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Roberta Seiwert Lampe and Ramona Lampe

Roberta Seiwert Lampe and Ramona Lampe

Good storytellers write about what they know and what they love. For Roberta and Ramona, what they know is that prairie dogs can be pets, calves can sometimes find their way into the kitchen and a Clydesdale named Ruby was destined for divadom. What they love is turning these stories into children’s books about farm life.

Roberta Seiwert Lampe and her daughter Ramona Lampe together have written two novels, six children’s books, four books of poetry books — with several more in the works. I wrote about Roberta last year (http://lynnwoolf.wordpress.com/2010/05/14/strong-women-and-their-stories/ ) and was lucky to meet Ramona this spring.

Roberta has written throughout  her career, but started writing her first novel later in life, as a way to cope with her husband’s cancer and other family tragedies.

Agnes was a story I wanted to write for years. I thought ‘This story has to be told,’ ” says Roberta. Agnes was her grandmother, who emigrated from Germany, moved to Kansas and married a widower with six children.

Ramona started writing her first story, Ruby the Diva Clydesdale, at Roberta’s urging. “I kept saying she should write this story, but she said, ‘I don’t know anything about Clydesdales. You write it.’ So, I did.” Ramona drew upon the personality of a real-life Clydesdale from a horse farm where she works.

Their author relationship is separate from their mother-daughter relationship. Ramona says they’re not a creative team, but a marketing team. They write separately, but share book signings and speaking engagements. Both are good talkers and good listeners, so they enjoy conversations with strangers as well as friends.

I believe their mother-daughter relationship strengthens both their creativity and marketing efforts. And, it’s heartwarming to see their mutual admiration. For instance, Ramona warmly refers to Roberta as her “rebel mother.” Roberta tears up when she says  how proud she was of Ramona at a recent book signing, when Ramona shared her personal struggles after a head injury.

They share a common goal, too: Draw upon their own experiences on their family farm to help educate children about agriculture — and bring a smile or two.

A testimonial from my own farm girl (and artist): “The stories are funny and cute and the drawings are very inspirational. My favorites are Prairie Dog Pet and Calves in the Kitchen.”

You can learn more Roberta, Ramona and their books here: http:\\lampebooks.tateauthor.com.

Roberta Seiwert Lampe and Ramona Lampe

Unlikely content

January 15, 2011

This post is one of confession and admission.

I confess I haven’t officially made my New Year’s resolutions.
I admit that I’m not setting the blogosphere on fire with subscribers to this blog.

Enter this flyer. I’m not sure how it landed on my kitchen table, or why I was drawn to it while enjoying my usual bagel-and-peanut-butter breakfast (with a chocolate chaser). I’m glad I flipped through it, though. I found common-sense, easy-to-remember  nutrition info. And, it reminded me that healthy eating should be a no-brainer when it comes to resolutions.

I found this tidbit:

What is a whole grain? Wheat flour itself is not a whole grain so make sure that the product uses the word “whole” in front of wheat. Look at the ingredients for “enriched flour.” If it is the first listed ingredient, there is more white flour than any other flour in the product. Whole grain must be listed first for it to qualify.

And this:

“Look for items with at least 2.5 grams of fiber per serving. The adequate intake for fiber is 38 grams per day for men and 25 grams per day for women.

Use the % Daily Values as a guide for vitamins and minerals. 5% or less is low and 20% or more is high.”

Like you, I check food labels. However, I mostly check calorie counts or fat grams. These simple guidelines will help me better decipher  labels — and make healthier food choices.

The other lesson? Good content can stand on its own, no matter where it lives. Another resolution for me, then: Strive to write great content. Make sure it gives back and is worthy of the pixels or ink it requires, even if nobody reads it or it’s nestled among coupons.

A conversation

July 15, 2010

A big deal happened for me this week — I was featured in the “A Conversation With…” feature in the Wichita Eagle’s Sunday business section: http://bit.ly/9750Gz. I was flattered, flabbergasted and flushed. What would we talk about?

The business reporter, Karen Shideler, was interested in my roles as a writer and PR counselor — and that of a farm wife.  Karen is a pro and very easy to talk with, so it was a fun conversation. I greatly appreciated her take on my life here on Woolf Farms.

The conversations after the Conversation have been just as fun. Two families are planning visits to our farm. I’m meeting with one soon-to-be ag journalist and connected with a colleague, who is also doing ag advocacy, on the ethanol front. Others sent notes detailing  fond memories of their grandparents’ farms. This note from retired schoolteacher and farm wife Kay Wulf made my day.

Today’s Americans may be generations removed, but the family farm is still very much embedded in our culture. Let’s keep it that way.

So, what do you think of the term? I saw it a few weeks back in a Twitter post. Sorry to say that I lost its owner. (Please claim if it’s yours.) It spoke to me. One day, I’m a PR counselor, the next day a journalist. And, on the third day, I’m both, writing journalistic copy for a client.

I’ve written before about this mini identity crisis. Am I not an authentic journalist if I also do PR? I’ve moved on. I’m claiming the title. Good communication, whether it’s for editorial or PR, is all about finding a good story, conducting solid research, following ethical guidelines and convincing an audience why they should care.

My goal as a writer isn’t to fit a category, but to excel regardless of the format. Here are some resources and experts that are helping me become a better communicator. Thought you might find them helpful, too:

Poynter News University – Online journalism and media training center

Mindy McAdams – Professor of online journalism at the University of Florida

Society of Pofessional Journalists Digital Media Handbook – First part published in March, second half by year-end: http://bit.ly/9CsIv8

Mashable.com

 Ann Wylie – Writing and business communications expert

Andy Goodman – Expert in public interest communications

Public Relations Society of America

AgChat Foundation – Site to educate the ag sector re: social media tools, www.agchat.org

Roberta Seiwert Lampe’s life took a different turn than most women of the mid 1950s. She enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps and became a reporter, writing at bases in the U.S. and Germany.

Roberta returned home to Kansas in 1959 and took on a more traditional role: farm wife. Throughout the many years of raising her family and helping on the family farm, she heard amazing stories from other farm women, those a generation older than she. The stories were big: how they emigrated from Germany and how they homesteaded in Kansas. The stories were small: how they chased off neighboring farm boys or warmed calves in their kitchens.  These stories ruminated for years.

Then, as she neared 70, her role as farm wife transitioned into caretaker. Her husband now had cancer and her daughters suffered other tragedies. Here’s her account of how she coped:

“In the midst of family crisis, Seiwert Lampe awoke one morning to hear her subconscious say, ‘The time is now.’ She lifted a worn business advertising ballpoint from the desk drawer, grabbed a wad of scratch paper and set about following the directive. Wherever she went, the old pen and paper were handy. With a few minutes here or a half-hour there, she turned to the stories.”

After two and a half years, she had written two novels and nine short children’s stories, all in long hand.  She then set about to transition from writer to author. She self-published until she found a publisher. She peddled books on her own until she landed signings at Border’s and a spot on a local author lecture series. Her husband died, and she kept writing down the stories.

I gathered up all her books at a signing at our small town library. Roberta handled the sale, gathering change from a pill jar in a metal box. She told the story behind the stories, entertaining along the way. She warned that she would “bend our ear,” if we allowed her. We did — and were glad for it.

She is her own “strong woman” story. I’m glad to share it.

Farmily

February 23, 2010

I felt quite clever last week. I mistyped the word “farm” and “family” in a story and wrote “farmily.” Thought it was such a cool word, that I tweeted my discovery. Ann Wylie, a leading communications and writing consultant, retweeted me. She has more than 900 followers, so I was now both famous and clever.

A Google search deflated my ego. Urban dictionary listed the word, so somebody, somewhere got there first. No matter. I still love the word.

Farmily is the reason my D. choses to spend every June in the combine with Grandpa, instead of at the baseball field. It’s the reason E.’s recipe box is right at home in the same kitchen in which her grandma and great-grandma cooked, baked, boiled and fried. It’s the reason V. introduced me to his family at a noontime meal, when everyone was in for a break. (I knew I had to marry him when his mom offered me seconds on her out-of-this-world chocolate cake, with home-made fudge frosting and pudding filling.)

A great word. A great way to raise our family.

Writers on writing

January 1, 2010

“Writers are a little below clowns and a little above trained seals.” — John Steinbeck.

Ouch. But maybe a humility check is just what this writer needs as another year of words begin? I’m not discounting that good writing matters. However, with nearly 200 million people blogging alone, the world does seem saturated with words. Enter Twitter the editor. What fun — and what a challenge — to write something meaningful in 140 characters or less. Here are some other Twitter-sized thoughts on writers and writing I found funny and inspiring:

  • “I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.” Oscar Wilde
  • “I never knew what was meant by choice of words. It was one word or none.” Robert Frost
  • “You must write every single day of your life…” Ray Bradbury
  • “The idea is to get the pencil moving quickly.” Bernard Malamud
  • “Use the right word and not its second cousin.” Mark Twain
  • “Stick to the point.” W. Somerset Maugham

‘Nuf said. Happy writing and reading in the new year.

Story telling

November 26, 2009

It will soon be a year since I began writing stories from Sand Creek. I don’t think I have set the blogosphere on fire with my wit, veracity for writing or groundbreaking insights. I hope I have succeeded in at least one way, though — telling a good story. Eugene Cameron, a Ponca Indian story teller, reminded me that a story is told so that it will be shared. One story teller begets another. So, tell me how I’ve done. Have my stories been good enough to share?

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