The independent book publisher is alive and well in Wisconsin. Tucked into the southwest corner of the state, a lively, smart and diverse group of writers and publishers gathered on Thanksgiving weekend at the Southwest Wisconsin Book Festival in Mineral Point, Wisconsin’s creative beehive in the heart of the driftless area. I drove to the Festival on the day after Thanksgiving; making my way down from Northern Wisconsin, to celebrate the launch of ‘A Star To Follow’, an illustrated adventure book aimed at adults from young to old.
‘A Star to Follow’ is a beautifully illustrated story about the journey of an ancient king coming to understand the limits of war, and finding peace and redemption among friends gathered at the birth of a darling baby boy. The book makes a perfect holiday gift. Going beyond the story of the three wise men in which it is based, it’s a story about spiritual redemption and about the rewards of following the star to which you were born – no matter how long it might take you to find it.
My journey to the book festival took me through one of my favorite neighborhoods of the Midwest, the aforementioned Driftless area.
Evocatively named, the “Driftless area” with its kettle hills, valleys and drumlins, has captured my imagination and heart for years. I first heard the term from a professor at the University of Wisconsin, whose artworks delighted in the metaphoric implications of the phrase. But prior to that I’d spent many happy summers in the region, exploring the hollows and ridges with my cousins, and listening to my elders’ stories; each one deeply embedded in the mysteries and beauty of that land.
Despite its poetry, the phrase is technical, describing a region traversing 4 states, untouched by the glacial ‘drift’ that scoured the surrounding landscape as recently as 10,000 years ago in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois. The unique features of the area have led to numerous conservation efforts including the formation of the treasured Lower Wisconsin State Riverway, and The Driftless Area Initiative; a multi-state initiative dedicated to ‘developing a unified voice for natural resource issues’ in the driftless area.
For a beautiful map, and a wonderfully geeked-out description of how it was created, check out this blog.
Wisconsin’s driftless landscape is all farmland and hills, remarkably beautiful, but not, as it turns out, particularly productive. It’s home to people who dream big and work hard, and in Mineral Point, this takes the shape of a vibrant community of artists and craftspeople.
My journey to the Book Festival delighted me with beauty and surprises: swelling hills, riverways, a herd of sheep and the home of the Butter Burger, shared in my pictures below. If you ever are looking for a perfect place at hand where you can wander, relax and explore, check out the driftless area in Wisconsin, or in Illinois; it is home to a rich diversity of site and life.