Never heard of Pine Island? Not surprising. It's a quaint rural town of roughly two thousand in south eastern Minnesota. And no, it's not actually an Island. You'd be surprised after hearing where I grew up how many people reactively blurt: "You grew up on an island?!?"
Yes - an island of pines!
It's been a long time since I've done a book signing - nearly 20 years. But what better place to start again than my hometown?
Thus, my first official book signing for The God Thought will happen at the Better Brew Coffeehouse in Pine Island on July 24th, from 5:30-7:30pm.
If you're in the area, stop by and say hello!
This will be a special trip in many ways, not the least of which is that it will be a dual signing with my mother, Suzanne Cravens. Mom will be signing her collection of poetry, Linger for a While in the Heartland. She's had her work published in Minnesota, Tennessee and Florida. If you haven't read any of her poems, you should - Suzanne has an amazing gift for words. Though very different, our books are connected in several ways, not the least of which is the influence Pine Island and the surrounding areas had on our writing. My parents have made it their home since 1977, and I spent 20 years of my life growing up there.
At a quick glance Pine Island could be any one of a thousand towns in the Midwest. But, in fact, it is a special fusion of two very different worlds. On one hand, half the population is comprised of farmers and families who have lived there for several generations, while the other half is made up of transplants from all over the country who work for IBM or the Mayo Clinic in nearby Rochester. Looking back I'm astounded at the opportunities, culture and technology I was exposed to as a young man while staying grounded in the "make it work" values championed by the local community. People in small towns rely on one another to get things done. They are incredibly proud and self sufficient.
Of course when I was growing up there, I didn't appreciate any of that. Like most young people, I longed to be somewhere else, doing anything else as long as I felt it was bigger, better or more exciting. Growing up in Pine Island compelled me to dream big and dream often. Ironically, it's the work ethic of growing up in that town that equipped me to be able chase those dreams - and once in a while - catch one.
Pine Island has grown now, I don't recognize nearly as many faces as I used to when I visit. Neighborhoods have changed, teachers have retired, restaurants have come and gone. (The current Rainbow Cafe on Main Street is a favorite of mine, by the way. If you ever stop by GO THERE and EAT EVERYTHING.) But PI will always hold a special place in my heart. I'm grateful for the opportunity to do a book signing there, as it will mark the close of an enormously important chapter in my life. My parents, you see, will be leaving the town after making it their home for nearly fifty years, and retiring on our family farm in western Minnesota.
This will likely be the last time I will stay in the home where I grew up and dreamed so many dreams as a young boy. I can remember, sitting at my desk in my room on countless nights, with the windows open to let in a moist summer breeze, the chirping of the crickets mixed with the rustling of leaves, a rumble of thunder in the distance as I typed away on my computer the ideas for a movie script, a novel, a short story or two. It felt like anything and everything was possible.
So I thank you, Pine Island, for your part in making me who I am. Thank you, Pine Island, for being the source of so many great dreams I have chased.
Oh, and a SPECIAL THANKS to MARIE HLAVA, owner of the Better Brew Coffeehouse for hosting the event. Marie, I haven't met you in person yet, but I can already tell YOU ROCK.