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Welcome to the literary blog for Rockford Writers' Guild.

Daffodils and Vampires

Every year, the daffodil forces its way through dirty, hard soil only to face a cruel, cold world.

It’s going to happen and it’s going to happen soon.  The due date for Bahiyyih El-Shabbaz’s pregnancy essay, “The Parts” is Monday.  Until then, take a good hard look at this daffodil.

Or…catch up on the podcast “Hauptsturmführer Soren” by Dan Klefstad.  This short story has strong language in it, but my kids have listened.   If you want to read along, you can find this story in the current edition of The Rockford Review.

“Hauptsturmführer Soren” is my eight-year old son’s favorite episode of “The Guardian” series because it is about how Soren Fillenius becomes a vampire in the first place.  I was with Angelo when he was listening. It was so fun to see him realize what was happening between Soren and Fiona.  It reminded me of the excitement I felt when I first learned about vampires.  I was about the same age as my son, but the year was 1978 and my exposure to vampire culture was through the film, “Love at First Bite” starring George Hamilton and Susan Saint James.

Fun fact:  Susan Saint James was raised in Rockford, Illinois.

Moving on:  “Love at First Bite” is a funny film, but I think the short story by Dan Klefstad is better.  What do you think?  And…do you remember the first time you were introduced to vampires?  Let me know.

Thank you for reading and listening.  Bahiyyih El-Shabbaz’s first trimester of “The Parts” will be here soon.  Until then, go write.  -Connie Kuntz


April 15 at Severson Dells

Hi Everyone,

Meet us on the porch! 8786 Montague Road, Rockford, IL 61102. 1-3PM on Sunday, April 15, 2018.

This is a quick reminder that we are meeting on the porch at Severson Dells Nature Center for our April meeting.  This is the fourth year we are celebrating National Poetry Month at the Dells.

Writers are to dress for the weather, bring their new writing that features an excellent setting, and share it with the group.  1300 words or less if it’s prose.  Fifty lines or less if it’s poetry.  It can be an excerpt.

After that, writers may either write on the porch or wander into the woods to write new poetry.  Writers will meet back on the porch and share their new writing with the group.  There will be cash prizes for the best poems, adult and youth categories!

If you have never been to a Guild meeting before, this is a great way to break the ice, quite literally if all this snow and cold continues.  These meetings are free and open to all who write.  All ages and abilities welcome.

We hope you come celebrate National Poetry Month with us at Severson Dells! Until then, here is a link to “I Have a Dream” by Sharon Nesbit-Davis. Her writing is especially poignant as we remember Dr. King’s words on the fifty-year anniversary of his death.

-Connie Kuntz



The Second Trimester (and a promo)

We recorded the “second trimester” of Bahiyyih El-Shabbaz’s essay, “The Parts” on Monday evening at The Shumway.  You will be able to hear her “first trimester” on Monday, April 9, 2018.

Until then, here is a promo that Dan Klefstad, Jesse Kuntz, and I collaborated on for Bahiyyih.

If you are eager to listen to a podcast, you may listen to any of them for free at any time.  The most recent story and interview is Dan Libman’s “bonus” episode and it is available here.  “Charon’s Kayak” is a beautiful story about death and disappointment, but it’s funny, too.  After his story, he participates in a lovely interview with yours truly.  This is also the episode wherein we meet his wife, Molly McNett.  McNett will be our June author!

Things are going well for the Guildy Pleasures Podcast.  I hope they are going well for you, too.  Thanks for reading and listening.  Now, go write.  -Connie Kuntz

Charon’s Kayak by Dan Libman

This section of the Rock River is located in Oregon, IL behind the Conover Square Mall. It is the inspiration for Libman’s “Rock River Rafters” which is part of “Charon’s Kayak”.

It’s up!  Dan Libman’s fifth story, “Charon’s Kayak” is yours for the listening.

This humorous story takes us on a tour to paternal death and disappointment with a couple stops along the way; one at an AA meeting, another at the river.  We also visit Houston for a minute.  Beautiful writing.

Later, in our interview, he introduces listeners to his wife, Molly McNett.  She will be our June author.  I have ordered her book, One Dog Happy and am eager to get to know her through her writing.

It has been a joy to work with Dan and we look forward to working with Molly in June.  Until then, you can listen to Dan’s “bonus” episode here.

Thanks for reading and listening.  Now, go write.  -Connie Kuntz



Alter Ego Spotted at Blarney Pub!

Yesterday, as part of our Spring Break Literary Tour,  Jesse and I checked out O’Leary’s, which is the inspiration behind Dan Klefstad’s “Blarney Pub”.

The Blarney Pub is where the character Daniel interviews a young candidate for the position of vampire caretaker.

The fictional Blarney Pub exists in an unnamed sleepy college town, and “The Interview” takes place at Midnight on a Thursday.  But the reality is that Jesse and I visited O’Leary’s in DeKalb at Noon on Good Friday.

But then something strange happened!

The minute we walked into O’Leary’s, it became Midnight.  The sunlight flashed into deep darkness.  An intense man with only one arm approached us.  Jesse and I scare easily, so we hustled away as quickly as we could.  We ran upstairs, where it became bright and sunny again, and ran into this cute couple.  

In The GuardianDan Klefstad writes about the Blarney Pub in his second chapter, “The Interview”.  If you haven’t listened to it yet, click here and listen for free.  It’s a sexy, funny, intriguing story that will likely rekindle a couple strange interview experiences of your own.

Thanks for reading and listening.  I hope you find your way to O’Leary’s in DeKalb where you’ll be met with great people, scrumptious food, and good beer.  Until then, go write! -Connie Kuntz


Rock River Culture

In Episode 15 of Dan Libman’s newest story, “Charon’s Kayak”, we get a glimpse into the city of Oregon, Illinois; population 3545.

Things are looking up in Oregon, Illinois.

My family and I have been to Oregon many times because Lowden State Park is there.

It’s a lovely park with tall pines, scenic views, decent trails, and the famous Lorado Taft “Blackhawk” statue which, even under construction, is still impressive and mystifying.

The White Pelican is the inspiration for the Rock River Rafters.

Yesterday, however, we went to Oregon for literary reasons. We wanted to experience for ourselves some of Libman’s writerly inspiration.

In “Charon’s Kayak”, Libman’s narrator (like Libman himself) moonlights at a mom-and-pop river business where people of all abilities can rent a canoe, stand-up paddleboard, kayak, tube, or bike, and experience the serenity and drama of the Rock River and its environs.  The name of the business in  “Charon’s Kayak” is Rock River Rafters, but it is based on the real life small business, White Pelican.  Both are located behind the historic Conover Piano Factory, which is also mentioned in the story.

White Pelican, open May-October, is behind the Conover Square Mall, formely known as Conover Piano Factory. The vans are used to shuttling people and equipment.

This week’s “bonus” podcast isn’t just about small business.  It’s a humorous and woeful story of an adult son coming to terms with the loss of both his father and his drinking buddies. It’s beautifully written and wonderful to listen to.  Besides that, we get introduced to Molly McNett, who will be our June author on the Guildy Pleasures Podcast.

The Rock River seems to have yielded the results they sought.

Too cold for canoeing, but just right for fishing.

We’ll launch Episode 15, “Charon’s Kayak” on Sunday, March 31.  Until then, thank you for reading. Now, go write.  Connie Kuntz

Inspiration v. The Muse – a Cagey Fight

Where do you find your inspiration?  I find mine in people and the news, but if I don’t get outside on a regular basis, the last thing I want to do is write.  The more I am outside, the more I want to write and vice versa. Ironically, I do not enjoy writing outside.  I’ll do it, but my best work happens when I am inside, surrounded by dust and clutter. Anyway, I think the Muse is different than inspiration, but sometimes I question Her existence.  Is She real?

In Episode 3, “Solstice”, our January author, Dan Klefstad clearly states, “The Muse exists!” and he even tells us where: Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy in Williams Bay, Wisconsin.  

It’s Spring Break, so my family and I are following in the literary footsteps of the Guildy Pleasures authors.  It’s simple:  if they talk about it on the Guildy Pleasures Podcast, we visit it.  If they believe in something, we try to believe it, too.

Yesterday, we traveled to Williams Bay, Wisconsin.  Upon crossing the city limits, the Kishwauketoe is on your left, but you can see the treeline from the highway and it’s very inviting.  We parked in the lot across the street and strolled on in.

The narrow, serpentine creek is inviting to kids and creatures.

The trails we usually run in northern Illinois are either super hard-packed or ridiculously muddy this time of year.  It’s different at the Kishwauketoe.  The earth beneath our feet was soft and supple.  Three of my kids took their shoes off and kept them off.

Is the Muse lurking just beyond the curve?

There are also wonderful boardwalks, a dramatic overlook, and tiny bridges placed here and there. Birdwatchers will appreciate this place, too.  We weren’t even working that hard to see them, but we saw one cedar waxwing, one bluebird, and two great blue herons!

There was a recent prescribed prairie burn at the Kishwauketoe.  While burns are necessary to keep the weed trees from taking over, there is always a stink that lingers for a week or so after the blaze.  The conservationists are also laying down some new pipework, so some of the trails are off-limits.  That said, don’t let either of those factors deter you from visiting.  This is a thoroughly lovely nature conservancy.  It’s everything Dan describes and more.

We hope you listen to his podcast here, then go check out The Kishwauketoe for yourself.  After that, go write!  -Connie Kuntz

Lit Trippin’

Like most midwesterners, my family likes to read and travel.  We enjoy taking field trips to the gravestones and hometowns of the figures who wrote and/or inspired great literature.   Thus far, we’ve visited:

Jane Addams‘ gravestone in Cedarville, Illinois and Hull House in Chicago,

Al Capone’s gravestone in Hillside, Illinois,

Truman Capote’s childhood home remains in Monroeville, Alabama,

Harper Lee’s childhood home and gravestone, both in Monroeville, Alabama

Catherine O’Leary’s gravestone at Mount Olivet Cemetery,

Shel Silverstein’s gravestone in Norridge, Illinois.

A few weeks ago, we visited Waukegan, Illinois, and took a walking tour of the hometown of Ray Bradbury. Waukegan inspired Bradbury’s “Green Town.”

This week, our spring break consists of lit trips are inspired by the alive-and-kickin’ authors we have featured thus far on the Guildy Pleasures Podcast.  As the kids listen to the stories,  they are curious about the sites and locations the authors mention.  They want to visit Quincy, Illinois, the Mississippi River-based hometown of Sharon Nesbit-Davis.  They want to explore the K************ Nature Conservancy, the TOP SECRET dwelling place of Dan Klefstad’s muse!  They want to see the White Pelican in Oregon, Illinois, where Dan Libman moonlights.

Today, we are headed to the scenic, rolling Route 23.  Why?  In Dan Klefstad’s novel, The Guardianthere is a strong driving theme that underscores the drama better than a cello ever could.  That’s not an easy thing to admit because I love the cello.  However, I spend a great deal of time in the car and in my experience, a wide range emotions and activities take place while zoomin’ down the road.

Who can resist the allure of Route 23?

In The Guardian,  caretakers go to great lengths to retrieve blood.  Klefstad’s car culture sheds insight into why and how his characters do what they do.  It’s neat.

In Season 1, Episode 1, “The Caretaker”, Klefstad talks a little bit about his own driving culture in the interview portion of the podcast.  Listen to it here.  You can find the specific reference to Route 23 at 20:47.

Thank you for reading, listening, driving, and writing! -Connie Kuntz



April is Bahiyyih El-Shabbaz

Bahiyyih El-Shabbaz records her pregnancy essay, “The Parts” at the mic.

We had our first recording session at The Shumway with Bahiyyih El-Shabbaz last night.  Her essay about her pregnancy is intense, unexpected, and important.   We look forward to you hearing her writing and learning more about the brilliant mother-of-five.

Until April, catch up on any of our literary podcasts for free at any time.   The most recent episode is Dan Libman’s newest story, “Bottomless Coffee, Topless Dancers” and you can access it here.

Thanks for reading and listening.  Now, go write.  Connie Kuntz

A Gyro Walked into a Bar

I have driven or walked past this place a hundred times, probably more, and have somehow never noticed it.  This is personally embarrassing as it is literally steps away from The Shumway.  Now, thanks to Dan Libman and his new story, “Bottomless Coffee, Topless Dancers”,  I not only notice Oasis Micro-Pub, I revere it!

Here is why:  Say you’re thirsty for a cold beer.  Say you are hungry for a greasy gyro.  You can have both at the Oasis Micro-Pub.  All you have to do is go inside.

This little paradise is tv-free and slot machine-free.  It’s quiet, it’s the best, you will love it.  Once you are hungry, simply order a gyro from Uncle Nick’s and they will deliver it to you barside!  

What is your alcohol culture?  How and where do you drink?  Alcohol culture is a theme of this week’s podcast.  Dan Libman’s story is well written, funny, and it holds moments that I can only describe as wonderfully awful. The interview that follows is lively and fun.  Click here to listen!  Then, if you’re in the neighborhood, let me know, and I’ll meet you at the Oasis!

Thank you for reading!  -Connie Kuntz