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Posted Friday, December 2, 2011, at 9:57 AM

Make Hay While the Sun Shines, the fourth in the Midwest series, is finally finished and available. As with the three before it, it's been a labor of love.

In 2007 I first got the idea to put together some of the wonderful stories I've heard over the years, about life in small towns and on farms. Being a city girl (I grew up in San Diego) these stories had long fascinated me. I tried to imagine what it would have been like, as a child, to live in a place where you could look out a window as see a nearly endless expanse of land; to spend summers swimming in a gravel pit and winters building snowmen. But more than that, there was a warmth to the stories my friends told. At our Arts on Grand Writer's Group, which meets twice a month at, you guessed it, Arts on Grand, I urged the members to write down some of their favorite stories. I would, I told them, put them together in book form.

The members rose to the task, but I quickly realized a few stories do not a book make. When one of the members of our group was heading for a writers' conference in Chicago, I made up a handout calling for stories about life in the Midwest, made 25 copies and sent them with her. She told me later they'd been snatched up so quickly that she'd had more copies made while there and had distributed those as well.

We spread the word to our friends, and at other writers' groups. The stories began to trickle in, from Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin. I placed a couple of regional ads on Craigslist, and more stories found their way to me. They came from Nebraska, South Dakota, Kansas. When at last I had enough good stories to comprise a book, and I began the daunting task of learning to properly format a book and design its cover. I chose the name Shapato Publishing, registered it, and studied about bar codes and ISBNs (the unique number assigned to each book and placed over the bar code). When I learned it's more economical to buy a block of ISBNs rather than just one, I bought ten, planting the idea that there would be more books to come.

It took about a year, from start to finish, but Walking Beans Wasn't Something You Did With Your Dog launched in September 2008. The cover I'd designed featured an old black and white image of two smiling, naked little boys in metal washtubs. The interior held wonderful stories by Betty Taylor of Hartley, Joanne Schar and Verla Klaessey of Spencer, Loren Flaugh of Primghar... and so many more. It truly had been joint effort, and we were all incredibly proud of the end result.

By then I already had several stories that were good but hadn't made it into the book, or had arrived past the deadline. And more continued to arrive. A year later, Knee High by the Fourth of July, was produced, followed by Amber Waves of Grain in 2010. I now receive a few hundred stories a year for the anthologies, from nearly all of the states, written by people who may now live in Massachusetts or Nevada but have fond memories of their early years in the Midwest. As word has gotten out, it's no longer necessary to send out fliers or advertise. The stories find their way to me.

This latest edition, the above-mentioned Make Hay While the Sun Shines, can be found at Arts on Grand and On Eagles' Wings in Spencer, and will soon be at Hill Avenue Books in Spirit Lake. All of the books are, of course, also available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.

And we will be having a small book launching party Saturday December 3rd, at 10:00 AM at Arts on Grand in Spencer. If you'd like to come, have some coffee and perhaps pick up a copy (and maybe get it autographed by one of the authors) you are more than welcome.

Maybe you'll even want to talk about your story idea for next year's anthology, which has already been titled Sowing Wild Oats.

"A dream doesn't become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work." Colin Powell

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

I am always amazed at the new stories that come out every year. One of the authors commented to me that what Jean is doing is wonderful--preserving stories that need to be told. I think it is also wonderful that she provides a place for writers to have our work printed. The book is a great addition to the series.

If you are interested in meeting some of the authors, you might attend one of the folowing up-coming events:

Saturday, Dec. 9 from 9:30-noon; Library; 905 South Market Street, Lake Park

Friday, Dec. 16 at 3:00; Porch on Main; 307 9th Street, Sibley

Friday, Dec. 16 at 7:00; Roger's Taco Night, Main Steet, May City

Satruday Dec. 17 at 10:00; MaeBs 50 N 2nd Ave. SW, Hartley

-- Posted by Betty Taylor on Mon, Dec 5, 2011, at 9:07 AM

-- Posted by Betty Taylor on Mon, Dec 5, 2011, at 9:18 AM

I am so pleased that Jean has been able to continue her series of books. Not only do people get to share their stories and photos that otherwise would only be family stories and photos, but they make connection with the other story authors in the book.

Marjorie Davis Arp

Marion, Iowa

-- Posted by Orphan Annie on Tue, Dec 6, 2011, at 1:09 PM

I picked up the book "Amber Waves of Grain" last year for my father for his birthday. I decided to read it first, ran through it in a couple of days and liked it so much that I had to go out and buy the other 2, "Walking Beans" and "Knee High." Then my husband wanted to read them, and the books became so dog-eared that i had to buy new books for my father.

I love seeing stories written by people who live in Spencer and Spirit Lake, but the stories by the authors from other states are just as good. They bring back memories, laughter and the occasional tear.

I've already bought the new one, and am trying to get up my courage to submit a story of my own.

THANK YOU for providing these books to those of us who love to read about days gone by.

-- Posted by charliegarrett on Wed, Dec 7, 2011, at 10:25 AM

This blog was a fascinating peek into how a book is created and esp how a project can grow to be so much more than expected.

This blog, each time it's posted, teaches me something new. I look forward to it, and have printed out each one to keep in a folder for future referral. Whenever I feel discouraged about my own writing, about writer's block and the cold reality of rejection, I read through the earlier posts and always find something to lift my spirits.

-- Posted by farmergirl.sp on Mon, Dec 12, 2011, at 8:14 AM

Please...What is the deadline for submissions for,"Sowing Wild Oats.? Storyteller

-- Posted by wordgardener on Tue, Jun 4, 2013, at 4:22 PM

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Jean Tennant has been writing professionally for more than 30 years. Beginning with short stories, newspaper and magazine articles, she eventually branched out to full-length work, with several novels published by Warner Books, Kensington and Silhouette. Now the owner of Shapato Publishing, LLC, in Everly, Iowa, she teaches writers' workshops throughout the Midwest, for which her schedule can be seen at: www.jeantennant.com. Jean lives in Everly with her husband, Grover Reiser, and their dogs, Kirby and Dakota. Favorite quote: "Outside of a dog, man's best friend is a book. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." Groucho Marx.
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