My fifth grade teacher, the same teacher who dressed up as Viola Swamp on “bad days” as a warning to us students, the remarkable and inimitable Sandy Rhodes, quoted my own poetry back to me. It made my whole head blush a ridiculously bright red.
In high school, on multiple occasions, teachers asked for personal copies of pieces I’d written. I scrawled them out on notebook paper and never gave it a second thought as to why they wanted to keep the poems.
I grew up in Springfield.
I played soccer and baseball on fields across town and have memories of traipsing the fairways of every golf course with Dad. I broke windows chasing baseball dreams and broke teeth running away from a bully. I rode bikes with my best friends through Delaware Elementary neighborhoods and loved playing video games at Aladdin’s Castle. After moving to Texas for my Master’s degree and spending a decade working in Kansas City, my wife and daughters and I moved back to Springfield to be closer to family.
My daughters started pursuing their dreams of music and art, my wife went to Drury for her Master’s degree, and I started a “career” as a freelance writer. Blogs and articles and books. The more I wrote, the more I remembered my own dreams from my growing up days. The more I wrote, the more I wanted to write about Springfield. It became the setting for my first novel, Dreamfield, and the home base for stories of my catch-playing year.
Jeff Houghton, of Instagram Husband and The Mystery Hour fame, challenged dreamers to “make something where you are.” In 2017, I started working on This is My Springfield, a book of poetry, photos, and illustrations about life in the Queen City. Poems celebrate Fun Acre and Andy’s, the “French Fries” and Brad Pitt and ridiculous weather.
Brad Zweerink is a local freelance and documentary photographer and friend from our days in Mrs. Rhodes’ class. He donated significant time and energy bringing the poems to life in beautiful black and white photos.
Sophie, my youngest daughter, is incredibly artistic. Her art displays wisdom and talent beyond her years. Artists of any medium and age need opportunities to give and ship, as Seth Godin would say. I gave her a timeline and asked if she would create simple illustrations for some of my poems as well. I was amazed by both the quantity and quality of her submissions.
This is My Springfield is not only Springfield made, but Springfield-based and gives back to the community as well. For 50 years, Ozarks Literacy Council has provided free, one-on-one tutoring to anyone who needs help improving their reading skills. All proceeds from This is My Springfield will benefit OLC, helping grow new readers so they can also turn their dreams into a reality.
On April 3, from 6 – 8 pm, The Creamery Arts Center (411 N. Sherman Parkway) will be hosting a come-and-go book launch celebrating the long-awaited publication. Books will be for sale ($20) — so, so many thanks to Brent Gilstrap Realty and Rick Grayson Golf for sponsoring the evening.
I love Springfield and hope that feeling is discovered and conveyed in these poems and stories. I’m already thinking about Volume 2.
Keep dreamin’, Queen City friends.