Monday, December 15, 2008

Article on Holiday Author Fair

John A. Beineke, author of the IHS Press youth biography Going over all the Hurdles: A Life of Oatess Archey, was one of the approximately 90 Hoosier writers who participated in the sixth annual Indiana Historical Society Holiday Author Fair, which was held on Saturday, December 6, at the Indiana History Center in Indianapolis.

Following his time at the Author Fair, Beineke wrote an article on the event that was published in the Indianapolis Star on Friday, December 12. Here is his article:

There were other things to do last Saturday afternoon. Basketball games to watch, holiday shopping at the malls, or even just staying home out of the cold. And there was also that so-called "light" snow that made roads tricky, even hazardous.

But hundreds of readers found dozens of writers at the Indiana Historical Society's sixth annual Holiday Author Fair. The Indiana History Center on West Ohio Street hosted 90 Indiana authors who sat behind tables with their works piled in neat stacks in front of them. Children and adults roamed from table to table to peruse the books and chat with the authors.

Topics and themes of the books included art, fiction, mystery, humor, sports and travel. Biography was a popular subject. Ball State University professor of film Wes Gehring had his new biography of Red Skelton available in a bright yellow dust jacket, and the fourth edition of Nelson Price's "Indiana Legends," with biographical sketches from Lombard to Letterman and Riley to Robertson, demonstrated that there is no shortage of famous Hoosiers.

Talented Indiana Historical Society Press editor Ray Boomhower was there with his new book on the 1968 Indiana primary campaign of Robert Kennedy. Sitting behind another table, dressed in a 60-year-old Army captain's uniform, was a youthful Rick Barry, author of "Gunner's Run" a World War II thriller.

Sitting next to me was one of the more popular authors that afternoon, 89-year-old Francis DeBra Brown. "An Army in Skirts" is her splendid memoir of life in the Women's Army Corps in World War II. This book makes a good companion to James Madison's "Slinging Doughnuts for the Boys," the story of Mishawaka Red Cross volunteer Elizabeth Richardson's service in wartime England and France.

We are told that book companies are having a hard time of it and that kids and adults just don't read that much anymore. Video games, DVDs, the Internet, and HD television keep most people occupied. That is no doubt happening.

But it also needs to be reported that for a good number of Hoosiers the reading of books is still alive and well. Many individuals, young and old, left the Indiana History Center on Saturday afternoon with a bag full of books by Hoosier authors.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Dunn Award Winner Announced

Ann Allen is the winner of the Indiana Historical Society’s annual Jacob Piatt Dunn Jr. Award for the best article to appear in Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History for 2008. Allen, pictured at right receiving her award from James H. Madison, IHS trustee, won for her article, “Reece Oliver: Indiana’s Shadow Hero,” which appeared in the summer 2008 issue of Traces.

Named for the noted Indiana historian and author, the $500 award honors the article that in the opinion of the Traces editorial board and staff best serves the magazine’s mission. This mission involves presenting thoughtful, research-based articles on Indiana history in an attractive format to a broad audience of readers.

Former editor of the Akron/Mentone News, Allen has written about Akron, Indiana, and its residents for nearly fifty years, including her time as a correspondent for the Rochester Sentinel. She has written four books set in Akron. Allen is a past president of the Woman’s Press Club of Indiana.

Dunn, who helped revitalize the Society in the 1880s, produced such standard works as the two-volume Greater Indianapolis (1910) and his five-volume Indiana and Indianans (1919). In his remarkable career, Dunn also worked on a variety of Indianapolis newspapers, campaigned to establish free public libraries, endeavored to preserve the language of the Miami Indians, and prospected for minerals in Haiti.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Annual Holiday Author Fair December 6

Holiday shopping for an array of family, loved ones, and new friends can be a daunting task, but the Indiana Historical Society offers a personalized, one-stop shopping opportunity for book lovers and gift givers alike this holiday season at the sixth annual Holiday Author Fair, taking place from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, December 6, at the Indiana History Center, located at 450 W. Ohio St. in downtown Indianapolis.

The Holiday Author Fair is the largest book signing gathering for Indiana-related material, featuring more than 90 Hoosier authors. Books include works of fiction, non-fiction, cookbooks, photography, history, children’s books and more. Visitors can converse with authors, have books signed, and enjoy refreshments and live entertainment.

New this year will be a special area for children (complete with a craft table and the children’s book authors) on the Eli Lilly Hall mezzanine and readings/presentations in the Frank and Katrina Basile Theater. Six author presentations will also take place in the Frank and Katrina Basile Theater. Featured authors include Harold Holzer, Philip Gulley, James Alexander Thom, Norbert Krapf, James H. Madison, and Lou Harry.

IHS Press authors participating in the event include M. Teresa Baer and Geneil Breeze, William Bartelt, John Beineke, Ray E. Boomhower, Frances DeBra Brown, Fred Cavinder, Earl Conn, Daniel H. FitzGibbon, Alan Garinger, Wes D. Gehring, Ralph D. Gray, Glory-June Greiff, Mary Blair Immel, Max Knight, Norbert Krapf, Cinnamon Caitlin-Legutko, Jim McGarrah, Geoff Paddock, Ashley Ransburg, Susan Sutton, and Julie Young

Some of the authors will give talks during the day. The schedule of talks are as follows:

* 12:30 p.m. Harold Holzer, "Lincoln President-Elect: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter, 1860-1861."

* 1 p.m. Bill Harley, "Toads, Pirates, and Other Creatures!"

* 1:30 p.m. Norbert Krapf, Selections from Bloodroot: Indiana Poems and The Ripest Moments: A Southern Indiana Childhood.

* 2 p.m. Todd Tucker, "Notre Dame vs. the Klan vs. IUPUI: Anatomy of a Free Speech Controversy."

* 2:30 p.m. Tasha Jones, Selections from Hello Beautiful: A Memoir.

* 3 p.m. Susan Sutton, "The Bass Photo Company Collections: A Family Album for the City."

There is no admission charge for this event, and free parking is available in the Indiana History Center’s surface lot (corner of New York and West Streets). The Basile History Market will also offer complimentary gift wrapping on books and other purchases, such as music, Indiana-made household products, jewelry, original art, handmade textiles, children’s merchandise, reproductions from the IHS collection, and more.

The Holiday Author Fair is sponsored by Verizon and Indy Reads. For more details on these and other Indiana Historical Society offerings, call the IHS at (317) 232-1882 or toll-free at (800) 447-1830.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Interview with Skelton Biographer

Wes D. Gehring, professor of Film at Ball State University, is the author of twenty-eight books, many of which examine the lives of Hollywood legends. During his career, Gehring has written about the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, Joe E. Brown, Carole Lombard, W. C. Fields, and Charlie Chaplin.

Gehring's latest book is a biography of Hoosier comedian Red Skelton, Red Skelton: The Mask behind the Mask, recently released by the IHS Press. Here, he talks about the book and Skelton:

You’ve written about a number of famous film comedians, why did you select Red Skelton?

I am a big fan. And when Ball State University gave him an honorary doctorate, I was selected to give the keynote address. He liked it and we got together when he would play Ball State. Though I had written an earlier biography of Red, the wealth of new onformation in recently released private papers attracted me yet again to the comedian.

Was there something about Skelton that surprised you when you were researching your subject?

I was shocked by what I discovered about the true dysfunctional nature of his childhood family--and the elaborate fantasy background he created as a cover.

What was it about Skelton’s comedy that made him such a hit with fans?

Though his comic gift was huge, especially his poignant mime, his enthusiasm to please could sell even the most corny of gags. He was an oh-so-talented favorite uncle.

Does Skelton get the respect he deserves as a comedian?

Sadly, he does not. But part of it was because he always refused to make his television show available for syndication. His TV comedy legacy is as important as Lucille Ball and Jackie Gleason but while their reruns have been on non-stop since the 1950s, the under 40 crowd do not know Red.

What are you working on now?

I have a comic novel coming out in late November (The James Dean Murder Mystery), and a novelized Skelton memior set to appear in early 2009. I am currently researching a biography of Robert Wise, and writing a book about film comedians of the 1940s.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Norbert Krapf on You Tube

Indiana Poet Laureate and IHS Press author Norbert Krapf is featured in two interviews now available on You Tube. The interviews are:

* The WTIU program "Weekly Special."

* The Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library's program "Between the Lines."

Krapf, the author of the memoir The Ripest Moments: A Southern Indiana Childhood, released in 2008 by the IHS Press, received his bachelor’s degree from Saint Joseph’s College. He took his master’s degree and doctorate in English from the University of Notre Dame and taught English at the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University for thirty-four years.

His seven poetry collections, in which his Indiana German heritage is central, include Somewhere in Southern Indiana, The Country I Come From, nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and the retrospective collection Bloodroot: Indiana Poems, recently released by Indiana University Press.

Friday, November 07, 2008

IHS Press Titles Win Awards

The IHS Press won two honors at the 57th annual Chicago Book Clinic’s Book and Media Show Thursday, November 7, in Chicago.

The Press won the show's top honor--the Crystal Book Award of Excellence--in the General Trade Nonfiction with one-color and two-color internals for its publication Meredith Nicholson: A Writing Life. Also, the Press won an Honorable Mention in the Special Trade Pictorial category for Indianapolis: The Bass Photo Company Collection.

The Book and Media Show received more than 150 entries from publishers across the country. Founded in 1936, the Chicago Book Clinic encourages excellence in publishing by providing a platform for educational, social, and professional interaction of its members—professionals in book and media publishing, printing, editorial, design, and all business aspects of the publishing industry.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Red Skelton Biography Available

For twenty years, Hoosier comic Red Skelton entertained millions of viewers who gathered around their television sets to delight in the antics of such notable characters as Freddie the Freeloader, Clem Kaddiddlehopper, Cauliflower McPugg, and Sheriff Deadeye. Noted film historian Wes D. Gehring examines the man behind the characters--someone who never let the facts get in the way of a good story--in the new IHS Press biography Red Skelton: The Mask behind the Mask.

Gehring delves into Skelton's hardscrabble life with a shockingly dysfunctional family in the southern Indiana community of Vincennes, his days on the road on the vaudeville circuit, the comedian's early success on radio, his up-and-down movie career with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and his sometimes tragic personal life.

Gehring is a professor of film at Ball State University. The award-winning author of twenty-eight books, Gehring has written biographies of such screen legends as Charlie Chaplin, W.C. Fields, the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, Irene Dunne, Carole Lombard, and James Dean.

Red Skelton: The Mask behind the Mask costs $19.95 in hardback and is available from the Society's Basile History Market. To order, call (800) 447-1830 or order online at the History Market.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

New Children's Book Released by IHS Press

Orphaned at age thirteen, pioneer Joshua Sims joins a survey crew helping to build the Michigan Road in order to pay for his family's northern Indiana homestead. When the surveyors' ink supply is accidentally lost in the Tippecanoe River, Sims is ordered to travel alone to Detroit, Michigan, to obtain more.

In Alone: The Journey of the Boy Sims, a historical novel for children and young adults, author Alan K. Garinger imaginatively retells the story of the boy known in the survey crew's official journal only as "the boy Sims."

Traveling by foot, boat, and horseback, Sims meets runaway slaves, Native Americans, canal builders, and other frontier figures as he journeys to Fort Wayne, across Lake Erie, and along the Sauk Trail in Michigan. Sims's encounters force him to re-evaluate his beliefs about the people in the rapidly changing land he now calls home.

A past recipient of the Indiana Outstanding Young Educator and Indiana Outstanding Community Educator awards, Garinger is also the author of the Jeremiah Stokely series. His novel Torch in the Darkness: The Tale of a Boy Artist in the Renaissance, published in 2000 by Guild Press of Indiana, was a Young Hoosier Reader Award nominee.

Alone: The Journey of the Boy Sims costs $15.95 for hardback and $7.95 for paperback and is available from the Society's Basile History Market. To order, call (800) 447-1830 or order online at the History Market.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Book Highlights Indiana Political Heroes

Politics has always played an important role in Indiana, and the state itself at one time furnished candidates for national office for an assortment of American political parties. From 1840, when Whig William Henry Harrison captured the White House with his “Tippecanoe and Tyler too” campaign, to 1940, when Wendell Willkie won the Republican presidential nomination and challenged incumbent President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s try for a third term in office, approximately 60 percent of the elections had Hoosiers on a party’s national ticket.

Seeking political office became so ingrained into the state’s character that noted humorist and journalist George Ade once joked—playing off General William Tecumseh Sherman’s famous quote—that the first words of every Hoosier child upon birth were: “If nominated I will run, if elected I will serve.”

Geoff Paddock’s Indiana Political Heroes takes a contemporary look at those who serve in public office as it includes essays on eight Hoosier politicians that have made a difference in Indiana and in the nation’s capital as well. Paddock profiles such distinguished Democratic and Republican lawmakers as Birch Bayh, John Brademas, Richard Hatcher, Vance Hartke, William Hudnut, Richard Ristine, J. Edward Roush, and William Ruckelshaus. In these essays readers will learn about national educational reform, opposition to the Vietnam War, the Watergate scandal, the U.S. Supreme Court, and the growth of Indianapolis into a nationally respected community.

Paddock serves as the executive director of the Headwaters Flood Control and Park Project in Fort Wayne and is past president of the Fort Wayne Community Schools board of trustees. He is a frequent contributor to the Indiana Historical Society popular history magazine Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History and is the author of Headwaters Park: Fort Wayne’s Lasting Legacy (Arcadia Publishing, 2002).

Indiana Political Heroes costs $12.95 and is available from the Society's Basile History Market. To order, call (800) 447-1830 or order online at the History Market.

Monday, July 21, 2008

IHS Press Youth Biographies Nominated for Indiana Best Books Competition

Two publications in the IHS Press's Youth Biography Series--A Belief in Providence: A Life of Saint Theodora Guérin by Julie Young and Fighting for Equality: A Life of May Wright Sewall by Ray E. Boomhower--are finalists in the Indiana Center for the Book's 2008 Best Books of Indiana competition.

Joining the IHS Press books as a finalist in the Children's/Young Adult category is When I Crossed No-Bob, written by Margaret McMullan and published by Houghton Mifflin.

This competition began in 2005 to highlight Indiana's ongoing literary successes. Books by Indiana authors or about Indiana, published between January 1 and December 31 of the previous year, are eligible. Categories include fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and children/young adult. A complete list of the finalists is available on the Center's web site.

The winners of the competition will be announced in a ceremony at 1 p.m. on Saturday, August 16, at the Indiana State Library in Indianapolis.

Interview with Lincoln Author

William E. "Bill" Bartelt is a retired educator who, for more than fifteen summers, worked as a ranger and historian at the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial. Here he answers questions about his new book "There I grew up": Remembering Abraham Lincoln's Indiana Youth.

What was the main reason you decided to do this book on Abraham Lincoln’s Indiana years?

It is part of the Lincoln story that is not well known. When I worked as a ranger at Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial I learned few visitors understood that Lincoln spent almost a quarter of his life in Indiana. Even those who are aware of Lincoln’s time in the state have no real understanding of the land and the people of his Spencer County neighborhood.

I decided I would let Lincoln, his family, and his neighbors tell the story. I saw my purpose as providing the context for what Lincoln and others remembered about his life from age 7 to 21.

How important was Lincoln’s time in Indiana in shaping his character for his life to come?

I think we can all agree that much of our character is developed early in our lives and the period from age 7 to 21 is extremely important. The same can be said for Lincoln.

It is difficult to say with certainty exactly how those Indiana years formed his character, but it is obvious that experiences in Indiana helped develop traits we associate with the mature man. These traits include his ability to think for himself and trust his opinions, his ambition, his sensitivity and compassion, the ability to craft words to entertain and influence others, his curiosity, and his desire to learn from books and the people he met. Certainly the deaths of his mother and sister taught him at an early age that bad things happen and those things cannot be changed.

Did you discover anything new about Lincoln in doing your research?

I learned much more about the people living in his neighborhood. Using census records, land records, and family histories I was able to develop a greater understanding of the people he associated with on a daily basis. Many biographers fail to tell the story of the Little Pigeon Creek Community and portray the Lincoln family living in the woods far from other people. That was not the case. Lincoln and his family had neighbors to share the work, joys, hardships, and daily events of the area.

The most exciting discovery for me occurred while examining neighborhood land records in the National Archives. I unfolded a bundle of documents that probably had not been viewed for 150 years or more. There I found the record documenting that Thomas Lincoln had a claim on a quarter section of land adjoining his farm. He disposed of the claim after two years and the importance may be insignificant, but to discover something no one else knew was exciting. Adding to the thrill was seeing Thomas Lincoln’s signature and the signature of the local Justice of the Peace—one of Lincoln’s Indiana teachers.

You worked many years at the Lincoln Boyhood Home. What is your favorite story from your time there?

I have many fond memories of my summers at Lincoln Boyhood. I think I learned more about what history really is during that time than from any college class. There is a real difference between examining the big picture in a class and interpreting the story at a specific historic site.

One event that I remember with amusement occurred one afternoon as I worked the information desk. A small boy walked up to me and hesitantly offered an unexpected statement, “I have a friend who doesn’t believe in Abraham Lincoln.” I assured the boy that Lincoln had indeed been a real person and lived at this site when he was the boy’s age. That encounter has forced me to present Abraham Lincoln as a real human and not as some sort of mythical figure.

What are some of the things Indiana is doing to celebrate the Lincoln bicentennial?

The mission of the Indiana Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission is to educate residents of Indiana and the nation about Indiana's important role in the life of Abraham Lincoln. This is being accomplished by conducting conferences, erecting historical markers, constructing a Lincoln Bicentennial Plaza in Lincoln State Park, working with local communities to observe the celebration, erecting “Welcome to Indiana, Lincoln’s Boyhood home” signs on highways, and making a Lincoln’s Boyhood Home license plate available. Much of the work of the commission is focusing on education and assisting the schools of Indiana to observe the event in a meaningful manner.

I encourage everyone to go to the Web site for a more complete answer to this question.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Lincoln's Legacy Explored in New IHS Press Book

In 1859 Abraham Lincoln covered his Indiana years in one paragraph and two sentences of a written autobiographical statement that included the following: “We reached our new home about the time the State came into the union. It was a wild region, with many bears and other wild animals in the woods. There I grew up.”

William E. Bartelt's new book “There I Grew Up”: Remembering Abraham Lincoln’s Indiana Youth uses annotation and primary source material to tell the history of Lincoln’s Indiana years by those who were there. Bartelt begins with Lincoln’s own words written in two short autobiographical sketches in 1859 and 1860, and in the poetry Lincoln wrote following a campaign trip to Indiana in 1844. In 1865 Lincoln’s law partner, William H. Herndon, began interviewing Lincoln’s family and those who knew Lincoln in Indiana. Bartelt examines Herndon’s interviews with Lincoln’s stepmother Sally Bush Johnston Lincoln, cousin Dennis Hanks, stepsister Matilda Johnston Moore, neighbors Nathaniel Grigsby, Elizabeth Crawford, and David Turnham, and others who knew Lincoln in Indiana. Also included in the volume are excerpts from Lincoln biographies by William Herndon, Ida Tarbell, Albert Beveridge, and Louis Warren, in which Bartelt analyzes to what extent these authors researched Lincoln’s Indiana period.

The book also reveals, through the words of those who knew him, Abraham Lincoln’s humor, compassion, oratorical skills, and thirst for knowledge, and it provides an overview of Lincoln’s Indiana experiences, his family, the community where the Lincolns settled, and southern Indiana during the years 1816 to 1830.

Bartelt is a retired educator who, for more than fifteen summers, was employed as a ranger and historian at the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial. He is a member of the Federal Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission's Advisory and Education Committees and serves as vice chair of the Indiana Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.

“There I Grew Up”: Remembering Abraham Lincoln’s Indiana Youthcosts $27.95 and is available from the Society's Basile History Market. To order, call (800) 447-1830 or order online at the History Market.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

IHS Press Examines an Army in Skirts

More than 150,000 women served in the Women's Army Corps (WAC) in World War II. Although the majority of WACs were assigned to duties in the United States, several thousand received overseas assignments.

One of these women was Frances DeBra Brown from Danville, Indiana, who worked as a draftsman at American headquarters in London and Paris. An Army in Skirts: The World War II Letters of Frances DeBra, recently released by the IHS Press, contains the letters that Frances wrote to her family and letters from family and friends to Frances. The letters vividly detail her World War II service, beginning with basic training at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia.

After an assignment at an army air field in Marianna, Florida, where DeBra worked on the post newsletter, she was shipped overseas on the RMS Queen Mary. While in London she worked through buzz bomb and V-2 rocket attacks, slept in shelters fully clothed, and made the acquaintance of a young English woman and her family. Arriving in Paris two weeks after the city’s liberation, Frances witnessed the city’s devastation and the effects of war on the populace. During her stay in Paris she attended classes at the École des Beaux-Arts and received a marriage proposal.

Frances DeBra Brown, a teacher, artist, and art conservator, lives in Yazoo City, Mississippi. A prize-winning miniature artist, her work was accepted by the Royal Society of Miniature Painters, Sculptors, and Gravers for its art show at The Mall Galleries, The Mall, London, England. She is a member of the American Institute for Conservation and the International Institute for Conservation and has cleaned and repaired hundreds of paintings and has done conservation work for the Mississippi State Capitol, the Hall of Governors, and the Old Capitol of Mississippi Museum.

An Army in Skirts costs $27.95 and is available from the Society's Basile History Market. To order, call (800) 447-1830 or order online at the History Market.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Press Author Named Indiana Poet Laureate

Norbert Krapf, author of the IHS Press book The Ripest Moments: A Southern Indiana Childhood, has been named Indiana Poet Laureate by the Indiana Arts Commission. Krapf discusses his appointment on his web site.

According to the IAC, former State Treasurer Joyce Brinkman was named Indiana's first official Poet Laureate by House Resolution in 2002. After researching other states Poet Laureate selection process and duties, the Indiana Arts Commission, Ms. Brinkman, and Senator Theresa Lubbers developed Senate Bill 433, which formalized the Poet Laureate for Indiana.

IAC is charged with selecting the Poet Laureate, providing an annual stipend and per diem, and working with the State Department of Education in scheduling appearances.

The Indiana Poet Laureate official duties include:

* Making presentations at schools, libraries, and other educational facilities
* Promoting poetry and writing to schools and communities across the state
* Providing advice on how to promote poetry and writing to the IAC and other organizations

Krapf's poetry collections include Somewhere in Southern Indiana, The Country I Come From, which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, Looking for God's Country, Invisible Presence: A Walk through Indiana in Photographs and Poems, and Bloodroot: New and Selected Indiana Poems.

Monday, June 02, 2008

IHS Press Book Wins Award

The IHS Press publication The Scenic Route: Stories from the Heartland received a gold award in the essays category of ForeWord Magazine's tenth annual Book of the Year Awards. Two hundred and twelve winners in sixty categories were honored in a ceremony at BookExpo America in Los Angeles. These books, representing the best work from independent publishers in 2007, were selected by a panel of librarian and bookseller judges.

The Scenice Route celebrates the twentieth anniversary of Storytelling Arts of Indiana, which promotes the art and use of storytelling in everyday life through its annual festival, concerts, workshops, programs, and other events.

Storytelling is about gathering with freinds, family, and even those we have just met to share with one another stories of our childhood, our culture, and our heritage. In this age of over-scheduled lives, Internet and television addictions, and outside pressures, stories remind us of our roots and traditions.

Storytelling Arts of Indiana has spent twenty years creating places for individuals to come together and experience storytelling in the hope of encouraging that sharing and listening relationship in our everyday lives. The Scenice Rout offers the reader a dozen stories to enjoy and to help us remember.

The books costs $8.95 and is available from the Society's Basile History Market. To order, call (800) 447-1830 or order online at the History Market.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Interview with Archey Biographer

John Beineke is dean of the College of Education and a professor of educational leadership and curriculum and also professor of history at Arkansas State University. Here he answers questions about his new book Going over All the Hurdles: A Life of Oatess Archey.

What prompted you to write a biography of Oatess Archey?

I first thought it a very good story about the courage and tenacity of an individual. I also believed it would be an excellent vehicle for a young adult book and a way to write about how our national history played itself out in the life of an individual from Indiana. Finally, Mr. Archey was my teacher, coach, and role model. In a way this book was a very personal experience for me.

Is there anything that surprised you in doing your research for the book?

An author always hopes that the pieces will come together to make the story complete. This occurred several times with my research and writing of this book. Episodes such as the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Educationcase were mirrored in Marion, Indiana, with the swimming pool integration issue in the same year or the experiences in the 1950's of Oscar Robertson in Indianapolis and Oatess Archey in Marion. Also, how the 1930 lynching that involved the Grant County Sheriff came full circle when Mr. Archey became the sheriff himself sixty-five years later.

What lessons, if any, would you like for readers of the book to take away with them?

From the title Going over All the Hurdles I would want readers to realize that while we all have "hurdles" in our lives, some of these hurdles can be overcome by facing them as Oatess Archey did. We all realize that there are some barriers that cannot be overcome. And yet there are those, like Mr. Archey, who have been confronted with challenges, but succeeded. I would want readers to find hope in this book.

What ties do you still have with Marion, Indiana?

I keep in contact with Bill Munn, Marion High School history teacher and recently appointed Grant County Historian. While at the Kellogg Foundation I was able to fund a Community History Project under Bill's direction which continues on a decade later in Marion. I still have friends in the city and this project on Mr. Archey took me back to Marion for research and interviews.

Is there another project you are currently working on?

I am currently working on two manuscripts. One is on the educational cartoons of the late Washington Post cartoonist and Pulitzer Prize
winner Herbert Block (Herblock). I am able to combine my love of
history with my work in teacher education. The other project I am working on is a young adult biography of the World War I Canadian poet John MacRae who wrote "In Flanders Fields." MacRae is a distant relative on my mother's side of the family.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

IHS Press Releases New Youth Biography

Located sixty-five miles northeast of the state capital of Indianapolis, Marion, Indiana, has seen a number of notable people pass through the community, including such Indiana legends as Cole Porter and James Dean. It has also, however, been home to racial strife, including the infamous lynching of two African American men in
1930. Marion was also the hometown of a young black man who would do much to help restore harmony among blacks and whites in the community.

Going over All the Hurdles: A Life of Oatess Archey, written by John A. Beineke, who lived in Marion and was one of Archey’s students, is the fifth volume in the IHS Press’s youth biography series. The book explores the career of Archey, the first African American to be elected sheriff in Indiana. Raised in Marion, Indiana, the young Archey and his loving family lived under the cloud of the notorious 1930 lynching. A star athlete, including winning the state championship in the high hurdles in 1955, Archey endured discrimination when he attempted to return to his hometown after college and tried to secure a teaching job with the Marion schools.

Instead of teaching in a classroom, Archey was forced to take a janitorial position with the school system. He later rose to become a beloved teacher and coach, before moving on to a career in law enforcement with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He returned to Marion in triumph and served as a popular sheriff for Grant County.

As author Beineke notes, the word hurdle is used in his book “both symbolically and athletically. As a symbol, it will embody the barriers that Archey had to overcome throughout his life. The hurdle, as an obstacle in a track-and-field event, will also represent a moment of achievement that exemplified his entire life. Archey not only went over hurdles, but he taught others how to go over them, too. That is how a life truly makes a difference.”

Beineke was born in Indianapolis and grew up in Marion, Indiana. His undergraduate degree in social studies was from Marion College, now Indiana Wesleyan University, and his masters and doctoral degrees were from Ball State University in education and history.

Beineke has been a public school teacher, a college professor and administrator, and a program director in leadership and education at the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. He is currently dean of the College of Education and a professor of educational leadership and curriculum and also professor of history at Arkansas State University. Beineke is the author of And There Were Giants in the Land: The Life of William Heard Kilpatrick. He has three children and lives in Jonesboro, Arkansas, with his wife, Marla.

Going over All the Hurdles costs $17.95. The hardback book is available from the Society's Basile History Market. To order, call (800) 447-1830 or order online at the History Market.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Interview with Norbert Krapf

Norbert Krapf is a popular and respected Indiana poet and teacher. His work has received national attention and has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Here he answers questions about his new memoir, The Ripest Moments: A Southern Indiana Childhood, recently published by the Indiana Historical Society Press. (Author photo by Andreas Riedel)

What prompted you, after years of writing poetry, to tackle a memoir?

Before I began to write poetry in early 1971, after moving to teach in the New York area in 1970, I began a series of “sketches,” as I called them, as preparation for writing a short story cycle. That was in the fall of 1970, but in January of 1971 I began to write poems, at the age of 27, and good poems and publication came quickly. However, I have been primarily a narrative poet, which means I tell stories. I never lost my love of stories, of hearing and telling them.

I began The Ripest Moments about a month after my mother died in 1997. I had been commuting between Long Island and southern Indiana to help take care of her during her final illness (lymphoma) and spent a lot of time with my brother, who came back home to Jasper from Florida, for the time being, to take care of her. We talked a lot about our memories of childhood, and that was a stimulus. Also, our father had died in 1979, we knew the family house would be sold after our mother died, and I think it’s natural to want to preserve family memories and experiences at a time like that, to keep them alive and pass them on.

Some of those early “prose sketches” I mentioned above became part of the memoir. I fleshed them out some, tightened them, and they became part of the overall narrative of The Ripest Moments. I finished about half of the chapters after we moved to Indy in July of 2004.

What kind of ties do you still retain with the community of Jasper?

Deep and persistent ones! I have never lost touch with the Jasper and Dubois County community. I still have many cousins in and around Jasper and see them when we go down to visit. During the 34 years we lived in the New York area, on Long Island, we came back and forth regularly. In one sense, I never left, because in my poetry I was always going back, returning, discovering roots, finding more layers of origins and heritage. I’m still good friends with many of my high school classmates and friends, who come to my readings, buy my books, and write to me about them. John Fierst, my American history teacher, the driving force behind the Dubois County Historical Society and also the Dubois County Museum, a marvelous facility and repository, to which I gave my childhood, high school, and college papers, as well as family history materials, is still a good friend. I call him often. He helped me eliminate some factual errors in the memoir, even as late as the third page proof! My mentor Jack Leas, my senior English teacher, became a good friend of the family and when he died, I came back from New York to be his pall bearer. I dedicated my first full-length poetry collection to him and my parents, and you’ll find him and John Fierst mentioned in the acknowledgments of the memoir.

I should count up the names of local people I mentioned in the memoir. It could be at least a hundred! I believe in living locally, staying in touch, going down into your past so that you arrive at the ultimate source. That’s enough to keep any writer and any human being alive and motivated and nourished for at least one life time. My wife and our children spent so much time in southern Indiana during the summer and other vacations (holidays) that my children always considered Indiana a second home. Our daughter went to Butler on a violin scholarship and our son is now at IUPUI. I should mention that I spent over twenty years editing and annotating the pioneer German journals and letters in my Finding the Grain book, which came out in 1996. That book includes the letters of Croatian missionary Joseph Kundek, who colonized the area with German Catholics. I am rooted, deeply rooted. I know where I come from, I have friends in my ancestral region in Germany, Franconia, in northern Bavaria. My dialect writer (poet and playwright) friend Helmut Haberkamm, who has translated many of my poems into German, came to Indy in 2006 and asked me to take him to Jasper, so he could see the place and the people that I write about. He loved it there. He heard me read from the then new collection Looking for God’s Country, which includes some 25 poems inspired by the work of his photographer friend Andreas Riedel, with whom he, too, has collaborated.

Finally, I should say that I have read my poetry many times in Jasper, most often at the Dubois County Museum, in its most recent location, a former plant of The Jasper Corporation/Kimball, but also when it was located on Main Street in the Gutzweiler-Gramelspacher House, across from the library, where I also read a number of times. My readings in Jasper, I have been told by people who’ve seen me read elsewhere, are different from my readings elsewhere. My Jasper audience knows the subjects of my poems, where they come from, they understand my humor, which only encourages me to use it more. Almost every time I read in my hometown, a bunch of us go out for beer and food and conversation. Now that is community: poetry, beer (or wine), food, and conversation.

Memoirs have been in the news recently because of some authors’ seeming willingness to stretch the truth about their lives. Did you consider this when writing your memoir?

Yes I did. Norbert tolerates no stretchers! I have too much respect for historical accuracy to play with the facts. Admittedly, memory can play tricks on us, memory and imagination are kissing kin, I say in my Preface, but I went to great lengths to minimize factual errors. I probably made some errors, but that’s part of going back fifty years or more into the past. We had a good discussion on this issue at the first reading I gave from the memoir, sponsored by the Writers’ Center of Indiana. I said that it’s true that some portraits are composites based on more than one experience, such as the description of shooting my first squirrel. My writer friend Susan Neville made a good point. She said it’s not a problem if you based such a chapter on composite experiences, but it is a problem if you never shot a squirrel and try to convince the reader that you did. I agree that the writer has a kind of contract with the reader. If I want you to trust me as a narrator or teller of stories, I have to win you over, and I should not do that by trickery, because if you find me cheating, you won’t keep on reading. You’ll be justifiably upset and feel deceived. To use novelistic devices in writing a memoir, however, is not a deception, but a form of art and a respected and necessary device that deepens the lived experience you are trying to describe and make come alive and stay alive for the reader.

Was there a particular memory of your youth that remains vivid and unforgettable to you today?

To pick one is difficult if not impossible; but I can say that my deepest memories have to do with the hundreds if not thousands of hours I spent in the woods of Dubois County. It was going squirrel hunting with my father and other relatives that started that, which became a process that turned into a metaphor. In “The Woods Behind the House,” one of the memoir chapters, I quote both Robert Frost and Henry David Thoreau. I often told my students at Long Island University and the people who came to hear me read in the New York area that for me the woods was what the ocean is to them. The southern Indiana woods “gave me pasture enough for my imagination,” to borrow from Thoreau. I stopped hunting squirrels fairly early, but I never stopped going into woods and looking, listening, and recording impressions. I must have written more woods, tree, and squirrel poems than any other American poet!

Have you received any reaction as of yet from your family about the book?

Nobody in my family has yet had a chance to read the entire memoir, but my sister Mary, who is the subject of the chapter “Baby Sisters,” is a very loyal and enthusiastic reader of my writing, always buys one copy of each of my books for herself and two for her children, and loved that chapter when I e-mailed it to her earlier, will certainly give me her reaction. I am the oldest and she is the youngest of four; my brothers, we could say, are not great readers of my work. This is not, however, all that unusual for poets. We poets talk to one another about this kind of stuff, you know!

Do you maintain a regular writing schedule, or wait for inspiration to strike?

Well, anybody who is a good friend of mine knows that I was a maniac for writing letters (sigh, that day is gone) and now e-mails, I have also kept a journal since 1970 (almost four big boxes full in the closet here in my study, in downtown Indy), and so I am writing all the time. More and more, I write poems early in the morning, before anybody else in the family is awake. But I can write almost anywhere, at any time, if I’m on a roll. I tend to write poems in groups, clusters, cycles, which is perhaps related to the fact that I am so often a narrative poet.

But my poems have become more and more meditative in recent years, perhaps one could say more and more spiritual. Contemporary poet William Stafford, a mentor who died in the early 1990s, had a practice of writing a poem every morning, early. After our daughter moved to Portland, Oregon, near where Stafford lived, wrote, and taught for over 30 years (he was a Kansas native), I got to visit the William Stafford Archive and was very moved to see all his drafts, how he organized and preserved them, put his books together, etc. When we got back home, low and behold, I started to write at least one poem early every morning. That went on for over 90 days, even when I went to Germany to visit my writer friend Helmut, in whose house I have written a number of poems. But I didn’t keep it up. When I’m really into it, I’ve been known to write almost all day long and in the middle of the night, but that’s really exhausting. When I was writing the poems that were published in Invisible Presence, my collaboration with Darryl Jones, I wrote so fast and furious and long, that my wife once looked at me and said, “You’ve got that faraway look in your eye again!” She’s pretty understanding. I guess she has to be!

Let me say something glorious: I am now retired and for the past four plus years, I’ve been able to give all my energies to writing. It’s been a great run, I’ve recorded a CD with the superb jazz pianist and composer Monika Herzig, I did a book, Invisible Presence>, with the excellent photographer Darryl Jones, and I have a book coming out in the fall, Bloodroot: Indiana Poems, with about 70 b/w photographs by David Pierini, who for ten years worked with The Herald in Jasper; this prose memoir, half of which I wrote here in downtown Indy, is just out, and next year I have another poetry collection coming out, Sweet Sister Moon, love poems and tributes to women. I must be doing something right, must have done the right thing to come back to Indiana, must be living in the right place.

I’ve been told that I’m a disciplined writer. I never say no to inspiration, however. Any time my Muse comes, I do not say no! Again, I want to come back to William Stafford, who saw the writing of poetry as a very natural and human activity. When people would ask him when he started writing, he would ask them when they stopped. Children love figurative language, think and speak in images and metaphors, without having to labor at it. They love nursery rhymes, the magical sounds of language, including rhyme, and rich fantasy! What happens when they grow up? Something in our culture tells them/us that an activity like writing poems is not an adult activity.

I’m therefore happy to be a retired child, to have people come to hear me read my poems, buy my books, and even write to me about them. I feel both lucky and blessed to be doing this and am about to knock-knock on my beautiful wooden desk for continued good luck!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Author Explores His German-Catholic Roots

In the 1840s and 1850s, thousands of German families left Europe for a new life in America. Hundreds of these immigrants eventually settled in the Dubois County community of Jasper, Indiana, the county seat. Surrounding the town were dense hardwood forests that provided the raw materials for craftsmen to begin the furniture-making firms for which the area became well known. Two of the German families that put down roots in the Jasper area, the Schmitts and the Krapfs, produced a son who today remembers those days of close ties to family and the land.

The Ripest Moments: A Southern Indiana Childhood is a memoir by noted Indiana poet and essayist Norbert Krapf of his childhood and growing up in Jasper. In the book Krapf, who was born in 1943 and whose poetry has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, recalls his rural, small-town upbringing in the German-Catholic community and unearths the distinctive place and culture in which he lived. As Krapf observes, “Behind this book and my collections of poetry is a conviction that an awareness of individual and collective origins can enlighten, nourish, guide, and sustain us and those who come after us.”

Krapf’s writing evokes a time when Hoosiers lived closer to the land, connecting with nature through such everyday activities as playing hide-and-seek with cousins in an old barn, trundling down the road as a child to catch a glimpse of fields being harvested, and going camping, hunting, and fishing. The author also captures the joy of playing and watching sports and shows how a community can come together through rituals passed down from one generation to the next, such as the custom of children pulling homemade Labor Day boxes in an annual parade. Beneath the surface, however, lies the sadness of having a stillborn sister and seeing his father suffer from depression. “I have always believed that any story set deeply in one time and place, if told well, speaks for other times, places, and people,” Krapf notes. “To put it another way, a sense of time and place travels and settles well.”

Krapf received his bachelor’s degree from Saint Joseph’s College. He took his master’s degree and doctorate in English from the University of Notre Dame and taught English at the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University for thirty-four years. In 2004 he moved with his family to Indianapolis, where he completed The Ripest Moments.

His seven poetry collections, in which his Indiana German heritage is central, include Somewhere in Southern Indiana, The Country I Come From, nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and the retrospective collection Bloodroot: Indiana Poems. He is also the editor of Finding the Grain, a collection of pioneer German journals and letters from Dubois County, and the editor/translator of a book of legends set in his ancestral Franconia, Beneath the Cherry Sapling.

The Ripest Moments costs $15.95. The hardback book is available from the Society's Basile History Market. To order, call (800) 447-1830 or order online at the History Market.

Pyle Book Honored

The Indiana Historical Society Press publication The Soldier's Friend: A Life of Ernie Pyle, written by Ray E. Boomhower, won second place in the book category at the Indiana Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists' annual Best in Indiana journalism contest Friday, April 25. The winners were honored for their work in 2007 at the Indianapolis Marriott North Hotel.

The Indiana Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists works to promote and protect First Amendment freedoms, offers scholarships, sponsors the annual “Best of Indiana” journalism contest and conducts professional development programs.

The Indiana University Press publication Long Journey Home: Oral Histories of Contemporary Delaware Indians, produced by Rita Kohn and Jim Brown, captured first place in the book category.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

IHS Press Books Receive Award Nominations

Six IHS Press books have been named as finalists in ForeWord Magazine's 2007 Book of the Year competition.

Nearly 1,600 books were entered in 61 categories. These were narrowed to 658 finalists, from 350 publishers.

The winners will be determined by a panel of librarians and booksellers, selected from our readership. ForeWord's Book of the Year Awards program was designed to discover distinctive books across a number of genres.

The finalists and categories in which they are entered are:

* Meredith Nicholson: A Writing Life by Ralph D. Gray in Biography

* Finding Indiana Ancestors: A Guide to Historical Research, edited by M. Teresa Baer and Geneil Breeze in Craft and Hobbies

* The Scenic Route: Stories from the Heartland in Essays

* Federal Justice in Indiana: The History of the United States District Court of the Southern District of Indiana by George W. Geib and Donald B. Kite Sr. in Regional

* A Belief in Providence: A Life of Saint Theodora Guerin by Julie Young in Young Adult, Nonfiction

* Fighting for Equality: A Life of May Wright Sewall by Ray E. Boomhower in Young Adult, Nonfiction

Gold, Silver, and Bronze winners, as well as Editor's Choice Prizes for Fiction and Nonfiction will be announced at a special program at BookExpo America at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles on May 29. The winners of the two Editor's Choice Prizes will be awarded $1,500 each. The ceremony is open to all BEA attendees.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Aviation Pioneer Tells Story

Aviation pioneers of the 1930s flew by the seat of their pants. Donning leather helmets and fur-lined goggles, these adventurous men and women climbed into open cockpits to battle the elements, sitting in narrow, flimsy cabins. Early pilots flew by feelings—not instruments or radios. Flying new planes as quickly as they were crafted, early pilots repeatedly broke speed, distance, and endurance records, flying the jet age into being.

The Indiana Historical Society Press is proud to announce the release of Spinning Through Clouds: Tales from an Early Hoosier Aviator. Written by Max E. Knight, the book recounts his days as a young pilot and adventurer while providing national context to the history of aviation.

Growing up in Lynn, Indiana, Knight began flying in 1936 at the age of 10. At his father’s airport there, he met many of the state’s aviation pioneers, learning to fly from some of them. He flew in early planes, from Piper Cubs to the Tin Goose (the first transcontinental passenger plane).

Knight tells about his early flying adventures in Spinning Through Clouds: Tales from an Early Hoosier Aviator. Suitable for young adults and adults, the book also tells stories from the early period of national aviation, introducing air racing champions such as Roscoe Turner and Jacqueline Cochran alongside better-known pilots such as Amelia Earhart and Howard Hughes.

The paperback book costs $19.95 is available from the Society's Basile History Market. To order, call (800) 447-1830 or order online at the History Market.