Entries from blogs tagged with “Lawrence”

Read Harder Challenge Check In

We’re more than half way through the year – you haven’t forgotten about Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge have you? Many of us here at LPL have been plugging away at the 24 challenges, ever expanding our literary horizons. Here’s a look at some of my favorite challenges and reads so far:

Challenge #1: Read a horror book

"Ring" by Koji Suzuki

This is the novel that inspired the movie "The Ring." The story follows Asakawa, a hardworking journalist, as he investigates his niece's death. He discovers a videotape that ends by alerting viewers they will die in seven days unless they complete a certain task. There’s one problem: the instructions have been recorded over. I personally didn't find the novel as chilling as the movie, but it’s still a good read.

Challenge #10: Read a book over 500 pages

"The Bone Clocks" by David Mitchell

Fifteen year old Holly Sykes runs away from home and encounters the "Radio People" - a group of psychics who follow her throughout her life. I found Mitchell's prediction of the future world most fascinating. With a number of shifts in perspectives and jumps through time settings, this is a dense one!

Challenge #11: Read a book under 100 pages

"Albert Nobbs" by George Moore

Albert Nobbs is a woman disguised and working as a male waiter at an early 20th century English hotel. Albert meets another female working as a male painter who tells her that she's married to another woman, and this encourages Albert to find a wife of her own. Albert Nobbs is a quick read, but it was turned into a film starring Glenn Close, which is one of the most touching things I've ever watched.

Challenge #12: Read a book by or about a person that identifies as transgender

"Symptoms of Being Human" by Jeff Garvin

This well written, informative story follows Riley Cavanaugh, a gender fluid teenager struggling to find acceptance and self-love. Riley's story is inspiring and an important one for those who can relate, and also for those wanting to learn more about gender fluidity and the transgender community.

Challenge #13: Read a book that is set in the Middle East

"Children of the Jacaranda Tree" by Sahar Delijani

This was a heartbreaking read. Delijani illustrates the effect that war and political unrest in Iran has had on mothers, fathers, children, and families. Among many others, she relates the stories of a girl born in a prison in Tehran who is then taken from her mother, and that of a three year old whose political activist parents were arrested in front of him.

-William Ottens is the Cataloging & Collection Development Coordinator at Lawrence Public Library.


Autism is no joke to comedy troupe Asperger’s Are Us

Asperger’s Are Us has a few requests for audience members in advance of the Boston-based comedy troupe’s Aug. 5 performance at the Lawrence Arts Center.

First and foremost, don’t expect to see the guys – that would be Noah Britton, Jack Hanke, New Michael Ingemi and Ethan Finlan, all of whom are openly autistic — poking fun at their condition or using the show as a lofty platform for autism awareness.

And also: bring snacks. Canned goods, cereal, Pepsi and bananas are all on the guys’ wish list.

"‘Cause in RV parks, the only food available is whatever you can hunt from the slower people staying in the RV park,” jokes Britton, the self-described “old man” of the group.

From left: Ethan Finlan, New Michael Ingemi, Jack Hanke and Noah Britton make up the comedy troupe Asperger's Are Us. The comedians, all of whom are openly autistic, will perform Aug. 5 at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St., at 7:30 p.m., followed up a Q-and-A session.

From left: Ethan Finlan, New Michael Ingemi, Jack Hanke and Noah Britton make up the comedy troupe Asperger's Are Us. The comedians, all of whom are openly autistic, will perform Aug. 5 at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St., at 7:30 p.m., followed up a Q-and-A session.

Britton has been tasked with RV maintenance — a daunting task, as the 30-year-old pre-used vehicle has taken to breaking down quite a few times already — during the troupe’s cross-country summer tour. He’s about a decade older than his fellow performers and friends, whom he met 11 years ago as a counselor at a summer camp (Hanke, Ingemi and Finlan were all campers) for kids with Asperger’s.

The age gap doesn’t matter much to the guys, who all share the same quirky, absurdist sense of humor (anticipate that, plus plenty of word play, at the Lawrence show) and a disorder that so often makes socializing and communicating a challenge.

“When I met them, I desperately needed to meet other Aspies. I hadn’t known about my own diagnosis long, and I was like, ‘I need to find somewhere where I can find my own people,’” recalls Britton. “You know, you spend your whole life (having Asperger’s) and are like, ‘What? I’ve never even met anyone who speaks the same language as me,’ and then you do, and it doesn’t even matter if they’re 12. You’re so psyched.”

Since 2010, the friends (aside from Britton, they’re all in their twenties and in college, though academics have been put on hold for the moment) have performed as Asperger’s Are Us, though this summer’s tour is their biggest foray into the national comedy scene yet.

Their biggest break may arrive in the form of a documentary, also called “Asperger’s Are Us,” executive produced by Mark Duplass. The film, which debuted to a warm reception at the South By Southwest festival in Austin earlier this year, is slated to hit Netflix in the fall.

Growing up, Hanke used humor as a “shield” in social situations. It was his way of “making people like me” and finding likeminded friends – a hobby, he says, that has now become a career, oddly enough.

“In the small scale, it feels normal. We’re used to touring by now, somewhat,” Hanke says of the group’s recent successes. “But I guess in the big sense, I still have a hard time believing that this is our life right now. It’s utterly unlike anything I expected to be doing at 23.”

At the moment, that entails anything from spelunking in Ohio to gigging at such prestigious venues as the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. That’s life on the road, and so far, audiences have been receptive to the Asperger’s Are Us brand of humor.

Mainly, the guys are there to make each other laugh — their influences include Monty Python, Andy Kaufman and Steven Wright — but if audiences find it funny too, well, the more the merrier. A one-on-one conversation, Hanke explains, is harder to navigate for a person with Asperger’s than performing to an impersonal auditorium packed with row after row of anonymous faces.

As much as the group prefers to shy away from an ambassador role, they don’t mind talking about Asperger’s with those who are genuinely curious. After every show, the troupe does a Q-and-A session with the audience, fielding questions from parents and teachers and others looking to better understand autism.

“Honestly, if someone wants to hire us to do some kind of educational lecture, we will, but we’re very happy to just be funny on stage and appeal to people who have similar senses of humor,” Britton says, “And that’s really, I think, what every comedian wants.”

Catch Asperger's Are Us at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 5 at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St. Tickets cost $10, and can be purchased at the Arts Center ticket office or at www.lawrenceartscenter.org.


Lead-off hits: best rookie authors of 2016

Summertime is in full-swing, which means more time for some of our favorite things — baseball games, new books and popsicles (which are officially their own food group from May to September.) While we can't offer you any frozen treats, we can combine the other two to give you...

Lead-off Hits: The Best Rookie Authors of 2016

These first-timers have nailed it out of the park across various genres and age groups. They've entered the publishing world with a big hit. They've earned bragging rights for their RBIs (that's Readers Batted In). They'll be sure to give you a batch of HRs (Hours of Reading). They ... OK, you get it, let's just get to the books.

Click here to get on the holds list for one (or all!) of the books.

— Kate Gramlich is a Reader's Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.


Knisley does it: a journey through illustrated memoirs

As a reader, I usually don’t know where my next read is going to come from. It could be found in a magazine article, by listening to NPR, or from a person convincing me that I need to drop everything and read this book that will apparently change my life. This is the tale of my journey with author and artist Lucy Knisley (pronounced Nicely), who I discovered while researching food memoirs via the NoveList feature on the library website.

Residing in Chicago, Knisley is a serial artist who excels at infusing a personal narrative with her signature visual style. She’s a talented young woman with a unique voice that is self-deprecating and humorous, yet universal. Now, I have been around comic books and graphic novels for as long as I can recall, yet I don’t remember encountering any with an autobiographical narrative. Personally, as a visual artist, I have an immense respect for those who pursue and can actualize storytelling through the form of serial artwork.

For Knisley to have both of these qualities within the same bound pages, well, it just seemed too good to be true! Below is a tour guide on my voyage through Lucy Knisley’s work and perhaps you, dear readers, will be as endeared by her work as I have been.

Published in 2008, "French Milk" offers an introspective and intimate portrait of Knisley’s life during a pivotal time in her early 20s. The plot involves a six-week trip to Paris with her mother, Knisley’s impending 24th birthday, and her thoughts of what future awaits her upon graduating from the Art Institute of Chicago.

The narrative is portrayed through personal black and white photographs, drawings from her Moleskine notebook, as well as Knisley’s accompanying handwritten anecdotes. While the drawing style feels simple in comparison to Knisley’s other works, it supports the temporal setting of a trip abroad. French Milk almost reads like a graphic novel Moleskine edition of Noah Baumbach’s film "Frances Ha," another coming of age tale that could be categorized as Millennial French Noir.

In 2013, Knisley produced "Relish: My Life in the Kitchen," a food memoir graphic novel. You read that correctly: It’s a memoir about food relayed through an illustrated format. Relish is quite possibly the most personal of Knisley’s works once you discover just how much she not only loves food, but relishes it.

As the daughter of a chef and gourmet, Knisley weaves the thread of food and the pleasure of eating into just about every facet of her life. In addition to the lovingly crafted illustrations, there are family recipes that accompany each chapter. I offer one warning: Do not read this book when you are hungry because it will prove to be absolutely torturous.

"An Age of License: A Travelogue" follows Knisley as she travels solo for a publisher-funded book tour through Europe and Scandinavia. This work is a great combination of her writing style, like what is found in "French Milk," and the visual stylings of "Relish." In combination with her innate sense of humor, Knisley crafts not only a travelogue for her journey, but an inner diary as well.

She followed up with "Displacement: A Travelogue" in 2015, which chronicles a cruise taken by Knisely and her aging grandparents. This work is a true love letter for those who have a close knit relationship with elders in their family. Displacement continues the physical, internal journeying from "An Age of License" and adds a temporal quality with anecdotes from the storied lives of Knisely’s grandparents.

This year brings Lucy Knisley’s latest release, "Something New: Tales From a Makeshift Bride," and completes a romantic story arc that began in "French Milk." This opus is not only a wonderful mix of Knisley’s previous works, but it also offers a refreshing perspective of what it’s like to plan a wedding and insight on what it means to be married. This book garners a newfound respect for do-it-yourself nuptials and the work that goes into crafting a ceremony with meaning.

— Ilka Iwanczuk is a Reader's Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.


Vintage Players to perform annual ‘Senior Moments’ Saturday at Theatre Lawrence

The retirees-turned-thespians of Theatre Lawrence’s Vintage Players call it “An Evening of Senior Moments,” but, as members of the group will attest, the annual comedy performance is more than colonoscopy jokes and predictable bits about failing memory.

“It’s funny,” Vintage Players director Mary Ann Saunders says of that particular brand of comedy. “But at the end of the day, it’s sort of depressing.”

“Senior Moments,” she says, is more about the kind of idiosyncrasies and human foibles we all experience, even those of us yet to experience the worst of the aging process. This year’s production — a mix of one-liners, “old vaudeville jokes” and improvised skits, from the minds of Vintage Players themselves or outside scribes — will be staged at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Theatre Lawrence, 4660 Bauer Farm Drive. The performance is free, but a suggested donation of $5 (or more, if you're feeling generous) is appreciated.

From left, Judith Scheff and Chuck Mosley perform a scene driving a make believe automobile as Jerry Morton pretends to be a officer giving a ticket to the pair during a Vintage Players performance at Vermont Towers, 1101 Vermont St., on Tuesday, July 12, 2016. The comedy troupe is staging its annual "An Evening of Senior Moments" show Saturday at Theatre Lawrence, 4660 Bauer Farm Drive.

From left, Judith Scheff and Chuck Mosley perform a scene driving a make believe automobile as Jerry Morton pretends to be a officer giving a ticket to the pair during a Vintage Players performance at Vermont Towers, 1101 Vermont St., on Tuesday, July 12, 2016. The comedy troupe is staging its annual "An Evening of Senior Moments" show Saturday at Theatre Lawrence, 4660 Bauer Farm Drive. by Richard Gwin

A Theatre Lawrence staple since 2002, the comedy troupe performs regularly at area nursing homes and schools, including Cordley and Deerfield Elementary, where the actors share fairy tales with second graders through re-enactment. The idea, particularly with audiences who are older and often not as active as they once were, is to lift spirits and challenge preconceived notions of senior citizens.

“It lets us entertain them, because they’re confined and some of them are in ill health,” says longtime Vintage Players member Jane Robshaw. “And to see older people, that we’re still out there and performing. I’m 74 and I’m still going.”

Over the years, Saunders has seen Players come and go. Some are more active in the summer months after vacationing outside of Lawrence during the winter. Others, tasked with caring for sick loved ones, might not make every meeting, but find themselves healed — at least momentarily — when they do.

“We read new materials and share stories and laugh at each other quite a bit,” Saunders says, recounting anecdotes from fellow members with chronically sick loved ones. “I think there’s a lot of therapy in laughing. Good therapy.”

But mainly, she says, it’s about having fun. The mission statement of the Vintage Players quite literally is “Just have fun.” And that they do.

Saturday’s iteration of “Senior Moments” (Vintage Players never performs the same show twice in a row, as Saunders prefers to review new scripts and devise new material every year) will make use of the upcoming summer Olympics, bits inspired by “The Ellen Degeneres Show” and other topical elements.

And even though there’s more than a sprinkling of retiree-centric comedy involved, Saunders hopes the show will have a broad appeal.

“Some of the humor is based on the fact that we can’t hear as well or see as well, but there’s an awful lot of stuff in the world that’s funny no matter at what age you’re experiencing it,” she says. “You can find humor in just about everything, and I’m a firm believer that there’s not much out there that you can’t laugh at.”


Shakespeare 400 at your library

Perhaps you’re all up to date on all #Shakespeare400, but I (and here I hang my librarian head) have only paid glancing attention to the worldwide celebration of the Bard’s “passing through nature to eternity.”

Thankfully, I’ll be given the chance to remedy my oversight when on Final Friday, July 29 at 6 p.m., Lawrence Opera Theatre (LOT) will be showcasing their seventh season in the library auditorium. Luminous voices from LOT will be performing songs and arias from the coming season, which captures the words of William Shakespeare set to music.

Shakespeare changed the English language forever, and for the better, as far as I’m concerned. Thanks to Will, I’m able to leapfrog, misquote, and be zany. I can marvel at a dewdrop, revel in pageantry, and identify that I am heartsore when necessary. Artists through the ages have performed his works, and transformed his words into music, operas, plays, movies, novels and more.

As part of the celebration, LPL has created two reading lists highlighting Shakespeare’s varied contribution to the arts. Some of these books investigate Shakespeare’s life and influence on the world. ("Shakespeare Saved My Life" would be great, discussable pick for you book group.)

Some choices view his work through another lens. (Be sure to check out "The Women of Will" and "Worlds Elsewhere"). Some of our picks are direct tellings, some are glorious resettings, and there are books about opera, recordings, and DVD’s for those who want to learn more about what you’ll be hearing and seeing.

Check out:

Best Shakespearean Resettings: The influence of Shakespeare's works runs rampant through new books and movies. Over the years, these classic tales of love and tragedy have been re-imagined in wildly different settings-- often creating an intriguing juxtaposition.

Shakespeare 400 - The Art of Will: The world and words of William Shakespeare captured in books, music, film and stage. A list to help you celebrate the Bard.

Be sure to include the library presenting Lawrence Oprea Theatre on your Final Friday rounds. You’ll find refreshments and a place to stop and wonder at the transformative nature of art around the world and right here in Lawrence KS.

-Polli Kenn is the Reader's Services Coordinator at Lawrence Public Library.


Reading under the influence with James Patterson’s Bookshots

If Nike gave out shoe deals for authors, James Patterson would be the first to have a line of $120 premium sneakers. Literary tastes aside, there’s no denying that he’s running the popular fiction game right now, with scores of best-selling titles coming out every month.

How does he do it? I think it’s time to ask a daunting question, one that might have revelatory, world-changing consequences — is James Patterson actually a human being?

As it turns out, Patterson has actually developed an extensive network of co-authors that help him churn out a steady stream of Alex Cross et. al. novels. In some ways, he is more than a mere writer now; he is a meta-author, the pulsating central brain of a mystery/thriller-themed hivemind.

And this is only the beginning.

Last month, Patterson launched a self-described “revolution in reading,” a supposed evolutionary leap for the literary form: Bookshots. His website explains: “Let’s face it — far too many books are far too long. … You try to resist the urge to turn on the TV or scroll Facebook, while the voice in your head grows louder with every page: CUT TO THE CHASE! JUST TELL ME WHAT HAPPENS! — James Patterson feels your pain.”

Essentially, Bookshots are full-length stories that play out in 150 pages or fewer. Other taglines for the books include “Stories at the speed of life” and “All thriller, no filler.” I know what you’re probably wondering: Is this actually a new thing? This is just a highly-branded novella, right?

So I read one to find out.

The first wave of Bookshots rolled out a handful of titles, like "Zoo 2," a sequel to Patterson’s novel about animals attacking humans en masse because we use cellphones too much. Though I skipped the first installment, I was hoping to grab a copy of "Zoo 2," since that sounds incredible. It was checked out, sadly, so I was forced to venture outside my reading comfort zone and instead got a copy of "The McCullagh Inn in Maine," a title from the Bookshots romance subcategory, Bookshots: Flames.

"The McCullagh Inn in Maine" is primarily written by Jen McLaughlin with input from Patterson. The cover makes it appear as a cozy, gentle read with its looping pink script and picturesque Maine beach scene. I cracked it open at 9 in the evening, expecting a heartwarming — yet fast paced — love story. I quickly grew more interested when it became clear that drug cartels and betrayal were the central conflict of the story; with a Bookshot, all bets are off.

Two hours and 137 pages later, I finished the tale of Chelsea O’Kane, a woman on the run who wants to escape her checkered past and renovate her family bed and breakfast, and Jeremy Holland, the hunky accountant who shows up in her time of need. When Patterson claimed that Bookshots were “All filler, no thriller,” he wasn’t kidding. Every scene of The McCullagh Inn in Maine involves either sensual, this-is-so-wrong-but-so-right nuzzling or hails of cartel gunfire. Just enough backstory is sprinkled in to keep the gears turning and the tension high, like a thin mortar stretched between bricks of high-octane action.

The editing must have been ruthless. The narration is frenetic and hyper efficient — I could tell that McLaughlin had many more details imagined for the this world, but only the most vital and electric made it to print. The Bookshots editors clearly know how to turn a story, though; "The McCullagh Inn in Maine" is pretty interesting, easy to follow, and has a satisfying ending that wraps it all up.

However, I didn’t feel like I had just read a novella. Compared to something like John Steinbeck’s well-known "Of Mice and Men," "The McCullagh Inn in Maine" seems shorter (even though it has a longer page count), but it also leaves the story seeming more complete. Frankly, the Bookshot read more like a short story than a novella. But that’s still not the closest analog in form.

Patterson mentions in his Bookshots philosophy that the plots have “cinematic action,” so it makes perfect sense that reading a Bookshot is like watching a two hour Michael Bay film, a la "Bad Boys 2" or "Transformers." It’s also a lot like taking an actual shot. There’s a rush of excitement and burning, and then suddenly the night is over and you’re left with nothing.

In all seriousness though, Bookshots are an intriguing new form of literature. Patterson has a valid point—a lot of people would like to read, but simply don’t have time to bust through 375 pages in a reasonable time frame. His writers and editing team have done something impressive; whereas novellas seem to be expounded short stories, Bookshots are highly-concentrated novels.

Maybe other writers will jump in with their own lines — I’d love to see Diana Gabaldon: Wikipedia Synopses and Nicholas Sparks Presents: SparksNotes. I’m confident that the world will always have a healthy supply of wordy, meandering doorstoppers to balance quick reads.

However, there is a new category of Bookshots that has troubling implications. On bookshots.com, one title is listed: "Trump Vs. Clinton: In Their Own Words, Everything You Need to Know to Vote Your Conscious." No, the category isn’t Bookshots: Flames. It’s nonfiction, but all thriller, no filler.

Just think about the rabbits, Lennie.

— Eli Hoelscher is a Reader’s Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.


A block-by-block guide to the Downtown Lawrence Sidewalk Sale

With nearly 100 local businesses slated to participate Thursday, July 21, the 57th annual Downtown Lawrence Sidewalk Sale is again expected to draw at least 10,000 savvy shoppers over the course of the day — that'd be sunup to sundown, or roughly 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

While Massachusetts Street, particularly the stretch between the 600 and 1000 blocks, tends to attract the biggest crowds, bargain hunters would be remiss to not venture off the beaten path, says Sally Zogry, director of Downtown Lawrence Inc. Venues located a little farther down Massachusetts Street — or just off it — boast their fair share of treasures, too.

Also, “Just because a business is not outside does not mean they’re not participating,” Zogry advises.

Among her tips: Dress for the weather, stop by the cooling stations to keep hydrated, visit the portable toilets at the breezeways in the 700 and 800 blocks of Massachusetts Street if you need to, and bring a buddy — “it’s more fun,” Zogry says. Those arriving early in the morning may have more merchandise to choose from, but often the best deals are found later in the evening.

Shoppers check out the deals at Sunflower Outdoor and Bike Shop, 804 Massachusetts St., during the Downtown Lawrence Sidewalk Sale, Thursday, July 16, 2015.

Shoppers check out the deals at Sunflower Outdoor and Bike Shop, 804 Massachusetts St., during the Downtown Lawrence Sidewalk Sale, Thursday, July 16, 2015. by Richard Gwin

“There’s a little something for everyone,” she says. “If you’re somebody who wants to get the $5 deal, you can get it. You can outfit your whole house, your closet, your dog or cat.”

Or, forget about the shopping (at least momentarily) and stop by the Journal-World’s booth at the corner of Ninth and Massachusetts streets for Town Talk Live with managing editor Chad Lawhorn (there will also be gift card giveaways, to further entice you) from 8 to 11 a.m.

In the meantime, we’ve compiled a short-ish rundown of a handful of the many businesses (because there are really too many to mention here) participating in the sale this year. We’ve also pointed out where to cool off, find food and get your face painted. Good luck, shoppers!

600 Block

Waxman Candles, 609 Massachusetts St.

Take a respite from the heat (you won’t find goods on the sidewalk here, for obvious reasons) inside Waxman Candles, where all votive candles are marked down to $1.10. Various candle holders and other odds and ends will also be on sale.

The Raven Book Store, 6 E. Seventh St.

Enjoy a 12-percent discount on everything inside the shop, plus markdowns on some greeting cards — 25 cents each or five for a dollar.

700 Block

Ruff House Art, 729 Massachusetts St.

Load up on discounted stationery essentials such as greeting cards, envelopes, cardstock and gift wrap at the letterpress shop, which is also slashing prices by 10 percent storewide.

Dusty Bookshelf, 708 Massachusetts St.

Everything’s marked down inside the shop (employees are keeping things hush-hush on specifics for now) and out, where sidewalk shoppers can snatch up books at $2 or less a pop.

Made, 737 Massachusetts St.

Browse through Made’s inventory of gift-y (and often locally made or local-centric) items — which include jewelry, prints, flatware and other home goods — all at 10-percent off. Also, keep an eye out for deeper cuts on select products around the store.

Cooling station: Take a load off at the Eldridge Hotel, 701 Massachusetts St.

800 Block

Fortuity, 809 Massachusetts St.

Cash-strapped fashionistas, pay heed: Starting at 5 a.m., the trendy boutique will offer racks of clothing with some items marked down to $5. Special giveaways, extra discounts and other surprises will be offered throughout the day.

Sunflower Outdoor & Bike Shop, 804 Massachusetts St.

Sunflower is historically one of the busiest locales as far as bang-for-your-buck deals go, and this year’s sale is no exception: All past-season inventory — including winter clothing, shoes and accessories — will be marked down by at least 50 percent. All other items, i.e. bikes and summer gear, will be discounted 10 percent.

Love Garden, 822 Massachusetts St.

It’s a music lover’s paradise at the downtown emporium of all things cool, where shoppers can peruse 10-percent-off new CDs and LPs, 30-percent-off used CDs and hundreds of $1 records. The store is also selling limited-edition Love Garden tank tops in honor of the Sidewalk Sale.

Cooling station: Escape from the heat at TCBY, 845 Massachusetts St., and Pickleman’s Gourmet Café, where free cookies will also be handed out, at 818 Massachusetts St.

Refreshments: Air Summer Sno will be selling shaved ice to hungry shoppers in front of the law offices at 808 Massachusetts St. toward the end of the day.

900 Block

Yarn Barn, 930 Massachusetts St.

Stock up on overstock and newly discontinued yarn, plus a few sample garments, for 35- to 50-percent-off. Then get to work on that scarf idea you saved on Pinterest ages ago, because winter is coming.

Weavers, 901 Massachusetts St.

You’ll find pretty much any and everything marked down at the department store, from clothing to home wares. Some noteworthy deals include Weavers’ inventory of high-end Wusthof knives, which will start at $5.99 for the paring variety, as well as unspecified (but steep, Weavers assures us) markdowns on linens and Fiestaware. Also enjoy up to half-off all luggage, 50- to 60-percent cuts in women’s shoes, accessories, sunglasses and jewelry, and hundreds of dresses and in-season women’s sportswear for $9.99 and up. In the men’s section, look out for deals on Bill’s Khakis shorts and long-sleeved shirts.

The Toy Store, 936 Massachusetts St.

Enjoy markdowns of 20- to 50-percent-off at the Toy Store, where you’ll find a large offering of discounted doll furniture, books and Playmobil products in particular.

Refreshments: Fuel up at the Mad Greek, 907 Massachusetts St., where employees will be selling coffee and pastries in the morning hours. Also, check out the food hub at the U.S. Bank Plaza, 900 Massachusetts St., where La Familia Café & Cantina, Fine Thyme Food and Chocolate Moonshine Co. will be selling everything from breakfast burritos to fudge for hungry passersby.

Amusements: Get your face painted (for fun, or because you’re looking to intimidate your fellow shoppers with a little war paint) at Aunt Nancy’s Face Art, 944 Massachusetts St. Also, take a dance break at the U.S. Bank plaza (900 Massachusetts St.) with Jami Amber Lynne during the Brown Bag concert from noon to 1 p.m.

1000 and 1100 Blocks

Urban Outfitters, 1013 Massachusetts St.

Take 50 percent off (or 55 percent, if you’ve got the Urban Outfitters app) all sale items in the hipster haven, which includes men’s and women’s clothing, shoes and accessories.

Cooling stations: Rest up at the Granada Theater, 1020 Massachusetts St., and the Watkins Museum of History, 1047 Massachusetts St.

Refreshments: ManaBar tea lounge, 1111 Massachusetts St., will be parked outside with hand-squeezed lemonade and iced tea (including locally brewed kombucha) for sale.

Reply 7 comments from R.L. Burnett Tony Peterson Rick Masters Erin Adams Brett Hansen Nick Gerik Greg Reno

Republish or perish: An interview with the Purple House Press

Back in third grade, my best friend hipped me to the wonders of Bertrand Brinley’s novel "The Mad Scientist’s Club," about a group of boys who float a mannequin over their town’s Founder’s Day celebration, construct a remote controlled “monster” in a local lake, and wreak further havoc with various other products of their tinkering.

Originally published in 1961, the book had gone out of print until a company called Purple House Press, which specializes in republishing classic children’s books, brought it back to life. Purple House Press has been one of my favorite discoveries in selecting children’s books for the library, and I was lucky enough recently to interview Jill Morgan, who founded the company 16 years ago.

DC: How did you get into the business of republishing out-of-print children’s books?

JM: In 1996 I quit my job as a software engineer to stay home with my two young children. I started collecting books over the internet, finding all the good old books I remembered from my youth. It was expensive, so I started buying and selling out-of-print books to fund my addiction! In the back of my mind was the idea of republishing them someday to bring the cost down, and it grew from there. I wanted people to be able to share with their own children the stories they grew up with. The catalyst was when my favorite book, "Mr. Pine's Purple House," was selling for $300 online. I wanted it to be affordable again so the story wouldn't die out. The book is about doing things your own way and not following the crowd. Mr. Pine actually seemed to be encouraging me to start Purple House Press.

DC: How do you choose the titles you republish? Do you take suggestions? At the library we often wish to replace favorite titles, but can’t due to them being out-of-print.

JM: Many of our books were my favorites as a child, many have been suggested by customers and friends, the rest I've found by researching them on the internet. We're always open to suggestions!

DC: How has the children’s book world changed since Purple House Press began in 2000?

JM: The production side is much easier now, working with our printers, being able to FTP files and see PDF proofs as opposed to burning CD's and overnighting everything. E-books continue to grow but they are a small portion of sales. I personally like them and believe it's the way of the future, but I do hope people continue to buy print books for their kids to hold and interact with. When my son was 5 he went through a stage where he carried around a copy of "Mr. Pine's Mixed-up Signs" everywhere he went for weeks. He even slept with it!

DC: What are your best sellers and personal favorites?

JM: My personal favorite is "Mr. Pine's Purple House" for obvious reasons, and it has been one of our best sellers. A new personal favorite of mine is a book we're releasing this fall, "The Practical Princess" by Jay Williams. Written in 1969, it's the story of a strong heroine who slays the dragon and rescues the prince. Wish I'd had it as a child! "Miss Suzy," "Pickle-Chiffon Pie," "Miss Twiggley's Tree" and "The Chestry Oak" are other top sellers. A large portion of our sales are to the homeschool market; we appreciate our supporters there.

DC: What is it like working with people whose work was beloved, but runs the risk of being forgotten?

JM: The first book I wanted to reprint was "Mr. Pine's Purple House." Back in 2000 I sent letters to the author, Leonard Kessler, through several different sources, and he got them all on the same day. He called me immediately, was quite thrilled to be part of our venture and took a chance with us. He approved of the company name, too. Leonard was 80 years old at the time and never realized how much his little book meant to my generation. Now he does, and his license plate reads “MR P1NE.” He and his kids have said reprinting the Mr. Pine books brought both Leonard and Mr. Pine back to life.

— Dan Coleman is a Collection Development Librarian at Lawrence Public Library.


Tour of Lawrence returns this weekend with an estimated 750 cyclists rolling into town

More than 750 cyclists are expected to roll into town (we’ll try to keep the bicycle jokes to a minimum here) when the eighth annual Tour of Lawrence kicks off Friday.

The three-day event, sanctioned by USA Cycling, is presented by U.S. Bank and made possible by eXplore Lawrence. It is slated to draw upwards of 7,000 spectators as athletes compete in street sprints and races, both of the circuit and criterium variety, in locations across Lawrence.

“It’s matured over the years through word of mouth,” says event organizer Bob Sanner, who alternately describes his title as “head trash collector” of the races. “From the first several Tours of Lawrence, it was people coming through and seeing if Lawrence knew anything about hosting or organizing a cycling event. We’re into year eight, and I think it’s been demonstrated that, yes, we do.”

Cyclists competing in the men's pro race speed around a corner during the Tour of Lawrence downtown criterium Sunday, June 28, 2015.

Cyclists competing in the men's pro race speed around a corner during the Tour of Lawrence downtown criterium Sunday, June 28, 2015. by John Young

The city of Lawrence, he says, provides a perfect backdrop for the tour, which this year includes venues such as the Haskell Indian Nations University campus and the Historic Breezedale District. Downtown Lawrence also plays a vital role, with the stretch of Vermont Street between Seventh and Ninth streets hosting street sprints, the tour’s first official event, Friday at 6:30 p.m.

From 6:30 to 10 p.m. that night, Tour of Lawrence will host a free kids’ zone in the nearby area of Eighth Street between Vermont and Kentucky streets. The fun includes a bounce house, inflatable games, food and drinks — though refreshments will cost you extra — and, once the race ends, live music from Wichita-based alt-country rockers Split Lip Rayfield in a free street party for cyclists and spectators alike.

Saturday’s races through the Haskell campus and Breezedale neighborhood begin at 9 a.m., while Sunday kicks off perhaps the biggest day of the tour with criterium races at 9 a.m. The course starts and ends at the intersection of Ninth and Massachusetts streets, with some of the top names in competitive cycling whirring past spectators on a track looping the blocks between Seventh and 10th streets.

Little ones are invited to get in on the action, too — aside from the return of the kids’ zone from 9 a.m. to noon Sunday on Eighth Street between Vermont and Massachusetts streets, young cyclists will have the chance to compete in a free kids’ race that day at 11 a.m. Mandatory registration will take place between 9:30 and 10:45 a.m. on Ninth Street between Vermont and Massachusetts streets, and helmets are required.

Prizes include a Tour of Lawrence medal for the first 300 participants, coupons for downtown businesses such as TCBY and Ingredient, and the opportunity to win one of three $100 gift certificates to Sunflower Outdoor & Bike Shop.

Sunday also marks the return of Ad Astra Running Mass Street Mile footrace from 7 to 8 a.m. The event (registration is capped at 200 participants) includes categories for adults and kids.

Event organizers will be on hand throughout the races with water and pop-up tents to provide protection from the sun, Sanner says, though he’s hoping the projected forecast of slightly cooler temps (mid-80s for the weekend, as of press time) holds up.

And even if you’re not necessarily a cycling fan, you’re likely to encounter — and safely negotiate with, ideally — cyclists on the street this weekend, Sanner says.

Bottom line: respect one another and the rules of the road.

“I would encourage motorists to have an even greater awareness of what’s happening around them, and maybe take a second look before they turn or cross an intersection,” Sanner says. “These riders who are coming in have spent a lot of hours and have ridden a lot of miles on the highways and on the streets, so they’re very attune and aware of their surroundings.”

For more information, including a full schedule of events, visit www.touroflawrence.com.


Twins train hogs for Douglas County Fair

Video by Journal-World photographer Richard Gwin:

Twin brothers Lane and Tate Anderson, 13, walk their hogs "Big Large" and "Mr. Pig" Tuesday in preparation for the Douglas County Fair, which takes place July 25 to July 31. The Andersons are members of the Palmyra 4-H club.


‘Bob’s Burgers Cookbook’ a cure for those burger blues

The Fourth of July was a tough holiday for me. It’s not a lack of patriotism, if that’s what you’re thinking. It’s the barbecues. You’d think I’d have gotten used to not eating meat after so long, but man. Just thinking about some nice grilled hamburgers gets me ready to abandon a decade’s worth of vegetarianism.

Some people stop eating meat because they don’t like the taste. I am not one of them. Every now and then I see a commercial on TV for Wendy’s or something and it gets my mouth watering. Wendy’s.

I find myself in this predicament fairly often. My wife and I finally watched "Breaking Bad" in its entirety a month or so ago. Of everything in the show, that Los Pollos Hermanos commercial from season three is what has stuck with me longest. I’m not knocking the show; it’s great, it’s just that the chicken looked so good. Another show that tempts my carnivorous side is "Bob’s Burgers." Never in my life has a cartoon made me so hungry!

For those of you who haven’t watched, "Bob’s Burgers" follows the Belchers, a fairly functional family of weirdoes. There’s the dad, Bob, the brilliant cook, founder and namesake of the restaurant, and Linda, the optimistic co-owner and sing-a-holic. Together they parent three of the most wonderful children to grace the silver screen: butts-obsessed teen Tina, keyboard enthusiast Gene and their youngest, the street smart Louise.

The kids “help” their parents with the day to day of the restaurant while managing to get into outrageous situations big and small. Through it all they remain best friends, and somehow Bob, and especially Linda, are still proud and loving parents at the end of every episode.

One of the running jokes in the series is Bob’s “Burger of the Day.” Every episode we’re given a terrible, wonderful burger related pun — the I Know Why the Cajun Burger Sings, Sargent Poblano Pepper and the Lonely Artichoke Hearts Club Burger, A Good Manchego is Hard to Find Burger, etc. — and now you can actually try them. Written by the show’s creator, Loren Bouchard, and featuring Cole Bowden’s recipes, "The Bob’s Burgers Burger Book" will humorously teach you how to create 75 Burgers of the Day. Ever wonder how the Bleu is the Warmest Cheese Burger tastes? Wonder no more.

If you’re not vegetarian, that is.

Vegetarians aren’t completely left out to dry. We herbivores get three veggie options. The Rest in Peas Burger, the Mediterr-Ain’t Misbehavin’ Burger, and the I’m Gonna Get You Succotash Burger. For the sake of this review (and my own curiosity), I attempted the Rest in Peas Burger, and it actually turned out pretty well. In my experience, homemade veggie burgers can end up kind of mushy, but this one held together nicely and had a decent texture and taste.

My second go around, I added some diced jalapeños and a little bit of soy sauce, and I really liked it. If you can’t eat four burgers in one sitting, they hold up well after freezing so you can make a bunch and heat 'em up later. My wife tried out the Mediterr-Ain’t Misbehavin’ Burger recipe (eggplant, chickpeas, arugula and tzatziki sauce), and even though we both agreed that we would have preferred the eggplant patties to be baked and breaded, I ate three, so that has to count for something, right?

While I’m sure these new recipes won’t completely alleviate my carnivorous cravings, they have helped to sate my burgerlust. At the very least they’ll help me get through the summer cookouts. Thanksgiving, here I come.

— Ian Stepp is an Information Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.


Charlaine Harris: Reaching a supernatural crossroads

I first discovered Charlaine Harris’ acclaimed Southern Vampire Mysteries (aka the Sookie Stackhouse series) while in college. At the time, I worked two jobs while finishing my bachelor’s degree, and I needed a vacation from the dense, academic drivel that consumed my evenings.

Following a recommendation from my mom, who is an avid mystery reader, I became immediately enraptured by Sookie’s paranormal world. It served as the perfect escape from my never ending to-do lists, beckoning deadlines and helped me fall in love with recreational reading all over again.

I not only devoured each of the books published at that point, but I also started my long-term relationship with the Urban Fantasy genre.

When I learned in 2013 that Harris planned a new supernatural series featuring prominent characters from her other mysteries, I couldn’t have been more excited. Imagine my dismay when "Midnight Crossroad" went on sale, and the internet became flooded with negative reviews. Against my better judgement, I decided to pass on reading "Midnight Crossroad" because I feared it would not live up to my expectations ... that is, until about a week ago.

Even though I’m a little late to the club, I learned that "Midnight Crossroad" has been ordered as a new series on NBC. After seeing the trailer for the pilot, the hype became totally real for me as it brought me back down memory lane to when I first watched season one of "True Blood," one of my all-time favorite shows. I knew that I needed to revisit my initial misgivings about "Midnight Crossroad" and give it a read despite what the critics said.

The novel opens as the young and erratic online psychic Manfred Bernardo (from Harris’ Harper Connelly books) moves to Midnight, Texas, to go completely off the grid. Little does he know that the town of Midnight is full of individuals who wish to exist in anonymity like himself. There’s Bobo Winthrop, the owner of a local pawn shop that fans of Harris’ Lily Bard series will be sure to recognize, the rakish Lemuel who only comes out at night, the beautiful Olivia, who may or may not be a trained killer, Chuy and Joe, a gay couple who own an antique mall and nail salon, the introspective Reverend, and Fiji, a new age witch with a curious cat.

When Bobo’s missing girlfriend Aubrey is found dead, the Midnighters must band together to solve the mystery while truths simmer to the surface that threaten to reveal the deep rooted secrets they each possess.

Harris has a knack for crafting some of the most complex and relatable characters in fiction. Each of the town’s residents are shrouded in mystery, and there are so many underlying facets that make each of them feel like people you might know. And yet, none of the characters are who they claim to be, which results in a degree of peculiarity that keeps the residents of Midnight from fading into a mundane reality.

Following the unspoken rule of Midnight to avoid prying into business that isn’t your own, Harris employs a third person perspective that allows the reader to feel like an active member of the Midnight community. This evokes a rich world that could actually exist even with the presence of paranormal forces. Harris’ intricate worldbuilding and emphasis on character development is part of what makes "Midnight Crossroad" such an addicting read.

Although many won’t agree with me, I believe that Harris is a contemporary incarnation of Agatha Christie. She does an exceptional job of not only crafting an engaging mystery, but also pacing the novel in a suspenseful way that would make Shonda Rhimes proud (Any "How To Get Away With Murder" fans out there?).

I will warn everyone that "Midnight Crossroad" has a bit of a slow start, as it introduces its denizens in Dickens-esque, detailed glory, but the story takes on a relentless pace once the murder victim is discovered. Even if I didn’t guess the killer correctly, reading "Midnight Crossroad" was one heck of a journey. It had me wanting to reread the novel to see if I could discover the subtle trail of breadcrumbs Harris left for readers to follow.

If I’ve learned one thing from this experience, it’s that life is too short to read what critics recommend or society discerns as “quality literature.” From now on, I plan to follow my gut, read what I want, and I’ll decide how I feel about it instead of forming an opinion based on the critiques of others. Are you in the mood for a gripping mystery with supernatural flair and a touch of camp? Then give "Midnight Crossroad" a chance. If it isn’t your cup of tea, there are plenty more books in the proverbial sea.

— Fisher Adwell is an Information Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.


Lawrence cook takes home top prize, scholarship at national culinary competition

Zach Frieling was sweating, his body wracked with nerves as the results began to roll in at last month’s SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference in Louisville, Ky.

He remembers the “shock” that came with the news that he’d won first place in the conference’s culinary arts competition, and also the pride in his supporters’ faces — his family, including a teary-eyed Mom, was in attendance, as were his instructors and coach.

“It was the best moment of my life, probably,” recalls Frieling, who works as line manager at downtown Lawrence’s popular Limestone Pizza. “I’m just glad I could make them all happy.”

Zach Frieling, line manager at Limestone Pizza, prepares pizzas at the 814 Massachusetts St. eatery. Frieling won first place in the culinary arts competition last month at the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference in Louisville, Ky.

Zach Frieling, line manager at Limestone Pizza, prepares pizzas at the 814 Massachusetts St. eatery. Frieling won first place in the culinary arts competition last month at the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference in Louisville, Ky. by Richard Gwin

Frieling, 21, represented the state of Kansas and took home the gold medal at the competition, which pitted young chefs from across the nation against each other in a “Chopped”-esque contest designed to test organization, knife skills, cooking techniques, creative presentation, food safety, quality and flavor.

A spring 2016 graduate of Flint Hills Technical College, Frieling was asked by his alma mater to participate in the preliminary state competition held in Kansas City earlier this year while still a student. At the national cook-off in Louisville, he competed with college students for the top prize, which gave each aspiring chef a mystery basket with which to craft a four-course menu the night before the competition.

Frieling’s chopped romaine salad with apple slaw and bacon-almond brittle, pureed green lentil soup, mushroom-stuffed chicken ballotine and braised foreshank ultimately earned him the top prize.

He thinks the soup probably helped push him over the top — “I was the only one that did a pureed soup,” Frieling says. “We couldn’t use electronic equipment at all, so I had to puree it the old-fashioned way of putting it through a strainer and mashing it through.”

Aside from the shiny gold medal, Frieling’s prize package also includes a full-tuition scholarship to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. His mother, “crying again,” discovered a folder from the prestigious culinary school tucked away in a swag bag after returning to their Louisville hotel. Frieling had won seventh place in the national SkillsUSA competition last year, but never “anything like this before,” he now recalls of the moment.

“That,” he says, “is what I’m going to do next.”

For now, the young chef is trying to stay humble. Most in his position would set their sights on opening a restaurant, Frieling included, but he knows himself well enough to realize it’ll be a while before he’s “at that point.”

Frieling, who is quick to point out that he’s still “only 21,” credits longtime supporters like Limestone co-owner and executive chef Rick Martin for his success. Frieling’s enjoyed learning from industry professionals and hopes to continue.

“I’ve had a lot of great mentors, especially Chef Rick,” he says. “I’ve known him for almost six years now, and that guy has given me so much. I’m so happy to show him that it wasn’t for nothing.”


Graphic novel recommendations, part two: nonfiction

If you’ve ever taken a creative writing class, you’ve no doubt heard the writing workshop mantra: “Show, don’t tell.” Combine that with the old adage that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and you’ve got the sweet spot that graphic novels inhabit — a medium that can pair compelling narrative with evocative illustrations can convey nuances of emotion and experience unavailable to words alone.

If you are familiar with graphic novels at all, it is most likely through the lens of superheroes or fantasy or, well, fiction. But this endlessly flexible medium is also a vehicle for great nonfiction, and especially for memoirs that explore family dynamics — a realm where so many things are often left unsaid, and pictures can be particularly powerful. Here are some great picks to get you started:

Longtime New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast’s "Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant" is a memoir in which she recounts her experience caring for her elderly parents in their final years. Chast is an only child; although she was close to her father, her mother’s strong personality and lack of warmth dominated their family. Chast’s unflinchingly honest and refreshingly funny portrayal of the complexities of family relationships and the heartbreak and tedium of navigating the golden years is drawn in her characteristic, anxiety-riddled style.

"The Arab of the Future" is former Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Riad Sattouf’s memoir of the childhood years he spent with his French mother and his Syrian father living in France, Libya and Syria. Originally published to great popularity in France, Sattouf’s work offers an evocative child’s-eye view of the difficulties of cultural assimilation and the confusion of living in a society in the midst of upheaval and of the struggle to understand the motivations and actions of one’s own parents.

MacArthur fellowship recipient Alison Bechdel’s award-winning "Fun Home" (which has also been made into a Broadway musical!) is a complex “family tragicomic” recounting Bechdel’s efforts to understand her relationship with her father, a funeral home director and high school English teacher. His parenting style is distinctly chilly, and Bechdel must also come to terms with his death, his identity as a closeted gay man and her own coming out as a lesbian.

— Melissa Fisher Isaascs is the Information Services Coordinator at Lawrence Public Library.


10 Questions with Benjamin Farmer and Joni Alexander of Alchemy Coffee & Bake House

In this week's installment of 10 Questions, which turned out to be nine because this reporter evidently cannot count, Alchemy Coffee & Bake House co-owners Benjamin Farmer and Joni Alexander chat about their recent Best of Lawrence honor (first place in the competitive "best coffee shop" category), their "Portlandia"-style peers and the food world's next big trend.

Here's a condensed and edited version of our conversation with the pair, who are partners in business and in life. Really — they're engaged to be married this fall, capping off a big year of expansion for Alchemy, 1901 Massachusetts St., which now distributes its mega-popular cold brew to about 40 retailers in the Kansas City area. You can also catch Farmer and Alexander this month at KC's Chipotle Cultivate Festival.

Alchemy Coffee and Bake House owners Benjamin Farmer, right, and Joni Alexander pose at their shop, 1901 Massachusetts St., which was recently voted Best of Lawrence 2016.

Alchemy Coffee and Bake House owners Benjamin Farmer, right, and Joni Alexander pose at their shop, 1901 Massachusetts St., which was recently voted Best of Lawrence 2016. by Richard Gwin

Congrats on the Best of Lawrence win. How’s it feel?

Joni: We were both very surprised, but super grateful and thankful, really. I mean, it’s the customers and the community that are supporting us. We have a lot of people in here who tell us, “Congratulations on Best of Lawrence,” and we just spin it right back around and say, “Actually, thank you, because you’re supporting us, and this is our dream.” We’re really happy. Like, super happy, but feeling super humbled about it. We work really, really hard, so it’s nice to see the fruits of that labor.

Benjamin: It feels shocking to me because we’ve only been here three years, we’re off the beaten path and I kind of feel like the underdog in a lot of ways. Still, even now, it’s just like, “How did we … ?”

Your coffee-making process takes about four minutes, during which there’s a perfect window for a short conversation, which seems at odds with our culture’s fixation on consuming things as quickly as possible with as little human interaction as possible. Was that a mission of yours when you started Alchemy, to foster communication and community?

Benjamin: I feel like it’s become, especially in the last five years, almost cliché to say all that. At the same time, there’s a reason for that. But it was part of the motivation for me doing a coffee shop, to have a place for social interaction. We do provide something that I think there’s a shortage of. We’ve always maintained that, yeah, if you want conversation we’ll give it to you. If you want a quick cup of coffee and then get out of here, we’ll give you that as well.

I was interviewing Radiolab co-host Jab Abumrad a while back in advance of the Free State Festival, and he was talking about how the relationship between our desire for quick, cheap, satisfying content and the simultaneous rise of high-quality TV shows, which could also apply to the artisanal or “craft” movement in food and drink. Is this something you’re seeing in the dining world?

Benjamin: That’s something I see a lot of places. I don’t think that’s something we experience here a whole lot, though we do experience that at times, where people are like, “I want this really good pour-over and I want it now.” But really, overall, at least on the coffee shop side, that’s pretty rare. Generally, they understand — especially since they see us hustling, standing over there making the coffee — it’s pretty rare that somebody actually gets rude with us and says, “Where’s my coffee?”

Joni: I think the impatience comes from if they’re standing in line too long. If you’re already being helped, you’ll stand there for 10 minutes if you know somebody’s working on something for you. But it’s when you’re waiting in line and you’re not the one being helped and nobody’s acknowledging it that that’s when the frustration happens. But I think we do pretty good here. That’s what we tell all our employees — just acknowledge the person when they walk in the door … that way, they know you know they’re there. In general, across the board, in a huge community sort of way, people just want to be acknowledged.

Benjamin: In the coffee shop scene that we’re in — the style of, for lack of a better term, “Portlandia” — it can get lost and messed up. We train our employees how to handle situations with customers, so that way we’re not creating a potential situation where the customer’s getting ignored or standing there for 15 minutes not getting acknowledged.

Speaking of “Portlandia,” do you see anything in today’s coffee culture or the encompassing artisanal culture that you just can’t help rolling your eyes at? Have we gone too far in some ways?

Joni: When I hear people say, like, “We handpicked the wheat that was rolled in my grandpa’s backyard,” it’s just like, seriously? It’s over the top.

But there is great value in knowing where your products come from. It’s just such a catchphrase now. People are latched onto that, and they write about it, and then they become so focused on where they get their ingredients, maybe even more than the ingredients themselves — that’s where I get annoyed. They’re like, high-fiving themselves behind the counter, but it’s like, "What did you do?" You made a terrible cup of coffee or terrible piece of whatever.

Or when it’s so extravagantly expensive that people can’t afford it. We’ve got high-end, quality stuff, and we really put time and effort into it, but you have to do it at a price that’s affordable for everybody. That’s the point, you know? But I feel like the more artisan things become, the more out-of-reach they become for the rest of society. And we’re trying to not do that.

Benjamin: That’s what I struggled with initially. I was like, "Do I do $3.25? Do I do $3.50? $3.75?" Really, I need to be doing $3.75, but the average Lawrencian probably feels way more comfortable with $3.25.

Joni: We (think about) that all the time with food, too. It’s like, this biscuit sandwich could be $10 if we were downtown, but how often when we go out do I want to spend $10 on a breakfast sandwich? I don’t. I want to spend $6 to $8, and it better be amazing.

Where do you think the cutoff is between downtown and the sort of more residential, less swanky part of Massachusetts Street?

Benjamin: I don’t know. I think in most people’s minds, it’s somewhere between 11th and 12th (streets). I don’t think we’re necessarily getting hurt by being out here. I mean, yeah, we would probably see more passersby. It would be a different crowd, though. That’s why I tell people, I don’t ever want to leave this neighborhood. I love it. It’s good people and it’s more laid back, but we’ve still got high traffic.

Joni, you were a model before Alchemy, and I know Benjamin was a diesel mechanic, among other things, before getting into the coffee business. How do the skills from your old jobs apply here?

Joni: I traveled pretty constantly for years, modeling. The best thing I got out of that career was being around insanely different people of all different kinds of cultures. Plus all the castings — I’ve been on probably 5,000 castings or something insane like that. It takes a lot to surprise me or shock me, really, because I’ve seen the gamut of all kinds of stuff. And that’s great, though, when you’re dealing with people. I can talk to any person in any kind of situation. That’s why we have a big window into the bakery — people can come up and talk to me and I can make something particular for them. Some people have dietary issues, so I’ll ask them, “What works for you?” Next week, come back and I’ll have something for you.

Benjamin: I did about everything from retail to tree trimming to FedEx trucks to mechanic jobs to carpentry jobs to hardware stores. I mean, I’d worked in restaurants, but I didn’t have a whole lot of barista experience starting this, which sounds counterintuitive. What got me working for myself was tree trimming and doing concrete — doing my own contracting. That gave me enough of a business background.

You’ve got a pretty intricate setup here. How do you explain your process to skeptics or people who are mystified by it all?

Joni: We get those people pretty regularly, who are super uncomfortable and unfamiliar with our (operation), because we don’t have menus and we don’t have pricing on menus, which makes people uncomfortable because they’re used to that. Literally, if you just smile at somebody and say, “Hey, how’s it going?” then everything drops and they’re human, right there with you.

When the pour-over thing started here, nobody else was really doing it. And people were either really into it or really annoyed by it. It was polarizing. And now it’s just like old hat. People walk in and are like, “What beans do you have today?”

Do you have any predictions for the next big trends in the food or coffee world?

Joni: Everything’s a pendulum swing, right? So, it was like, mom and pop, then the '80s and '90s hit and everything went fast food and commercialized and computerized. And I feel like we’re at the height now of that swing back to community-based stuff, which is basically how I bake and how the coffee is, too. I love to do cupcakes and cookies and wedding cakes and pies and all these other things, but a simpler version. What I see happening on the food side of things, and I think it’s going to gain momentum, is that it’s going to keep that basic feel but it’s going to become about quality and not so much about the paragraph of what they did to it (the dish). So, it’s not going to be about 10 things in the sauce, but three things in the sauce, and that sauce is going to be really good.

You guys have two young kids at home. Have they gotten into coffee yet?

Joni: Oh, no. Not yet. They’re 5 and 6. They’re into the sweets, though.

Benjamin: They like to come around here and mess with the cups and fill up the bean jars occasionally, but we haven’t put them to work too much yet. A couple years, maybe.

In lieu of a 10th question, we're including a few of Farmer's and Alexander's favorite places to grab a bite around town. Cheers!

— Limestone Pizza, 814 Massachusetts St.

— Yokohama Sushi Japanese Restaurant, 811 New Hampshire St. and 1730 W. 23rd St.

— Wa Japanese Restaurant, 740 Massachusetts St.

— India Palace, 129 E. 10th St.

Previous installments of '10 Questions'

Matt Hyde of 715 and Ladybird Diner

Taco Zone's Brad Shanks

Fork to Fender's Eric Ireland


Free State Festival proves popular again; next year’s fest to focus on global-local connections

Anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 people flocked to Lawrence’s Free State Festival events, according to estimates from festival organizers, putting this year’s numbers roughly in the same range as 2015 figures.

Still, it’s an imprecise tally, said festival director and ideas programming coordinator Sarah Bishop, who hopes to have more detailed analysis when results from this year’s survey (it’s distributed to festival attendees) become available later this summer.

The 2016 Free State Festival, which was held June 20 through June 25 in various venues across downtown Lawrence and the city’s Cultural Arts District, drew its biggest numbers at June 25’s free Public Enemy concert outside the Lawrence Arts Center. At final count, approximately 8,500 people attended the show, surpassing the crowd at last year’s free performance by George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic by about 500.

Public Enemy's Flavor Flav points out to the crowd during a free concert Saturday evening, June 25, 2016, as part of the Free State Festival.

Public Enemy's Flavor Flav points out to the crowd during a free concert Saturday evening, June 25, 2016, as part of the Free State Festival. by John Young

“We were really excited to see so many people from out of town coming in for both Public Enemy and Kris Kristofferson,” Bishop said. “It really drew people from a wide swath surrounding the area.”

Fans traveled from as far away as Connecticut, Maryland and even Canada for the Grammy-winning country singer-songwriter’s June 22 concert, she noted. The sold-out concert filled Liberty Hall, where Kristofferson celebrated his 80th birthday the same night with a cake from downtown Lawrence’s Ladybird Diner.

Other festival highlights included June 24’s evening of free live music outside the Lawrence Arts Center (Bishop estimates an attendance of about 2,000) and Monday’s stand-up performance by “Lady Dynamite” star Maria Bamford, whose sold-out gig packed Liberty Hall.

Even free events, like the weeklong “The Art of Conversation” programming at the Watkins Museum of History, did surprisingly well, Bishop said. The talks aligned with this year’s festival theme of activism through art, each day dealing with contemporary topics such as gender and sexuality, health policy, race and law enforcement, and the politics of water.

“People were really engaged and enthusiastic,” Bishop said. “It was really nice to see residents connecting in that way and having great conversations about these important political, social and cultural issues.”

While the festival has focused on Kansas history and culture in the past, the 2017 and 2018 editions will ask “audiences to think about how the global and local connect,” as per a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment for Arts to “take the festival to an international level,” Bishop said.

The 2017 festival, which will most likely fall amid June’s Final Friday, will tentatively have a Mexican emphasis, with issues like immigration — and the growing number of immigrants arriving in Kansas each year — being especially timely now, Bishop said.

“We’re thinking about the ways in which Lawrence connects with Mexico, the ways in which Mexican culture manifests here in Lawrence, Kansas, and the really interesting art that’s being (created) in Mexico,” she said. Bishop also plans to include more educational outreach programs in 2017, ideally working with students at Centro Hispano to produce bilingual films.

This year’s festival initially received $60,000 from the City of Lawrence, falling short of the $100,000 requested by festival organizers, but later picked up an additional $7,375 from the city’s transient guest tax (that’s the 6 percent tax charged on all overnight hotel stays in Lawrence) grant program.

Bishop hopes this year’s high attendance, particularly of those visiting from outside Lawrence, will help convince potential funders of the festival’s financial viability. Just as important: “putting Lawrence on the map as a creative hub,” she said.

Sally Zogry, executive director of Downtown Lawrence Inc., said she had yet to see any detailed information on the 2016 festival’s impact on downtown businesses, but that the event consistently “does wonderful things” for the local economy.

Folks often “rediscover” downtown Lawrence at the Free State Festival, she said.

“I would venture to guess people spent money downtown, whether it’s a bottle of water or an expensive meal or an outfit they’re buying for the event,” Zogry said. “It really does bring people down here who maybe don’t come downtown as often, if they’re living across town or in Eudora or Baldwin City or Topeka or even Kansas City.”


Taco Zone files plans to add outdoor seating

If you’re a fan of Taco Zone and eating al fresco, here’s a bit of news that might whet your appetite (get it?) for both.

Brad Shanks, co-owner of the popular downtown eatery at 13 E. Eighth St., has filed plans to install a railing “with a built-in shelf” for food and drinks around the storefront. The design, which is still being processed by the city's planning department, would increase dining space by six or seven seats, says Shanks.

“We just have a really small spot, so we thought this was a good way to add a few seats,” he says. “Our customers were asking for it, so we were finally like, 'Let’s get it done.’”

Taco Zone’s interior totals about 900 square feet, with about “half of that” dedicated to dining. And then there’s the added benefit of marketing that comes with outdoor seating — “I think people sitting outside with sunglasses, drinking margaritas and eating tacos, is better than having a sign,” Shanks says.

If all goes to plan, Taco Zone customers should be able to do just that by late July or early August, he says. In the meantime, here’s a link to the site plan, if you’re curious.

Taco Zone, 13 E. Eighth St.

Taco Zone, 13 E. Eighth St. by Nick Gerik


Three graphic novel recommendations (that aren’t ‘Saga’)

I have a confession to make: I used to be one of those people who looked down their nose at graphic novels and comics and openly judged others for reading them. In frustration, I even said once, “It’s not really reading! It’s just a bunch of pictures!” (Yeah, I cringe thinking about it.) Sorry, everyone, for my past-self being such a huge jerk.

You will be happy to know that I have since cooled my jets when it comes to judging how, or what, others read. Reading is such a personal experience, and I am now a firm believer that any amount of reading is important, and it counts, even if it’s just the back of your cereal box in the morning.

Last year I set out on a journey to actually sit down and read a graphic novel and find out what “works” for me. Since then, I think I’ve read maybe a hundred or so? Give or take? Safe to say, I am a massive graphic novel convert. Graphic novels are such a unique reading experience, and the type of joy I find reading a really good series can only be compared to spending sunny afternoons at my grandma’s house as a kid, flipping through her pile of newspapers to find cartoons I hadn’t read before. Her favorite was "Family Circus" — mine was "Peanuts."

Since my graphic novel knowledge went from “'The Walking Dead' was comics first right, riiight?” to having read over a dozen series and being well-versed in the format in the span of only a year, I came up with a few suggestions of some lesser-known graphic novels that deserve more love and attention. Two of them can be found on Hoopla (spoiler alert, they are: "Alex + Ada," and "Afterlife with Archie"). Conveniently enough, you are allowed a total of five checkouts per month on Hoopla, which is more than enough to get every volume available of these two series. Binge reading, anyone?

"Lady Killer" by Joelle Jones (Dark Horse Comics) Josie Schuller is the ideal 1950s woman — a gorgeous housewife. She has an immaculate wardrobe (so what if she gets the occasional bloodstain on her dress?) that even June Cleever would kill for, a husband that is both handsome and charming (how refreshing), and adorable twin daughters (who are, of course, blond). Josie also moonlights as an assassin who knows her way around the kitchen knives. So, you know, she is just your typical American housewife.

The creator and illustrator of the series, Joelle Jones, has included an introduction in this volume which discusses how female characters are never allowed to be quite as brutal or violent as their male counterparts. Based off of that, and how this series has been marketed as either Betty Draper meets Hannibal or Dexter, you can expect an intense amount of blood and violence beyond the perfect veneer of sweetness and great shoes. Josie Schuller is definitely a force to be reckoned with and will be appealing to anyone who loves a strong female character who puts all the menfolk in their place, while still wearing high heels and making it home in time to make dinner. Tongue in cheek, this graphic novel practically screams “GIRL POWER!”

"Alex + Ada" by Sarah Vaughn (Image Comics) "Alex + Ada" is set in the not-so-distant future and follows a young man named Alex and a female android named (you guessed it) Ada. On his birthday, Alex is given a somewhat controversial gift from his grandmother — a companion robot to help him move on from his ex-girlfriend (thanks, nana). In this universe, while humans heavily rely on androids as servants, companions, and the like, the tension between the two are rising after a somewhat sentient android went all Terminator on a group of people, killing many. Despite the political and legal ramifications, Alex and Ada develop a “star-crossed lovers” relationship.

Don’t let the simplistic art style and the plot summaries fool you — this graphic novel series is not really a romantic comedy. In a three-volume arc, it explores complex themes like: Where does life begin? Are androids considered alive? Can Artificial Intelligence be enough to grant androids individuality and independence? How can love between a human and an android be equal, when technically one legally owns the other? It certainly brings to mind historical struggles and modern-day discussions of equality and equity. This is my “sleeper hit” series of the year, so why aren’t you reading it already?

"Afterlife with Archie" by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Archie Comics)
Readers might be familiar with the Archie comics, which have been a part of our collective experience since the late 1930s — appearing in grocery stores and even as its own cartoon show decades ago. Riverdale is still the same magical place, where a soda shop is the best place to take your date, and a certain redheaded boy is in love with two certain girls and can’t possibly choose (I’m on team Veronica, by the way) … only now the beloved characters have cellphones.

This reboot of the classic series presents the question, “What would happen if the idyllic Riverdale were overrun with zombies?” What results is a thrilling story where best friends are pitted against one another and where no one is safe — not even Jughead’s adorable dog (or Jughead himself, for that matter), who begins the original plague. Humor is used throughout to cut through the darkest moments, and there are scenes in here so emotional, I actually had tears in my eyes as I watched a character encounter a zombified version of their loved one — proving that this franchise has still got it.

As a bonus, I’d also like to suggest "The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina," another horror retelling by Archie Comics, where the witches are truly terrifying. This is no Melissa Joan Hart, people.

— Kimberly Lopez is a Reader’s Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.


Dispatches from a newly minted book club

While reading is often thought of as a solitary activity, book clubs and reading groups provide a bit of social camaraderie for certain book lovers.

Lawrence is lucky to have a wide and active community of readers, with lots of book clubs of all sizes popping up across town. To provide even MORE bookish goodness, the Book Squad decided to start another book-a-month club that meets downtown.

The Third Thursday Book Club gathers monthly in a cozy room at 7 E. 7th St. and has gotten off to a fantastic start. This is the first time I’ve started a new club from scratch, and I have been so pleased with the discussions! Our meetings have reminded me why these groups are so important — they allow us to connect with one another about our experiences through the lens of a shared book.

(photo via 7 e 7th - did I mention there is wine?)

Our first book, "Middlesex" by Jeffrey Eugenides, was one that I was both nervous and excited to “assign” to the group. There is SO MUCH going on in this novel! Eugenides tells an epic saga that involves race relations, family drama, genetics, superstition, Greek culture, sex, sexuality and more. It’s a whopper! The small group that met in April took up the entire two hours with our conversation. We touched on the above themes as they related to the cast of characters in "Middlesex," and the discussion opened up into wider revelations about our own experiences. The novel’s deeply personal narration gave us courage to open up about families, sex education, traditions and other topics.

Similarly, when a slightly larger group gathered in May to talk about "The Lowland" by Jhumpa Lahiri, our conversation surrounded the characters’ lives as well as the ways we related — or did not relate — to the narrative. I learned about fellow club members’ own immigration experiences, about other members’ travels near Calcutta where the novel takes place, about love and loss and relationships that were similar to or different from the brothers’ in the story. Once again, our time together flew by, and I know that I walked away with a richer perspective than I had when I arrived.

Last week, "Euphoria" by Lily King — a novel based loosely on the life of Margaret Mead — was our book du jour. A couple of the members gave additional historical information that enhanced our appreciation of the novel. As with the previous months, some folks came to the meeting without having read the novel (not minding spoilers!) and left saying that they learned a lot, both about the book itself and the people discussing it.

Our next book for July is "Being Mortal," a non-fiction release from 2014 that is sure to inspire some heavy-yet-enlightening conversation. While discussing death and end-of-life experiences with a room full of people might not seem like everyone’s cup of tea, I am truly looking forward to connecting once again and re-discovering how books can bring near-strangers together. You are welcome to join us!

Post script: I know that not everyone wants to meet in person, and/or our busy schedules simply don’t provide the opportunity. Along with groups that meet face-to-face, there are also plenty of online book challenges and clubs to participate in (along with the Oprah 2.0 club, Emma Watson launched a feminist book club on Goodreads, and science fiction fans may enjoy i09’s active club that sometimes includes feedback from authors themselves!) Using a common reading experience to connect to others is truly a beautiful thing and is a way to provide a little break from such a “solitary” activity.

— Kate Gramlich is a Reader's Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.