Memoirist Kelly Holst to Be Ozark Poets and Writers’ Featured Writer

By Robert Laurence

Carol “Kelly” Holst is a letter writer. (For millennials out there in the audience, a “letter” is like an email, except it’s written on paper, and physically transported from here to there by a governmental agency known as the ” United States Postal Service.” Letters are often saved in things like shoe boxes and desk drawers.)

She always has been. Some stories, she thinks, need to be reduced to ink and paper to become meaningful. And lately, she’s turned her letter-writing skills to work on short memoirs about life living in Conconully, a small community in eastern Washington state. (A nod to the digital among us: see www.conconully.com)

Holst will be the featured writer at the June meeting of the Ozarks Poets and Writers Collective, 7 p.m., Tuesday, June 30, at Nightbird Books on Dickson Street in Fayetteville. The public is invited; there is no charge. Words and refreshments will be available for purchase at Nightbird.

Writer, comedian and cartoonist Steve Holst with his mother, Kelly Holst. Kelly Holst is completing a memoir.

Writer, comedian and cartoonist Steve Holst with his mother, Kelly Holst. Kelly Holst is completing a memoir.

Holst and her late husband came to Northwest Arkansas in the early 1980s, on the heels of their son Steve, a back-to-the-Earther who, as Holst puts it, had taken off for Arkansas from California with “a bus full of hippies.”

No hippies themselves, nor back-to-the-Earthers, the elder Holsts still knew a good thing when they saw one in Northwest Arkansas, and they moved their small business to here, settled in and have been here ever since. But their roots are deep into the Pacific Northwest.

Kelly Holst’s grandparents, with her mother as a young girl, rode the railroad from Kansas to eastern Washington state in 1908. And her husband’s family took a similar route a few years earlier.

In fact, there is westward movement way back in the family tree, her great-grandmother having travelled by covered wagon from Ohio to Minnesota in the 19th century. Looked at that way, the return voyage from Washington state to Arkansas seems entirely fitting, even if in a different direction.

But Holst worries, with some justification, that today’s younger generations have no good conception about what life was like in places like Conconully, back when she was growing up in the ’30s. Times when her family lived without electricity or running water. When transportation was primitive by today’s standards, and when news traveled more slowly. Times, yes, when people wrote letters, and the recipients savored the reading and re-reading of them.

In particular, she has three of these stories to share with the OPWC audience, stories originally crafted for her grandchildren: about life in eastern Washington state, about a battle between her father and some neighbors religiously more conservative than he, and about her mother’s election to the local school board.

A fair guess would be that, in addition to these three stories, Holst will have some oral history to share with the audience, and vice versa.

Before and after her reading, there will be an open microphone where members of the community may share their prose or poetry with a friendly and encouraging audience. (Note, please, that the open mic is truly open, and not everything said into it is suitable for the children.) Please join us.

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