Bookshelf: Spring 2015
Five years ago, a tree limb weighing nearly one thousand pounds struck Heidi Siefkas ’99 and broke her neck. During her multi-month recovery, she learned that her husband was leading a double life, and her employer forced her to resign. The reflection period, dramatic perspective shift, and life changes that followed her loss of independence, marriage, and career produced a mantra called “Looking up!” and a hopeful, humorous memoir called When All Balls Drop: The Upside of Losing Everything (Wheatmark). These days, Siefkas describes herself as an author and adventurer based in Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii. She’s writing a sequel, embracing her wanderlust, documenting her travels, and reveling in her restored health, heart, values, and “deeper understanding of what it means to have it all.”
With warmth, poignancy, and sometimes startling intimacy, Malisa Garlieb ’98 explores issues at the heart of modern relationships — desire, identity, allegiance, betrayal, image, and reality — in her debut poetry collection, Handing Out Apples in Eden (SunRidge Poetry). She’s taught in Waldorf schools for fifteen years, weaving story, movement, and the arts into her academic lessons, and she currently presents a broad curriculum to elementary-schoolers at the Lake Champlain Waldorf School in Shelburne, Vermont. Garlieb’s poems have appeared in many journals and anthologies.
Peeve, My Parents’ Pet (Mirror Publishing) is the first children’s book from Tom Ryan ’96: a delightful story based on a conversation with his confused six-year-old son. In the book, a little boy is determined to hunt down Peeve, the mischievous mystery pet who leaves a trail of destruction and whom his parents talk about so often. Ryan has also become famous for writing haiku about his train commutes (traincommutehaiku.com) from his Glendale, Wisconsin, home to his position in the communications department at MillerCoors in Milwaukee.
If you love humorist and entertainer Steve Martin, read on. Robert Kapsis ’65, a professor of sociology and film studies at Queens College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, has edited a book of interviews with Martin that honors his eminence as one of the nation’s most accomplished and varied artists and emphasizes his writing talent: Conversations with Steve Martin (University Press of Mississippi). Kapsis is also collaborating with the Museum of the Moving Image and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to develop a full-scale retrospective of Martin that will begin circa 2015–16 to laud his standup comedy, films, and creative outpourings as a playwright, essayist, novelist, memoirist, songwriter, composer, musician, and art critic and collector.
How can you set your business apart from — and above — the competition? If you ask Brian Fielkow ’86, he’ll tell you that a thriving endeavor depends on a healthy corporate culture, which in turn drives exceptional customer experiences. In Driving to Perfection: Achieving Business Excellence by Creating a Vibrant Culture (Two Harbors Publishing), he offers brief chapters, easy-to-skim lists, and practical, hands-on advice to explore how a business, no matter its size, can achieve excellence without spending a lot of money. Fielkow is the owner and president of the Houston-based Jetco Delivery, which provides trucking and freight services along the Gulf Coast.
“Thirty years ago,” writes Chicagoan Rita Vernon Bautista ’87, “I was Homecoming queen at the UW. Many said I was the first African American in that role. … I had also heard that there had been a woman of color who was Homecoming queen in the ’60s. Nevertheless, my uncle Calvin Vernon ’54 made black history at the UW in the 1940s as a boxer.” And now Rita has made another mark with Take A Peak (CreateSpace): a collection of her poetry written as a teenager living in inner-city Milwaukee and as a young adult in corporate America that addresses friendships, betrayal, faith, “polite discrimination,” and how these issues are processed in young minds. Her work had been stored in boxes for years until she rediscovered it and created her book to help guide her sons through their teen years.
Thousands of studies confirm that stressful life events, ongoing strains, and even daily hassles negatively affect our physical and emotional well-being. Rutgers University sociology professor Deborah Carr MS’94, PhD’97 cuts through this sea of research and theories in Worried Sick: How Stress Hurts Us and How to Bounce Back (Rutgers University Press), helping readers to gauge their own stress levels, understand their sources of strength and vulnerability, develop healthful coping strategies, and address individual stressors in the context of society’s larger problems. Carr is also on the faculty of the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research at Rutgers.
In Blue Jeans in High Places: The Coming Makeover of American Politics (Little Creek Press), Madison author Mike McCabe ’82 contends that both major political parties are failing the nation, and conditions are ripening for an extensive renovation of America’s political landscape. His work foreshadows where that renaissance will likely begin, who will do it, and how — and in an unapologetically optimistic way amid a time of pessimism. “If history is any guide,” he writes, “the innovators who will help us think our way out of our current trap will come from unexpected locations.” As the former executive director of the nonpartisan watchdog group the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, McCabe is a frequent public speaker and among the nation’s best political money trackers.
Sister Monica Mary Heyes ’45, ’46 writes that as a student, she was very active at St. Francis House, the Episcopal student center on campus. Her experiences there were largely responsible for her decision in 1953 to enter the Community of the Transfiguration, an Episcopal religious community in Cincinnati. Now she’s written Women of Devotion: A History of an Anglican Religious Community Begun in 1898 (Orange Frazier Press) — a community that she’s served as a missionary in Japan, Honolulu, and in the continental U.S. This book should show, Heyes writes, that “life in a religious community can be adventurous,” and she concludes, “I’m grateful to the University of Wisconsin for my education beginnings and for having St. Francis House, which all had great influence upon my life.”
After a long career in major Chicago ad agencies — including years as a VP of Foote Cone & Belding — P.J. (Percy) Muender ’50 of Rockford, Illinois, has shifted from writing copy to writing fiction for fun in his retirement. But, he realized, fiction can also deal with life’s big questions, as it does in his Christian mystery novel, Taste of Lukewarm (Xulon Press). It’s a “hard-to-put-down tale of life, pain, healing, family, and unity in the Christian body of believers” that follows the relationship between a woman who’s recovering from an attack that claims one of her eyes and her husband, who falls under the spell of a materialistic local businessman.
Henry Landa ’58, MS’63, MBA’65 sent us a most impressive tome: the sixteenth edition of The Political Handbook for Student Government Operations: The Guide to Candidacy, Campaigning, Leadership and Management of All Types of Student-Controlled Activities and Government with a Special Section on Advisory Functions (FICOA). The former Adams Hall and current Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, resident explains that it has arisen from what he learned as a member of the UW’s former Men’s Halls Association — later the Lakeshore Halls Association — and his contention that “student-government participation remains the only opportunity to work in an organization prior to the shock of one’s first full-time job.”
The Theater of Terrence McNally: A Critical Study (McFarland) is Peter Wolfe PhD’65’s twenty-second book and the first book-length monograph of the four-time Tony Award–winning playwright. Wolfe examines how McNally’s “impeccable timing, his instinct for a good laugh line, and his preference for physical sensation and character over plot reveal both what’s important about people and why his people are important.” Wolfe is the Curators’ Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
The life stories of Guatemalan and Mexican women and children form Shattered Dreams: The story of a historic ICE raid in the words of the detainees (Floricanto and Berkeley Presses), co-authored by Virginia Gibbs ’68 of Newport, Oregon. She includes details of the detainees’ childhoods, decisions to come to El Norte, experiences crossing the border, conditions at the Iowa meatpacking plant where they worked at the time of the 2008 raid by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel, perceptions of the raid itself, and their time in prison.
Do you yearn to experience personal and spiritual growth by taking a great walk alone? Consider following in the footsteps — literally — of (Ann) Katharine Ball Soper MA’68, whose book, Steps Out of Time: One Woman’s Journey on the Camino (Stellaire Press), speaks of leaving behind her family, cell phone, and busy, professional life to “escape the tyranny of time” by walking five hundred miles across northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela — alone and at the age of fifty-seven. It’s a trek full of serendipitous encounters, friends made and lost, natural beauty, and great food. Soper has been a lawyer, French professor, and university administrator, and is now retired in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Howard Feigenbaum MA’69 of Hemet, California, has crafted a tale of intrigue and romance called Benny Goldfarb, Private “I” (CreateSpace). In it, an attractive Los Angeles car-wash manager enlists the help of Benny Goldfarb — a private investigator, longtime customer, and new dancing partner — to find her brother in Colombia, where she believes he’s being held hostage. During the two weeks that Goldfarb has to find him, he faces enormous obstacles and receives help from unexpected sources.
The first book co-authored by Karen Theisen Vendl ’71, MS’73 and her husband, Mark, was Colorado Goes to the Fair: World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893, and the Centennial State is the setting for their second book as well. My Home at Present: Life in the Mine Boarding Houses in the San Juan Mountains, Colorado (Western Reflections Publishing) explores the “other half” of miners’ lives: time spent in boardinghouses, eating enormous amounts of food, recreating with fellow miners, and enduring freezing temperatures, high winds, and the threats of running out of food or falling prey to avalanches. The Vendls, of Elgin, Illinois, are retired geologists who have had a long interest in Colorado mining history.
David Marcou ’73 of La Crosse, Wisconsin, has so far published sixty-six of his personal books (and directed or edited fourteen anthologies as well), including Spirit of America, Volume 11: Everyday New Yorkers in Black and White and Spirit of America, Volume 14: The Washingtonians (Blurb). DigiCopy has published Lewis W. Hine, 1874–1940; All the Best: Britain’s Picture Post Magazine; The Cockney Eye: Bert Hardy (1913–1995); Crucial Collaborations (a dual biography about Hardy and James Cameron in 1950s Korea); The Photographic Spirit: Inspiring Photo Lives and Images; and his Pulitzer-nominated play Remembering Davy Crockett. Marcou has also directed and edited both editions of the Spirit of La Crosse group book, the first complete history of the city; and he’s recently published an in-depth report on river deaths in La Crosse.
Michael Osborne MA’81, PhD’87 returned to Marseille, France, this past fall as a senior fellow at the Aix–Marseille Institute for Advanced Studies to work on a “biography” of yellow fever. Before he left, though, the Oregon State University professor of history of science produced The Emergence of Tropical Medicine in France (University of Chicago Press). It examines the turbulent history of the ideas, people, and institutions of French colonial and tropical medicine from their early modern origins through World War I.
As a youngster, did you ever hike trails, cook over a campfire, or sleep in a tent or cabin at a summer camp? If so, Madisonian Jean Krieg ’83’s book, Images of America Series: Girl Scouts Camp Alice Chester (Arcadia Publishing), may take you back to those days. Readers learn the history of Camp Alice Chester (CAC) on Booth Lake near East Troy, Wisconsin — now also known as the year-round Alice Chester Center — after it opened its doors in 1924 following a fundraising campaign led by Alice Chester, the first president of the Milwaukee Girl Scouts. Krieg was a camper and counselor at CAC, which holds rich memories for her.
Music may seem simple on the surface, but the complex theory that underpins it can be difficult to master. That’s where (Kerry) Brent Coppenbarger DMA’88 comes in. He’s a professor of music at North Greenville University’s Cline School of Music in Tigerville, South Carolina, who’s written Music Theory Secrets: 94 Strategies for the Starting Musician (Rowman & Littlefield).
Valerie Biel Johnson ’90’s Circle of Nine: Beltany (Lost Lake Press) was one of five finalists — out of a thousand entries — in the Gotham Writers’ Young Adult Novel Discovery Contest: not bad for a debut novel! Her story follows a teen as she learns that she’s descended from a legendary Celtic tribe that serves as the guardian of the Beltany standing-stone circle in County Donegal, Ireland. Biel Johnson lives and writes in Randolph, Wisconsin.
What does an associate professor who specializes in soybeans and wheat in the UW’s Department of Agronomy do in his spare time? He writes a children’s book, of course! The star of Shawn Conley ’96, MS’99, PhD’01’s Coolbean the Soybean (American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America) is a cute, cartoony soybean with a fun haircut who meets a sustainable farmer and an agronomist, learns about his life cycle, and discovers that soybeans are made into lots of products and feed billions of people. The book’s website (coolbeanthesoybean.org) also offers activities to try at home or in classrooms.
Trent Hergenrader ’97 shares that the book Creative Writing in the Digital Age: Theory, Practice, and Pedagogy (Bloomsbury) is the “first of its kind to address the impact of digital technologies on the creative-writing classroom.” An assistant professor of English at the Rochester [New York] Institute of Technology, he’s co-edited the work and contributed his own chapter, “Game Spaces: Videogames as Story-Generating Systems for Creative Writers.”
The Rum and the Fury (KJFR Publishing) is a “dark comedy satirizing contemporary college life, politics, and conceptions of national decline” in which a student-activist seeks to track down the son of a wealthy family who’s joined a radical environmental group. On his pursuit path through the Florida Keys, the student-activist encounters — and clashes with — a host of characters (some crazed), all while a hurricane threatens to make landfall. The work’s author is Karl Runft JD’02 of San Francisco.
Radical Spirituality: Repentance, Resistance, Revolution (Orbis Books) is Jason Storbakken ’03’s first book, but he’s no stranger to the written word: while he lived in Madison, he wrote for the Madison Times and Isthmus and had a work-study post with the UW Press. Today he’s the co-founder of the Radical Living Christian community in Brooklyn, New York; a minister in the Mennonite Church USA; and the chapel director of the Bowery Mission. Radical Spirituality is a blend of “autobiography, scriptural exegesis, political critique, and religious manifesto” that calls upon readers to work for change, inclusion, justice, and peace.
The first dual-language addition to the Wisconsin Historical Society Press’s Badger Biographies Series for young readers is Cris Plata: From Fields to Stage/Del Campo al Escenario, by Maia Surdam MA’06, PhD’13 of Asheville, North Carolina. The book — in English and Spanish — shares the inspiring story of a farming family as its members moved from Texas to Wisconsin, and how music uplifted them through their many hardships. Plata learned to play the guitar, accordion, and mandolin as early as age five, and today the Columbus, Wisconsin, resident writes his own South Texas–style music and performs it with his band, Extra Hot. Surdam is an educator whose research explores farming, family, and community in the rural Midwest.
Published in the Spring 2015 issue