Julie Gammack's Iowa Potluck
Julie Gammack's Iowa Potluck
Jara Johnson: Clarinda, Nashville to Pella

Jara Johnson: Clarinda, Nashville to Pella

...also, the Office Lounge Zoom link for this Friday is included

Jara Johnson has performed the National Anthem several times, so you might have been introduced to her at the opening of some big event around these parts.

She’s a songwriter, who is also currently the associate director of the Pella Opera House, where she uses her connections with Nashville songwriting colleagues to turn the small town known for the Tulip Festival this time of year into ‘Nashville North.’

Jara is one of 13 songwriters who will be workshop leaders during the Okoboji Writers’ and Songwriters’ Retreat, to be held September 22—25. If you love to sing, come learn how to write a song of your own. This is the first year we’ve included songwriting panels and workshops at this event. Learn more: Okoboji Writers’ Retreat

Jara has performed in Nashville’s Blue Bird Cafe, an iconic place for musicians to showcase what they can do, and her songs often reveal her Iowa roots.

This is not an easy career path. And the industry is changing fast. Plus, it’s even tougher for women. Nevertheless, she and others persist. Like that song, you just can’t get out of your head once it’s wormed its way into your memory.

I’m delighted to use this platform to showcase people like Jara. She’s someone you will want to get to know.

Here she is performing in the Blue Bird:

’m often surprised during these Monday calls by the participants who join us and have questions of their own. My Iowa Writers’ Collaborative colleague, Chuck Offenburger, wrote in the comment section of the column announcing her appearance:

I've been hearing about Jara and her talent all her life -- from her grandmother Pat Eberly and her late grandfather Merl Eberly, of Clarinda, my lifetime friends. Merl was a newspaper colleague, too, and all of us were and are baseball junkies. Chuck


Baseball was a dominant theme of her family life growing up, which you will hear in the conversation she had with Chuck, and also in this song:

In this podcast, you’ll learn about Jara’s career, her ambitions, and her job booking folks like herself to play in the Pella Opera House. She’ll be performing there on May 4, at 4 p.m. For more information: https://pellaoperahouse.org/event/tulip-time-jara-johnson-singer-and-songwriter/


ur Iowa Writers’ Collaborative members will be holding what we call our Office Lounge this Friday. Paid subscribers of any of our columns are invited. You’ll have a chance to chat with Barry Piatt, Mary Swander, Laura Belin, Bob Leonard, and others.

The Zoom link is below the Paywall below.

Monday, April 1, -no joke- our call will be about the upcoming Poetry Palooza

Our Zoom call starting at noon Monday, features folks involved in the upcoming Poetry Palooza events, April 19-20, at Grandview University. On the call to talk about what to expect: Subscribers of this column will receive the Zoom link on Monday morning.

Diane Glass:

Diane Glass’s diverse career spans teaching, politics, corporate marketing, radio talk show hosting, spiritual direction, writing, and teaching. She served as Vice President of Marketing for the Des Moines Register from 1983 to 2000. Retired, she devotes her time to writing poetry, community volunteering, and teaching storytelling and spiritual growth.

Her book of poetry, The Heart Hungers for Wildness, explores themes related to growing up in small-town Iowa, the loss of Iowa farmland, and the experience of aging. In 2002-2003, she and Pat Boddy laid the groundwork for Poetry Palooza, an effort that quickly attracted a group of 11 dedicated volunteers. The Poetry Palooza remained a largely volunteer-driven program with financial support from Humanities Iowa, Polk County Conservation, and numerous individual contributors. 

Dawn Terpstra:

Dawn Terpstra is a poet, writer, and beekeeper in Iowa. Her work has been published in 2River, Grist, Midwest Quarterly, Verse Daily, Quartet, Ekphrastic Review, and SWWIM. She is the author of a chapbook, Songs from the Summer Kitchen. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. She is an MFA student at Pacific Lutheran University’s Rainier Writing Workshop. She is the Poetry Editor of River Heron Review. Dawn is currently the president of the Iowa Poetry Association. 

Kelsey Bigelow:

Iowa Writers’ Collaborative member Macey Shofroth wrote a column including Kelsey:

The Midwest Creative
Creative Community: Kelsey Bigelow, Caleb Rainey, and the Poetry Potluck
Every first Sunday night of the month, Kelsey Bigelow and Caleb Rainey text each other the same question. “Why do we do this?” The message is in regards to their monthly “Poetry Potluck,” where they take one week to write a poem based on words submitted from their Instagram followers. Words are submitted on the first Monday of the month and they share the…
Read more

Kelsey Bigelow is a poet and speaker based in Des Moines. She spends her time working as a mental health poet sharing this therapeutic tool with audiences of all ages across the world. She is the author of "Far From Broken" (2024), "The Coffee Cherry" (2023), "Depression Holders and Secret Keepers" (2021), and "Sprig of Lilac" (2018). Her work is published with Central Avenue Publishing, Pile Press, Lyrical Iowa, Backchannels Journal, Spirit Lake Review, and elsewhere. Kelsey is a 2024 Pushcart Prize nominee, a 2023 Button Poetry Video Contest Finalist, and a 2023 Central Avenue Poetry Prize shortlist finalist.

She's the founder and leader of the Des Moines Poetry Workshop, the chair for the Iowa Poetry Association Poetry Slam, the co-tournament director for the BlackBerry Peach National Poetry Slam, and more.

Get to know Kelsey at kelkaybpoetry.com

Office Lounge is THIS FRIDAY

Thank you to our paid subscribers! Join our Office Lounge Call Friday, noon central time, via Zoom for a chat about whatever is on your mind:


Julie Gammack's Iowa Potluck
Julie Gammack's Iowa Potluck
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