Thursday, December 12, 2013

Hey, Girl! Come Rock the (MN State) Capitol for Free!

Approximately 60 girls across the state of Minnesota will head to the state capitol on President’s Day, Monday, February 17th, 2014 to attend Girls Rock! the Capitol, an annual event organized by the Minnesota Women’s Consortium.  This event is an opportunity for girls to learn about leadership, state government, and how to interact with elected officials. Attendees will participate in workshops, a mock election, and a mock committee hearing. In addition, girls will have an opportunity to meet and interact with legislators.

The Women of Today District 2, which includes Women of Today chapters in Middle River, Greenbush, Roseau, Warroad and Baudette are announcing a scholarship for five girls from our region to attend a two-day event sponsored and developed by the Women of Today District 2. This includes Girls Rock! the Capitol, as well as a visit with the Minnesota Women’s Consortium and the Cookie Cart, a nonprofit bakery that employs teens in Minneapolis/St.Paul, MN.  The group will leave Sunday afternoon, February 16th and return Tuesday evening, February 18th. The District 2 Women of Today chapters are providing chaperones, transportation, and funding to cover transportation, lodging, and meals. All of the events are free.

Girls currently in 9th – 11th grade who have an interest in civic engagement, the role of government in community, and youth leadership are encouraged to apply.

For additional information and to apply, click on the link provided here: Girls Rock the Capitol Application.

Applications are due on Monday, December 16th, 2013.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving with (vomit-fortified) Love

Monday morning.

You know what kind of week it's going to be like when you're first contact with Monday sounds like this:

"Mommy, David threw up on me."

Oh, but how timely this Monday's Murphy's Law. Six years ago, I wrote a post on a former blog - Kim's Muse and Views, which I've neglected to delete for the simple fact that I love the little quote widget that I can't seem to transfer over to my Red Shoes blog, so leave it up even though I rarely look at it. But now that I look at it, it's got some other lovely little gems, too - ah, but I digress...

This blog post was entitled Kim's Thanksgiving Puke Rant. Now this post has been on my mind recently and the karmic coincidence has not gone unnoticed, so I'm re-posting it here for your reading pleasure.

Kim's Thanksgiving Puke Rant

We have had a bout of stomach flu go through our house this week. I have to be thankful in that, other than me (being retchedly ill), I've only had to tally up two pukes; not bad in a family of 5. (11/25/13 Update: There are now six people in our family!)
So during the wee hours of the night, while I was picking food chunks off the sheets and scrubbing the mattress, I started to mentally compose a little plea which I'm sending to you! (11/25/13 Update: Same scene, but this morning instead.)
It takes a lot of love to clean up someone else's puke. A lot of love. Before having children, my only contact with other people's puke was to gladly sidestep around it. Now that I am a mother, it never ceases to amaze me the lengths I will go to prevent the puke from landing on any absorbing surface; I will even catch the puke if it means saving the carpet (which I have done). Maybe it's not maternal love, but material love, that is to say, I love the carpet. In any case, that's a lotta love. (11/25/13 Update: This still holds true. This love is timeless
, people.)
I know Canada had Thanksgiving last month but tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the U.S. If you haven't already done so, please, on my behalf, go right now to your loved ones - be it your mom, dad, best friend, stranger in the alley - whoever has been your puke cleaner-upper and say THANK YOU! Believe me, there is no other love like vomit-fortified love. (11/25/13 Update: Thanksgiving is in three days. But the sentiment is the same, no?)
Oh, and for you writers out there: If you are feeling stuck with your characters, have one of them vomit. Surely it will bring the band together. (11/25/13 Update: I wrote this during my first Nanowrimo attempt, Elevator Girl, which finally comes out in Spring 2014.)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

To Publish or Not to Publish or Why It Took Me So Long to Decide

While doing the interview with Ken Korczak, he kept coming back to the question, "But why did it take so long to publish?" After all, I'd gotten the idea for Elevator Girl in 2003, began writing it in 2007, finished it in 2008, and now it's 2013!

When it comes to writing, I think of myself as a late-bloomer. As a kid, I always journaled, wrote poetry, attempted writing a short story or two, but never really considered it as a viable option; nor those around me. How many times did I hear as a kid, "You can't make a living as a writer. Be a teacher. We always need teachers. They don't make much money either, but it's more than a writer." My dad would tell me, "You've got to survive. You need a job to pay the bills." or "College is nice, but ultimately you want to settle down." (This is why my essay Big Fish, Small Pond is so personally profound for me, because ultimately my dad and I were able to understand where the other was coming from ideologically.)

I chose to write a romantic comedy as a Jedi-mind trick to tackle the gargantuan task of writing a novel. If I wrote about a lighter topic, I could ease up on the expectation that it had to be brilliant. (This trick worked, by the way.) But then, once I had written my book, I found that I really did love "going the distance" - beyond journaling and short pieces - to writing novels. 

It took me a long time to decide that I wanted to publish for many reasons. 

1. SAHM, I am. Since December, 2001, I have been a stay-at-home mom; my kids were my focus. (Before kids I was an English teacher at the Berlitz in Brno.) This novel-writing was really an awakening for me that looked like this: "Whoa, I just wrote a whole novel!" and "Now what do I do with that?"

2. An interlude in girls leadership. In 2009, I created and ran a girls leadershipprogram in my community through our local Women of Today chapter. I am so proud of this work. Girls' lives have literally been changed because of this program. The University of Minnesota Leadership Minor helped us develop the program, and I am so grateful to them. Today, this program is now managed under PeacemakerResources and serves girls from our entire northwestern Minnesota region. In September 2013, I stepped away from my administrative leadership role to pursue my writing career.

3. Period of personal growth. In 2010, I participated in LeaderImpact, a leadership program for adults available through the Northwest Minnesota Foundation. This experience made me get really intentional about how I want to show up in the world. I recognized that I wanted, and was needing, balance in my life. I spent so much time volunteering, my husband said, "If you are working so much, why don't you get paid?" This was the birth of my business Red Shoes Writing Solutions. And it was my perfect solution: I was able to work from home, still attend to my family, continue to explore my writerly path, and (to my husband's delight) make some money.

4. The publishing world is changing at a break-neck pace. Five years ago, self-publishing was a really gutsy thing to do and I wasn't sure if I was willing to take the risk.  On the other hand, the traditional publishing route seemed so daunting and arduous. My goal is to put my book out in the world for readers to enjoy, move on to the next project, and continue developing as a writer.

5. Money. Last I checked, being a stay-at-home mom doesn't bring in much of an income. I simply couldn't pay for publishing. Now that I have a business, this has become a more viable option. Up until now, my greatest commodity to barter has been my time.

6. I finally know what I want. These past five years I have been reading, watching and learning about the publishing industry. I have found, what I call, "the sweet spot in publishing" for me. I love the idea of retaining my rights as an author, but still getting the benefit of working with professionals. They know they're stuff, they deserve to get paid. I'm a professional, I am worthy of getting paid. 

7. I'm a better writer. Also, I have taken writing courses through Writer'sDigest, Algonkian Writers Conference, the Loft Literary Center, Romance Writers of America (for writing a query letter and synopsis, not for, um..the "romance.") I have attended meet-the-author gatherings and learned from well-known authors such as William Kent Krueger, Lorna Landvik, Mary Casanova, John Rosengren, Lauraine Snelling, Michael Neff, Robert Bausch, Ellen Hart, Carl Brookins, and Erin Downing (a.k.a. Erin Soderberg). Because of these workshops and these authors sharing their wisdom and experience, I'm a better writer. Having more experience has built my confidence. (Here's a big shout-out to my wonderful local library and to the Northwest Regional Library for bringing many of these talented authors right to my town!)

8. I know my themes. Over the course of the last five years, I have honed in on my values and identified what I want to talk/write about. These values are: empowerment, positivity, authenticity, and passion. I just re-visited my mission statement and revised it to say, "I commit to showing up with passion and intention to create and inspire positive change in the world."

9. I'm anxious to start the next project. I have another romantic comedy in the works about an etiquette consultant who is Catholic. So, between Amy Vanderbilt and Jesus, my character thinks she's an expert and authority (i.e. know-it-all) about everything. But the project I'm REALLY excited about is a novel/screenplay called "New Prague" about my own personal hypothetical: What if my Czech husband suddenly died. What would I do (an American) if I moved back to Czech Republic with our four children and began a new life?

So there you have it.

But now, I am ALL in!


Thursday, October 3, 2013

I am an Author - with a capital A!

Okay, I'm ready to announce it.

Are you ready?

Here it is:

I am pleased to announce that my debut novel, Elevator Girl, will be published by indie publisher, Wise Ink Publishing, in spring 2014! Generally speaking, it's a romantic comedy, but I like to think of it as a chick flick in novel form - something a little meatier than chick lit, but a little lighter than women's fiction.

Not quite DIY self-publishing, not quite traditional publishing, indie publishing is the middle of the road - right where I like to be. It's the place where you get to work with professionals (Yay!) but have to pay for it yourself. (Oh, no!)

But I read APE, so I am ready to embrace it all. I am taking the leap from writer to Author - with a capital A!

This week I launched a fundraising campaign on, a crowdfunding source like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, but exclusively for books. If you're not familiar with crowdfunding sites, they work kind of like a public radio fund drive. You make a donation and in return you receive a reward for your contribution. I have offered some reward levels on my Pubslush page, but am open to requests or suggestions if you are thinking about another dollar amount or would like a different reward. 

The publishing world is being turned on its head as we speak, making it an exciting time for writers to revolutionize the market by having more freedom and choice. This is why I chose indie publishing. I want to be a part of the revolution AND get the benefit of working with professionals so that I turn out a polished, professional - and most importantly - entertaining and enjoyable book!

I am asking YOU for your support in this THRILLING and EXCITING (ok, and a wee bit scary) endeavor!

Thank you so much for taking the time to check it out.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Big Fish, Small Pond

In January, I wrote this essay for a contest themed "Community: Long Ago." Initially, what started out as a humorous account of my move to "the end of the earth," became a deeper look at, and an appreciation for, my relationship with my father. Today is his first birthday since his passing. In honor of my dad, I am posting this essay.

                Big Fish, Small Pond, by Kim Hruba

                I took solace in the fact that we weren’t actually moving to the end of the earth – Manitoba was just over the border.
                As a kid I would watch reruns of the Andy Griffith Show with my dad. I didn’t particularly like the show and our lives were nothing like Mayberry. My mom traveled frequently for work and didn’t sew her own clothes or bake pies for church picnics. My dad either worked a rotating shift or was under the hood up to his elbows in engine. Andy was a widow; my parents were divorced. But I endured Andy, because it was a way my father, who resembled James Dean in body and spirit and whose favorite music was a reel-to-reel labeled in his blocky print, “American Graffiti,” spent time with me, his little girl. Somehow watching Andy seemed to be a way for my dad to share who he was, while I harbored the hope that dutifully watching his favorite programs would create a special bond between us.           
                In one episode, Andy had been offered a job in the “big city” of Raleigh. Helen peered faithfully up at Andy, while Andy looked lovingly down at Helen and explained that he was the kind of guy who was meant to be a big fish in a small pond; not a small fish in a big pond. I thought Andy was crazy. I would have jumped into that big pond with or without Helen.
                I intrinsically knew the meaning of “wanderlust” long before I could speak German.  I would see the world – not like in M*A*S*H, but more like Hogan’s Heroes because it was funnier and took place in Europe. In simple child terms, I felt called to a greater “greatness” to do great things in the world.  I would be a big fish in a big pond.
My dad, Jerry Koster
                My father had been a Vietnam vet. He wasn’t a member of the American Legion or VFW and no uniform hung in his closet; he avoided Memorial Day programs and begrudgingly watched an occasional war movie. As I fingered the few foreign trinkets I’d found in a small, plain black box tucked in the back of the closet, I envied him that he had seen the world, war or no war. When I would press him with questions about the world, more often than not, he would answer by flicking ash from his ubiquitous cigarette and exhaling his cloud of smoke like a heavy burden. His brilliant blue-hazel eyes would dim and all he’d say on the subject before turning back to his latest motor or parts magazine was, “Kimberly, the world is not as nice a place as you think it is.” We’d lock horns over opposing ideals as I preached kumbaya and he lectured survival. I spouted youthful optimism, he’d mutter, “Good luck paying the bills with that.” Regardless, I felt the pull of the road and no obligation to any notion of Mayberry. I would move beyond a hometown; I would become a global citizen.
                Looking down at the patchwork of green fields and terra cotta-colored roofs, the first time I flew over Europe I thought, it exists.  I was an exchange student in Belgium, wrote my undergraduate thesis in the Netherlands and taught English in the Czech Republic. With its open markets, extensive public transportation, and architecture older than my own country, I thrilled in the exoticness of Europe’s version of Mayberry.
                To my father’s relief I had managed to keep myself alive, safe, and the bills paid while living abroad. I married a Czech, who my dad liked a lot. After our Czech wedding, he conceded that Czech Republic was a nice place and even though plenty of Vietnamese lived there, it wasn’t anything like Vietnam. In return, the Czechs ate up my father’s James Dean-ness and rock-n-roll.
                By my late twenties, I had achieved half of my dream: I was living in a big pond, but hadn’t become that big fish. I rationalized that teaching English was sort of saving of the world because I helped people create connections through a common language. When our first child was born, I reasoned that raising children was a hugely significant contribution to the collective good in the world.
                Then, in a twisted, cosmic quirk of karmic humor, my husband accepted a very good position with a window company and we ended up back in Minnesota – in the town of Warroad. Population: Don’t ask.
                Being a big pond kind of girl, my geographic knowledge of my home state, did not extend much farther north than Duluth or farther west than the North Shore of Lake Superior. I’d heard of Ely, but only in a romanticized sense – connecting it with the pristine nature of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and the home of arctic explorer Will Steger.
                Our first drive north was a quick 300-mile “jaunt” on a Saturday before Christmas.  Upon first inspection, the town reminded me of Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon, where "all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average."  Maybe it was the intoxication of the impromptu adventure.  A Romanian rang up our purchases at the gas station. We took it as a good sign.
                Because my Czech mother-in-law had shared her love of Zane Grey with us, the second time we drove to Warroad we enjoyed the flat, vastness of northwestern Minnesota. It was during this drive I truly understood the word “homesteading” as I imagined pioneers planting a stake, claiming empty acreage as far as the eye could see. From this visit we figured out that Warroad was a place where most families owned a truck, a snowmobile, an ATV, a boat, and a fish house.  We had two tents, four bicycles, and a Subaru.
                The third trip was a whirlwind tour to find housing. Having grown up by water (not surprising in the Land of 10,000 Lakes), I thought if we were going to be living at the end of the earth we might as well do it on Lake of the Woods. My husband wanted to rent an apartment in town.  One weekend of house hunting cleared up any naivety on both our parts.
                I knew that it was a good decision for our family, but at eight months pregnant with our third child, moving in general, let alone to the middle of nowhere, did not jive with my idea of nesting. I experienced rage-y moments when I felt jealous and resentful of my husband’s career advancement. How would I ever become a big fish living there?  I had wasted all my years of city-living being a little fish. I hadn’t become a Jane Goodall, a Madeleine Albright, or a Mother Teresa. My dreams mocked me. At least there’s a really big lake, my husband offered.
                The final passage to Warroad happened in two stages. My husband left first to start the new job and oversee the carpet cleaning in the new house we’d seen only once, while I stayed back with our toddlers and oversaw the farewells to civilization.
                On my first day of ECFE parent group in Warroad, I met three other pregnant women and three more with babies – all of them transplants who welcomed me warmly and assured me that I, too, would survive. When I went into labor two weeks later, we handed our toddlers faithfully over to our new neighbors and after the birth, the church ladies came bearing gifts for the newborn. We met locals who had travelled so extensively, it made our adventures look like day trips to an amusement park.
                To my amazement, the smallness of this town provided a blessing of boundaries and focus as I went on to create a girls’ leadership program, wrote grants to bring art venues to our town, started my own business, completed my first triathlon, wrote my first novel, and had our fourth child. My new normal became volunteering at church and baking for fundraisers; Women of Today every second Tuesday and book club every third Tuesday of the month. I made time to attend the Veteran’s Day program at the school.
                I no longer think in terms of being a big or small fish, in a big or little pond; just a happy one in a place that became the final convergence of ideological paths. By travelling the world, then settling in this town, I’d come to understand why my dad liked the Andy Griffith Show. Doing “small things with great love,” as Mother Teresa counseled, was possibly the greatest worldly contribution of all.        
                My father passed away unexpectedly last summer and as I watched nearly three hundred people pay their respects at his funeral, I was comforted by the thought that we were much more alike than different.  And the next time I got wanderlust there would always be Canada just a few miles up the road.

(Note to Canadians: All kidding aside, I really do love Canada.)

 I love you, Dad.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Book Review: Hopping Roller Coasters

I am excited to share the first-ever, inspirational Red Shoes story from a Red Shoes reader!

Hopping RollerCoasters, by Rachel Pappas, is the story of a mom and daughter, both diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It’s hard enough when you are sick; harder yet when it’s your child; and it’s like trying to swim across an ocean with bricks for arm floats when it’s both of you.

From the very first sentence, I was riveted.
                “Marina, I asked you three times nicely to clean your room!” I said. I injected plenty of attitude into “nicely.” We were at it again, this time over the balled up clothes, water bottles, and sticky wrappers everywhere. She wouldn’t budge. I dragged the vacuum into her room. “Come on. Let’s go!”
                She didn’t look up from her magazine, so I plunked my upright Hoover closer to her, grabbed her hands, and wrapped them around the handle. She knocked it over and stormed into the hall, with me on her heels.
                “Why are you so damn lazy? You live like trailer trash!” I fumed, not hearing what I would have pegged as nasty and bigoted if someone else was screaming it.
                Marina spun around. “Stop! Stop, or I’ll take you down the stairs!”
                I froze in place, fixed on her hardened face and her once tiny body, now bulky from the meds. I realized she could do it. She could take me down the stairs if she wanted. Not until then had the thought of Marina hurting me crossed my mind. Not for a second could I have pictured it. I’d seen her angry, but never enraged like this, screaming with her fists clenched.
                I wondered where my little girl was.  The one with the pixie cut who let me hold her hand crossing the street. My good-natured “Pippster” who accepted my excessive hugs and kisses into early puberty. The sweet child who just last year smiled and told me, “When you dropped off my lunch today, my friend asked if you were my mom. She said you’re pretty.”
                I was losing her. No, I had lost her.

As a mother of four, I read with intense curiosity how mother and daughter interacted and measured it against my own. Does she get as angry as I do sometimes? Have I said that before? What do my daughters think of me? While no one in my family appears to have bipolar disorder (knock on wood), I could relate to Pappas’ moments of anger and frustration which speak deeply to the whole human experience, not just the pretty parts. What parent hasn’t been the vacuum-dragging, fire-breathing, “Clean your room!” dragon? We may desire to be perfect mothers with a clean house, freshly baked cookies, and a happy smile – but some days that just isn’t the case.

Most of all, I appreciate Pappas’ raw honesty. She holds nothing back; willing to share her darkest moments, her ugliest side, and deepest fears, which ultimately lead mother and daughter on a roller coaster ride of growth, understanding, and forgiveness. Through this tumultuous ride, the safety belt of Pappas’ motherly love holds fast, never letting either one of them go. It was her abundant, unconditional love that had her going head-to-head with teachers who treated her daughter like a discipline problem and didn't get that Marina was having trouble when she couldn't finish her work. She stood up for Marina when she didn't think nurses at the hospital were doing right by her. Clapping ‘til her palms hurt, Pappas sat in the front row like a hen perched on an egg at her daughter’s high school graduation, as Marina took the podium, one of three graduates in her class at the special school she went to for girls with emotional troubles.  Despite her mistakes and all the in-between bursts of rage – Pappas shows that she loves Marina more than anyone.

When asked why she wrote this book, Pappas answered, “I decided to write this book when I was diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer. I wanted to write a book showing [my daughter] I truly was aware of all I did to her and was sorry. I had serious anger management issues and was very emotionally and verbally abusive. Some of it was plain, unleashed anger for no reason. A lot was just a mom wanting for her child - wanting her child to get up and do things she wasn't doing. She is not lazy, but gets extremely overwhelmed and has had a tendency to throw her hands up in the air. The hideous things I often said that shot her down didn’t help. I can’t say I never slip, but not nearly like before. And I try every day to make up for what I had done to my beautiful girl.”

The optimist in me yearns for a happy ending, to which Pappas simply states, “There's a happy - not ending - but middle place. Not perfect - but getting better.”

To order her book and learn more about Rachel’s work, visit her website:

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Oh, won't you stay just a little bit longer?

Okay, go ahead - pelt me with your snowballs. I know most of you are pining for spring, but I'm going to say it anyway: I love winter!

Today's brilliant blue sky and fresh snow!
Thanks to all of the snow, this bunker now has one large room and two antechambers. Cool, eh? Even the cat likes it!

The hill in the backyard is prepped for more sledding,

More snow means more snow angels.... 

...and creative alternatives to snowboarding.

So, I say, let it snow! (Okay...just not in May.)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Do the taxes or wash the dishes?

My newly organized office space.

Aaaaahhh...that time of year.  

There really is a yucky scale - a This-task-is-unpleasant-but-not-as-unpleasant-as-that-task kind of scale. I’m talking taxes and housecleaning.

If I could afford it, I’d hire a housekeeper. But since it’s tax time, cleaning seems to land just above taxes on the Scale of Stuff I Don’t Like To Do, But Hey, It’s Gotta Get Done.

A friend texted me the other day. “I’m going to work on financials today. I have to fold the laundry. I think I’ll fold the laundry first.” Then later, “I think I’m going to organize my daughter’s bedroom.”

Yes, preparing taxes can cause trepidation, anxiety, fear and suddenly those undesirable tasks left unattended day after day, week after week, suddenly seem urgent and of utmost importance.  The upside to this form of procrastination: your house gets cleaner and the dog gets a bath, the downside – you still have to get your taxes done.

But just think: Once you get that darn paperwork out of the way, the sun will shine brighter and the flowers will peek through the snow just for YOU! Okay, maybe not, but you’ll feel a lot better and you can get back to the usual order of business of neglecting the plants and ignoring the dust bunnies.

Happy Tax Preparation!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Note to a Smarty Pants

 Are you a smarty pants like me? I love to guess what people think, or mean, and try to recall little facts about them to let them know I care.  Here are some examples:

“And you have two kids?”
“You work at the Holiday gas station, right?”
“You think my blog rocks, don’t you?”
 “I bet you were pretty happy about that.”

I really do have good intentions. The problem with this line of questioning is that it makes you look like, well, a smarty pants. And while people may appreciate that you can remember a few details about them or can correctly guess their emotional state, it still makes you look like a smarty pants.

But, if you guess wrong? Then you just look like a smarty pants who is self-absorbed, doesn’t listen well, and doesn’t know the other person at all. And who likes this kind of smarty pants?

Which is why we have the lovely Open-ended Question.  You can save yourself a lot of embarrassment and earn positivity points with the talker as being inquisitive, respectful and a good listener. Here’s what those smarty pants questions look like using the open-ended format:

“How many children do you have?”
“Where do you work?”
“What do you think of my blog?”
“How do you feel about that?” (I know, it has that new age-y, touchy-feely tone, but it’s better than guessing incorrectly.)

Give the open-ended question a try and your counterpart – be it a client, co-worker, family member, friend, or foe – will think you’re far more savvy and sensitive - even if you are still sometimes a smarty pants.