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Book Report: First time authors should take note of this former teacher

Many years ago I taught English at UW-Stevens Point, where my office mate was Charley Kempthorne.

He was a fabulous teacher, so responsive to students, such a good writer himself, having recently graduated from the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop.

But then he quit. And I'm very glad he did.

Charley quit and moved back to his hometown of Manhattan, Kan. Wisconsin's loss, but a big gain for wannabe writers. That's because Charley started the Lifestory Institute in 1976 and it's still going strong on its 33rd birthday.

I spend a good deal of time in Book Report discussing books by first-time authors. As the publishing world goes global, fewer and fewer first-timers get published because no one knows who they are.

So nowadays people publish their own books, many of them memoirs or life stories that delve into the heart of America. We can thank guys like Charley Kempthorne for that. Thirty-three years later he's still going strong and his institute has inspired several books, one of which received an advance of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Here's how it works: You send Charley a check and he puts you on his mailing list. You get a subscription to a wonderful little magazine in which Charley gives you tips on writing about yourself, your family, about recipes handed down, about the heart of America, about writing. Also included are stories written by subscribers who have submitted samples to Charley.

He also slides in quotes from famous writers. In his recent issue, number 105, he quotes William Faulkner, who said, "The past isn't dead. It isn't even past."

But that's not all you get. If you pay a little extra, Charley will read and critique your work and oft times publish it in his magazine. He also travels around the country giving workshops on writing to his subscribers. And he charges so little it's mind-boggling.

If you have a story rattling around in your head and want help from Charley, you can enroll in the institute for $45 per year, or $30 if you want the magazine on a read-only basis. Just send a check or a credit card number to LifeStory/3591 Letter Rock Road/Manhattan, KS 66502. Or you can telephone him at 785-564-1118.

Charley promises that "a human will answer." And what a human he is.


One of my favorite poets is out with a second volume after several years since she published to great success "Payments Due."

Carol Connolly, former columnist for the St. Paul Pioneer Press and author of a monthly column in "The Journal of Law & Politics, is a wonder. She writes about life as she lives it with what poet Sharon Chmielarz calls "a one-two punch." She's wise, she's bawdy, she's funny, she's deadly serious.

Here's a sample a sample from her new book, "All This and More" (Nodin Press, $16):

The man whose mind is on safari,

even as his body feeds

at your table, even as he moves

up and down in your bed,

this is the man who blames you

as he packs a bag

and heads for a strange room overnight,

says it's your fault

as he dives straight

into one whiskey and then another.

Risks drowning

rather than fight it out.

About who said what.

About who owes what.

About who loves who.

You acquiesce to the intricacies of his

every demand. To appease him, you choose

drab colors. Wear a hat. In silence

you grow frantic. Seek comfort

in or after or outside

his trail of debris,

do your best to stuff it into sacks,

sweep the path behind you.

Make it smooth

This is the man. And you, you are

caught in a cocoon of your own spinning

long after he forsakes you

to absent himself

at a second table,

in a third bed.

Dave would like to hear from you. Call him at 426-9554.