on Gen Con 2017

posted Aug 31, 2017, 3:04 PM by Cherie Dargan


 
 
 
 My son, The Flash, with Captain America & the HulkMikki explains the game to Grandma Cherie Mikki and grandsons in downtown Indy; we wore out my youngest grandson


        For the second year, I attended a huge convention in Indianapolis with my grown children, Jon and Mikki, and Jon’s sons, ages 4 and 6. We stayed with Mikki in her small condo, where her two cats regarded us with yowls if the food bowls were empty and jumped up on our beds in the middle of the night.

        The convention is called Gen-Con and it’s been around for a few years: this was the 50th anniversary. Over 200,000 people showed up and they were a very diverse group with one thing in common: they love to play board games. For someone who doesn’t play games, it might seem puzzling but hang around long enough and you will find a game you enjoy.

        I went along for two reasons: time with my children and grandchildren and a chance to play Granny Nanny and help out, so that my two grown children can have some time together. However, we spent a lot of time all together which was wonderful. My daughter’s fiancé also joined us so that was a bonus!

        How can such a big crowd of people gather in Indianapolis and be so polite? I have a lower back injury and used my bright red rollator to get around: at times the crowds made it difficult to navigate hallways and the various rooms. We had our own little parade, with a stroller and rollator but people were so kind, so helpful – opening doors, smiling, and stepping aside to let us pass. I was amazed, humbled, and smiled back to say thank you.

        Another aspect of Gen Con is Cosplay: a small number of people come in costumes, often as recognizable characters from Star Trek, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, the Avengers, or other Comic book characters. This year we had three or four people in huge inflated dinosaur suits and some people in strange garb that I could not connect with any specific movie, cartoon or genre. My son dressed up as Dr. Who one day and the Flash the next. My grandsons dressed up one day as The HULK and Captain America; they got to walk with Dad, as the Flash, in the costume parade on Saturday, and were quite a hit.

        My daughter has dressed up as Princess Leia in the past and encouraged me to find something as well. So, last year I did some online shopping and found a long black dress with a picture of the Starship Enterprise on the lower skirt. I wore my new dress to Gen Con one day and had an amazing time. I posed with a man who was dressed up like Mr. Spock and a group of people in very cool Star Trek uniforms who looked like they had just stepped off the bridge for a coffee break. This year I decided to focus on helping with the boys, so the dress stayed home.

        Gen Con lasts for four days in August and takes over downtown Indianapolis: food trucks line the streets in front of the big Convention Center, hotels fill up and convention goers wander around downtown, with their bright lanyards, backpacks and big smiles. I cannot imagine the financial impact of Gen Con, but it must be significant.

        I referred to the diversity of the group earlier: many of them look like the stereotypical young men who you imagine sat in their parents’ basement and played computer games in high school. Some of them were walking around by themselves, but many were in small groups; I half expected to see the cast of The Big Bang Theory walk around the corner, with Howard, Raj, Leonard and Sheldon arguing about what to do first.

        However, there were also a number of young families with strollers. The Conference set aside an area called the Training Grounds for families to hang out, play with the children, and let them run around a castle made of empty vendor boxes. It was located next to the restrooms, a food area and featured one small curtained off space for “crawlers,” and another curtained off area for breastfeeding mothers. We spent several hours each day there with the boys, and it was a wonderful retreat, as well as a handy place to eat lunch.

        Lots of games were geared to kids and we played a number with the grandsons: one focused on categories of fruit and keeping them away from the crow. I liked it and then looked at the boxer close-- it was geared for two years old and up. Another game had players trying to avoid zombies as they made their way to an evacuation place.  Knowing Grandma Cherie was not a big gamer, the boys tried to encourage me and give me helpful tips for playing the games: my four year old grandson beat us all at one game, and the six year old won another one!

        Not only were there a lot of teens, young adults and families, I was amazed at the number of older people in attendance, as well as people with mobility issues like me. We passed a number of people using wheelchairs and walkers or couples where one pushed the other’s wheelchair. People also stopped me to admire my cool wheels (a red Nitro rollator with big tires that folds easily) and ask where I found it (Mike found it on Amazon, of course).

        We also saw lots of attractive young people who might have been the jocks, Theater geeks, or cool kids in high school. Some were dressed up in costumes, many had tattoos, and all of them were excited to be there. Strangely enough, I recognized at least a couple of dozen people from last year, mostly due to their costumes. Many cosplayers were professional level with attention to detail: all were cordial to requests for photos, especially with children.

        Gen Con relies on a great deal of volunteer labor and it was evident that they do training. Volunteers wore bright colored t-shirts and were knowledgeable and helpful. Of course many of them had attended a number of previous conventions, or cons.

        Lots of money gets made at Gen Con with several areas for vendors. People can sit down and try out a new game before they buy it, and I saw people doing this for games geared to adults and children alike. An amazing array of products are there for sale, ranging from jewelry, art, clothing, cosplay gear, games, books, toys, blankets, and some stuff I could not even identify as we walked by the booths. For a second year I resisted buying my husband a cargo skirt with pleats: they looked comfy, had lots of pockets, but were too pricey for my comfort zone.

        While we were in Indianapolis, we ate at what is one of the best delis ever: Shapiros has an old fashioned cafeteria style line, with a separate area for take-out. They have wonderful sandwiches, meat loaf, salads, and bakery. The original store is near downtown and we’ve eaten at another location at a mall on a previous trip. (Mikki also got donuts from a local bakery called Long’s and they were fabulous).

        All in all, it was a wonderful and hectic five days: we made memories, played a lot of games, and had fun watching all of the people in costumes. I’m even thinking about putting together a costume for next year!

 

Last updated August 31, 2017

Also posted on my Blogger, https://bloggingbasicswithcherie.blogspot.com/2017/08/reflections-on-gen-con-2017.html


Cedar Falls, Iowa: A City of Writers

posted Aug 6, 2017, 3:36 PM by Cherie Dargan   [ updated Aug 6, 2017, 3:37 PM ]

Reflections on our Birthday Party for the Cedar Falls Authors Festival

 
 
 
The Library provided cake and beveragesRosemary and Barbara reading a selection by WallerBarbara reads the "real ending" of Sleeping with the Enemy--with Nancy Price in the audience

Cedar Falls, Iowa: A City of Writers

    Yesterday was a busy day: we were at the Cedar Falls Public Library for the Cedar Falls Authors Festival Birthday party, so we arrived shortly before 9 am until not quite 5. A number of people from our Umbrella Committee were there and helped as well.

    We honored our three authors with August birthdays (Robert James Waller, born August 1; Ruth Suckow, born August 6; and James Hearst, born August 8) and introduced our 6th best-selling author with a Cedar Falls Connection, Rev. Charlie Shedd, born August 8. We also did some readings for Bess Aldrich and Nancy Price—and Nancy Price attended that session and signed some books.  People came and went; we gave breaks between sessions. I saw a lot of familiar faces and quite a few new ones as well. We had upwards of 30-35 people.

    Rosemary started the day by reading excerpts from the classic Aldrich book Song of the Years, explaining that the book helps us to understand our local history, because even if the names have been changed, the events all happened.

    Next we honored Robert Waller with several people reading selections. Mary Taylor read a piece about his basketball career at college (Jump Shot). Barbara and Rosemary read a piece about one of Waller’s favorite cats that left several of us looking for a Kleenex.  We had so hoped to have him come to Cedar Falls in May to kick off our Authors Festival; his death in March was devastating.

    Barbara presented on Ruth Suckow and asked Mike and I to reprise our roles with a reading that we first did back in 2007: the presentation takes snippets of one of Suckow’s stories (“A Rural Community”) and gives it more of a Readers’ Theater flair. Written in 1923, it is one of my favorite Suckow stories because it showcases Suckow’s realistic and rich description of the Iowa countryside as well as her ability to capture the dialogue and characters. 

    I had a lot of fun researching Charlie Shedd and presenting about him yesterday: I had first read his books as a young college student in the early 1970s. He’s famous for Letters to Karen and later Letters to Philip, a series of letters to his daughter and son about marriage and relationships. They sold an estimated 8 million copies. He went on to write 40 more books on an astonishing variety of subjects including dieting, telling stories to grandchildren, marriage and sexuality, as well as topics relating to churches. I read four more of his books over the past two months and enjoyed them tremendously: he was a very wise, practical man with a wonderful sense of humor, humility, and someone I would have enjoyed getting to know. Mike and Barb read a few of his stories from the book about Letters to his grandchildren and then an audience member came up and read another selection.

     Mike took some pictures and decided to do some Facebook live streaming: what fun. Please don’t be offended if you saw the videos and realized that I was discussing Charlie Shedd’s  candid attitudes about marriage and sex with teenagers and couples coming for counseling. He was ahead of his time. I’m still cracking up at the comment he made on his Radio Devotions program about a friend having cataloged over 737 sins, and having people contact him for the list! (One man wrote, “You see, Rev., I’m wondering if I missed something?”)

     Soon it was time to move on to James Hearst. Scott Cawelti sang some of the songs he’s written based on the poetry of James Hearst and Barbara discussed the way that events in his life influenced his topics: after diving into the river he became a paraplegic, and Hearst’s life was never the same.  Barbara reflected on some of our conversations early on: what is there about Cedar Falls that has produced so many fine writers? She had done research and found few other Iowa towns with as many famous authors. Scott joked that it is something in the water. Gary Kelley’s festival poster features a writer sitting in the grass by the river, with a quote from each author appearing on the surface of the water. Barb said that we should begin to think of Cedar Falls as the City of Writers! I agree.

 
 
 
Mike read several pieces by Charlie Shedd.Rosemary's reading of Aldrich's novel Song of the Years, based on the history of Cedar Falls.Barb, Mike & Cherie read "A Rural Community" by Suckow.

    At the end of the day, we had Diana Turnage (born August 18), an aspiring children’s book author, tell us about her story and then read her draft: it was good. Finally, we enjoyed some storytelling by Gail Froyen (born August 1).

    Back in October when we first began to plan these events and discovered that three of the five authors were born in August, we decided to celebrate their birthdays with a party and cake. However, it takes a lot of work to pull together a full day of programming: to plan it, to recruit volunteers, to promote it, and to actually pull it off. I am very proud to be part of the group of people who have accomplished so much. While several of us are “retired,” many of our hard working committee members such as Mary Taylor and Kim Manning are juggling work with the festival. Others of us, like Mary Brammer, Jan Anderson, Scott Cawelti, Barbara Lounsberry and Rosemary Beach are working hard at volunteering! We have become a team and rely on each other’s strengths, sense of humor, and networking skills.

    Thank you to the Waterloo Courier for helping us to get the word out to the community, as well as to the Cedar Falls Tourism and Visitors Bureau for their help with promoting events. The Hearst Center and the Cedar Falls Public Library have been extremely helpful as well. Cedar Falls Library Director Sheryl McGovern arranged for the cake, tea and lemonade and had a volunteer lined up to help serve the treats (thanks, Sheryl and Christine--and Ambri!).

 

 Last Updated August 6, 2017

A Letter from My Aunt Jeanne

posted Jul 23, 2017, 7:39 PM by Cherie Dargan

A blog post for Sunday, July 23

 
 
 
Jeanne loves our condo: her first visit, with Cathi and Mikki, Fall 2015Jeanne and her "girls" at Perkins Me with Aunt Jeanne

Two weeks ago my sister Cathi and cousin Anne took our Aunt Jeanne out to lunch: she had just had a birthday. 
We met in Marshalltown at Perkins: there were a few cards and small gifts but the most important thing was just being together.  We ate, talked, laughed, and shared memories. Jeanne is the youngest of three sisters: the gentle matriarch who knows the stories and secrets and heartbreaks of our family history.  She has four sons and always called us "her girls."

I tucked a copy of my most recent chapter of family history into her gift bag: it was an essay about my two Grandmas--her mother Nellie and her paternal Grandmother Eva. I had inserted a few pictures in the document and she looked through those rather quickly while I grabbed my iPad and showed her, Cathi and Anne a few more pictures. 

Today I got a letter in the mail and it brought a smile. "Most of all, Cherie, thank you for giving me a copy of your "two Grandmas" story. That first night I enjoyed reading it so much -- a lot of old memories. I loved how you started out with the Bible verse. It reminded me of Ruth in the Holy Book telling her mother in law "wherever you go, I will go." You did a great job Cherie & I could feel the love in the story of your two grandmas." 

I don't think any editor could ever give me higher praise. My mother did not live to see me be published; however, my Aunt Jeanne--her younger sister--has been there for us since my mother's passing, and since Reva's passing (the oldest sister).  When I gave Aunt Jeanne her copy of the book published last fall, with the essay about her sister, we were both teary eyed and smiling at the same time. 

Like many critics, she had an idea for a possible sequel: "I can see you authoring a piece of fiction about the three crazy sisters! Ha."  I might just have to do that: I certainly have plenty of material!


The three sisters--Reva, Charlotte (my mom) and Jeanne--enjoying the beach at Nag's Head.



Last updated July 23, 2017




Reflections on our Nancy Price Weekend

posted Jul 17, 2017, 9:38 AM by Cherie Dargan

Reflections on our Nancy Price Weekend

The Cedar Falls Authors Festival launched activities for our third author this past weekend:  Nancy Price, best known for her book "Sleeping with the Enemy," which was made into a movie starring Julia Roberts.

We began the weekend Friday night in Seerley Park, where vendors set up food and drink and our Committee members Barbara Lounsberry and Rosemary Beach sold Nancy Price books, Tour Tickets, and Festival posters. Later, Barbara introduced the movie and Rosemary gave away a signed poster. Then it was time to watch "Sleeping with the Enemy" on a special outdoor screen.

 
 
Seerley Park Friday night: Barbara and Rosemary selling books, posters & tour tickets The screen, just before the movie started

Saturday afternoon people began to arrive for the Tours of five different houses in the Seerley Park neighborhood: more than 200 tickets were sold, while others hung out at the Park and listened to music, chatted, and rested between tours. 

 
 
 
Here I am, with Kim Manning and Mary Taylor at the Martin house on the Corner, getting organized. A group of people walking from one house to the next on the tour.
A group stops to chat with our host, Chris Martin, in the sitting room off the large kitchen.


Nancy Price made an appearance as well, signing a mural in a home she had once lived in, as shown below.



Sunday people gathered at the Hearst Center for the Arts: they packed the house and parking was a challenge. However, it was worth it for the exhibit of Nancy Price illustrations, the reception, and then the Panel, led by Barbara Lounsberry with Grant Tracey and Greg Holt who compared the book to the movie.  Before and after the program Nancy Price greeted people, had her picture taken and signed books.

 
 
 
The Panel discussed the differences between the book and movie Sleeping with the Enemy.Before and after the program, Nancy Price greeted the public and signed books.Nancy Price is still publishing: she told me that her next book is out in March!
Here are my ten Takeaways about the weekend.
  1. The movie (and book) Sleeping with the Enemy is still scary! I probably amused a few people sitting behind me when I jumped at several crucial moments during the movie Friday night.
  2. The book helped create awareness of domestic violence in our society, and the movie added to that, with a touch of horror. Sara tells the woman on the bus that she called the police but there was little they could do to help her.
  3. Set in Cedar Falls, the book describes a number of houses in the Seerley Park neighborhood; however, the movie was filmed in South Carolina to make it easy to get both the beach scenes and the “country” scenes.
  4. Watching a movie outdoors was fun, but I should have worn long pants and taken my heavier hooded sweatshirt along. (Okay, I admit that my husband was right--sigh).
  5. Last fall, as we planned these events, we wondered if anyone would really want to take a tour of the houses in Seerley Park mentioned in the book: we ended up selling over 200 tickets.
  6. People taking the tour enjoyed walking around the neighborhood and touring the homes alike: a couple I visited with related that the wife used to live on the street and hadn’t been back in that house for 40 years.
  7. Thank goodness for the brochure that explained the role of each house in the book; people were also appreciative of the hosts and volunteers who spent time answering questions and chatting with those who lingered.
  8. Nancy Price is our only living author of the five featured authors, since Robert Waller passed away in March. She is still writing and her next book is out in March 2018: what a role model for those of us who are beginning our writing careers!
  9. After listening to the panel today (Barb, Grant and Greg) I want to re-read the book. There are numerous differences between the book and movie, with some of the characters in the book being left out altogether.
  10. It was amazing to watch Nancy Price interacting with the public today at the Hearst Center: she has a wonderful personality and sense of humor and graciously agreed to pose for pictures or sign autographs.
This post first appeared on Blogging Basics with Cherie
https://bloggingbasicswithcherie.blogspot.com/2017/07/reflections-on-nancy-price-weekend.html

Last updated July 17, 2017

Takeaways from the 51st Annual Meeting of the RSMA

posted Jul 7, 2017, 3:43 PM by Cherie Dargan   [ updated Jul 7, 2017, 7:06 PM ]

Takeaways from the 51st Annual Meeting of the Ruth Suckow Memorial Association (RSMA)

We thought our 50th Anniversary last summer would be the highlight of recent years, with a big cake and book giveaways; however, we managed to outdo ourselves this summer, with a full day of activities, thanks in part to the Cedar Falls Authors Festival, and renewed interest in our literary legacy. RSMA President Barb Lounsberry and friend Rosemary Beach were chatting over coffee last year, after our big Suckow meeting, and out of that conversation the Cedar Falls Authors Festival was born, recognizing that Suckow is one of five best selling writers with a Cedar Falls connection. (The others are Bess Streeter Aldrich, James Hearst, Nancy Price and Robert James Waller).

Rosemary (pictured below) greeted people and helped sell posters and t-shirts as well as make sure latecomers found a place to sit.

rosemary

The morning business meeting was well attended, with several new faces, including our speakers for the evening program at the Hearst Center: Rebecca Christian (author of the play “Just Suppose,” 1992) and Lenore Howard (actress who portrayed Ruth Suckow in “Just Suppose”).  Sara, our Secretary, greeted them and is shown below.

Sara with Rebecca and Lenore

We reported on our progress of digitizing Suckow’s stories for the Iowa Digital Heritage website: this is thanks to the hard work of Barb Lounsberry and now Roy Kenagy, a retired librarian from the Des Moines area who has scanned in numerous works.  We now have 20 items there: 18 of Ruth Suckow’s short stories, along with the novel The Kramer Girls and her novella A Part of the Institution. (Here is Roy sitting at the end of the table below).

Roy at table

We got to see a picture of Ruth that we had not seen before!

Ruth Suckow

We missed our long time Treasurer, Joanne, and Barbara noted that she has moved into a retirement community and will not be with us this year. Mary Brammer has agreed to take on these duties. This is also the first year that long time member and former President George Day was not able to join us either.

We looked briefly at the website, www.ruthsuckow.org, which continues to get between 1,200-1,500 hits a year, and is now about a decade old. In addition, with the new Cedar Falls Authors Festival endeavor, Ruth Suckow is getting fresh attention on that website, www.cfauthorsfestival.org.  The website is not even six months old and has already gotten over 1200 hits. (Disclosure: Yes, I am the webmaster for both sites).

Barbara pointed out that Ruth is the only Iowa writer that she knows of who has a Park and a Library named after her (in Earlville), an active Association, and now a sculpture in the Hearst Sculpture Garden, as of today. Suckow and her husband Ferner Nuhn are also buried in Greenwood Cemetery.

I did a little “show and tell” with the recently published book The Midwestern Moment, which just arrived a few days before the Annual Meeting. The book was edited by Professor Jon Lauck and published by Hastings College Press, and focuses on forgotten writers of the Midwest during the 1900s, looking at the impact of regionalism. Jon had attended a recent RSMA meeting and invited me to submit a proposal: big thanks go to Barbara who helped not only with the proposal, but with the draft of the chapter.

My chapter, “The Realistic Regionalism of Iowa’s Ruth Suckow,” examines her life and work. Suckow didn’t like being labeled a “regional” writer because she thought it limited her audience and saw her work as having more universal appeal. However, she is without a doubt a writer who knew how to capture the “folks” of the small towns and farms of Iowa with her description and dialogue. Called both Iowa’s first feminist writer for her strong portrayal of women and a realist, Suckow’s best work seems to be done in her short stories.

 
 
 
Book cover for The Midwestern MomentBack cover, listing the contributorsBook display at our meeting

We enjoyed a wonderful box lunch, and then welcomed several more people from the community for our 1:00 discussion of Suckow’s novella “A Part of the Institution” with some opening remarks by Barbara and Bill. It was a lively discussion and we were thrilled to see the audience included a teenage girl with her mother.


Then, we went to the Hearst Center for the official dedication of the new sculpture, “Amongst,” created by a UNI Junior, Hannah Seggerman, pictured below. The concept is of something new rising out of the old. The sculpture honors Ruth Suckow and Ferner Nuhn: Ferner was a home town boy and he and Ruth lived here twice during their marriage. Ferner opened the first community art center and his efforts led to the Hearst Center: he and Ruth were good friends with James Hearst. So it is fitting that this sculpture and plaque represent the three friends together again.

Mary Brammer, who is a member of the RSMA as well as the Cedar Falls Public Art Committee, helped to champion the project. Here she is greeting people to the Hearst Sculpture Garden.


Next, RSMA President Barbara Lounsberry greeted the crowd.


Finally, we were introduced to Hannah Seggerman, the UNI student who created the sculpture by Barbara Brown, another member of the Cedar Falls Public Art Committee and it was time for some photos.


It was a warm Saturday afternoon so we retreated to the cooler patio at the Hearst and enjoyed a wonderful reception.

Many of us slipped inside to view the lovely exhibit of Marjorie Nuhn’s paintings; she was Ferner’s sister and a wonderful artist who loved to use water colors and whose paintings of both Cedar Falls and New Mexico were wonderful with vibrant colors.

A group of us enjoyed a light supper with our two special guests, and then returned to the Hearst Center for the evening program, focusing on the 1992 play “Just Suppose,” which focused on the life of Iowa writer Ruth Suckow. Rebecca Christian was commissioned to write the play by the Ruth Suckow Memorial Association. Lenore Howard took on the challenge of portraying Ruth Suckow; she is an actress based in Dubuque. 

 
 
 
 Lenore & RebeccaRebecca & Lenore sharing memories of writing & performing the playThe pair in 1992

Lenore and Rebecca shared their memories and insights in an informal, conversational manner while a brief PowerPoint presentation with images of Ruth and Ferner was displayed behind them. As they spoke, we realized that Lenore was dipping into the script and giving us a taste of the play.

 
 
 
 The T-shirt from 1992    Sara shows off her shirt to Cherie The Dubuque "gang" with Rebecca: Michael Gibson, Lenore, Rebecca, & Sara

Afterward we enjoyed more conversation and the revelation that Sara had been to all seven performances back in 1992, and had the t-shirt to prove it.

 
 
Here I am, with Rebecca and Lenore after the program at the Hearst.Rebecca and I had been emailing for almost five years: it was great to meet her finally. 

All in all, it was an incredible day. 



Last Updated July 7, 2017

Takeaways from the Annual Meeting of the RSMA

posted Jul 7, 2017, 11:51 AM by Cherie Dargan

Takeaways from the 51st Annual Meeting of the Ruth Suckow Memorial Association (RSMA)

We thought our 50th Anniversary last summer would be the highlight of recent years, with a big cake and book giveaways; however, we managed to outdo ourselves this summer, with a full day of activities, thanks in part to the Cedar Falls Authors Festival, and renewed interest in our literary legacy. RSMA President Barb Lounsberry and friend Rosemary Beach were chatting over coffee last year, after our big Suckow meeting, and out of that conversation the Cedar Falls Authors Festival was born, recognizing that Suckow is one of five best selling writers with a Cedar Falls connection. (The others are Bess Streeter Aldrich, James Hearst, Nancy Price and Robert James Waller).

Rosemary (pictured below) greeted people and helped sell posters and t-shirts as well as make sure latecomers found a place to sit.


The morning business meeting was well attended, with several new faces, including our speakers for the evening program at the Hearst Center: Rebecca Christian (author of the play “Just Suppose,” 1992) and Lenore Howard (actress who portrayed Ruth Suckow in “Just Suppose”).


We reported on our progress of digitizing Suckow’s stories for the Iowa Digital Heritage website: this is thanks to the hard work of Barb Lounsberry and now Roy Kenagy, a retired librarian from the Des Moines area who has scanned in numerous works.  We now have 20 items there: 18 of Ruth Suckow’s short stories, along with the novel The Kramer Girls and her novella A Part of the Institution. (Here is Roy sitting at the end of the table below).


We got to see a picture of Ruth that we had not seen before!


We missed our long time Treasurer, Joanne, and Barbara noted that she has moved into a retirement community and will not be with us this year. Mary Brammer has agreed to take on these duties. This is also the first year that long time member and former President George Day was not able to join us either.

We looked briefly at the website, www.ruthsuckow.org, which continues to get between 1,200-1,500 hits a year, and is now about a decade old. In addition, with the new Cedar Falls Authors Festival endeavor, Ruth Suckow is getting fresh attention on that website, www.cfauthorsfestival.org.  The website is not even six months old and has already gotten over 1200 hits. (Disclosure: Yes, I am the webmaster for both sites).

Barbara pointed out that Ruth is the only Iowa writer that she knows of who has a Park and a Library named after her (in Earlville), an active Association, and now a sculpture in the Hearst Sculpture Garden, as of today. Suckow and her husband Ferner Nuhn are also buried in Greenwood Cemetery.

I did a little “show and tell” with the recently published book The Midwestern Moment, which just arrived a few days before the Annual Meeting. The book was edited by Professor Jon Lauck and focuses on forgotten writers of the Midwest during the 1900s, looking at the impact of regionalism. Jon attended a recent RSMA meeting and invited me to submit a proposal: big thanks go to Barbara who helped not only with the proposal, but with the draft of the chapter.

My chapter, “The Realistic Regionalism of Iowa’s Ruth Suckow,” examines her life and work. Suckow didn’t like being labeled a “regional” writer because she thought it limited her audience and saw her work as having more universal appeal. However, she is without a doubt a writer who knew how to capture the “folks” of the small towns and farms of Iowa with her description and dialogue. Called both Iowa’s first feminist writer for her strong portrayal of women and a realist, Suckow’s best work seems to be done in her short stories.

  
Front cover of The Midwestern Moment   Rear cover lists the contributorsThe book display: it will be available on Amazon in July

We enjoyed a wonderful box lunch, and then welcomed several more people from the community for our 1:00 discussion of Suckow’s novella “A Part of the Institution” with some opening remarks by Barbara and Bill. It was a lively discussion and we were thrilled to see the audience included a teenage girl with her mother.


Then, we went to the Hearst Center for the official dedication of the new sculpture, “Amongst,” created by a UNI Junior, Hannah Seggerman, pictured below. The concept is of something new rising out of the old. The sculpture honors Ruth Suckow and Ferner Nuhn: Ferner was a home town boy and he and Ruth lived here twice during their marriage. Ferner opened the first community art center and his efforts led to the Hearst Center: he and Ruth were good friends with James Hearst. So it is fitting that this sculpture and plaque represent the three friends together again.

Mary Brammer, who is a member of the RSMA as well as the Cedar Falls Public Art Committee, helped to champion the project. Here she is greeting people to the Hearst Sculpture Garden.


Next, RSMA President Barbara Lounsberry greeted the crowd.


Finally, we were introduced to Hannah Seggerman, the UNI student who created the sculpture by Barbara Brown, another member of the Cedar Falls Public Art Committee and it was time for some photos.

Hannah and sculpture

It was a warm Saturday afternoon so we retreated to the cooler patio at the Hearst and enjoyed a wonderful reception.

Many of us slipped inside to view the lovely exhibit of Marjorie Nuhn’s paintings; she was Ferner’s sister and a wonderful artist who loved to use water colors and whose paintings of both Cedar Falls and New Mexico were wonderful with vibrant colors.

A group of us enjoyed a light supper with our two special guests, and then returned to the Hearst Center for the evening program, focusing on the 1992 play “Just Suppose,” which focused on the life of Iowa writer Ruth Suckow. Rebecca Christian was commissioned to write the play by the Ruth Suckow Memorial Association. Lenore Howard took on the challenge of portraying Ruth Suckow; she is an actress based in Dubuque. 

 
 
 
 
Rebecca & Lenore sharing memories of writing & performing the play The pair in 1992Sara's "Just Supposey" T-shirt (she attended ALL 7 performances) Our RSMA Secretary Sara with Michael Gibson, Lenore Howard & Rebecca Christian

Lenore and Rebecca shared their memories and insights in an informal, conversational manner while a brief PowerPoint presentation with images of Ruth and Ferner was displayed behind them. Afterward we enjoyed more conversation and the revelation that Sara had been to all seven performances, and had the t-shirt to prove it!

All in all, it was an incredible day. 


 
 
 
Cherie poses with our presenters: what a special evening.Cherie with Sara and her Just Supposey T-shirt.Cherie & Rebecca: we've been emailing each other for five years and finally met.

Last Updated July 7, 2017

Ten things about Going to Winona

posted Jul 7, 2017, 10:43 AM by Cherie Dargan   [ updated Jul 7, 2017, 10:57 AM ]

Ten things about our Jaunt to see Shakespeare in Winona, Minnesota

 

 
 
 
 Joyce and Roy Waiting for the Play Rodney's Kitchen, downtown Waterloo
 
 
 
 Quick Selfie Second play Intros Klunders Kafe pies!

1.       Librarians know how to have fun! Mike and Roy met through their shared connections as librarians and have been friends for years. The four of us went to see a Shakespeare play at Winona's Great River Shakespeare Festival last year and had so much fun we decided to do it again. So, they arrived Friday night and we tried out a local restaurant in Waterloo—Rodney’s Kitchen and enjoyed it. Afterwards, we took a drive to see the sights.
2.      We got up Saturday and drove to Winona, which is a great town – it’s not even a three hour drive from Cedar Falls, but it’s far away enough to feel like you’ve gotten out of Dodge! It was a lovely drive up and back – we saw lots of lush green fields and trees, lots of rolling hills and lots of farms and a few small towns.
3.      Lanesboro is a nice diversion not even 45 minutes away from Winona. On our way home on Sunday, we stopped for coffee and pastries, walked around the little downtown, and admired the many Bed and Breakfast places we saw, including one where Mike and I stayed 18 or 19 years ago!
4.      Winona has some great places to eat: we had lunch at one place and supper at another. The first place had very much a college town feel with lots of places to sit and converse and a wonderful menu. The second was more of a college pub with pizza and wonderful side salads. We also discovered the restorative benefits of drinking expresso: Mike was noticeably more talkative after his first shot!
5.      The theater on campus at Winona State University is very accessible for those of us with some mobility issues. We were able to park by the back door and get in without a great deal of walking.
6.      The quality of acting, stage sets, and technical is top notch: this was either our third or fourth trip or we have been pleased every time we came.  Theater ushers were friendly and helpful, the audience was excited to be there, and when the lights went down, we were all primed for a great performance. We had the misfortune of sitting in front of a man who snored off and on, to the horror of his family and friends; however, after giggling, we tried to refocus on the play!
7.      Richard III was intense with the kind of bad guy you love to hate; the actor used Canadian canes in such a clever way that he resembled a spider at times, scuttling around stage. The character had a hump back and supposedly his physical imperfections affected his personality and very soul.  It was a terrible time to be a woman in those days—whether his mother, his unlucky bride, or any other woman, for that matter. They used an interesting visual in the background to represent all of those characters who lost their lives (and heads) due to Richard’s schemes: they looked like spears with masks or heads on them. When Richard dreamed before his big battle, the heads spoke to him: it was creepy and very effective!
8.      The Comedy of Errors was a refreshing contrast with two sets of twins who were long lost to each other and their parents due to an unfortunate accident at sea. I wasn’t sure that setting the play in the 1920s would work, but they pulled it off and I loved the costumes, witty dialogue, campy humor and music.
9.      We have been amazed at the versatility of the actors: many have come back for most of the 14 seasons. We have seen comedies, romances, and tragedies/histories and they are all done in a professional manner.  Each summer, we look forward to seeing how some of our favorites will transform themselves yet again!
10.   We found a great hotel: the Days Inn has truly accessible rooms, with a roll in shower, if you need it. It offered comfortable beds, was close to campus, was also close to places to eat, and provided a nice breakfast. Not only that, if you get a craving for pizza, they can make it onsite and deliver it to your room.

BONUS – we managed to time it just right so that we came back through New Hampton to hit Klunders Kafe for lunch! If you haven’t been there and been welcomed by the giant chicken sculpture, you haven’t had their delicious food and wonderful homemade pies and desserts. 


Last Updated July 7, 2017

Highlights of CWW17

posted Jun 15, 2017, 6:30 PM by Cherie Dargan

 
 
 
Our speaker, Cynthia, with our workshop founder, Shelly. Jolene and Anne present strategies for developing characters.After lunch music + movement results in a dance party down front.

Last week I attended the Cedar Falls Christian Writers Workshop--for at least the sixth year. 
I always come away feeling renewed, refreshed, and ready to write! 

Here are some of my notes from last week's workshop

Music + movement = mood enhancement (lunchtime music and dancing, thanks to Jean)

The musicality of language – (I loved that phrase) – Cynthia
Readers hear the rhythm and tone of your language choices

Lots of alliteration with "P" words: procrastination or perfectionism can both be problems for writers

Editing reminders
Remember: 1 space after sentence, not two!
Don’t let critiques destroy you: learn from them. 
Shorter paragraphs are more readable.
Shorter chapters help hook your readers: about 2,000 words is a good length for fiction.
Don’t use colons and semicolons in fiction. (Me: Yikes!)

Readers may take only 4-7 seconds to decide if they are going to read your book.

Readers read through a filter (CR) made up of many things that you need to acknowledge.

God doesn’t waste anything: writers write from their own history of pain. (Mary PK)
Good book: Opening up by Writing it Down, by Dr. James Pennebaker
Writing a journal helps you process grief.  Great examples in C. S. Lewis and Madeleine L’Engle.
Mary kept a journal and then later used it in her book about grief.

A book proposal is a business plan for a book (Shelly).
The average book sells 500 copies.
Give your publisher what they want! Know their guidelines, genre, requirements.

 
 
My blogging workshop, Friday afternoonMy very first time to display books at the conference.


Use methods from left brain & right brain to develop characters, whether it’s an Excel spreadsheet or a mind map (Jolene and Anne) (I've done both!)

Some people DO get accepted by Chicken Soup for the Soul (Susan got the news at the workshop).
It’s a SMALL world – I reconnected with an old friend, Sharon, from Grad School days at Iowa State.
Be willing to do the work! Research, write, revise, and edit.
Lots of ways to build characters beyond physical appearance (food preferences, mannerisms, way of speaking, virtues and vices, fatal flaw, and personality) (Shelly)

There are many motivations for coming to this workshop: working through grief, fulfilling a promise to tell a story of a loved one, desire to become a better writer, interest in getting published, and for those who return, the social aspect of connecting with other writers and spending time with friends is also a big draw.

My blogging Workshop was an introduction for some; however, we needed a computer lab, so everyone would have access to Blogger, but I shared my experience and strategies.

My first book display--I wrote a chapter for two books in my first year of retirement. It was exciting to set up a space on the table. The book about mothers was a great chance to use my mother's materials to write about our family and her life. The book about Midwestern authors and regionalism gave me the opportunity to write about Iowa author Ruth Suckow's life and career. While she didn't like to labeled, her writing certainly captures "the folks" who lived in Iowa's small towns and on its farms.

It was a good workshop; however, I missed the last day because it was also the weekend of the BIG Annual Meeting of the Ruth Suckow Memorial Association.

See you next year!





Last updated June 15, 2017


The box of Books Arrives

posted Jun 3, 2017, 4:42 PM by Cherie Dargan   [ updated Jun 3, 2017, 6:14 PM ]



The box of Books Arrives!

There are few things like opening a box from a publisher with copies of a book that you helped to write! A box arrived today from Hastings College Press and inside I found four copies of The Midwestern Moment, a collection of essays about Midwestern writers and artists and the impact of regionalism.

My essay, “The Realistic Regionalism of Iowa’s Ruth Suckow,” argues that Suckow was more than a realist and a regionalist. “…Suckow's remarkable story-telling abilities, her realistic portrayal of characters—especially women—and her contribution to the regionalism debate” make her “an outstanding Midwestern writer and a key figure in the early twentieth Midwestern Moment in American literary history and a voice that deserves to be heard again.”

I learned a great deal from researching and writing my essay about Ruth Suckow. She didn’t care for labels like “regional” or “local” writer because she thought her stories had more universal meaning. However, reading her fiction is like taking a trip back in time: you can see the rolling hills of rural Iowa, its small towns and farms, the people who worked so hard to build up our state. Her quiet descriptive prose captures their dialogue, the food they ate, their daily routines, and their struggle against poverty and the elements.

When I first read Suckow’s short stories and novels, I thought “this is the world that my mother grew up in….that my grandmother and great grandmother knew—the farms, small towns, little schools, and churches. The impact of the Great Depression, the First World War, the bringing of electricity, indoor plumbing, and telephones….”

I used to tell my students that Ruth Suckow is the most famous writer from Iowa that you’ve never heard of! We used one of her short stories, A Rural Community” in my Intro to Literature class and I always enjoyed hearing their comments about it. A man in his late 30s arrives on a train early one morning: he is back in his old home town to visit his adopted parents. Ralph is a successful journalist who travels the world and hasn’t been back in 15 years, but sends a check to his parents every Christmas. He has to ask for directions because his parents have moved to town from the farm; as he walks around, he sees all of the changes in the town and yet concludes that overall it has stayed the same.

He surprises his parents and they visit before sharing a wonderful home cooked lunch. He goes to the family cemetery with his mother to decorate graves. They visit more and Ralph gets uncomfortable when they begin asking when he is going to marry and settle down! However, he is surprised when his mother brings out a scrapbook full of his writing: she says to him over and over, “surely, you’re one of ours!” After supper his adopted siblings come in from their farms for a visit. Afterwards, he walks back to the train station to catch the midnight train.

He gets onboard and settles down, but:

…he was aware that since he had stepped off the train in the morning, the current of his thoughts had changed. He felt steadied, deeply satisfied. He looked toward the dark pastures beyond the row of dusky willow trees. They widened slowly into the open country which lay silent, significant, motionless, immense, under the stars, with its sense of something abiding.[i]


My students could relate to Ralph’s experience of going home and finding a new Casey’s or seeing how Main Street has added a Diner or changed the Street Lights. They crack up when his father suggests he look up his old high school girl friend and they sigh when they read about the fried chicken and all of the sides. They like the way the arrival and departure of the train frames the story and they notice her vivid description of the farm fields. The story was written in 1924 but my modern, smartphone toting College students “get it.”

I’m thankful for the opportunity to write the essay and be part of this book. I’m also happy for the focus it places on a group of writers, editors, and artists who have been largely forgotten—including John T. Frederick, the editor of a regional literary magazine called The Midland that featured many of these writers and introduced their work to the world. He gave Ruth Suckow her first chance to be published with some poetry and short stories and then introduced her to the great editor H. L. Mencken, who helped her take her writing career to the next level—national.  In all, 16 of her short stories appeared in anthologies from 1924 through 1954 but regionalism was going out of literary style and most of her books were out of print by the time she died in 1960.

Then her husband Ferner (who was 11 years younger) and his second wife Georgia got together with a group of friends and formed the Ruth Suckow Memorial Association in 1966. The group worked to preserve Suckow’s legacy and their hard work resulted in the reprinting of Country People and Iowa Interiors in 1977. Later, A Ruth Suckow Omnibus was published in 1988, thanks to the efforts of Clarence Andrews, a Board Member of the RSMA. Finally, a new edition of The Folks came out in 1992 as well as a biography and book looking at Suckow’s work, making it possible for new readers to discover her work.

If you would like to read some of her short stories for free, just go to the website www.ruthsuckow.org and find the link for her short stories.


The Midwestern Moment: The Forgotten World of Early Twentieth-Century Midwestern Regionalism, 1880-1940 -- Jon K. Lauck, editor. Hastings College Press, Jun 1, 2017

ISBN 1942885490, 9781942885498  $24.99

The book will be available on Amazon by July 1st.

It will also be available through the Hastings College Press website.

 



[i] Ruth Suckow, “A Rural Community,” The Midland, July 1922, 1. PDF available at http://www.ruthsuckow.org/home/ruth-suckow-s-short-stories

Last Updated June 3, 2017

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