Sunrise Festival

Stacks of Glass of Hardin was one of the many vendors at the Sunrise Festival of the Arts.

Artists of the MonDak gathered to share a moment under the sun in Veterans Memorial Park Saturday, and it was a moment as electric as the sky was blue. 

Not only because the artists had brought all their ideas, shaped by hands or words into some form of reality, but because of all the exchanges of ideas and knowledge from one to another. It created energy, excitement and fun for both artists and festival-goers alike, and all under a fair weather, Big Sky day.

Dennis Walla, Crane, was among the artisans at Sunrise Festival of the Arts Saturday. He had a great wall of unique walking sticks and canes fashioned with a little imagination during idle moments that attracted the eyes and sparked the imagination.

One of these canes had a lithe snake wrapping around it to an orb on top. Others more commonly featured dwarfish faces looking out from the wood, as if captured and fixed in place forever. 

Wall isn’t entirely sure how these come into being for him exactly. They are there in the wood and he finds them.

“It just falls into place for me,” Walla said. “It’s easy for me. And I like the handwork. It feels good.”

Walla has been carving for 40 years or so, and learned the craft from his grandfather, Bill Welke, who would hand him a stick and show him its ins and outs. 

“He was in his 90s,” Walla recalls. “I was probably 12 to 15.”

Stacks of Glass partners Judy Nelson and Paulette Frazer, Hardin, meanwhile, started their project as a fun thing for the grandkids during the summer months. The grandkids grew up and moved on to other things, but Nelson and Frazer were having too much fun to quit.

One of their basements has become the Stacks of Glass factory, and they have churned out light-catcher after light-catcher for their shows, which have taken them across the state.

They describe it as a fun retirement, full of adventure and meeting interesting people along the way.

Artists were not the only interesting people at the festival, of course, there were also a number of writers in Writer’s Row.

Sandi K. Whipple, Berthold, N.D., was among these. “Dancing with a Cowboy” is her bestseller so far, but her latest and greatest is “Tarnished Romance,” a story about a hooker who finds love after all.

Whipple got her start accidentally as it were. She did an 11-week stint in a wheelchair, and her entertainment was reading dime romance novels, five and six a day.

One night a friend brought supper and asked about the latest book.

“It was so awful, the worst ever,” she told the friend.

Well why had she kept reading it then?

“I just kept thinking it would get better!” Whipple recalls. And then she said a few fateful words. 

“I think I could have written a better one myself!” she told the friend.

Her friend pointed out Whipple still had several weeks in a wheelchair, so why not?

Why not indeed.

Whipple wrote her first in two weeks, “Loving Adonis,” and then followed it up with yet another, “Twisted Engagement.”

“Of course, then you give it to all your friends and they tell you it is great,” she said. “They don’t want to hurt your feelings.”

She tossed it in a drawer and forgot about it.

Her friends didn’t however. Two or three years later they were asking her about the books she’d written, and if she had written any more?

“When I told them what I’d done with the books, they were like no, no, no,” Whipple recalls. “You’ve got to get them out there. They are really good.”

So Whipple sent them to a copy editor, and asked the copy editor for an honest opinion. 

“I’d take this and this out and embellish this,” the copy editor told her. “Then I’d get them out there, because they are pretty good.”

So that is exactly what she did. Now she’s got thumb drives with all her works on them. She’s got chocolates that advertise her books, and candy kisses, too. She’s having the time of her life, taking her books on the road and meeting and talking with other writers.

“So I’m not Danielle Steele or Nora Roberts,” she said. “But I bet they don’t have as much fun as I do!”

Speaking of romance, not two booths down from Whipple on Writer’s Row, was a young couple returning from their honeymoon, passing through just in time for Sunrise Festival of the Arts. 

Mattie Richardson had a collection of her works telling historical fiction from the point of view of the horse. She started writing these young readers when she was 13. Her family had moved from Minnesota to North Dakota, and they’d begun homeschooling, too, she recalls.

She wanted something to do, and she wanted an Appaloosa, and so she decided to write a tale with an Appaloosa in it. She sent it off to an uncle who is an English teacher, who told her it was pretty good and she should publish it if she wanted to.

“I went with self-publishing because you retain control and you retain the rights,” she said. 

She met her husband, Dan Schmitz, because he is a writer, too. He read an article about her and her books, since she talks at a lot of schools about her projects, and wrote her an email saying they had a mutual acquaintance and asking if she’d be willing to take a look at his work. 

“His book is twice as big as anything I’ve written,” she says, “So I’m still working on that!”

Perhaps the youngest writer in the row was second-grader Timothy Norling, who wrote his first books because the idea of coloring was too boring and he didn’t have anything else to do.

Still he never thought of publishing them. That was his grandmother’s birthday gift to him.

“So now here I am,” he said, the grin evidence that grandma’s gift was just right.

“There are not a lot of people here buying books, but I’m going to be here until 4,” he said. 

They had just come from an Author’s Day in Lewistown, he added, where people were buying books. 

The title he had for sale at the Sunrise Festival of the Arts was “Don’t let the Peacock Cook Dinner.”

He’s got another coming out soon. “Don’t let the 2-year-old drive the car.”

Seems like sound advice, and from one so young.

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