Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Baby wants a new pair of boots, mom!

They cost more than a day's wages for most of us.

Still - if your kid wants them, you'll go in the hole for UGG boots this winter.

Boots are a big deal to a kid.  Trust me. 

I'm old enough to remember the "Kickerenno" boots of the 1950's.  This ground-breaking, earth-shaking style was radical for one reason only.  A girl had to take off her shoes before she put on her boot.

That's right.

Prior to the Kickerenno, we were life-sentenced to galoshes. Those of you too young to remember the boots that slid over your shoes are too young to remember Kennedy and have no business voting against my Social Security benefits.

When the Kickerenno came along, the galoshes were  tacky, tacky, tacky.

I remember begging my mother for a pair.

"Have you lost your mind?" she asked. "If anyone's getting a pair of fifteen dollar boots in this family, it sure isn't going to be the eight-year-old."

So much for child-centered parenting in the 1950's.

My mom would roll over in her grave (if she had one) to see the boots I wear today.

Frye boots.  Yup.  The coolest in town.

Tall, they are.  Beautiful, buttery leather.  And as comfy as the bedroom slippers I slip in to when I take them off.

I'm guilt-free when I wear them.  Why?  Because when my babies were little girls, they always had the best boots money could buy.  UGGs weren't in fashion then.  Sorel boots were the rage. 
Warm, snuggy, ridiculously expensive and the only boots my daughters would wear - I sold my soul every year to make certain they showed up as well dressed as any of their friends.

Those days are gone.

My daughters are both successful, competent, capable women - able to buy their own damn boots.

So, I bought mine.

I have to admit - they are so cool that when I wear them, I'm a little self conscious.

Yup.  I bought the Dorado boots.

But here's the deal - - - I bought them from the Thrift Store where I paid under forty dollars.

How did I luck-out?

I swear, it's Karma.

All those years, buying Sorels, wondering why. . . who would have thought the universe would, in the end, reward me for selfless mothering?

So - - - all you young moms out there - - so it's winter.  So what?  So your kid wants UGGs.  So they're ridiculous.

So shut the hell up and do the right thing.

Trust me - you won't be sorry.

That's right. . . I said it, and it's true.  Like butter.  Butter!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Just when you thought no one was watching. . .

Get over yourself!
I know you've thought about it. You knew last year what you were going to do.  You promised yourself that this year you would not make a damned fool of yourself trick-or-treating throughout the neighborhood with human beings half you size and one decimal your age.

But here you are, sneaking through the costumes at the Halloween Super Store, hoping no one notices the Baby Boomer trying on the Hilary Clinton mask.

It's okay, bunky.  No one will turn you in.

Remember when your mom and dad dressed up as ghouls on October 31st and handed out caramel apples to their favorite little kids?  You weren't embarrassed.  Okay  - maybe that's not a good example.

How about this - remember when your big brother kept carousing for candy, long after his beard came in and his voice changed?  No one made fun of him, did they?

I know - I know.  You're sixty three years old.  And yes, I agree - there is a difference.

But lighten up, toots. 

When all else fails - remember what your mother used to say when you were afraid you were making a fool of yourself.

Don't worry what people think.  Most don't.

Buy it.  Buy the damn Sarah Palin costume!  And have a happy, happy haunting!!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Elementary, my dear Watson

In his latest incarnation, Holmes inhabits the 21st Century

An exhibition is on display in St. Paul - a new PBS program begins this Sunday and Sherlock Holmes, the totally cool Robert Downey Junior film is now available on DVD.

So - what's the deal?

Think about our economy.  Think about our relationship to law and order.  Do you see any similarities with  these early days of the 21st Century and the 19th?

And why this fictional character now?

As you consider the above, think of this as well.  The popularizing of the vampire myths and the elevation of ghouls to glamor.  What do you think?  Is there a relationship between our love of Sherlock and our love of pure schlock?

If you're a Holmes fan, tell us why.  If you're a vampire lover, share your opinions.

Something's happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Write, write, and when you're finished, write some more

Like the fool I am and I'll always be, I once taught a class at the Loft titled, "Free the Horses; Overcoming Writer's Block."

I hate to brag, but I've never been "blocked" as a writer in my life.  So, what the Sam Hill was I was thinking when I offered that damn class?

You can imagine the folks who enrolled.

Okay - now before I go any further, if you are one of the unfortunates who took this class from me, my sincere apologies for what I am about to reveal about your sorry-self.

But come on now - - I mean. . .

There was the earnest, middle aged banker who never had time to write the novel that was screaming to escape his sad, vacant life. He sat beside the young woman so filled with rage over her husband's infidelity that her cramped soul yearned to break loose and slam all men in one glorious sashay through creative non-fiction.

And then there was the one woman in the class who said she couldn't write because she was "afraid."

That's right.


Don't get me wrong.  I gave everyone in the class a wonderful experience.  I was kind to all of my students. There was not then, nor is there now, anything to "fear" when writing for one of my classes. No animals were harmed in the writing of any Loft sponsored essay.

And so I comforted the poor, frightened woman who couldn't bring herself to pick up a pen.
I was a nicer woman in those days.

Today, I'm afraid I'd cut loose on the poor thing.

"What the hell are you afraid of?" I'd scream,  I'd  hate myself in the morning.  But good Lord, get over yourself!  Afraid of writing?  We're talking about a pen, a piece of paper and a great idea.   Nothing malignant, nothing homicidal.

You, however, are not like the poor unfortunate souls who staggered into my Loft class.

You want to write.   You crave it.  When you cannot do it, you become irritable, surly.  You sometimes drink rather than write, but you would rather write than drink.

A pad of paper, squared at the corners, makes your bone marrow ache.  Touching a fountain pen stops your lungs from functioning, and a spiral notebook, new and inviting, is enough to bring you to tears.

You love ink.  You love the way it flows across the page. You thrill at the wondrous ways you write the letter "G."  You wish you could do this all day, every day.  Oh please, God.. . . take not this great love from me.

You, my friend, are the real deal.

So get to it.

Some people love to shop.  Others love to tinker in the garage, organizing their tools, sharpening their lawn-mower blades.

Some people like to fiddle around with water colors or golf until they drop.

You?  You envy Steinbeck. You wish you had written the first book about Rabbit.  You love stories about Salinger and wonder why he never phoned to ask about your literary muse.

So don't tell me you're blocked.

I won't hear it.

I know you.  I know how much satisfaction you get when an editor publishes you; when you're recognized on the street by a reader who says, "I love the way you write."

You love the way you write too.

The year book, the newspaper, the poetry journal; that's you. While the others in the office are playing Sudoku behind the supervisor's back, you're working on your outline, your poem, your short story.

Never stop believing there's room for you.  In our father's house are many mansions. One is prepared for you.

Own it.  Love it.

Write it.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Why I will not run for public office

There are many reasons why I would enjoy a run at the school board, a county commissioner seat or city council. Most days I'm certain I would be a better Governor than Pawlenty, especially concerning decisions affecting the poor, civil rights, the critical separation of church and state and of course, reproductive freedom.

And I've been asked. When I lived in Rice County, the local DFL leadership frequently sought me as a candidate against the notorious John Tuma, anti-choice, pro-gun legislator turned lobbyist .

But I had a real life in those days. I had children to raise, sermons to write, a man who was always in the way. There was no time for political posturing.

Now, my children are grown, my church turned Republican, and my former husband is working on his fourth marriage. My real life disappeared long ago. Even so, I cannot run.

The reasons are simple. After almost sixty years of speaking, writing, working for the poor and advocating for women, I have something my mother warned me to never have.

I have a reputation.

I'm known as an outspoken advocate of the poor; a family-first woman with a wider view of "family" than the average bear. Google my name, if you don't believe me. I'm flattered that some of my essays have been identified as the "best" on the internet and the "most progressive" of printed media.

My name is not at all "household," and yet, I've been called a "dangerous American" by people who have never met me.

Last week, an executive head-hunter phoned. He had a client, he said. A Twin Cities corporation, seeking an experienced writer, editor, copywriter and communications professional. He asked if I was interested.

I was. I am. And so I forwarded my latest work. The headhunter, bless his heart, is a young, young man. He looked at my material and gushed with approval. National Public Radio. Column in the Star Tribune - surely, he said, the client would be interested.

Seriously? Interested in a woman who's name makes a conservative corporate officer turn to salt? I don't think so.

But last week, once again, I nurtured a vague and rather adorable hope. This morning the recruiter called me, baffled. I am, he said, the obvious candidate for this position. Still, the hiring manager asked for a second person - the next on the list. He didn't give a reason, the recruiter said, confused and irritated.

I comforted him. "I don't mind," I said. It's the truth. I don't.

But I don't put myself in front of firing squads either.

That's why I'm not running for office. Momma was right - the only thing a girl has is her reputation. Me? In cahoots with the likes of Klobuchar, Pawlenty and the other hooigans who promise one thing and deliver nothing? Not on your life.

I have a reputation to uphold.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

PAPER DADDY based on truth

What role does a father have in this new, devastated economy? Kristine Holmgren set about to answer that question by writing her new stage play, PAPER DADDY.

When it was complete, PAPER DADDY enjoyed a successful staged reading at THEATRE IN THE ROUND PLAYERS (TRP) on Saturday, September 26, 2009. According to the Executive Director of TRP, the audience was largest stage reading ever hosted at the theatre (more than 120 participants). Within days following, PAPER DADDY is under consideration for production on several stages in Minnesota.

The Northfield Arts Guild will host the premier of Holmgren's first play in the spring of 2012.

What is it about this play that causes an audience to resonate?

The connection is simple; Kristine Holmgren has always been able to tell a good story, and tell it well. In PAPER DADDY, she brings us tells a narrative that exposes the real-life consequences of our current economic downturn. She tags these times, "The Great Recession of the early 21st Century" for good reason; her stage play exposes the human suffering behind our tumbling finances, and the painful, courageous and miriad ways our American families struggle to prevail.

Before Kristine Holmgren became a playwright, she all ready had an audience. Her loyal Minnesota readers have depended upon her for decades to communicate deep empathy and compassion in everything she writes.

Holmgren's commentary through National Public Radio All Things Considered and her editorial commentary column with the Star Tribune never failed to lift the veil on our collective potential and the power to find grace, healing and potential for redemption in our common life.

With PAPER DADDY Holmgren steps outside her comfort zone of political commentary and editorial critique. Through the creation of unforgettable, unique characters, she takes us into the landscape of storytelling and soft satire; a territory where her mastery of the well-told tale is both comfortable and compelling.

PAPER DADDY is a play in two acts set in Northfield, Minnesota. When the play begins, former Carleton College faculty dean Franklin Pomeroy is found dead in the arms of a Minneapolis hooker, leaving the disposition of his cremains to his former, bitter wife Charlie. The ashes are on her kitchen table, and Charlie must organize a slap-dash memorial.

Since her husband’s abandonment, Charlie skirted poverty by renting rooms in her formerly grand Northfield home to colorful strangers - each affected in their own way by the Great Recession of the early 21st Century. Charlie's daughter Sam, is unique among the characters. She is a successful attorney, single, brilliant, sassy and beautiful – and raised to believe men are unnecessary.

A shocking announcement from Sam and a surprise visit from an unexpected mourner shift the play’s center of gravity from bitterness to humor, and Charlie and Sam learn more than they bargained for about marriage, forgiveness and the ties that bind.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Dancing in the Dark

The frame of the story is clear.  The beginning flows like long-learned choreography. An exquisite tango of dialogue and action, tension and comedy, your play moves from scene to scene, driven by imagination and magnificent plot.

Then, like a flash of brilliance on a darkened stage, the great notion vanishes.

Without warning, the generous idea is gone and the writer feels like a naked fool, dancing in the dark.

Nothing exposes a fraud more than a poorly constructed stage play. Flopping in the middle of Act II is punishment, stepping onto the hardwood floor in great tap shoes with no dance step in our repertoire. 

How to avoid pain and failure?  Three things - prepare, proceed and pray.


As with any other form of writing, every good play is first inspired. 

The first blush of art is always a brilliant flash, an insight to an eternal truth.

My best ideas come when I'm swimming.  Half-way through my twenty-minute routine, I feel my new story unfold. 

I feel it; I do.  I don't see it.  Deep in my bone marrow, hard in my stomach, I feel my story begin. 

My main character, damaged (of course) and hopeful; her odd companions eager to help her succeed.  Her children/dependents/pets spot-check the comic relief and her lover emerges at the close to make the story sexy and real.

But inspiration alone will not float a boat.    If I want my story to come alive I have to get out of  the pool and write.

One of my former students once told me her particular reason for her "writer's block."  True, she called herself a writer.  True, she had ideas and inspiration.

Her imagination, she said, was so vivid she couldn't focus on any one concept, story or plot. 

I assured her that an imagination that stifles creativity is all in her imagination.

If she were to give this vivid imagination an opportunity to find shape, she would discover the hard truth; writing is a craft.  It morphs into "art" after years of practice.  In the beginning, like all things, writing good prose is possible for all of us.

Like every other form of writing, a good play is planned. Message emerges from structure.  A strong beginning, a thoughtful and compelling plot line and a satisfying close are the building blocks upon which we construct our art form.  me

I know - I know.  I too wish I could stay in the pool and swim into a completed stage play - draw down the inspiration without effort.  I cannot - and neither can you. 

Our craft is enjoyable work.  It is, nonetheless, work.  Hard work.  That's why they pay us for it when we deliver its product.


Nothing happens when nothing happens.

If you want to write  a stage play, you must write a stage play.

This seems simple.  For many people, however, it is not.  The secret is to do what you need to do.  And actually do it. 

Set a goal for each writing session.  Some of us like to assign a number of words or pages to each experience.  Others set a finite goal of completion; an outline, Act I, a completed scene.

Whatever goal you set, be true to your promise.  Meet your expectations.  Trust me - your first attempt will not be satisfying.  You will rewrite whatever you write.

I am on the fourth rewrite of my current project.  Each time I pick it up, I find flaws.

You too will learn the art of self-critique.  Learning to proceed is the hardest lesson the writer engages.

For over twenty years I lived in a small town full of people who called themselves "writers."  None of them - not a one - published a damn thing.  During that time, I joined several "writer's groups" for feedback on my work.  I found that the majority of the people in groups should have been in therapy.  They were not looking for an artistic community; they were looking for a place to heal from trauma or to hide from trouble.

If you want to hang out with people who want to talk about writing, please feel free to do so.  Writer wanna-bes are a dime-a-dozen.  So are the people who want to affiliate with writers.

If, however, you want to write - then you must pick up your pen and write. But you knew that - didn't you? 


I don't care if you believe or don't believe in a god.  It doesn't matter.  If you don't "pray" as you work, your work will be heartless.

I've read some of the nonsense that passes for theatre today.  Vampires in conversation with werewolf nurses at the pediatrician's office  - - - zombies chatting it up with closeted homosexuals desperately seeking  a vampire bite to get over their addiction to night meanderings. . . all nonsense.

I've been invited to playwright groups where this kind of stuff is read and reviewed.  I kid you not. In the same environment, theatre based on reality was denigrated; the playwrights humiliated for being too "realistic."

Envy, cowardice, naivete and ignorance abound in this business.

Trust me - if you have something to say, the will to say it, and the craft to begin the telling of your story, you will get little support.  If you have a story grounded in reality, you will need the power of your spirit to follow through in the telling. Our world is too superficial, too lazy to honor good, true, honest work. 

If you don't pray, you won't prevail. 

Let your spirit be nourished by the truth that upholds all inspiration and rewards all honesty.  Open yourself to prayer - ask for, seek, receive and celebrate guidance and support from the universe.  You won't be disappointed.

Step into the light

A great writer once wrote, "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness shall not overcome it."  So it is with the story you have to tell.

Drop your pretense.  Forget about the vampires, the demons, the werewolves you once believed were compelling.

Tell us your story.  Live in the frightening light of your own truth.

And fear not.  The dance will go on. 

The darkness shall not overcome it.