Mary Kay Shanley is the author of ten books, including Our State Fair—Iowa’s Blue Ribbon Story, The Memory Box and She Taught Me to Eat Artichokes, a bestseller. Named an Iowa Author of the Year, Shanley is an instructor at the University of Iowa’s Summer Writing Festival and leads multi-day writing retreats. She is a member of the Iowa Center for the Book Foundation and occasionally teaches at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women in Mitchellville.
Our State Fair Is a Great State Fair (But You Already Know That!)
Our State Fair—Iowa’s Blue Ribbon Story is the book that chronicles 150 years of Iowans who have collectively made up our unique August experience. You’ll discover a bit of yourself in their stories—from watching two locomotives collide in front of a packed Grandstand to riding the Roller Coaster or sneaking a smooch with your sweetheart while gliding through Ye Old Mill, from parading your Charolais around the ring to watching judges test your piecrust, from camping in Tent City to eating your noon meal beside your car. Author Mary Kay Shanley shares best-of-the-best tales, which are accompanied by a few of the book’s 500 brilliant photographs. There’ll be time for sharing because everybody has a great State Fair story to tell.
The Magic of Our Memories
Iowans are a people with roots. We grow well in the black soil that blankets our state, in this beautiful land between two rivers. Here are our homes, our families, our memories. We’ll discuss the importance of those memories—from first day of school to leaving home. We’ll embrace our similar experiences—from peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches to parallel parking. And we’ll reflect on life-changing events—from becoming a parent to the horror of 9/11. Truly, our memories have shaped us into who we are today. We’ll also talk about ways of interpreting the past—oral histories, storytelling and journaling.
The Obituary—Yours or Someone Else’s
Obituary: a notice of a death, especially in a newspaper, typically including an account of the person’s life and information about the upcoming funeral
Seemingly forever, this definition sufficed. Beginning in the 19th century, obits were written by reporters, providing crucial information about prominent people and, later, soldiers, public servants and frontiersmen. By the 20th century, obits for ordinary people (as well as the aristocracy) resulted in the common-man obit. Today, fanned by social media’s penchant for putting everything on the table, we have personalized obituaries—a mix of facts, observations and tidbits. Written by a family member, friend or even the deceased (obviously ahead of time), they also gift us with knowledge of the past, insight on the present and wisdom for the future. They mirror our times.
We’ll consider the history of the obit, with stellar examples. We’ll address inclusion of factual information and life journey, structural concerns and worthy goals — as well as the still-necessary guidelines for crafting a fitting obituary. Those interested are invited to spend an additional 20 minutes jotting down thoughts/considerations to discuss/share with the rest of the group.