Art and biology

Lynda Barry's 'Babble, Babble, Babble' comes out in November.

The Wisconsin Book Festival continues through October 23, so I wanted to share a couple of personal festival highlights with our blog readers. Whether you’re from upstate or down the block, you can enjoy these writers with me, thanks to the wonders of streaming audio and video.

First off, Wisconsin-based writer and cartoonist Lynda Barry. Part book festival, part radio show, her appearance Friday morning filled the house at Overture Center for the Arts, where WPR‘s Veronica Reuckert was broadcasting the event. Topics included coping with the ‘vampire of doubt’ that sometimes plagues writers; the importance of teacher instinct in an era of test fixation; and Barry’s soon-to-be released book, Blabber Blabber Blabber: Volume 1 of Everything. She also spoke to our creative impulses–how dance, poetry and music have a biological function for humans. They’re part of our wiring, she says.

From the presentation:

When I ask people, ‘Do we need the arts to survive?’ People say, ‘No, to survive all you need is air, some water, and you need, like, food.’

And then I’ll say, ‘Well, you personally, do you need music?’

[Addressing the crowd, many of whom are high school students:] You guys sitting in the audience right now, do you need music?

Absolutely! … When you play your song in the morning it makes you able to get to the bus stop.

If you listen to the entire segment at the Veronica Reuckert Show archives, you’ll be treated to what I’m betting is Barry’s WPR singing debut, a sweetly imperfect rendition of “Oh” by Ciara.

And, speaking of biology, poet Erin Ruzicka Trondson will join two other Midwest authors for a Saturday evening mix of fiction and poetry readings called ‘Voices of Motherhood.’ Nesting, her small book of poems published earlier this year, gets at the knot of maternal experience–entangled as it can be in bliss and tenderness, isolation and vulnerability all at once.

Here she is at a reading last spring:


Two full days of book festival remain. Check out the online guide to map out your itinerary.

Also through Oct. 23  in the Eau Claire area, the Chippewa Valley Book Festival has authors, activities and writing contests on tap.

–Tammy Kempfert

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