Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Jane Schmidt and rural life anecdotes Not a Perfect Fit

Not a Perfect Fit: Stories from Jane's World

Not a Perfect Fit
Jane Schmidt

She Writes Press
April, 2017
Print ISBN: 978-1-63152-206-2
328 pp
Print $16.95
Buy on Amazon

Not a Perfect Fit: Laugh-out-loud funny one minute and thought-provoking the next, Not a Perfect Fit includes stories detailing everything from Jane Schmidt’s experience living off-grid as the only English woman in an Amish neighborhood to family trips that are remarkably similar to National Lampoon’s Vacation. Through it all, Schmidt manages to rise above the many challenges she faces, inspiring and entertaining her audience along the way.

When fitness instructor Jane Schmidt moved from the city to rural Wisconsin, stories of her “single-girl-gone-country” adventures helped her become an award-winning columnist for the Crawford County Independent and Kickapoo Scout—and now she’s taking readers on a candid, insightful, and hilarious trip into her world with her new book release, Not a Perfect Fit: Stories From Jane’s World featuring some of her most beloved escapades as well as over 30 never-before-seen stories.

My Review
I’m always happy to read fellow Wisconsin authors. When asked to look at Schmidt’s compilation of personal stories from her local newspaper columns, I was intrigued and occasionally giggling to see familiar roads and small communities through her eyes. As the author introduces her work, she shares her stories for her family and also for the rest of us who can say, been there, said that. We’re not alone, we aren’t the only ones surprised by life.

From the gradual refitting of her “cabin” with modern conveniences to the outfitting of her domestic zoo, readers are drawn into Schmidt’s exploits with language, snow, fitting rooms, and hiking in the rain. Her stories of neighbors, love of pets, surprise and joy of the beautiful natural surroundings of southwestern Wisconsin and quirky lifestyle will touch readers. Those who enjoy humorous and thoughtful real life vignettes will be in for a fun getaway of a read. Schmidt’s style is reminiscent of the old-time personal columns, such as Pearl Swiggum’s the Barn Came First, and neighborhood news. All seasons, recent timeline and occasional childhood memories populate the book. Poignant stories of pets are included—readers who are sensitive to the life cycle of dear ones will want a hanky. All brief tales old in down to earth occasionally self-deprecating but with genuine, earnest narrative.

About the Author
Jane A. Schmidt
Jane A Schmidt is a columnist and the owner of two businesses, Fitness Choices and Turtle Adventures. When not teaching her fitness classes or encouraging women to get outside, she spends her time backpacking in places like the Grand Canyon, Superior Hiking Trail, and Isle Royale National Park; biking across Wisconsin; hiking and kayaking in the Kickapoo Valley Reserve; or just hanging out with her animal family in rural Viola, Wisconsin.

An Interview with Jane A. Schmidt

When did you make the move from the city to rural Wisconsin? Why?
I moved to the Driftless area of Wisconsin after the hype of the millennium in 2000. I spent a lot of time driving in the country when my daughter was small. I'd see an old cabin or a house that was falling apart and I'd think, if only I could buy that place. My dreams were of land, out-buildings, animals, and a quiet country life. I longed to get out of the city and live closer to the land, where I felt I’d have more room for living.

How did moving to rural Wisconsin impact your life?
The impact was huge. I had to start all over. I had no friends here, no job, and after a couple of months I was living off-grid. The learning curve was not only steep but sometimes dangerous. I cooked with a head-lamp on in order to see. The “hot plate” was connected to a propane tank under my cabin. I lived in fear every time I lit a match. I thought I'd blow myself and the cabin up. Every day I learn something new. Like don't use the John Deere mower to blaze a hiking trail through your Amish neighbor’s hay field. Before moving here I spent all my free time getting away. I'd drive to the parks, small country towns, lakes, and rivers. I was camping out every chance I had. Now I live in the kind of areas I was always running too. I can finally slow down and walk!

What is your favorite part about living in the country? Is there anything you miss about city life?
I lived in apartments before moving to this area. I love the freedom of living alone, surrounded by trees and my animal family. Coming from apartment city living to my own home in the country is liberating. I feel I can live-out-loud better here. I miss ethnic restaurants, my family, and the many lakes I lived near when in the Milwaukee area.

How does your passion for fitness and wellness influence your stories?
My passion for a life lived outside has influenced my interest in fitness and wellness. I knew from the get-go that I needed to stay fit and healthy to live the life I wanted to. My stories revolve around my life. My passion for fitness and wellness is reflected in them.

Why do you think readers connect with your stories?
My stories are real. I talk about everyday happenings that some people would never admit to. Reading about walking through an airport with toilet paper hanging off my rear end or mixing up the words circumcise and circumnavigate allows people to relax and find the humor in their own lives. In the end, we're all just people trying to do the best that we can. Not a Perfect Fit reeks of humanness.

Friday, March 31, 2017

A Life in Waiting by Katryna Benson

A Life in Waiting
Katryna Benson
Nonfiction/Biography/Memoir Surviving Child Abuse in America

Ebook $3.99
Print $9.95
Buy on Amazon

From the back of the book:
I dare not sit – although in the beginning I found opportunities- and I dared not speak. With so much time alone, I had all the time in the world to think. Time to imagine. My mind was developing at its own pace. With little outside influence and learning, paired with being so young, I had no real experiences to give me a basis of normal. I had no foundation for my mind to grow upon. In isolation, my young mind developed as it may have in a more primitive time. Three years that I can remember were taken from me by Maria. Three straight years of being broken down as a person at a time in my life when I should have been flourishing the most. I cannot forget all of it. Believe me, I’ve tried. I wish that I could say I knew there was a chance for a good life waiting for me around some corner. Maybe a fighting chance for the rest of my childhood to be redeemed. Instead, over time, as my emotion and fear drifted away, so did that fleeting hope. I have thought for a long time about the events that happened to me in that house and have come to this conclusion: the memories I do have affect my life so much now in so many ways, I don’t think I could process the memories of moments I can’t remember. "Pain by itself is merely pain, but the experience of pain coupled with the understanding that pain serves a worthy purpose is suffering. Suffering can be endured because there is a reason for it that is worth the effort. What is more worthy of your pain than the evolution of your soul?"

Katryna, tell us the inspiration for writing the story.
   Brandon "Boy" Benson is my husband and the survivor of this horrific story. It pained me every day to see him internally coping by not only reliving these situations he was put in, but also reconciling the idea that his abuser and enablers will never be held accountable. Justice will never be served, there is a statute of limitations that had passed before he even knew his rights. Brandon was not a sharer of his feelings, he was never given any tools to know how to deal with what happened to him. Brandon came to me one day during a difficult time in our life together and he started sharing. He shared in a way that made me see through his eyes, and relive the pain of his memories alongside him. I had to write the book. I had to let people see what I saw, not just for me but for him. I had to let the world see what the reality is for victims of child abuse. 

What's the purpose for sharing this book?

   Some children don't even survive to tell their story, but without the proper help, those who do survive will continue to suffer. My inspiration for writing the story was to help this man who was stuck reliving the memories as a little boy to find closure, healing, find peace within himself. We both hope to shed light on child abuse for the sake of the children suffering today as well as the adults who are dealing with the aftermath of childhood abuse. For most, the physical abuse may stop eventually for one reason or another, but it is never over. All throughout growing up and well into adulthood the mental anguish continues for most. It effects your mood, your mentality, your reactions and plays a part in almost every and any part of your life. For someone who had to endure abuse the thought of trying to bury these feelings is too much to bear, some don't get better. We need to shed as much light as possible for the children and adults suffering today. This book is not only a vehicle for healing, but also a call for action. 

Katryna, what do you hope readers will gain from this story?
   In the exact moment you are reading this on your phone or in the comfort of your home, copious amounts of children are being abused, right now! They need help, they don't have voices. If you see something out of the ordinary, or you have a bad feeling about something going on, don't doubt yourself. Don't be like the witnesses in this book who could have intervened many times over but never did. We can be their voices and we can break the cycle. But most of all, for Brandon "Boy" Benson and the hundreds of thousands of abused children every year who will NEVER receive justice and healing, don't let this all be for nothing. Let this story and so many others be for something. Let it be for advocacy, let it be for justice, let it be for inspiration and change! That will never happen if we don't all do our part to share and get the word out. Awareness is your biggest advocate and complacency is your biggest enabler. Be the change you want to see in the world, don't let all the suffering be for nothing...not today's, not yesterday's, not tomorrow's. Together we can change the ending of another child's story.

About the Author:

This book was truly a joint effort. I may be the author, but the entire story is a narration from the mind of my wonderful husband. Although we both were vagabonds of sorts from other parts of the country, happenstance made us cross paths and now we live in the Milwaukee area and have 5 beautiful children and one lovely cat between the two of us. We are beginning the path to not only getting the word out about the book but advocating loudly for those children without voices. We love to hear from our fans, advocates and other survivors. We befriend each and every one of them so we can build a strong network of advocates. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

New Book Festival coming to Northeast Wisconsin April 28-30

Untitled Town Book and Author Festival
Book Expo

Where: Green Bay area venues
When: April 28-30
Why: to unite readers with authors

Founded by area leaders and activists, UntitledTown exists to unite readers with authors, writers with other writers and publishers, podcasters with philosophers, and every scenario in-between. Over a stretch of three days across downtown Green Bay, April 28-30, people of all ages and abilities will come together to share their stories and celebrate the community’s love of reading at the inaugural UntitledTown Book and Author Festival.

“This Festival will be the first occasion in recent Green Bay history in which thousands of people interested in book culture have been purposefully gathered,” says Alex Galt, co-owner of Kavarna Coffeehouse. “Individuals who may have felt that they lived and worked in isolation will have the opportunity to find one another for the first time.

“What’s most striking about this event is that Northeastern Wisconsin has always had an extremely rich history of storytelling and love of reading. Readers and writers have always found each other in tiny groups and conversations. Our talent and love of the written word has always been here – this is just the first time that an entire weekend has been devoted to celebrating those clusters of book people.”

The Festival will feature a diverse lineup of more than seventy readings, discussions, panels, workshops and other events of interest to writers and readers, including a book expo. Nearly every individual event is free and open to the public.

Confirmed Festival venues include the Brown County Library, Titletown Brewery’s Larsen Room, The Meyer Theatre Backstage, Kavarna Coffeehouse, the KI Center, St. Brendan’s Inn and Old Fort Square, with more to come. A complimentary UntitledTown trolley will be available for attendees to access each venue easily, sponsored by Breakthrough Fuel and Crystal Clear Resources.

Nationally recognized, award-winning authors are scheduled, such as Dan Chaon, Kate Harding, Benjamin Percy, Michael Perry, A.S. King, and Nickolas Butler, as well as local talents such as Miranda Paul, Melissa Gorzelanczyk, Blair Braverman, Dennis Rockhill, Liam Callanan, Emilie Lindemann, Dan Egan and more. Two VIP novelists will also be announced at the press conference.

Support for UntitledTown is made possible by several corporate and non-profit donors, with generous lead sponsorships provided by Breakthrough Fuel and Crystal Clear Resources. Other support include Friends of the Brown County Library, The Kress Foundation, On Broadway, Cellcom, The City of Green Bay, Nicolet National Bank, WPS, The Reader’s Loft, Wisconsin Humanities Council, UWGB Alumni Foundation, and Camera Corner Connecting Point. Sponsorships are still available and can be initiated at UntitledTown.org.


UntitledTown Book and Author Festival will host a public Press Conference Wednesday, March 29th at 9 AM on the main level of the Brown County Central Library.

Two Q&As will also be held, open to the public: the first on March 30th at the Titletown Tap Room at 5:30 pm and the second on April 15th at the Reader’s Loft from 1 pm until 3 pm. The Reader’s Loft Q&A session will award free swag bags filled with books to the first 15 attendees.

For more information, follow UntitledTown Book and Author Festival on:
Twitter @untitledtowngb
Instagram @untitledtown
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/untitledtown/
Or subscribe to their email list on UntitledTown.org

UntitledTown is a Registered 501c3 Organization promoting all aspects of book culture.
To make a donation, get involved or learn more, visit UntitledTown.org

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Prolific Author Janet Halfmann

More with Janet Halfmann...
Learn about her amazing and growing collection on Goodreads

What are you reading now?
I’m reading Newbery Medal winner Holes by Louis Sachar. I’m also reading Bjorn’s Gift, the second book in a middle grade trilogy by fellow Wisconsin author Sandy Brehl about how families were affected by and resisted the German occupation of Norway during World War II.

Lisa: I love Sandy and her work! Bjorn's Gift was just published last October by Crispin Books.

Share some of the books you read last year that you recommend.
One of the most compelling books I read last year was Newberry Honor winner Brown Girl Dreaming, a story in verse of the mesmerizing childhood journey of Jacqueline Woodson to find her place in life.

I also would recommend Odin’s Promise, the first book in Sandy Brehl’s trilogy. Eleven-year-old Mari and her dog Odin are characters you’ll definitely want to follow beyond one book.

I’ve also read many picture books and board books. Some of my favorites are those with wonderfully diverse art illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton.

What’s next for you?
My next book, set to release this year or next, is in a similar vein to Seven Miles to Freedom, and will come out from the same publisher, Lee & Low Books. This time an amazing enslaved woman is featured.

I am currently working on another manuscript about several enslaved people who went on to greatness, and I recently finished two manuscripts for the very young inspired by our newest grandson.

Do you work on more than one project at a time?

I generally work on only one project at a time because to do my best work I need to completely immerse myself in a project. The manuscript takes over my mind and imagination even when I’m not sitting at my desk.

About Janet:
Janet Halfmann is an award-winning children’s author who strives to make her books come alive for young readers and listeners. She has written forty fiction and nonfiction books.

Janet writes picture books about nature and animals. She also writes about little-known people who have accomplished amazing feats, such as Robert Smalls in Seven Miles to Freedom.

Before becoming a children’s author, Janet was a daily newspaper reporter, children’s magazine editor, and a creator of coloring and activity books for Golden Books in Racine, Wisconsin. She is the mother of four and the grandmother of five. When Janet isn’t writing, she enjoys gardening, exploring nature, visit living-history museums, and spending time with her family. She grew up on a farm in Michigan and now lives with her husband in South Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Meet Janet Halfmann Childrens Book Author

Good Night, Little Sea Otter
Star Bright Books

Has just released in board book version: English and English/Spanish
Also available in hardcover and softcover
Softcover is available in 8 languages: Arabic/English, Burmese Karen/English, English, French/English, Hmong/English, Navajo/English, Portuguese/English, Spanish/English
$5.99 paperback
$7.99 board book
Purchase links:

Janet, what do you love about Goodnight, Little Sea Otter?
I love how some kids after listening to the story want their caregivers to wrap them in a seaweed blanket just as Mama sea otter does in the book. And I LOVE, LOVE the art by Wish Williams. When I’m signing books, people will spot the art from across the room and rush over to see it close up.

Lisa: The seaweed blanket is so sweet and the illustrations lush!

Tell us about this book’s character.
Little Sea Otter is pretty much like any young child who wants to put off bedtime as long as possible. I like how curious Little Sea Otter is and how patient his Mama is while still managing to get him to settle down for the night. The ocean with all its wonderful creatures is also a character in this book.

Share two things you learned about yourself, your setting, or the publishing world while writing this book.
I learned how to really focus on making my words capture the feeling of rocking on the ocean waves. I also discovered a lot about the amazing life of a kelp forest.

Lisa: This Grandma is glad to have found a new author to LOVE! 

Animal TeachersAnimal Teachers
Blue Apple Books

Purchase links:

Janet, tell us what do you love about Animal Teachers.
I love the questions at the end of each spread that allow children to relate the animal lesson to their own lives. These questions were a suggested addition to my manuscript by the editor, and I think they add so much to the book. Parents and caregivers tell me they love listening to their child’s answers.

How did you decide on your topic and what do you hope readers will learn?
I decided to write about animal parents teaching their young after noticing many similarities in how this is done between animals and humans. I was fascinated, and I thought kids would be, too. I think kids like to see how animals mirror their own lives.

I hope all my books about nature will help children appreciate the value of all living things

Share two things you learned about yourself, your setting, or the publishing world while writing this book.

I was reminded again about the great suggestions an editor often brings to a project. I also learned a lot of fun information about how young animals grow up.

Lisa: That sounds wonderful. There's a lot to learn no matter how old we are, or what profession we practice.

About Janet:
Janet Halfmann is an award-winning children’s author who strives to make her books come alive for young readers and listeners. She has written forty fiction and nonfiction books.

Janet writes picture books about nature and animals. She also writes about little-known people who have accomplished amazing feats, such as Robert Smalls in Seven Miles to Freedom.

Before becoming a children’s author, Janet was a daily newspaper reporter, children’s magazine editor, and a creator of coloring and activity books for Golden Books in Racine, Wisconsin. She is the mother of four and the grandmother of five. When Janet isn’t writing, she enjoys gardening, exploring nature, visit living-history museums, and spending time with her family. She grew up on a farm in Michigan and now lives with her husband in South Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Free For All Jan 6 at All Writers

Council for Wisconsin Writers Contest OPEN!

   … for work published in 2016 to be entered in the Council for Wisconsin Writers’ annual awards contests. Entries must be postmarked by Jan. 31, 2017.

     Work published by Wisconsin writers in 2016 is eligible in seven categories, including book-length fictionnonfiction and poetryshort fiction and nonfiction; a set of five poems two of which must have been published in the contest year, and children’s literature.

     First-place winners receive $500 and a one-week writer’s residency at Shake Rag Alley in Mineral Point WI. Honorable mention recipients receive $50  and a one-week writer’s residency at the Painted Forest Study Center in Valton WI.

     Entries for this year’s Wisconsin Writers Awards must be postmarked no later than Jan. 31, 2017. Authors who enter must be current Wisconsin residents.

     The entry fee is $25. Membership in CWW is not required, but members are entitled to one free entry. Out-of-state judges will make the selections. Awards will be presented at a May 13, 2017, banquet. The Major Achievement Award for 2016 will also be presented at the May banquet. That award, which includes a prize of $1,000, recognizes a Wisconsin writer for work of extraordinary literary merit.

     CWW also sponsors an Essay Award for Young Writers (1,500 word maximum) for Wisconsin high school students; there is no entry fee. The award is $250 for the winning student. Members of the board will judge. Entries for the student essay contest must be postmarked no later than Jan. 31, 2017.

     Specific guidelines, entry forms, and important additional information for each award category are available in the 2016 Entry Forms section of the website, wiswriters.org/2016-contest-entry-forms.

CWW is a nonprofit organization dedicated to celebrating the accomplishments of published Wisconsin writers and encouraging an appreciation of Wisconsin writing.

For more information about the Council for Wisconsin Writers and its Awards program, please go to www.wiswriters.org, or contact any of CWW’s board members at www.wiswriters.org/about/board-of-directors/