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June 2, 2005 |

Dear Mr. Keillor,
I am in seventh grade at Ramsey Junior High School in St. Paul. I am doing a report on you and have a couple questions that I hope you can answer.

1. I have read some of your books (my personal favorite was Lake Wobegon Days) and I also listen to your show a lot. Which do you prefer? Doing shows? Or writing books?

2. Where do you get your ideas for all your stories and news from Lake Wobegon and everything?

3. I am into cars and I was wondering, what kind of car do you drive?

If you could answer a couple of these questions that would be great. It's really cool to have somebody from my hometown be, like, world famous. My family almost got tickets to one of your shows in Dublin, when we were in Ireland, but they were all sold out. That's a testament to how famous and popular you are, but anyway. If you could answer some of these questions, that would be great.

John Mattessich

John, you're very polite and kind, as we expect St. Paulites to be, but selling out a show in Dublin is no big trick — you just hire a very small hall and give away half the tickets and sell the rest for half-price. Anybody can do it. And you feature (1) a talking dog, (2) scantily clad women wrestling in a mud pit, and (3) a yodeller, and you're home free. If you had gotten in to see the show, you would know this.

As for your questions (all good) — (1) I'd prefer to stay home and write books, which is a really wonderful life, the sort you dream about when you're in the 7th grade — you get out of bed around noon, lounge around, shoot pool, eat lunch, make some phone calls, work for half an hour, close up shop, and go hang out with your friends. The problem is that I'm lazy and I need that regular deadline to get me motivated. The radio show goes on the air at 5 p.m. (Central) on Saturday and by 4 p.m. I am a very busy guy, believe me. My mind is racing a mile a minute. Without that clock, and the terror it induces, I would do approximately no work at all and have to go live with my mother who is 89 and no longer interested in cooking for me and doing my laundry. (2) I get my ideas from sheer necessity. I sit and look out the window and hours go by and no ideas come and then it dawns on me — it's Friday, I have a show on Saturday — and now I see a tall man with a derringer crouching behind a cactus, a springer spaniel named Derek panting softly, and there's the smell of Spam frying and faraway a piano playing "Memories" and a guy named Dutch and a waitress with a red bandanna and slowly a story starts to take shape. (3) I drive a Saab station wagon but this is not my choice. I want a red convertible, either a Mustang or an Audi. But my wife will not allow this, on the grounds that it's dangerous, and so I'm stuck in this sensible car. She grants me a good deal of freedom in other areas, such as foreign policy, but she has firm opinions about cars and will not budge. Once, on a spring night when I was in 11th grade, my girlfriend Corinne Guntzel drove me home from Anoka along the West River Road in her father's brand-new white 1958 Cadillac convertible. He was a plumber but he owned a Caddie convertible. It was a beautiful night and I stood up in the front seat, my hands on the windshield, and I sang — something like "Til There Was You" — with the wind in my face, and I don't know why we didn't race south to the Iowa border and marry that night. Probably because I didn't suggest it, for fear she'd say no. Two years later, my friend Larry Leventhal let me drive his purple Pontiac convertible, a real classic. It steered like a big boat and we drove around St. Paul late one night, but without girls, so what was the point of it? I rented a convertible once in L.A. and that was cool, but I feel like it's time to own one of my own. (Maybe I could keep it at your house...)

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