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University of Iowa News Release

March 10, 2004

‘Live From Prairie Lights’ Features West Des Moines Natives March 16

The "Live from Prairie Lights" readings series -- hosted by Julie Englander on University of Iowa radio station WSUI, AM 910 -- will feature native-Des Moines writers Sue Boggio and Mare Pearl reading from their collaborative novel “Sunlight and Shadows” at 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 16.

The event will be broadcast from the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City. Listen on the Internet at

In “Sunlight and Shadow,” set in rural New Mexico, a couple learns the power of love despite personal loss, estrangement and the burdens of history.

Boggio (left, in photo) and Pearl (right, in photo) work at the University of New Mexico, where Boggio is a registered nurse and Pearl is a mental health technician. As active members of the Southwest Writers Workshop, they have won numerous writing awards.

With the release of this book, they are celebrating their 40th year of a friendship that began in a fifth-grade classroom at Fair Meadows Elementary in West Des Moines. The alphabetical seating chart placed the two “severe Beatles fans” -- Boggio (her last name was then Overturf) and Pearl -- next to each other.

“The mayhem began,” Boggio told the ABQ Journal in Albuquerque. “We couldn't be quiet. We had so much to talk about. Luckily, our teacher had a great sense of humor. What also got us through our misbehaviors -- innocent stuff, talking and giggling -- was that we did well in school, managed good grades."

In high school the girls received encouragement from a creative-writing teacher, Mary Swenson. "We co-wrote short stories and very bad poetry, melodramatic high school girl poetry,” Baggio explained. “But she encouraged us and felt we should do something with it."

But after graduating from high school, the girls went separate ways. Boggio attended nursing school in Des Moines while Pearl went to New York to study at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy.

After eight years out of touch, they reconnected hours after the murder of John Lennon on Dec. 8, 1980. Pearl, who was living in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., called Boggio in Albuquerque, where she was working at the University of New Mexico Children's Psychiatric Center.

"That's who we really connected with, John and Paul, that creative chemistry,” Boggio said. “Mare and I grew up with creative chemistry. They were role models for us. At that moment all pretense fell away and we were old friends again.”

Pearl moved to Albuquerque in 1988 and they began writing collaboratively, including an earlier novel that was not published, and a screenplay. In manuscript form, “Sunlight and Shadow” won second place in the 2001 SouthWest Writers Mainstream Novel category before being picked for publication up by the New America Library.

Writing for the American Library Association’s Booklist, critic Patty Engelmann called the book a “wonderful first novel by two talented authors who vividly bring to life the beauty of New Mexico and its people.”

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073,