Stuart and I are on the road again. This time we are driving instead of taking Amtrak. The prairie is our playground and this Sunday October 19 2-3 p.m Prairie Lights Bookstore in Iowa City will be our destination. In the meantime, we visit friends in various Wisconsin cities and Kalona, Iowa.

Finally, I will get to meet (in person) author (online) friend and doppelganger, Carol Bodensteiner, author of the memoir Growing Up Country and the historical novel Go Away Home. We are two dairy maids who grew up to be writers. We’re also fans of each other’s work and have written blog posts on each other’s sites.

Since all three of our books are set in the past, I suggested we use this famous quote from William Faulkner in our title for Sunday’s talk:

From The Atlantic

From The Atlantic

Carol and I have been pondering the question of the past and its role in the present and future for a long time.

We could benefit from your thoughts — and ask for your help — in several ways:

  1. Let your Iowa friends know about the event so that we have a nice crowd at the Prairie Lights bookstore on Sunday (see link above for directions)
  2. Watch us live online. The bookstore streams their readings!
  3. Answer the question below and influence our reflections with your own

Do you agree with Faulkner that the past is not dead. It’s not even past? What’s your best evidence?

If the past lives, what does it say to the memoirist or novelist? How can the reality of the past breathe life into the writer’s work?

Shirley Showalter


  1. Laurie Buchanan on October 15, 2014 at 10:58 am

    Shirley – How FUN for you and Carol (I follow her blog too) that you get to meet in person and do a reading together! And how cool is it that the bookstore streams their readings?!

    The following quote came to mind as I read this post:

    “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” — Albert Einstein

    • shirleyhs on October 15, 2014 at 5:00 pm

      As always, you have a great quote to offer. Thanks so much, Laurie.

      I’m not sure about the archiving of the talks, but I imagine they keep them after the live event. I’ll post online if there is a link put up later in the day.

      So glad you follow Carol. You and I know the joy of meeting in person, and I look forward to that joy again on Sunday.

  2. Elfrieda Schroeder on October 15, 2014 at 11:09 am

    Hardy and I know for sure that the past is always with us because we talk about it every day! We were much less aware of it when we were younger because we were focusing on the future. In conversations with our grandchildren we talk about our past lives and those of our forebears and how that influenced us. Everyone has such an interesting life, they just don’t realize it because they are so familiar with their own story. A writer recognizes the uniqueness of each life and wants to capture it in words to make it come alive.

    • shirleyhs on October 15, 2014 at 5:05 pm

      Yes, Elfrieda. “A writer recognizes the uniqueness of each life and wants to capture it in words to make it come alive.”

      One of the many things that changes as we age is our awareness, both of the past and on the calling to keep the wisdom of the past alive for the next generation, while also encouraging change necessary for a healthy future.

  3. Elaine Mansfield on October 15, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    My book dedication begins with this poem by Naomi Shihab Nye:
    People do not
    pass away.
    The die
    and then
    they stay.
    I think that puts me in agreement with Faulkner. And when Vic died, I felt how keenly I would miss the “keeper of my past.”

    I’m glad you’re meeting friends (old and on line) and taking a road trip. I have a class during your reading, but let me know if it will be available on line afterwards.

    Best wishes for a great trip and reading,

    • shirleyhs on October 15, 2014 at 5:09 pm

      Wow. “They die / and then / they stay.”

      I LOVE that idea. Almost every memoir I love pays tribute in some way to someone who has both died and stayed in the life of the protagonist. That’s one of the driving forces in writing and in life.

      Thanks for another lovely comment, Elaine.

  4. Sherrey Meyer on October 16, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    Shirley, another online friend you’ll meet face-to-face! How lucky you are in Carol B’s “neighborhood.” I follow Carol, have read her novel, have her memoir to read, and hopefully will hear you two via streaming on Sunday.

    As a fan of Faulkner, I must agree with his words. In fact, I see the past in my children and grandchildren by way of their similar characteristics and mannerisms with their ancestors. I see the past in photos, scrapbooks, handwritten letters, family genealogies. I see the past in conversation and stories shared. So many ways to see the past still alive among us. What an exciting topic!

    • shirleyhs on October 16, 2014 at 7:13 pm

      Sherrey, I will always remember meeting YOU in Portland this summer. If we live long enough and travel enough, we just may get to meet most of our online friends.

      In some ways meeting face-to-face after meeting electronically is a little like Faulkner’s quote. We see the past in each other because we have shared words and pictures that reflect who we truly are. I know I will have that experience again on Sunday.

      Thanks so much for reminding me of your own vivid presence.

  5. Barbara McDowell Whitt on October 18, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    Shirley, I’m glad I clicked on your link to this post again. This time it worked, and I have just given my stepmother and sister who live in Washington County, IA and sister who lives in Ames, Iowa notice of your and Carol’s presentations at Prairie Lights tomorrow. I hope at least one of them can come to hear you.

    • shirleyhs on October 18, 2014 at 4:52 pm

      Barbara, you are a dear friend and a true friend. Thanks for helping to spread the word, and I hope your family members will introduce themselves if they come to the event. Thanks for all your efforts on behalf of Blush.

  6. Miriam Miller on October 18, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    So sorry that I’m gone this weekend — I would have loved to hear you at Prairie Lights. I am in Harrisonburg this weekend visiting family. I saw your poster on the bulletin board at First Mennonite and was so excited until I saw the date and realized I would be gone– maybe another time!

    • shirleyhs on October 18, 2014 at 4:54 pm

      Miriam, we appear to have switched places. Hope you are enjoying Harrisonburg. I can tell you that today has turned out to be gorgeous in the greater Iowa City area. We just came back from our first visit to the Amana Colonies. Fascinating.

  7. Barbara McDowell Whitt on October 18, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    Shirley, I’m glad I tried clicking on your name again just now. This time it worked. It is short notice, but I have let my stepmother and sister who live in Washington County, IA and my sister who lives in Ames, IA know about your and Carol’s presentations at Prairie Lights.

    • shirleyhs on October 21, 2014 at 5:05 pm

      Barbara, thanks for sharing the word! I wrote you a response that didn’t show up here. Must be some witches and goblins in the ether ready for Halloween!

      I will post the archived version when it is posted on the Prairie Lights website. Isn’t it cool that a bookstore can share their events with the whole world this way?

      • Laurie Buchanan on October 21, 2014 at 5:56 pm

        Shirley — will you please give me a nudge when the Prairie Lights bookstore has the Hershey/Bodsteiner talk posted for viewing on their website. Like your other readers, I don’t want to miss it.

        • shirleyhs on October 22, 2014 at 7:50 am

          Happy to, Laurie. Thanks for asking.

  8. Richard Gilbert on October 19, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    Great post, Shirley. I love the Faulkner quote and his explanation: if it weren’t true, there would be no pain or regret, or words to that effect.

    The novel is basically an historical genre and the memoir maybe even more so! As you know, from having written one . . .

    • shirleyhs on October 20, 2014 at 9:35 am

      Thanks, Richard. That’s pretty much what I said to the folks yesterday. Although I added that I like the thought that “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood” too. 🙂

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