Our next regular monthly meeting will be on Sunday, October 18, 2015, from 12:30 to 3 PM at Bella Caffe in Park Rapids MN. See below for report on the TS24 book release party AND also a report on the PRLAAC 10th birthday event.

Thanks to all of you who attended our 2015 workshop and Talking Stick 24 book release party on Saturday, September 19, 2015. We held the events at beautiful Blueberry Pines Golf Club located between Park Rapids and Menahga, MN. We had a workshop from 9 to 12 AM with Mary Casanova, author of over 30 books. Her books frequently land on state reading lists and have earned many awards. Many people said this was the best workshop yet. Mary gave us many writing prompts that brought out some gems from many of the writers. We love those writing prompts that get us started on something we can build on and finish later. Mary also spent some time talking about her own journey in getting published—something we all enjoyed.

Following the workshop, we had an excellent lunch. Then the folks started arriving for the book release party at 1 PM. We had close to 60 people in attendance. Shannon from the Park Rapids Enterprise came to take photos and do a write-up for us.

We gave a brief history of our group. We started in 1993 with a community ed class for writers called Getting Published. The group of attendees kept on meeting and called themselves the Jackpine Writers’ Bloc. By 1995, the group started publishing the Talking Stick books and by now we are up to volume 24. We started out with just local writers but eventually opened up to the whole state. Now we also include writers with a strong connection to MN. We hope to do something special for our 25th volume next year.

Our procedure each year is that we send out a call for submissions in December. The deadline is March 1. We have 5 members of our group (the Editorial Board) read all the submissions and choose the writings to go in the book. Then we choose our favorite 5 to 7 pieces in each genre. These, with the authors’ names removed, are sent to the celebrity judge for that category. These judges each choose the ones to win the prize money in their own category. The JWB board members and Editorial Board members are NOT eligible to win the prize money.

As we read the submissions each year, it seems that somehow there seems to be a main theme—different each year. From this, we choose a subtitle for the book. It just happens; we never ask for certain topics.

This was perhaps the first year that we had all 3 celebrity judges in attendance as well as all 6 of the top winners. We had Laura Hansen as the celebrity judge for poetry. Laura is from Little Falls. She was a bookseller for 20 years and has two published chapbooks. We had Marge Barrett for creative nonfiction. Marge is a teacher at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis and has had much poetry and prose published. Mary Casanova was our fiction judge.

We provide monetary prizes to first and second place finishers in each of the 3 genres. The 3 judges assisted us in introducing these winners and asking them to read. We enjoy reading all the work that comes in as we make our decisions on the writings that will go in the book. Somehow, hearing them read by the writer gives us a whole new appreciation and understanding of these fine writings. Then we had the honorable mention writers come up and read and then opened up the floor to anyone else who had been published in the book.

Following the book release party, a number of the writers stayed on for drinks and meals. We had a great day, seeing old friends and meeting new writers. Thanks to all who attended today and also to all who submitted for the book.

Sharon Harris/JWB

You would have been proud of your fellow Jackpine Writers last night at the Park Rapids Lakes Area Arts Council (PRLAAC) tenth birthday party at the Park Rapids Armory. We were invited to showcase our literary talent, as others showcased vocal and instrumental music and dance talent. It was quite the show.

Your JWB representatives were Niomi Phillips, Marlys Guimaraes, Ryan Neely, and Jerry Mevissen. The audience heard a sample of our fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry—some from The Talking Stick, which was featured on our display table.

Well done, fellow writers and readers. I accepted many compliments on behalf of the group in the after-party chat.

Jerry Mevissen/JWB