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November 30, 2004 |

Dear Mr. Keillor,
In your books, you evoke not only the happy times of your childhood but the sad and bitter ones as well. How does one do this? I would like to start writing about some of my life experiences, but it seems like it will be more painful than helpful. I have listened to your radio show since I was a child growing up in Texas. Now that I am in Minnesota, I have been surprised to find out that although Lake Wobegon is not on the map, St. Cloud IS on the map. With such an ethereal, celestial name, I naturally thought you made it up.

Valerie W.

Dear Valerie,
You're right, Lake Wobegon is a rather prosaic name next to St. Cloud (which some of us Minnesotans pronounce San-CLOO when speaking to outlanders, to give the place a little topspin, just as we go shopping at Tar-ZHAY). And then there is Thief River Falls and Blue Earth and Embarrass and Nowthen. And Mountain Lake, which has no mountain or lake. And in every town, there are people like you and me who think about setting our life experiences down on paper or on a screen. To what purpose? I hope it is to create something of beauty and nobility, to let the experiences lead us out of the small precincts of daily life and into some discovery of wonders unknown. I was more interested in exploring my childhood miseries until I started to meet people with real grief in their lives and now I'm pretty much focused on comedy. There are people who have suffered horribly, had children snatched from them, endured medical tortures, had real depression and not just the blues, and I'd find it embarrassing if any of them heard me seriously complain about, say, the hardship of growing older. So I do comedy.

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