Cultural and Literary Events for July 2013

Courtesy U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
Check with your library, college, government agencies, or community groups for activities in your area. Listings are for the United States unless noted.

Fireworks Safety Months 
(June 1-July 31) Hands and fingers are the body parts most injured by fireworks.


Bereaved Parents Awareness Month, International
Bioterrorism/Disaster Education and Awareness Month
Blondie and Deborah Harry Month, International
Blueberries Month
Cell Phone Courtesy Month
"Doghouse Repairs" Month
Grilling Month
Herbal/Prescription Interaction Awareness Month
Horseradish Month, NatlHot Dog Month
Ice Cream Month
Make a Difference to Children Month
Recreation and Parks Month
Smart Irrigation Month
Women with Alopecia Month, International
Women's Motorcycle Month
Zine Month, International 

Leave your comments on what is going on in your area this month and how you are celebrating.

Some information provided by Chases's Calendar of Events.

Park Central Square, Springfield, Missouri: A Colorful and Distinguished History

Springfield Public Square in 1913
I'm writing a history of Springfield, Missouri's Park Central Square and invite your help. See end of this post for details.

I was impressed to write a history after I attended a luncheon of the Greene County Historical Society and the History Museum on the Square, April 20, 2013. Springfield architect Allen Casey made a slide and video presentation for a bold, multi-year, $12 million renovation of five historic-site buildings on the northeast quadrant of the square into a premiere museum attraction. Plans include interactive exhibits, a theater, sidewalk-level display windows, traveling exhibits, restoration and preservation of historic architectural features, and a shop with gifts and books. It was a plan to make downtown business owners salivate.

The nonprofit museum occupies one of the historic buildings, the former Barth’s Clothing Company, having moved earlier in 2013 from the musty, cramped, and minimally apparent third floor of Historic Springfield City Hall. When it moved, the museum changed its name to the History Museum on the Square. It had been the History Museum of Springfield-Greene County since the Springfield-Greene County American Revolution Bicentennial Committee organized it in 1975.

Making the rounds
To confirm my strong feelings the square deserved a book of its own, I met with John Sellars, museum executive director; Robert Neumann, supervisor of Greene County Archives and Records; and John Rutherford, local history associate of Springfield-Greene County Libraries. I spoke with Daniel Neal, senior planner for the City of Springfield and liaison with the city’s Landmarks Board; Deb Sheals, historic preservation consultant, Columbia, Missouri who nominated most of the buildings on the square to the National Register of Historic Places; and with my Springfield Writers’ Guild colleagues Yvonne Erwin, Marilyn Smith, Candace Simonson, and Niki Bradley. I heard repeatedly that, while many books existed on the history of Springfield and of Greene County, none was exclusive to the square.

The square has a colorful and distinguished history indelibly linked to the expansion of America’s West, Ozarks folklore, and socio-political events that influenced or changed U.S. history, including:
  • City founder John Polk Campbell platted the square and city in 1835, modeled after his hometown, Columbia, Tennessee. Today’s square sits on what was Campbell’s cornfield. 
  • In 1858, the Butterfield Overland Stage Line began twenty-four-day service from Tipton, Missouri to San Francisco, with a stop on the square.
  • Union troops under Colonel Franz Sigel marched into the square June 24, 1861. A deranged Confederate sympathizer burned the original 1836 courthouse in the center of the square during a Union raid October 25, 1861.
  • James Butler (Wild Bill) Hickok, former Union Army scout and spy, shot to death Dave Tutt on the square July 21, 1865 over a poker debt and Hickok’s watch.
  • An angry mob forcibly took three black men from jail Saturday night before Easter of 1906, hung them from Gottfried Tower on the square, and burned their bodies at the tower’s base. 
  • In 1926, John T. Woodruff led incorporation of the U.S. Highway 66 Association in Springfield that helped bring Route 66 passing through the square on its way from Chicago to Los Angeles.
  • During WWI and WWII, rallies on the square supported our troops.

Send me your memories of the square
The square has been the site of music concerts, classic car displays, art exhibits, farmers’ markets, parades, niche shops, arcades, political speeches, ministries, cookie sales, protests, and more—just about anything of social, cultural, and personal expression. In 2010, the National Register of Historic Places completed listing all but a handful of businesses on the square.

You can help make the history of Park Central Square come alive by sharing your memories of the square to be included in my book. For example, my wife Eryleene had her first date on the square when she was in sixth grade at Pepperdine Elementary School. The boy walked to her house and they took a City Utilities bus to the square for a movie, then had ice cream sundaes at Newberry's.

What do you remember of the square, long ago or recently? Did you work on the square? See a movie at the Fox Theatre? Attend a rally? Become engaged? See an art display or custom car exhibit? Shop at Heer's during your lunch break? Anything you remember doing I would love to know and you could find your name and memory in my book. Send your memories to, or post at Please include your name, current city, and state. By submitting your memories, you give permission for them to be published in my book and to be edited for clarity, grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Publication of your memories is not implied or guaranteed.

Thanks a million. I look forward to hearing from you.

Photo courtesy Springfield-Greene County Library.

Writing Programs for Veterans and How to Start One

Courtesy Southeast Missouri State University
I chuckled as Vietnam War veteran Jay Harden read his unpublished essay, “My Burning Boyhood,” about summertime adventures with his cousin Bix in a rural Georgia town.

“I did not know worry, responsibility, or caution. I was both invincible and na├»ve, and had the scars to prove it. Bix and I had free reign over the town. We took off in the morning, with unlimited enthusiasm but no particular plan, and often did not return until supper, munching sour grass and pecans along the way and occasionally roasting grasshoppers. Why our parents allowed this, I do not know. I suspect they knew it was better to free us than confine us in a sweltering house or an overly familiar, small yard, places where noisy boys required attention. We never asked for permission. And we never begged for forgiveness, either–well, hardly ever. We were doing our natural best, just being boys.”

I was mesmerized as Iraq War veteran Levi Bollinger read with detached calm his poem, "Distant Seitz," a word picture so vivid I felt I was in it.

"Still, we gaze into the ethereal mess,
where unseen mortars sail,
whistle through the steamy
atmosphere, plunge down,
down, into a wild fray of
splayed camo-netting and
sandbag-shelled tents, rip
themselves apart amid
grids of connex boxes,
burst and slash,
shred and mangle.
Soldiers there hunker
in bunkers below,
probably smoking,
probably cursing,
probably wanting
to sleep."

Bollinger teaches high school English and Harden is unemployable from combat-related trauma.They live in Missouri.

Writing by American Warriors
"Distant Seitz" is one of three Bollinger poems in Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors, Volume I, an anthology of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry by veterans and their families. Harden has a poem, photo, and an essay in the anthology and was awarded Best Writing from a Missouri Writer for the essay, "Between Wives." The anthology was published in 2012 by Southeast Missouri State University Press in partnership with the Warriors Arts Alliance of the Missouri Humanities Council. It includes works submitted for the book and entries in a national competition judged by notable authors and poets. Competition is underway for volume two; no entry fee is required and submissions are accepted until July 1, 2013. 

“Our stories are the most important vehicles we have to connect the dots between our pasts, our presents and our futures,” says Deborah Marshall, director of the Alliance. “The understanding we gain of ourselves as we write these stories, and that others gain as they read them, is immeasurable.”

Proud to Be publisher and editor Susan Swartwout says several contributors to volume one have, or are working on, a novel or collection of poems. “I hope someday that the University Press will be able to publish a series of full-length creative-writing books by veterans. Only a small percentage of published writing about the Iraq conflict is creative work.”

Writing Programs for Veterans
This is an incomplete list. For programs in your area check with your local college or university, Veterans Affairs office or facility, library, professional writers’ group, or state humanities council. Share your comments at the end of this post.

How to Start a Veterans Writing Group Includes letters of invitation; meeting agendas; veterans' writings; and techniques for listening, writing, and meditation.

Boston, Massachusetts Area, Northern Essex Community College Open to all veterans, active and inactive. Covers nonfiction, fiction, drama, and poetry. Focus is to write, be heard, and be supported.

Fayetteville, North Carolina, Methodist UniversityMeets monthly. Encourages effective writing and supportive feedback. Members may post their writing on the MU Writing Center website.

Hospitalized Veterans Writing Project, Inc.Publishes Veterans’ Voices magazine three times per year, available by subscription; more than forty writing prizes awarded in each issue. Stories and articles submitted by hospitalized and outpatient veterans served by the Department of Veterans Affairs system. 

Missouri Veterans History Project Volunteers interview and record stories of Missouri veterans. Recordings available to State Historical Society and Library of Congress. Search your state for a similar project. 

New York, Fordham-Westchester University Meets weekly for peer support and feedback on veterans’ writing. Publishes Afterwords anthologies of veterans’ writing.

New York University Meets Saturday afternoons. Offers returning students a year-long workshop fellowship with a generous stipend and half-tuition remission for the year. Fellowship recipients must lead the weekly writing workshop.

Pittsburg, Kansas, Pittsburg State UniversityFor veterans and their families.

Rapid City, South Dakota, Western Dakota Technical Institute Meets the second Saturday of each month. Meetings include guest speakers who tell about their experiences and books.

San Diego CountyProfessional mentors and industry leaders help veterans share, heal, grow, learn, and connect. 

San Diego and Washington, D.C. Seminars and workshops led by working writers who are combat veterans. Publishes the quarterly 0-Dark-Thirty online journal.

Sebastopol, CaliforniaMeets quarterly. Writers may submit their work for publication in Veterans Writers Group Quarterly.

Syracuse, New York, Syracuse University Meets monthly to share and comment on members' writing. Bring a notebook and pen or pencil and be prepared to write.

Veterans History Project Authorized by Congress and managed by American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress. Stories told through correspondence, personal narratives, and visual materials. Website lists links to many oral history sites. 

Warrior WritersSupports healing and community building in workshops, retreats, trainings, and events throughout the United States using writing, painting, photography, and other media.

Tell about a writing program for veterans in your area or your experience with one.