Chippewa Valley Book Festival

The 17th annual Chippewa Valley Book Festival starts today, Monday, October 10!  I am embarrassed to admit that, although I am an Eau Claire native, and an English major, and the festival has been in existence for more than half of my lifetime (okay, only by a teeny bit) I was completely unaware of the festival until I started working at the library, which hosts several events each year.

It is a truly amazing lineup of events and a great way to join fellow literature lovers for conversations about books and life.  No need to wear a fancy outfit, have lines of Proust memorized, or even to have read the books being discussed – all that is required is an eagerness to learn about the writing process and author inspiration and/or an appreciation for great storytelling.

The festival celebrates the written word through author readings and book signings, school visits, meals with authors, and includes workshops and programs for writers of all ages. The 2016 festival will feature more than twenty authors at area libraries, schools and other community locations. The festival begins features programs daily through October 20, with evening programs at five area public libraries. Below is a list of events happening here at the library, but check out the website for the program details and full slate of events.

Friday, October 14 | 4 p.m.
Nadine St. Louis Poetry Reading

Saturday, October 15
9:30 a.m. | Curt Meine, author of Aldo Leopold: His Life and Work
10:45 a.m. | Hillary Jordan, author of Mudbound and When She Woke
1 p.m. | Susan Gloss, author of Vintage
2:15 | Weina Dai Randel, author of The Moon in the Palace
3:30 | Lucie Amundsen, author of Locally Laid: How We Built a Plucky Industry-Changing Egg Farm

Monday, October 17 | 7 p.m.
Jon Loomis, author of Mansion of Happiness

Eau Claire Marathon Finish

Eau Claire Marathon

I was at the Eau Claire Marathon on Sunday, but I wasn’t running.

This year’s event drew thousands of runners who participated in the full marathon, half marathon, 5-K, relays where members of a team run part of the distance, and kids’ races.

I’m not, and have never been a runner, but my daughter is, making me a proud parent waiting at the finish line.  The energy and motivation evident at Carson Park and along the route was such fun to see.  I asked my daughter to give me some words to express what running a race means to her.  Together we came up with: focus, motivation, determination, health, being/staying active, and outdoors/nature.  As I looked around me on Sunday, I couldn’t help but think of how good it is that all the energy was channeled into something these athletes find wholesome and invigorating.  Winning isn’t always the goal, but usually a personal best or a “good run” makes the runner happy. Our library has materials that could support your training for next year’s marathon as well. Check them out here.

This year the marathon started and finished at Carson Park, and the route traveled throughout the city, crossing rivers 10 times if my count is correct.  The most memorable for my daughter was the historic High Bridge over the Chippewa River north of downtown Eau Claire that re-opened in July last year.  Says Volume One in its June 26, 2015 edition: “Last summer, the Eau Claire City Council voted unanimously in favor of reimagining the 19th-century railroad bridge which was once traversed by Union Pacific trains but has stood idle for years.”  The High Bridge is now open to bikers, and hikers, and during this year’s marathon, lots of runners. The only down-and-back stretch of the marathon route was on the Wells dirt road near Riverview Park.  We used to live just above (east) of that area and kids would play in the woods. Good memories for my runner.

I know at least one library staff member ran in one of the races this year.  Maybe some of you had family and friends in one of them, and were there to watch as I was.  I hope they did well!


Chippewa Valley Writers Guild

CVWGI have long enjoyed the vibrant literature scene here in the Chippewa Valley.  Now that a new organization is really kicking things up a notch, I have even more to look forward to.  The newly formed Chippewa Valley Writers Guild (CVWG) is the brainchild of the Eau Claire Regional Arts Center and the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire Foundation.  According to their website, CVWR “seeks to support regional writers by serving as an organizing body committed to mentoring writers and writing groups, coordinating events, and providing outreach activities to the community.”  What does that mean?  It means that local writers will have more opportunities to network and practice their craft and that local literature lovers will have more opportunities to experience local writing.  That’s what I call a win-win.

The library has always done its best to support local literature efforts which is why we are excited to be partnering with CVWG to host bestselling author Michael Perry for an event on Saturday, May 7.  We don’t have all the details just yet, but keep an eye out for information in the library’s April newsletter, or get news on the Michael Perry and other upcoming CVWG programs straight from the horse’s mouth by subscribing to the CVWG’s monthly newsletter.

Book Clubs

Book Clubs

Book clubs have been around for quite some time, but surged in popularity when the Oprah Winfrey show began featuring books and authors.  Oprah’s book club was announced on September 17, 1996, with The Deep End of the Ocean by Jacquelyn Mitchard as their first selection.

My book group has been together for at least 15 years, although none of us really are sure.  Like your club (assuming many of you are in one), we started with a couple of women who wanted to read a book, share their ideas and comments, and enjoy an evening out.  Our group has changed over the years, but we remain around 12, give or take one.  I marvel at the insight of these women, and the personality traits each brings to our circle of reading.  We have women who have great organizational skills and keep us on track, both that evening and creating lists of books chosen for the year.  Some are deep thinkers, some are quieter; all comments listened to and valued.  Some of us are more social in nature and suggest going to an author reading or an occasional movie based on a book we have read.  After reading A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, some of us hiked on the Lake Superior Hiking Trail.  After reading Sherman Alexie’s Reservation Blues, we had front row seats when he spoke at UW Eau Claire.  Because we meet in our homes, ours admittedly is a more casual group, friends sharing similar interests in the community as well as the books we read.

My book club members sometimes suggest we read books that are sometimes out of someone’s comfort zone, or of a genre we might not select for ourselves.  Over the years we have read fiction, non-fiction, “rippers” as some of our members call them, young adult books, fantasy, from bestsellers (we have to wait until they are not-so-new for enough copies to be available), a sampling of most everything you can imagine.

The L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library has several book clubs.  There is a Mystery Readers group that meets at the library the 3rd Wednesday morning of each month.  A Young Adult literature group, the Friends Morning Book Group which outgrew the library and now meets at a local church, and the Friends of the Library Evening Book Group.

(FYI: In March my book club is reading Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler)

Open Mics

Eau Claire is a pretty amazing place to live if you are a writer, or if you simply enjoy listening to the spoken word.  Below are just a few opportunities for performing or listening to poetry, short stories, essays, and more:

Writers Read is a monthly library presentation, generally held on the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m., organized by Eau Claire’s Poet Laureate, Bruce Taylor.  Each reading features original poetry and prose written by writers living and working in the Chippewa Valley.  Past guests include B.J. Hollars, John Hildebrand, Jon and Allyson Loomis, and more.  The January 12 event will be an open mic; Area residents are invited to bring their original prose or poetry to read aloud for 5 to 10 minutes.  Registration begins at 6:45 p.m.

The Plus (formerly Pizza Plus) hosts an open mic night each Tuesday evening starting at 9 p.m.  Local songwriters take to the microphone and show their talent.   The Plus is located downtown Eau Claire at 208 S. Barstow Street.

Area residents are invited to bring their original prose or poetry to read aloud for 5 to 10 minutes.  Registration begins at 6:45 p.m.

Volume One hosts “Let’s be honest – A Grown-Up Storytelling Series” in their Local Store gallery.  According to their website, “some of the area’s best writers and yarn-spinners take to the mic for a night of personal stories told live. For each installment, multiple storytellers muse on a common theme, followed by an open mic for the audience.”  Check the Volume One website for upcoming events.

Not quite ready to take the plunge and perform in public?  Try joining one of the local writers groups to share your work in a more intimate setting.  The library’s Writers Group meets the first Thursday of the month from 2-4 p.m. in the Chippewa Room, located in the lower level of the library.

home delivery

Library Home Delivery Service

The library’s Home Delivery program has existed in some form or another since the 1970’s when a group of business women delivered books to shut-ins.

Over the years, the library world has expanded with the popularity of the Internet and other devices available as alternate ways of reading.  Libraries have changed with these times.  We offer more programs and community outreach than ever before.  One thing that hasn’t changed is the fact that most people still love to read or listen to audiobooks, listen to music, and watch movies.  We realize that not everyone can come to the library so we try to bring the library to you.  This is where our Home Delivery Service comes into play.  The L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library delivers library materials to people in their homes, apartments, assisted living facilities and nursing homes.  What began with the first business women’s volunteer project is going strong and has grown to serve almost 200 people who quality for the service.  Due to the program’s popularity, there may be a short wait for newcomers to be put on the program.  Materials are selected for our customers by the Home Delivery coordinator and several other selectors.  They are then delivered every 3 weeks by over 30 volunteers who give of their time to this wonderful service opportunity.

If you, or someone you know, feel you qualify for library Home Delivery service, please contact the Home Delivery office at 715-839-4857 or by e-mail at  Would you like to volunteer to deliver books?  Do the same!

Falling into Fall

Here in Wisconsin, we’re lucky enough to experience all four seasons. If you’re like me, you’ll find that autumn in Wisconsin tends to be especially delightful. With pumpkin patches, apple orchards, and colorful leaves, there is much to do and see during this final season before the cold and snow strikes again. One site that is particularly helpful in tracking down all the beautiful tree plumage throughout the state is the Fall Color Report. This site not only tracks peak folitreesage, it also provides nearby events, activities, dining and lodging.

Going hand-in-hand with falling leaves are falling apples, which Wisconsin has plenty to offer. The Wisconsin Apple Growers Association can locate apple orchards throughout the entire state. Two of my favorite orchards include Ferguson’s Orchards and Autumn Harvest Winery. apples

Although Fall is known as apple season, there are plenty of other later-summer fruits and veggies still being harvested. The Farmer’s Market in Phoenix Park is frequented by many during summer months but continues to run through October with plenty to offer. For those that want a taste of late summer and early Fall in the winter months, the library offers many books on canning and preserving.

Still looking for more things to do this Fall? Check out Volume One’s guide to all things Fall-related. Here are also some more books to help keep you in the Fall mood when you’re not outside raking leaves or sipping hot apple cider.

What’s your favorite way to fall into Fall?

Putting Pen to Paper

Writing is not a talent all of us are fortunate to have. Whether writing fact or fiction, I envy those who can sit down and let the words flow. It was once my belief that if you really have “the gift” writing would just be easy. “Not so“, says my friend, local author Jim Alf. I’ve recently became aware of a new group in the area called Chippewa Valley Local Authors (CVLA). They held their first meeting at the public library on July 7th with 12 local authors attending. The purpose of the organizational meeting was “to discuss the forming of a group of local published authors for the purpose of presenting their works to the public as a group. Specifically advanced was the goal of presenting books at major public events.”

I had to ask Jim some other questions and learned these few words of wisdom:  “Writers write to express themselves, they look for inspiration all around them, and some work best with a deadline.”  Jim concluded that “writing can be an itch waiting to be scratched.”

Yes, those in the CVLA are already published authors looking for a venue for their works, but the deeper picture for me is their love of the written word, and a chance to discover a style of expression and personality of each writer shining through.

Our library and a number of community organizations also offer ways to improve your writing skills and opportunities to meet and greet authors throughout this Fall. Don’t miss the 16th Annual Chippewa Valley Book Festival coming October 12-22. Visit the festival’s website, for more details including the list of authors featured at this year’s festival. This is a wonderful way to meet authors, attend luncheons and workshops, and listen to authors read and talk about their work.

Want to try your hand at writing? Coming soon is a  Writers Workshop to be held at the library on Tuesdays, November 3, 10, 17, & 24 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. You will be encouraged to write your way out of writer’s block, grief, hardship, or boredom. Registration is required. Check out the October library newsletter for more information.

There are also some books I’d recommend you to take a look at when you’re next visiting the library. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg is an older book that was recommended to me recently. You might also want to try How to Write Great Dialogue in Fiction by Irving Weinman. Other books on writing in the 808 call number section in our non-fiction stacks would be a great place to browse as well.

You might soon discover that it’s your turn to let your creativity shine through pen and paper, or word processor!



Get Your Art On!

Cirlcle of Friends

“Circle of Friends” by Karen Crain

According to the calendar, summer starts June 21. I’ve come to define summer as the first Saturday I can do two of my favorite downtown activities: shop at the Phoenix Park farmer’s market and stroll through downtown to view the Eau Claire Sculpture Tour.

Although my artistic skills are limited to drawing barely recognizable stick figures, I have always appreciated art. All kinds of art from floral photographs to stirring abstracts. Luckily for me, Eau Claire has a bunch of public galleries to see new work by regional artists as well as a few traveling exhibits. The Janet Carson Gallery at the Eau Claire Regional Arts Center and the Foster Gallery at the UWEC campus are probably the two most well-known local galleries.   Did you know the Local Store, Tangled Up in Hue and yes, even the library also display work by regional artists?

City in White

“City in White” by Mark Horton

Many local businesses also display a permanent collection of 2D and 3D art in their buildings. One of the first public outdoor sculptures was installed at the library in 1971. The library now has over a dozen drawings, paintings and sculptures, including two Eau Claire Sculpture Tour sculptures funded by generous donations raised in the community.

Recently, the library received a donation of a new painting. Originally part of a private collection, “City in White” by Mark Horton is a serene oil painting of a bustling urban cityscape. The painting now hangs in a second floor seating area near the DVD collection. Be sure to check it out on your next visit to the library!

What about you…what are your favorite public art spaces in Eau Claire? Do you have any favorite sculptures, or want to know more about one of our local sculptures? Let us know in the comments section below.


Get On Your Bike, Mate!

bicyclingMay is just about my favorite month of the year. The cold of a Wisconsin winter can seem like a distant memory and summer’s heat and humidity…at least on a daily basis…is still a few weeks away. Also, it just so happens that May is National Bike Month, which celebrates one of my favorite activities. Last summer, I joined a team of library staff and friends in the National Bike Challenge, which is a great (and free) way to log your miles and challenge yourself. I managed a bit over 600 miles, more than half of that on a three-wheel recumbent bike. I hope to better that number this summer.

I bike to work as often as I can, but when I’m not working and the weather cooperates, I’ll be out on one of the many bike trails the Chippewa Valley is becoming known for. The section of the Chippewa River State Trail between Caryville and Dunnville is especially scenic and, from there, taking the Red Cedar State Trail to Menomonie as it follows the Red Cedar River, is a treat for the senses. If getting off improved trails and getting a little dirty when you ride is more your thing, check out a recent article from VolumeOne magazine on “7 Great Mountain Bike Trails.” Want to get a little further out of town? Biking Wisconsin : 50 Great Road and Trail Rides by Steven Johnson is a book in the library’s collection which I highly recommend. Or just head north, to CAMBA, the Chequamagon Area Mountain Bike Association trails near Hayward and Cable, Wisconsin.

It’s May…the ice and snow are finally gone…now get on your bike, mate!