Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Speaking of Speaking

I was contacted yesterday by a local guy who had missed my Sunday presentation on "The Forts of Nebraska" at the Papillion library and wanted to know when I had my next one scheduled. I had to check booktour.com (where I keep my appearance dates in case you're interested) and found that was my last one for the Omaha area and that I have only one more planned, that at the "Wine, Writers and Song" festival at Brownville in April.

I reviewed my log just out of curiosity and found that I've given that program 20 times since September 2008; as a Nebraska Humanities Council presentation I've given it eight times, at sites ranging from the Lewis & Clark Center in Nebraska City to Scotts Bluff National Monument at the western edge of the state.

I also offer a program on the forts along the Union Pacific, which has been given twice, and one on the "Lost Forts of the Northern Plains," a review of seven fort sites forgotten by time and history (that one has been requested four times).

The MOST presented program I've given since I started speaking in 2008 has been "The Forts of Omaha and Council Bluffs" - that one has been offered 39 times in the metro area here. I've really been surprised - for one thing at how many groups need speakers - but also at how many DIFFERENT groups are interested in the talk. This presentation has been given to history-minded groups, libraries, a state park, museums, military groups, service clubs, neighborhood associations, retirement centers, a book club, a church and even the Omaha Association of the Blind!

Eventually you run out of groups to hear a particular talk, but I'm making plans to fill the void. For one thing, I'm putting together a "Forts of Wyoming" talk for a June roadtrip out west; I'm also building a program on death on the Plains which I hope will get me back to places I've visited before. Kind of a gruesome topic, but there are people (like me) who are interested in things like that!

Friday, January 22, 2010

History at the Historical Society

Yesterday I gave a "brown bag" lecture over the noon hour at the Nebraska Museum of History in Lincoln. This was a place I'd wanted to be since I started speaking about a year and a half ago - it's the home of Nebraska history, the equivalent of singing at the Met if you're an opera singer!

The historical society did a great job of promoting it as well - it was ALMOST standing room only in their lecture room (seating for 40) to hear about the Forts of Nebraska. One of my sources for my current book and one from my next book were both in attendance, as were quite a few fellows in uniform which is always great to see.

The talk went very well - if you live in Lincoln, they're running it on Time Warner Cable Channel 5 (the government access channel). I'm kind of getting to know the guys from TW as they were at the Bennett Martin Library in November for my reading there.

Today I'm at a senior home in Papillion and return to Papio on Sunday for a Nebraska forts presentation at the library there. I hope it's a good turnout - my wife said someone at her work said "it's plastered all over town." My heart skipped a beat when I realized this talk was scheduled for the same day that the Vikings are playing for the NFC championship, but crisis averted - they're on for the evening game.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Toughening Up My Skin

There's a sad little fact about writers once they get published - we tend to Google ourselves every now and then to see if anything is being said about us and what we've written.

In my defense, I don't do it every day, every week or even every month. That's how it came to be that I didn't see this April review from the Bismarck Tribune until earlier this week. Of course, the headline "Guide to military forts lacks depth" got my attention because I'd never had a bad review to Forts.

The Tribune actually turns its reviews over to "citizen reviewers" - when books come in, they let readers know and, if one of them is interested, he or she can do a review. In this case, one of the state's district court judges took my book.

Strangely, he focused on the book's introduction, devoting more words to that than to the book itself. Using my own words out of context, he said the book was limited in scope, had little history to it, and required the reader to drive to the sites himself if he wanted to learn anything about them! He also added a couple of things that weren't true (saying most of the forts were reconstructed and run by historical societies) and couldn't have been interpreted from the book. He said the travel information was really about the only thing that the book contained, but he was looking forward to using that after his retirement when he drove his convertible around the region.

I did exchange a couple emails with the judge - I was very civil in asking him if he had even read the book - but his remarks were short and dismissive (i.e., "I stand by my review" and "Goodbye, Mr. Barnes"). I did respond online to his review, and you can see that on the "discussion" tab after clicking the link above.

I suppose I should be toughening my skin for things like this, but I don't think it's too much to ask for a reviewer to actually go through the pages of a book and maybe read a chapter or two!
This week (Thursday) I'm presenting "Forts of Nebraska" at the Nebraska Museum of History, 15th and P in Lincoln. Their monthy "brown bag lecture" is at noon and I hope to see some of you there! If you miss it and live in the area, I'm told that Time/Warner Cable Channel 5 will air it later.