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Join the Alexandria Area Community Read

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February is I Love to Read Month nationwide, but Alexandria area residents will have their own special twist!

A committee has organized the first Alexandria Area Community Read and will sponsor special events for the local theme - "I Love to Read...Hassler month."

Area residents are encouraged to read one, several or all of the books written by renowned Minnesota author Jon Hassler.

A variety of events are being planned, including the following:

On January 24, Alexandria Mayor H. Dan Ness is expected to sign a proclamation in observance of February and March 2011 as The Alexandria Area Community Read - I Love to Read...Hassler.

Three book discussion events will be open to the public, including:

Monday, February 28, 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Douglas County Library, Michelle Saffel will lead a discussion on Hassler's novel Staggerford.

His book, North of Hope, will be discussed (date and location still to be determined).

Tuesday, March 15, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Nelson Gables in Alexandria, Karen Simmons, county librarian, will lead a discussion on Hassler's Good People...From an Author's Life. (Attendees encouraged to bring a bag lunch or purchase one at Nelson Gables for a nominal fee.)

On Thursday, March 24, the celebration will culminate with presentations by Joe Plut, a colleague and friend of Hassler and author of Conversations with Jon Hassler.

One presentation will be held at the Alexandria Technical and Community College Senior College at 3:30 p.m., and the other will take place at the Douglas County Library at 7 p.m.

Plut will discuss the writings of Hassler and his long-time friendship with the author.

Other events may be planned; more information will be made available at a later date.

If you would like to join a book club, contact the Douglas County Library at (320) 762-3014 or Cherry Street Books at (320) 763-9400.

About Jon Hassler

Jon Hassler developed a large following in the course of his writing career, which extended from the publication of his first novel, Staggerford, in 1977 until his death in 2008.

He cultivated the landscapes and communities of small towns in the Upper Midwest, basing his characters on his own experiences in Park Rapids, Plainview, Brainerd and other Minnesota locales.

The stories, which often reflect his background as a Roman Catholic and a teacher, are laced with quiet humor and naturalistic dialogue.

About Joseph Plut

Joseph Plut received his bachelor of arts degree in English from St. John's University and his master of arts degree in English and comparative literature from Columbia University.

Plut met Jon Hassler in 1968 when both were in the English Department at Brainerd Community College (now Central Lakes College). Plut taught English and humanities there for 36 years.

In the years preceding Hassler's death, Plut interviewed him extensively about the origins, publication, history and themes associated with each of his nine popular novels. They discussed agents and editors, movie and TV deals and theatrical spinoffs.

Plut used postcards, journal entries, published reviews and experiences the two shared while teaching and traveling together to stir Hassler to reminisce about his career as a novelist.

The result is the book Conversations with Jon Hassler, a series of casual conversations offering food for thought to anyone interested in how a novelist handles his material.

Alexandria Area Community Read committee members

Joan Larson, Jan Siffling and Del Mari Runck ¬- Friends of the Library.

Karen Simmons - Douglas County Library.

Susan Scarborough and Amy Sunderland - Community Education.

Kathleen Pohlig - Cherry Street Books.

Sheree Cochran - Alexandria Technical and Community College.

Tara Bitzan - Echo Press.