Books

Bequest boosts county library’s book budget

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Library Director Michael Penrod didn’t know Elfreda Rusher except as a patron with a broad taste in books. Future library patrons will be able to enjoy their own literary tastes thanks to a bequest from the Rusher estate. The retired Bowling Green State University business education professor left $153,000 to the library with the expressed wish that it be used for books. Rusher died at 101 in April. She taught business education at BGSU from 1950 until her retirement in 1976. Penrod told the library trustees Monday that because of the conditions of the bequest the money has to go into the library’s general fund and not to the Library Foundation. Penrod and Fiscal officer Linda Joseph will make sure that the money will be spent on books in the coming years. “When someone says thank you in this way” by remembering the library “considering all the entities in the community that need support, it’s very humbling,” Penrod said. Such planned giving makes a big difference, Penrod said. That’s why the library’s new strategic plan, which runs through 2021 calls for the library to work with the foundation “to implement a planned-giving program and increase the Foundation’s ability to support library efforts monetarily.” The library’s trustees approved the strategic plan unanimously Monday. The plan represents the bare bones of what the library intends, Penrod said. Now it will be up to the library’s management team will flesh out how to put those ideas into action. Brian Paskvan, the president of the board, noted the areas that are outside what’s considered the traditional functions of the library. With the new access to Lynda.com the library is entering in a major way the area of job training and development. Another new area is the “library of things,” where what’s loaned out extends beyond the usual items. The library also loans ukuleles, puzzles, and telescopes that we provided by the Toledo Astronomical Association. Assistant Director Michele Raine said that the society told her if the telescopes are damaged, they will fix them. Penrod said there are limits to what can be offered. He said he’s in touch with the library’s liability insurance carrier, so don’t expect to be able to borrow a chainsaw. The library, he said, does not want to compete with the hardware store or rental businesses. The plan also addresses the physical needs of the main library in Bowling Green. Penrod noted that in the previous strategic plan, one goal as to increase meeting space at the Walbridge Library. Five years later, an expansion project has doubled the branch library’s size. Nothing like that is envisioned in Bowling Green, he said. Rather the goal is to use the existing space as efficiently as possible. The plan also calls for keeping the facilities “looking and feeling fresh, inviting, and safe” by adhering to an established maintenance schedule and investing in maintaining the building and providing new furnishings, fixtures, and equipment.  The building was expanded and renovated 15 years ago. Paskvan said it will fall to the finance committee to look at ways of funding this. The strategic plan will take the library through 2021. The library’s levy will be on the ballot in November 2020.

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Wendell Mayo explores ‘the mind of doom’ in new story collection

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Fiction writer Wendell Mayo is a child of the Cold War. He grew up on intimate terms with the power of the atom. His father was a nuclear scientist who worked not far from home at the NASA Center in Cleveland. He worked on space applications and nuclear power, which he saw as a boon for the world, his son said. But the atom’s apocalyptic threat cast a long shadow. Mayo has dealt with the ramifications in  short stories inspired by horror movies and others by his stay in Lithuania after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Now in his fifth collection of stories “Survival House” (Stephen Austin University Press)  he brings those concerns home. “I wasn’t interested in writing about the Cold War per se so much as writing about the kind of the lingering psychological effect it has on my characters,” Mayo, 65, said. “I was a Cold War kid. More than ever I’ve started to feel the same awful feelings again. So I decided to start writing about it.” Some of the stories take place in the 1960s in Cleveland, where Mayo grew up. Others take place in contemporary  in Northwest Ohio where Mayo now lives. Some explicitly make reference to the Cold War. In “Commie Christmas,” a boy tries to convince his brother that Santa is a Communist. The opening story “Doom Town” imagines a festival in Luckey that celebrates the possibility of nuclear holocaust. It concludes with barbecuing a pig, the same breed as those used to study the impact of an atomic blast on human flesh. Mayo also imagines in “The Trans-Siberian Railroad Comes to Whitehouse,” a restaurant that has a Soviet-era theme with a toy train that delivers the food.  In both those stories, Mayo grounds the tales, as fanciful as they are, in local communities. The idea, he said, comes from the news reporting practice of writing articles on local people who have connections, often very tenuous, to global events. Other stories have less direct connection. Mayo is fascinated by the concept of “the mind of doom” where someone believes that “by making one little misstep it can cause a chain of events that’s cataclysmic.” That’s true of the character in “Cherry Pie,” which Mayo said is his favorite story in the collection. In the story, the main character, an older male, offers two poor kids in a local restaurant a piece of pie. The elder brother rebuffs him. The man then feels he was misunderstood, that he was taken as that stranger the boys have been taught to avoid. He obsesses on that thought. He undertakes a series of actions to make his true intentions known, which only cast him in a more suspicious light. The final story takes him back to Lithuania, and a tour of a nuclear missile silo. That story is based in part on a tour to a site by Mayo and BGSU grad and Pulitzer Prize winner Anthony Doerr. Mayo said he could not bring himself to go into the silo. In the story, the tour guide informs the character that the missile formerly in the silo had been targeted at Cleveland. That’s where Mayo’s desire to be a writer began. He wanted to be a writer, but his father said…


Teresa Milbrodt finds inspiration for works of fiction in other folks’ jobs

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Teresa Milbrodt has never been a fire eater… or a circus clown for that matter. One look at her slender frame and it’s clear she’s not an aspiring sumo wrestler. She’s never trained Siberian cats as a sled team, or even sold shoes. Teresa Milbrodt is a writer. As a writer she gets to inhabit characters who do those jobs, at least for the length of time it takes to craft one her tight, wry, quirky short stories. Work and relationships, with people and pets, are the focus of her book, “Work Opportunities” (Portage Press). The Bowling Green native will read for the collection of short stories Friday, June 27, at 7:30 p.m. at Grounds for Thought, 174 S. Main St., Bowling Green. This is the latest book by self-described “fictioneer.” As with her other work, the stories are at once grounded in everyday life – the job and love struggles of her characters ring true – yet they unfold in an atmosphere of fantasy. It’s as if the people sitting around her while she’s being interviewed in Grounds for Thought were plopped into a fairy tale. Except these tales serve up a moral at the end. The happily-ever-after is elusive. Nor do they snap shut like a traditional short story. Contemporary readers, Milbrodt said, distrust endings that come “tied up with a bow.” They seem false. “We don’t think it reflects life.” Instead she brings her characters to the brink, when they decide to finally take action. What’s beyond the story’s final period is a precipice. Even Milbrodt may not know what lies ahead. We don’t know what will happen if the young would-be female sumo wrestler steps in the dohyo, the wrestling ring, the violating ancient tradition. Or when a teen character’s father returns to find Aaron Burr’s foot is gone. Or whether those Siberian cats will ever get to show their abilities pulling a sled. The stories, Milbrodt said, were written over the past decade. A few years ago, Milbrodt said, “I realized all the stories had something to do with work and a lot of them with economics and with people who were somehow making ends meet.” She likes her short story collections to have a central core. In “Work Opportunities” it is how a job or occupation can become a passion and shape a person’s life. None of these folks, though, have high-powered corporate jobs. These are the people from smalltime circuses and shoe stores, from a local zoo and convenience store, albeit one in possession of Aaron Burr’s foot. Milbrodt said she’ll do enough research, in the dangers of stiletto heels or circus sideshows, for the story to be plausible. These jobs serve as the context for the characters’ emotional lives. “How do you deal with relationships you want to keep going? How do you deal with relationships that have ended but still have to be part of your life? How do you negotiate relationships that are moving into different spaces than you anticipated? And how much investment do you put in a shifting relationship?” The “Fat Lady” from the side show has the chance to actually marry the Skeleton Man many years after their publicity stunt engagement ended. That story, “Fat Lady to Marry Skeleton Man,” explores…


Library trustees updated on fundraiser, gas line & carpet

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The board meeting room in the Wood County District Public Library “looks like a department store exploded in there,” Library Director Michael Penrod told trustees Monday. By the end of the week, though, all should be returning to normal, after the Library Foundation’s fundraiser at Schedel Gardens. Penrod reported that the 100 tickets, which are $100 each, sold out as of Sunday. That’s the first time in the event’s 10-year history that it sold out so soon. The Foundation board, he said, has opted not to create a waiting list. The foundation set a goal of $75,000 for the fundraiser though it has raised more than that the last few years. Money raised goes to purchased books in all formats for the library. Penrod said last month that the money supplements the library’s book budget and does not replace money from the state or from the local levy. That was not the only bit of good financial news. Linda Joseph, the library’s finance officer, reported the library received a $5,000 rebate from the state Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. That money will be listed as “other income” in the library’s budget. Penrod reported that he is adamant that Columbia Gas line work now underway downtown will not disrupt the community Christmas tree that was just planted last year. The library will have a new gas line and meter installed, and it will enter at the southeast corner of the building. There are three burning bushes that were planted in 1974 when the library was built near the spot the line will run through. It’s possible one may have to be taken out, Penrod said, but Columbia Gas is committed to replacing an landscaping it disrupts. Also, Penrod reported that the replacement of the carpeting on the steps has been delayed because the interior designer he is working with is on medical leave. Work selecting carpeting continues. He said the stairway carpeting will be selected with the intent of replacing the carpeting in the circulation area as well as the back hallway. He said the library will also replace the walk-off flooring in the entryways. This is made of tougher stuff – like Brillo pads, Penrod said – but new designs will allow it to be more carpet-like. This area should be about 20-feet long to catch dirt, sand, and salt so most of it doesn’t get onto the library’s carpeting.


Cousins team up to tell story of family life in the inner city

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Usually book signings don’t include blood pressure tests. Antrone “Juice” Williams, though, always includes the health screening at events he’s involved in. Since he almost died from a stroke while working out back in 2012 he’s been an advocate for stroke awareness. That was the focus of the first book he wrote with his cousin Damien Womack. “A Walking Testimony Stroke Survivor: My Second Chance” was about his recovery, an ongoing process, from his near-death experience. It was meant to be an inspiration and encouragement for others facing this situation, and a warning about the necessity of monitoring blood pressure and other health indicators. The former semi-professional and college basketball player has devoted his life to raising awareness of the dangers of strokes and helping youth. Now Williams and Womack have written a second book “The P.I.L.L.A.R.S.” Originally, Womack said, this was supposed to be part of the first book, the story of how Williams arrived at the gym in Augusta, Maine, where he was felled by a stroke. But the publisher decided, Womack said, it was better to keep the book focused on the inspirational story. “The P.I.L.L.A.R.S.” – that stands for The People I Love, Last and Remain Sacred” – reflects on the families that raised the cousins. While it’s told with love, “it’s more in your face,” Womack said. “It means you’re going to run the gamut of emotions.” The book takes the reader to the inner city streets of Chicago, where Williams grew up, and Detroit, where Womack grew until moving to rural Ohio to be with his father. Each had their strengths. Williams thrived on the neighborhood basketball courts playing street ball. Womack did his best in the classroom. Neither had an easy childhood, coming from working poor families in tough neighborhoods with gangs always off in the wings. Their families were loving, but many of them tried to salve the pains of life with alcohol leading to arguments and break-ups. And, Williams said, there was the shadow of chronic illness that no one wanted to talk about. Williams suffered from a sense of abandonment when his father left his mother, who then had to work long hours to support him. That left him in the care of his grandmother, and feeling his mother had abandoned him as well. Womack’s father had to follow his job to Cambridge, Ohio, when Champion Sparkplug closed its Detroit plant. His parents’ marriage didn’t survive the move, splitting the family. The story is raw, though not without its touches of humor and sentiment. Womack moved to Bowling Green in the late 1999 to attend Bowling Green State University on a full scholarship. Williams joined him in 2016 as he continued his recovery. They’ve been a team since working both on the books and running the Team HOW Foundation. “Having grown up together, it’s not a challenge to translate his vision into words,” Womack said. Given their schedules though finding tome to meet face-to-face is a challenge. They communicate as much they can through emails and other means. But Williams said that he suffers from aphasia as a result of the stroke. So it helps to work with his cousin who knows him so well. “He brings my words to life.” Copies of “The…


Poetry in motion – Sandra Faulkner explores link between women & running

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News When Sandra Faulkner wanted to study women runners, she used poetry as well as footnotes. Earlier this year, Faulkner, a professor in the School of Media and Communication, published “Real Women Run: Running as Feminist Embodiment.” The book is deeply personal scholarship. Early on Faulkner traces her own history as a runner, starting when she was 11 years old, growing up in the suburbs of Atlanta. She ran so hard her nose started bleeding. She didn’t notice until she finished the race, and won third place. But she missed the awards ceremony because her mother couldn’t staunch the bleeding. Her life as a runner has been full of small triumphs, injuries, and frustrations – sometimes at the same time. Though Faulkner says she doesn’t race to place, she’s still competitive. After one race she saw that she was fourth in her age group, but she thought there were only four runners in that class. Only later didn’t she learn there were more than that. Her life as a runner is told in brief journal-like entries, and each is paired with a haiku. One reads: “Don’t call us a girl / don’t call us a girl jogger / fierce women running.” The personal stories are “in service critiquing, discovering, uncovering larger social patterns,” she said. They take us up to Sept. 3, 2016, when Faulkner is 44 and has a daughter of her own, who cheers on her mother and herself has started running. “She’s more of a sprinter,” Faulkner said. This was the right time for Faulkner, an ethnographer, to research women and running. She would never have done this as a dissertation. When she used interviews for her dissertation on Sex and Sexuality at Penn State, where she studied interpersonal communication, it was considered unconventional. But when “Real Women Run” was starting, Faulkner had tenure and was taking the next step of applying for promotion to full professor. She had already completed a much cited book on poetic inquiry, “Poetry as Method: Reporting Research through Verse.” “I’m convinced that this book wouldn’t have happened until that exact point.” BGSU, where she’s been on faculty for 11 years, was the place to do it. “BGSU has been a great place for me.,” Faulkner said. “I have felt very supported in my work. I think this is my best work. I feel very satisfied and pleased.” Last fall, she coordinated an international conference on poetic inquiry on campus. It was held in conjunction with the annual Winter Wheat writing conference. She’s collaborating with Abigail Cloud, of the creative writing faculty, on an anthology of poetry of a more political nature. “There’s things that poetry can do that other forms of writing can’t, especially since I was interested in the embodied experience of running,” Faulkner said. Embodied experience with no “false separation between mind and body” is a hot topic in feminist theory. “I think poetry can do that in a way prose cannot. … Poems are all about the line, all about the breath. When done well they can be an embodied experience.” She interviewed 41 women runners at races around the country asking them: what does it feel like when you take a good run? What does it mean to have a bad run?…


Schedel Garden benefit harvests dollars for library books

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The board meeting room in the Wood County District Public Library is filling up. New treasures arrive every day, said Library Director Michael Penrod. That includes a grill and a bicycle. There’s hand-crafted wooden box by John Calderonello and glass by Dominick Labino and Joel O’Dorisio. Hidden among them are gift certificates from numerous local business. The items are arriving in advance of the 10th Annual Library Benefit at Schedel Arboretum and Gardens, Thursday, July 19, 6-8 p.m. Attendees will also feast on hors d’oeuvres catered by Swig’s and tour the gardens. The price of a ticket is $100 and only 100 are sold. Tickets are available at the library. The focal point is the live auction, said Clif Boutelle, president of the Library Foundation, sponsor of the fundraiser. The bidding gets “very spirited.” People enjoy trying to outbid each other. Items also include a week at a Florida Gulf Coast condo, a family portrait session with Cheryl Hagemeyer, and golf with BGSU coach John Powers, either a 45-minute lesson or a nine-hole round. Then there are Sue Shank’s cookies, Boutelle said, which “seem to be very popular.” Shad Ridenour returns as the auctioneer. Attendees aren’t there trying to get an item on the cheap, Penrod said. Rather they bid enthusiastically. That spirit is fueled by an understanding of what the library contributes to the community and a desire to help it continue its mission. The purpose of the Schedel benefit is to raise money to buy books, both printed and ebooks. Last year $116,000 was raised. Penrod said that money does not replace money from the library’s levy or state funding. It supplements that funding. Boutelle said the fundraising is a way of thanking the community for its support of the library. The money raised has allowed the library to spend $442,000 on materials last year. Boutelle said the goal is always set at $75,000. They never want to take the generosity of those who attend for granted. That generosity starts, said Penrod, with the 15 members of the foundation board who reach out to friends and business associates to get the auction items Penrod said those efforts were “a blessing.” The Schedel fundraising started at the initiation of Bob and Patricia Maurer in 2009. The deepening recession was starting to take a toll on the library budget. So the Foundation, which was created in 1994, decided to stage the auction. “It’s allowing us to make a tangible difference in serving the community,” Penrod said. That allows the library to buy enough print and ebooks, which are more expensive per unit, to meet demand. Even with a popular best seller, the goal is for patrons get their requested book within five days. Penrod said he’s competing with Amazon to meet patrons reading needs. And as director, he instructs the librarians in charge of collections to maintain a non-fiction print collection as complete as what existed before the internet. Peoples still want books on writing resumes and finding a job, or finding new recipes. Travel books, he said, continue to be very popular. Penrod said when he attends library conferences he’ll go to sessions on fundraising – a topic not taught in library school – and he’s yet to see a library the size…