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University of Iowa News Release

Feb. 3, 2006

North Liberty Nature Writer Semken Reads From First Novel On WSUI Feb. 17

North Liberty ecologist and nature writer Steve Semken will read from his first book of fiction, "Pick Up Stick City: Restoration Fiction," at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17 on the "Live from Prairie Lights" series on University of Iowa radio station WSUI, AM 910. The broadcast will originate in a free event hosted by Julie Englander in the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City. Listen on the Internet at

Semken's novel contains wry, witty, cautionary tales about the environment and the things we have to lose.

Craig Lesley, author of "The Sky Fisherman" and "Burning Fence," wrote, "Steve Semken's quirky stories conjure the Midwest with all its eccentricity, mystery, charm and quiet beauty. The author creates vivid characters and remarkable events. . . . Semken's original work suggests gnarled wild apples -- grotesque and more delicious than any standard orchard variety."

Gary Holthaus, author of "Circling Back" and "Wide Skies: Finding a Home in the West," called the book "a precious rarity: part wisdom about how the world and its strange human creatures really work; part impish imagination like that of Dr. Seuss; part purveyor of a story with the mystery, beauty and tranquility of Brigadoon."

And Peter Sauer of the Orion Society commented, "Steve Semken finds his Middle Earth hidden among the Midwestern dust and rubble of a forgotten ghost town lost in Iowa hill country. In this fable, redemption is from a nether world where masters of short term memory are inexplicably reelected, farming is done by phone and sarcasm reins. It's an antidote for the twenty-first century's linear, literal, myopia. It may be read also as an imagination user's guide -- a how-to manual for deploying mythology for the restoration of compassion, civility, wonder and awe."

A UI alumnus, Semken runs the Ice Cube Press in North Liberty, and founded the Standing By Words Center, sponsor of the annual Harvest Lectures Series.

Semken's books include "Moving With the Elements," "River Tips and Tree Trunks," "Northern Spirits Distilled," "The Tin Prayer: Words of the Wolverine" and "The Great Blues." He contributed to the recent collection "Living With Topsoil," and he edited the recent volume "Prairie Weather."

He has been writer-in-residence at the Island Institute in Sitka, Alaska and the recipient of numerous Iowa Arts Council awards for his writing.

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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,