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Archive for July, 2010

Club Book events with Patricia Hampl

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Patricia HamplClub Book, a new author events program of the Metropolitan Library Services Agency and coordinated by the Library Foundation of Hennepin County, features events tomorrow and Friday with acclaimed author Patricia Hampl.

Hampl, well known for her memoirs, is also the editor with historian Elaine Tyler May of Tell Me True: Memoir, History, and Writing a Life, published by Borealis Books.

Per the website, “Club Book brings acclaimed authors to library communities across the metropolitan area. From Stillwater to Chanhassen and Minnetonka to St. Paul, Club Book establishes area libraries as vital, vibrant centers of cultural programming and exchange. Kicking off in April of 2010, Club Book is slated to last through June of 2011, and hopefully beyond. A collaboration of public libraries in the seven-county metropolitan area, this exciting new series presents best-selling and award-winning national and regional writers – proving that libraries may be the coolest club in town.”

We are pleased to have another Borealis writer, Will Weaver, author of the forthcoming book The Last Hunter, participate in a Club Book event in October.

Kathy Sletto and the West Moe Ladies Aid: Scenes from a Minnesota Book Tour

Friday, July 2nd, 2010


Kathy Sletto at Shepherds Bay Farm/photo copyright Kathryn Sletto

 Today’s post is written by Borealis Books author Kathryn Sletto. You can meet Kathy (and some of her special animals from Shepherds Bay Farm) at the Mill City Farmers Market tomorrow, Saturday, July 3, from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. 



My memoir, Keeping Watch: 30 Sheep, 24 Rabbits, 2 Llamas, 1 Alpaca, and a Shepherdess with a Day Job,was published by Borealis in March. I’ve done a bunch of book signings and readings around Minnesota since Keeping Watch came out. It’s been fun, but I’ve found that the toughest audiences are those close to home.


Last month I was asked to read and speak to the West Moe Ladies Aid. West Moe is a small country church with an aging congregation. Most of the members are over seventy (or eighty or ninety). Many of them are Slettos or Slettos-in-law whose families have attended West Moe since they came from Norway in the late 1800s.


The Ladies Aid meets once a month. They usually quilt, but every May they put on a program for the women of their sister church (East Moe), and they invite the ladies down the road at St. Petri’s, too. The entertainment for this May’s meeting was a piano-playing girl and me. There was a good turnout that night (by West Moe standards), and the hardwood pews were lined with farmers’ wives, farmers’ daughters, but mostly farmers’ widows. At least one of them, a widow in her mid-eighties, still splits her own firewood. It’s a hardworking, no-nonsense group. Most of the women had already read my book, and those who hadn’t didn’t need to. They knew the whole story anyway.


I began by reading briefly from the chapter describing an opportunity I once had to buy a camel. My husband had instantly vetoed the purchase. I could tell that the women in the audience were seething with unspoken comments at that point in the story, but I continued with my presentation.


Before long, one of the women jumped up and said, “You should’ve had that camel.” There was a murmur of assent from the group. Those who aren’t actually blood kin to my husband have known his family for at least three generations. As everyone knows, the transgressions of the Sletto men are many. And the memories of the women are long.


Coffee and bars were consumed, and the discussion continued. The wood-splitting widow said, “Yeah, that camel story reminds me of the time Carrie Sletto wanted to put flowers out behind the house. After she got the ground dug up nice, Theodore went back there and planted potatoes.” They were off and running. “Remember the time Orvin and Cleve took the Hanson girls to a dance in that old Ford coupe?” On and on it went. Most of these events took place during the Dry Years or the Depression—eras that are still fresh in the minds of many.


Kitty and Lamb at Shepherds Bay Farm/Photo copyright Kathryn SlettoWhat began as a simple book reading transformed into an oral history experience that spanned five generations of love and betrayal, ambition and laziness, laughter, angst and tears—each story highlighting one or more of those aggravating peculiarities of the Sletto menfolk. The gathering broke up at dusk because most of the women don’t drive after dark. When it was all over, I think even the piano-playing girl would have agreed: It was an interesting evening, and I should indeed have had that camel.