Big Read Wrap-Up

The Lansing Community Library completed a successful Big Read of O’Brien’s The Things They Carried with a writing memoir workshop led by the same professor who moderated the panel discussion back in December.  I took copious notes, but sadly no group photos.  The workshop was well attended and I recorded the audio portion (as I can’t always take notes fast enough) and include it here for your enjoyment.  In fact, I’m not sure where I put my notes.

Raw Recording of Memoir Writing Workshop

And, just for completeness’ sake, I’ll include the raw recording of the second group discussion led by a local English professor from the University of St. Mary:

Raw Recording of Second Big Read Book Discussion

I attended all the events and enjoyed all of them. I’m looking forward to the next adult reading program the library cooks up.

Big Read Book Discussion Wed 14 Jan 2015 6:30 pm

The second Big Read book discussion of The Things They Carried by O’Brien starts tomorrow evening, 6:30 p.m., at the Lansing Community Library, 730 1st Terrace, Suite 1, Lansing, Kansas.

Questions to think about:

  • In the list of all the things the soldiers carried, what item was most surprising?
  • Which item did you find most evocative of the war?
  • Which items stay with you?

Leading the discussion: Sister Rosemary Kolich, English Professor, St. Mary University.

A 1980 Saint Mary College grad, Sr. Kolich never dreamed as a student she would one day be teaching at her alma mater.

“I had excellent teachers as a student at Saint Mary. They truly engaged us. What was so transparent was their love of teaching and their commitment to us as both students and individuals. I hope I model the same for my students.”


I plan on attending the discussion tomorrow evening and I hope to see you there.

BigRead: Veteran Panel Discussion Video



I had the pleasure of attending the Big Read Veteran Panel Discussion this past Tuesday at City Hall in Lansing, Kansas, a signature event for the Lansing Community Library‘s “The Things They Carried” Big Read.   Continue reading “BigRead: Veteran Panel Discussion Video”

Big Read Discussion #1 ~ Opening Remarks by Professor Prasch

I attended the first book discussion (a second one is scheduled in January) on the book The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien this past Wednesday night.  Please see my previous post about the kick off of the Big Read earlier this month.  As is my wont when I attend discussions like this, I record the proceedings so I can concentrate on the lecture and discussion fully.  I used to scribble notes constantly, but besides giving me a cramp, it also prevented me from participating and enjoying the experience.  I contacted both Terri and Professor Prasch to gain their permission to include the recording and my transcription of the first third of the evening.

A bit about the transcription process:  Earlier in my life (say a couple of decades ago), I spent years as a legal secretary.  Because I typed so fast, I inherited the most prolific attorneys in whatever office I happened to be employed at.  I got to a point where I could literally type faster than most people could talk and I actually increased the speed of my transcription equipment to save time.  Those days are long gone, but I still maintain a modicum of my once magical ability to race through a tape.  This transcription is mostly verbatim, but I have taken the liberty to clean up some of the structure of the professor’s remarks.  Professors and attorneys are very articulate when they speak, so please rest assured I only glossed over the occasional ‘um’ or ‘you know’ or ‘right? ‘ and other such phrases that all of us fall into when we are thinking and talking extemporaneously.  For completeness sake, I will include the original audio files if you prefer to listen rather than peruse the transcribed content.

Continue reading “Big Read Discussion #1 ~ Opening Remarks by Professor Prasch”

Big Read Kick Off Snapshots

I attended the Big Read kick off of The Things They Carried by O’Brien yesterday at the Lansing Community Library.  Here are a few photos I took with my smartphone (flash turned off):

The local American Legion chapter and active serving military came to show their support.
Terri Wojtalewicz, Youth Services Librarian at the Lansing Community Library, addresses the audience prior to the viewing of the documentary produced by students of Lansing High School.
During intermission, Colonel Devine shared her insights from the documentary.
The library has a drop box for cards and letters to be delivered to service men and women deployed overseas.


I have not yet started reading The Things They Carried, but the documentary of interviews with living combat veterans definitely got me thinking.  I now wish to write letters to all my living family members who are veterans and ask of them the questions I heard asked by the students in their documentary.  Sadly, I desperately wanted to ask them of those who have already left us, namely, my father-in-law, my grandfathers and my great-grandfather.

But that regret just makes me more determined to not waste any more time.  My apologies in advance to friends and family whom I will be ‘bothering’ in the near future, once I read The Things They Carried, devise an interview and a plan of action to capture those memories on paper, in audio or video.  Whatever they are most comfortable with.

The next event on the schedule is a book discussion lead by Tom Prasch, History Department Chair at Washburn University.  Join us on Wednesday, November 19, 2014 at 6:30 p.m. at the Lansing Community Library to share insights from The Things They Carried.


Thank you American Legion Post 411 and USAR Community Network of Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas.

Big Read Coming to Lansing

BigReadLogoWhat is the Big Read?

Simply put, it’s a program of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) designed to restore reading to the center of American culture.

I’ve participated in many Big Reads through the Kansas City Public Library, most recently their Great War | Great Read on the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I.  But the next Big Read I’m diving into will be much closer to home (about a block away and up a hill).   My home town library, the Lansing Community Library, is reading The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien along with five other Kansas libraries this fall and winter.

When does it start?

The Big Read kicks off this Saturday, November 8, 2014 at 10:30 a.m. at the Lansing Community Library, 703 1st Terrace, Lansing, KS  66043.  913-727-2929


“The kickoff event will occur on November 8th at 10:30am with a viewing of a video documentary produced by students at Lansing High School. They interviewed and recorded oral histories of veterans from World War II through Afghanistan Wars. The community will also receive an overview of the upcoming events and have the opportunity to register for them.”

Terri Wojtalewicz, Youth Services Librarian at Lansing Community Library, interviewed by Rimsie McConiga for the Leavenworth Times Read more here:

Not Just Reading

Yes, we’ll be reading a book and there will be book discussions hosted by college professors.  But there will also be multimedia, a panel discussion with Vietnam veterans, a workshop on memoir writing, and an opportunity to send cards and letters to service members currently serving overseas.   Oh, and free books to the first fifty people who sign up for the book discussions.

The Things They Carried

The Vietnam War still has the power to divide Americans between those for it and those against. Today it also divides us, just as surely, between those who remember its era firsthand and those not yet born when the troops came home. There may be no better bridge across these twin divides than Tim O’Brien’s novel in stories The Things They Carried. The details of warfare may have changed since Vietnam, but O’Brien’s semi-autobiographical account of a young platoon on a battlefield without a front, dodging sniper fire and their own misgivings, continues to win legions of dedicated readers, both in uniform and out.

Introduction to the Book

Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried (1990) is considered one of the finest books about the Vietnam War. Far from a combat story of pride and glory, it is a compassionate tale of the American soldier, brimming with raw honesty and thoughtful reflection.

The book’s narrator follows a platoon of infantrymen through the jungles of Vietnam. We see them trudge through the muck of a constant downpour, get hit by sniper fire, pull body parts out of a tree, laugh while they tell their stories to each other, and fall silent when faced with making sense of it all—both in the moment and twenty years later.

What Are You Waiting For?

I hope to see you Saturday morning or at one of the other Big Read events planned for the coming months in the Lansing/Leavenworth area.