The Valpo Connection to the Kingdom

At Valparaiso University last week, I stood on the tundra to deliver a presentation on Kingdom of the Birds. Thirty years ago I trudged across that open and desolate plain to get to classes on the east end of campus. The tundra is no longer open or desolate: the Valparaiso University Center for the Arts, known as the VUCA (“Voo-ka”) stands where crisscrossing trails of worn grass once marked the passage of students.

As an undergrad I attended Wordfest, the annual series of guest speakers sponsored by the English department.  Last week in the Brauer Museum of the VUCA, I stood before a room full of Valpo students who will never know the bleak delight of trudging across the tundra.   This Wordfest audience also included several of my old professors.

The Valparaiso University community made my writing of Kingdom of the Birds possible.  I conducted much of my research at the old Moellering Library and the new Christopher Center.  In my acknowledgments I mentioned six VU professors and nine alumni among my friends and relatives.

Two Valpo graduates are responsible for creating educational resources for use with Kingdom of the Birds.  My sister Gretchen has written a curriculum guide for intermediate/middle school language arts and social studies classes.  Gretchen also prepared discussion questions for classrooms, book clubs, and other reading groups.

My pastor friend Luke Bouman is writing a series of discussion guides for Lutheran confirmands and their families.  The first lesson is posted as a PDF on the Resources for Teachers page on this website, as are Gretchen’s materials.

Just this morning in the Torch, the VU student newspaper, I read a delightful account of my Wordfest presentation by reporter Becky Christopher, yet one more Valpo connection.

Many thanks, friends of Valpo, for all your contributions to the Kingdom of the Birds.


Castles and Music and Swordfights—Oh My!

According to my sister Gretchen, the Kingdom of the Birds launch party resulted in “years of careful parenting undone.”

On Saturday, March 6, at Immanuel Lutheran School, Renaissance swordsmen–and a swordswoman–demonstrated fighting moves to an appreciative audience.

As I greeted guests and signed books, the clanging of steel blades punctuated the four-part music of the recorder consort. Later, after a few lessons from the masters, children of all ages enjoyed themselves thoroughly, thrusting and parrying with foam swords.

Many thanks to those who made the event so memorable, including the women of the Immanuel Co-op who provided our feast, SCA members of the Shire of Greyhope, the Northwest Indiana Fencing Club, and the Chesterton High School musicians who played us tunes of surpassing grace.

Thanks, too, to the many friends and relatives who gathered to celebrate the publication of Kingdom of the Birds.