Thursday, January 29, 2009

"Trip to the Heartland" by Judith Dupree, Part 1

Judith Deem Dupree

South Dakota . . . the prairies stretch to infinity, disappearing in a far blur of dust. We ride the ribbon of asphalt without talking. There is something quieting about this land; perhaps it is a respite that we are experiencing – a letting go of expectation.

Always, in our long drive, I have watched the fields and hills appear, fill our windshield, and disappear behind us. I wait for each variance as it comes. A curve of furrow, a sudden rise and plummet of earth, the jagged rip of a seasonal stream gone dry, a long claw of erosion. The way a stand of trees braces the skyline. Farms hedged in against the whine of wind, their encircling trees ever bowed, even in the now-still air. These are the pictures that race across my field of vision . . . a kaleidoscope of earth-tones that draw me on.

And now I let the landscape carry me past, unheeding – not from boredom, but, as I say, with a sense of rest. The very flatness and sameness so often despaired of seems more a gift than a frustration. Like life, I guess. We are so often engrossed and compelled by the ups and downs -- the dramatic, the traumatic, the demanding, startling, or stimulating. It is sameness that we really live in, that we come back to from whatever highs and lows life shoves us through – or which we plunge into willingly. Dailyness. This earthscape is like our dailyness. It rests me.

We are watching for a name on the map; we've made a detour from our pilgrimage to Mt. Rushmore to find this "dot" on the matrix of wavy lines.

Dupree, SD – My husband's surname. It has intrigued him for years that this small settlement on the edge of "nowhere" bears his name. When he first suggested we go to Rushmore on our trip, I knew, right away. It was the pull back to tenuous roots that really drew him, not the famous faces. The unknown, the "nobodies" like him who perched atop this stubborn soil so long ago and left little but this family name behind – that was the pull.

This much I know, from reading: The land was once ruled by France, then Spain, and is replete with tales of explorers, fur traders, and gold miners. And it is soaked in the blood of the Sioux, who lived along the adjacent Cheyenne River. Many of the current residents on this reservation we skim through are descendants of these early settlers A bit further south, or west, are names that echo – like the funereal toll of a bell – through our national history: Little Big Horn . . . Wounded Knee . . . Custer.

And so we draw near, and take notice once again of what this land says about itself.

It grows "kinder" now – less barren, more "peopled," both past and present. Remnants of ancient outbuildings and blank-eyed houses sag beneath the relentless sky. Farm yards, some choked with the machinery of the seasons, abut the occasional dirt roads – clusters of trees and hulking shapes that rush into focus and instantly become someone's life story. I want to stop at each and beg a cup of coffee and find the shape of their history here.

(Part Two will be published next week)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Opportunity: Writers Symposium by the Sea

This year's Writers Symposium by the Sea promises to be a real treat. Taking place on the gorgeous campus of Point Loma Nazarene University on February 2-6, 2009, this year's theme is "Writing Beyond Boundaries." Some of the speakers scheduled are Christopher Buckley, Brian McLaren, and Luis Alberto Urrea. You may read more information and make reservations by clicking here: Writers Symposium by the Sea. The reservations are very reasonably priced at $15 each, so attendees can pick and choose whom they would like to see.

From the Writers Symposium by the Sea web page: "There are lines surrounding each of us -- lines that demark life and death, hope and despair, spiritual and material, old ways of thinking and new ways of thinking. The writers in this year's Symposium make us consider what lies beyond those borders. And if we can think differently about them, maybe we can live differently, too."

Dr. Dean Nelson, who will be facilitating our all-day Writers' Workshop later in February (see next post below), is the man behind the Writers Symposium and specifically asked us to put out the word. Judith and I have attended symposiums in the past, seeing such writers as Donald Miller, Anne Lamott, Kathleen Norris, Calvin Miller, and Frederica Mathewes-Green. The writers are Christians for the most part, but they are truly writers of excellence from whom we can all learn, no matter our beliefs.

If anyone hears of other opportunities for our writers, please let me know and I'm happy to post them here.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Calling All Writers!

We have a real treat for all Mountain Empire writers and those interested in learning more about the craft of writing. Dean Nelson, Director of the Journalism Program at Point Loma Nazarene University, will make the trek up the hill to lead us through a special writing workshop. You can read more about Dean and his work by clicking right here.

Date: Saturday, February 21, 2009
Time: 9:00 AM to approximately 5:00 PM
Place: Pine Valley Bible Conference Center
Cost: $40, including lunch. (A limited number of scholarships are available if cost is prohibitive)

Both Judith Dupree and Susanne Barrett of MECAC have known Dean for years and promise that he will lead a wonderful workshop, helping us to learn a great deal about the art of storytelling and the craft of writing. And his dry wit makes Dean a great deal of fun to listen to as well.

If you have even a smidge of an interest in writing, this workshop is for YOU! And don't feel as though you must be a "writer" in order to come; beginning writers are welcome, even encouraged, to attend.

So please make reservations with Susanne at or by calling her at 473-0085. Space is limited, so make reservations soon!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Welcome Mountain Empire Writers!

As I thought more and more about our local writers, it seemed only fitting to create a blog for writers' workshop, separate from the MECAC blog. We're still part of the Mountain Empire Creative Arts Council, but we writers like to post our work and we didn't want to "muddy up" the already-established MECAC site.

So here we are.

If you have a *short* excerpt from a novel or story, a *short* essay or portion thereof, a poem, etc., that you would like to post here, please e-mail me at

We have some wonderful adventures coming up in February, so please come join us at our next monthly meeting:

Tuesday, January 13 at 7:00 PM
Pine Valley Library Community Room

Beginners and those just interested in learning more about writing are welcome to attend as well as writers who are more seasoned and are in search of venues for publication. Come one, come all!

Welcome to our brand-spankin'-new blog!