Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sandhill Cranes Along the Platte River

For the past few years, for one reason or another, I have not had the opportunity to view the Sandhill Cranes along the Platte River during their annual migration. This area attracts between 600,000 to 800,000 very noisy birds.

Prior to my trip to Orlando and the IAFA convention, I made reservations at the Rowe Sanctuary

not far from Kearney to view the cranes. But at IAFA, during one of the lunches, I enjoyed the company of Terry Bisson, an SF author I have admired for years as mentioned in the previous post.

A fan of Nebraska writer Mari Sandoz, as matters turned out, Terry and his wife, Judy, planned to attend the annual Sandoz gathering in Chadron. They did get to visit the High Plains Heritage Center but missed the conference because of a nasty storm in Valentine.

I am sorry that Terry could not meet my colleague Dr. Dan Holtz, for the two would have enjoyed some excellent conversations about Sandoz and other Nebraska writers.

At any rate, over the discussion at lunch, Terry determined to join me to view the Sandhill Cranes at Rowe Sanctuary.

And so after Matt Mason's reading and some vote counting for a Student Senate election, I jumped in the car and enjoyed a three-hour drive to the sanctuary, watching the cranes in the fields as I motored along Interstate 80.

Terry, Judy, and I ventured into one of the blinds, and I worried lest the cranes decided to settle elsewhere. But they did not disappoint--thousands filled the air and our ears, numbers and noise.

As the preceding photograph and others I posted underscore, the birds literally fill the sky.

The Sand Hill cranes remain in the area through the first week in April--and you will not find much better entertainment for $25.00 than what a couple hours in one of the blinds offers at this special time of the year along the Platte River.

I posted a film version of the fun on You Tube.

IAFA in Orlando 2009

Great Blue Heron

This year in Orlando, FL, the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts celebrated its 30th conference in our second year at the Orlando Airport Marriott, from Wednesday, March 25 to Saturday, March 28.

Information for the 31st conference already appears on the conference web page--this conference will feature wonderful authors Nalo Hopkinson, who read a few years ago at Peru State College, and Lawrence Yep.

Serving as treasurer puts me in contact with all the guests, which I enjoy a lot more than taking responsibility for the financial records; and I love seeing old friends such as Donald Morse pictured with me on the right.

I also have a chance to make new friends as well. Among others, for example, I enjoyed a long conversation with Maria Nikolajeva, a most-charming person and an expert on Children's Literature whose books I look forward to reading.

You might find her blog of interest. Of herself, she writes, "I was born in Russia, lived thirty years in Sweden, two years in the US, one year in Finland, and now I live in the UK."

I hope someday to bird watch around Cambridge where Maria teaches.

I loaded a series of photographs from the conference which attracts many authors, from Joe Haldeman (whom I had the pleasure of introducing) to Suzy Charnas (a long-time friend), from Peter Straub to John Kessel--and excellent scholars from the United States, Canada, and numerous other countries.

Oh, if you want to watch a film version of the photographs, I loaded one on You Tube.

I love the IAFA conference for a number of reasons, including the local birds featured at the opening and conclusion of this entry, a Great Blue Heron and a Mocking Bird.

And as noted with respect to Maria, I enjoy making new friends and seeing familiar faces. The photograph on the right features old friend Suzy Charnas previously mentioned and new friend, the Hugo and Nebula winning author Terry Bisson.

At the conference, Terry read his "shop story" Catch 'Em in the Act featured on Tor Com. You can also read one of the dialogue stories for which he is well regarded, "They're Made Out of Meat."

Oh, a short film version of the story appears on You Tube.

Terry and his wife Judy joined me at the Rowe Sanctuary this past Thursday, March 25, to view the Sandhill Cranes, the subject of my next blog entry.

Mocking Bird

Monday, March 16, 2009

Matt Mason at Peru State College

Matt Mason, Nebraska Best Poet Under 40, reads at Peru State College

On Thursday, March 26, at 11:30 in the ARC Conference Room, The PSC English Club and Creative Writing Series sponsored Matt Mason, who shared his thoughts and his poetry.

Though lightly attended, the reading affirmed Matt's excellence. As the images from the fun attest, the audience heard and watched an excellent performance.

I recorded a number of poems on You Tube for your viewing pleasure. The poetry includes the wonderfully humorous "When The Baby Goes to Sleep, We Celebrate" and the biting satire of "Code Orange."

Coffee and Astronomy will also make you smile, as will Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Baby.

I also recorded two of Matt's most well known Slam Poems, The Baby That Ate Cincinnati and Make Star Love and Not Star War.

You will learn a lot about Matt Mason and his partner in poetry and in life, Sarah McKinstry-Brown a various sites on the internet, but their dual site offers the best information, including many photographs and video performances.

As his profile on Wikipedia notes, he has one more than one Nebraska Book Award: "His full-length book, Things We Don't Know We Don't Know (2006), was published by the Backwaters Press and debuted at #12 on The Poetry Foundation's Contemporary bestsellers list. The anthology Slamma Lamma Ding Dong (2005), which Mason co-edited, was made available through iuniverse and won the 2006 Nebraska Book Award for Best Anthology."

"Slamma Lamma Ding Dong" contains a wonderful collection of Slam Petry by various Nebraska poets.

As you will discover, that Matt and Sara have won
Slam Poetry Contests all over the country. And he will certainly pay Peru State College another visit.

Matt also read a bird poem, which act, as you might imagine, pleased me a great deal. I sent him the following photograph. He wrote that the image fits perfectly with the poem, so I will certainly make available a video to match the picture of a Red-winged Blackbird in sunset flight.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Children's Literature and Snow Geese

March 5-8, I traveled to and returned from Athens, Georgia, where I attended and presented a paper at the 40th Annual Children's Literature Conference.

The conference invited a couple special guests whom I enjoyed, including Gail Carson Levine, author of Ella Enchanted, and Peter Sis, illustrator and writer whose latest publication is Wall; this beautifully illustrated picture book addresses the author's growing up behind the Iron Curtain.

I took in a Georgia Bulldog baseball game and enjoyed a long walk across the University of Georgia campus and into Athens--as usual, I posted a few photographs.

The U of Georgia campus is impressive and at some 45,000 students quite large. And, well, at the image at the top of the page indicates, the people in and around the area do love their bulldogs.

On the way back from Kansas City Airport, I stopped at Squaw Creek for some photography and took a brief video of the Snow Geese.

As the preceding photograph indicates, that evening more than a few thousand geese populated the water and the air at the park. The video captures something of the numbers and the noise from my visit.

Green Eggs and Ham in Iowa and Missouri

Display at College Springs School

On Monday, March 2, Chet Harper and I continued our "Green Eggs and Ham" fun, visiting for the first time College Springs, Iowa, to entertain youngsters.

And for the fifth or sixth year in a row, we read books and once again embarrassed the spirit of Dr. Seuss with our antics at
Tarkio Elementary School in Missouri.

As we did
last year in Tarkio, Chet and I read books to the Kindergarten and First-Grade youngsters in addition to entertaining them with our "Green Eggs and Ham" skit.

For the folks at the schools in both College Springs and
Tarkio and for general fun, I posted some photographs from both schools on Flickr, where you can, as usual, download images that appeal to you.

Chet and I thank everyone at Tarkio for continuing to invite us back each year.

Special thanks go as well to Jaime
Apperson, a Peru Sate College Education Major who presently student teaches in College Springs and who arranged for our visit.