Spring Writing Marathon Goes West to Holt County
Story by Susan Martens
Who knew Holt County was so cool? Nebraska Writing Project Teacher Consultants Jennifer Troester, Brenda Larabee, Brian Mohr, and Katrina Cooksley-Gotschall did, but they still enjoyed showing their county’s local wonders to visiting "city people" Jeff and Maija Grinvalds, Diana Weis, and Susan Martens. The April 9 Spring Writing Marathon began at the Troester home and included writing stops on a party bus named "Swinkles" and at the Troester farm in O'Neill, as well as at the R.F. Goeke Variety Store and Sturdevant-McKee Museum in downtown Atkinson. Many thanks to our Holt County hosts for a wonderful event!
The next writing marathon will take place in conjunction with the Platte River Writing Retreat on September 10th at Platte River State Park. For more information, check out the event flier at news/2011/Platte_River.pdf
Some of the writing from the day:
Brenda Larabee, writing in the courtyard of the Sturdevant-McKee Museum:
Seeing things—everyday, common things—through fresh, new eyes, makes for a fantastic experience. Hearing the amazed comments of our guests as they share their first impressions of things we have taken for granted. It’s a wonderful thing to share the liveliness and freshness of a place when viewed from a different perspective. It’s that joy of seeing it through fresh eyes that for a time gives me the opportunity to be proud of where I live, and it makes me want to show my students the gems we have right here in our own backyard.
Comments like, “I’d have to look for a long time in Omaha to find something like this,” make me realize just how different our life is here in rural Nebraska as compared to the life lived by our city-dwelling friends. It is a luxury of its own to have the grocery store, post office, gift shop, hardware and lumber supply, and furniture store all within a five block walk of home. Not a luxury we think of without a reminder once in awhile.
We feel exhilaration at entering the fast pace of the city. There is anticipation for days and the thrill of the adventure. What do our city dwelling friends feel as they come to rural Nebraska? Peace, tranquility, or exhilaration at a new adventure?
Writing haikus at RF Goeke Variety Store:
Ice cream, soda, stories
Blended perfectly for joy
Ice cream, soda, smiles
Bring writing friends together
Brian Mohr, writing on the party bus named “Swinkles” in O’Neill:
"There is seriously a mouse in here"
Among other sundry items in his bus:
-petrified party pizza
-a couch made out of a college student’s licentious abode
-a misplaced “grandma couch” that would look better in a quiet parlor of an assisted living facility
-signatures and sayings of those who probably don't remember writing these, yet like all recorded words they stand as testaments to personal and group histories, both proud and noble, ill-conceived and disastrous
-writers who've gathered inside this leviathan who won't wake no matter how much coaxing
-a small map made of puzzle pieces indicating this bus has made many sojourns across the Great Plains
-A sign reading, “Emergency Equipment Inside.” Hopefully, the emergencies have just been party fouls
......yet, still no mouse
Diana Weis, writing on the bus and in the R.F. Goeke Variety Store:
Ode to the Mouse on the Bus
We don't know how you got here,
perhaps you came in a fog as well,
but we are pretty sure you have
found your version of heaven filled
with cushy hideaways, pizza crusts,
and left over monster drinks.
Yes, this is your new nirvana, but
before you lay claim and alert
all your mouseketeer friends to
your new address,
we will reside here a while in
Writer's Fodderville noting the
memorabilia of celebrations past
and listening to the echo of memory
that makes this place what it is:
The cool bus, where laughter still echoes
over the sound of the bottle caps
resting on the floor and where comfortable
travel and easy living reign under the
Soda fountain haiku:
Soda fountain jive
distant memories and time
cherry on top day.
Susan Martens, writing in downtown Atkinson:
“Why would they want to come here?”
Jennifer’s students asked her this question when she told them that a bunch of writers were coming to O’Neill. They are too young to know yet that it doesn’t matter where we go. That it doesn’t really matter where any of us go. Or where we are. What matters is what we do.
Exhibit A: Randy Goeke, co-owner of R.F. Goeke Variety, an old-fashioned dime store in Atkinson, Nebraska. Hidden in the back of the store is an old soda fountain that Randy has lovingly restored to its original glory and which he operates in vintage style. In his white soda jerk hat and crisp apron, he makes me a “Green River,” a classic drink that he says is the true test of a real soda fountain. It comes out frothy and neon green, perfect and beautiful.
I sit and slurp with the other writers who are stubbornly taking up every one of the eight seats at the counter. We are reluctant to leave the chrome-plated 1950s bubble of this local wonder. Randy asks us to sign his guest book. He tells us a story about a young visitor who needed to be coached in how to operate the store’s old school rotary phone. Jeff suggests that we all write soda fountain haikus. I struggle with mine but eventually hand this one to Randy:
Green River goddess
soaks in soda fountain bliss,
lingers in the froth.