Category Archives: Community News

Review : Back in the Game by Charles Holdefer

Longing.  I presume that sometime in the deep darkness of our linguistic past that the word measured the degree of difference between where one is, and where one wants to be.  Implied also is desire; yearning, and the emotions that accompany them, good or bad. Longing to be a musician, an astronaut, or for one who loves you may be joyful.  Alternatively, longing for a lost opportunity, or an old lover no longer interested in you, woeful.
Charles Holdefer’s book Back in the Game, is a book about longing.  It’s also a book about the intricacy of human relationships, and their fragility. It’s also a book about globalization, and small town Iowa life. And pork. Stanley Mercer longed for a career in the big leagues of baseball, but didn’t quite make it. From A ball through Triple A, he took detours through Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and eventually a defunct European League where he lost his job in France when the team owner lost interest in the game. Stanley also lost his girlfriend Delphine somewhere along the way.  Probably long before he knew it.
Thanks to a little “white lie” and to his brother Riley, a well-off fellow in a marshmallow existence, Stanley finds himself in a teaching position in a high school in a dying town called Legion.  Big Ag is getting bigger and bigger, and bottom line is that as farms get bigger, many rural towns die.
One professional life in tatters, and another soon to be, Stanley finds unrequited love and oddly kindred souls on the margins of existence.  That, or at the center of it.
Lovingly crafted, and written from the unique perspective of an Iowan, an insider who knows our culture yet has a cosmopolitan eye for the big picture, this is a delightful and challenging perspective of a uniquely modern midwestern life, remarkably close to our own.
Reviewed by Robert Leonard
Charles Holdefer is a native of Knoxville, Iowa, and currently lives in Brussels with his family, although he returns to Iowa regularly to teach at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.  He will be here at The Next Chapter on Thursday evening, July 19th, 2012, at 5:30, to discuss Back in the Game, writing, and life, and to sign copies of his book.

Author & Humorist Charlene Baumbich Comes to Knoxville!

A couple of years ago a woman from Illinois and her husband were driving through Iowa, and they happened to stop for gas in Knoxville at the BP station just east of the square.The woman took advantage of the stop and visited the ladies room, and much to her delight, found it to be super clean and very stylish with checkerboard tiling in raceway colors.  She mentioned her approval of the bathroom to the gas station attendant, as she was purchasing a soda at the counter.  The cashier mentioned that the root beer she had chosen was made locally at our new brewery, which led her directly down the street to Peace Tree Brewing Company. During her tour, the director learned that the woman was an author and she sent them over to us at The Next Chapter.
This charming and charismatic woman bounded through the book store door asking whether I’d ever visited the BP bathroom before.  After I admitted I hadn’t had the pleasure, she proceeded to go on and on about how fabulous it was, even showing me a picture she had taken of it!  She continued on, in her excited and contagious way, to describe her fabulous time at Peace Tree, with t-shirts in tow for her sons.

As we talked, I learned that Charlene is an author.  She has written numerous books, including several inspirational and self-help titles, the beloved Dearest Dorothy series, and the Snow Globe Connections series, and when I met her she was working on a new book for her Snow Globe Connections series.  She mentioned that she was looking for a ballet dancer to help her with some technical details for this newest book.  Of course, I disclosed that I was a book store owner, but also the owner of “Tresa’s School of Dance” and had taught dance classes for 38 years!

It was like a match made in heaven as she ran across the store to hug me, and then asked if I would help with her process by reading her manuscript. I was honored and excited at this request, and sent her to the computer shop to have her script printed so she could leave it in Knoxville with me. Then, local KNIA/KRLS news director, Dr. Bob Leonard, also happened into our store during Charlene’s visit, and he asked if she might be interested in giving an interview for his weekly show, to which she graciously and excitedly agreed.

After a lovely visit, we sent Charlene and her husband to The Swamp Fox for dinner, and so their gas station stop turned into a six hour sojourn in Knoxville!

Since then, we’ve kept in touch with Charlene, read some of her books, and learned more about her career as a humorist and speaker.  I enjoyed reading her manuscript for Finding Our Way Home, and was able to offer some expert advice to make the book, which features an injured ballerina who must learn to live without her dancing, even more true to life.  And now, I am so pleased to have the final result on our shelves along with Charlene’s other books!

So, to celebrate the release of Finding Our Way Home, it is with great pleasure that we welcome Charlene to Knoxville once again, for a trio of special events on Thursday, March 22nd.  At 12 noon, the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce will host Charlene at the Peace Tree Tasting Room for an edition of Expert Edge– Business Survival 101: The Balance Between Humor and Grit. At 2pm, an Afternoon Tea and Book Signing here at the Next Chapter. Finally, at 5:30, come to The Peace Tree for “Charlene, etc., Life’s Quirky Tidbits,” as our special guest entertains us with humor, uncommon wisdom, and passionate insights.

We hope you can join us!

Read more about Charlene and her work at her website:


It’s Been 3 Years!

To our Wonderful Customers,

It’s hard to believe that it’s been three years since we opened our doors on November 3rd, 2008 — so much has happened in that time, both in the world around us, as well as in our shop. It hardly seems possible for it to all have gone on in just three years!

Here at The Next Chapter, Tresa and I have watched a dream grow, first becoming a startup indie bookshop with a few gifts and lots of ideas; and then blossoming into the thriving shop we like to call our Book and Gift Boutique, where we are fortunate to be working, every day.

Three years ago, we were just opening our doors, hoping that you would find something you liked on our shelves.  You were wonderful! You supported us beyond most predictions, so we got to work, and the startup grew into a bustling shop.  It was the Next Chapter in both of our lives.

We knew we wanted to have used books as well as new.  So we opened our used book basement, seeded it with books from our own collections and began taking donations, giving 10% of each month’s used book sales back to the community in the form of checks to local charities.

We wanted The Next Chapter to have a warm and welcoming atmosphere, so we made a seating area with soft couches and a table with chairs.  We installed the book shelves all along the perimeter of the space and arranged displays of books and gifts on tables and shelves and spinners throughout the middle of the shop. We invited people to stop, have a cup of coffee, take a few minutes to browse, relax, enjoy.

Over the next three years, we listened to feedback, we worked to fulfill requests, we watched what was happening in our community, and tried to help wherever we could. We read countless book reviews and fine tuned our book selection. When we didn’t have what you were looking for, we helped you locate the books you wanted.  When you responded to the few gift lines we carried, and asked for more, we slowly began to carry more kinds of items, or bigger selections of the kinds of things you shopped for.  When other shops on the square closed their doors, or opened, we responded to fulfill the needs of our town by carrying items like greeting cards.

We tried a few things that just didn’t work, like magazines; or that were initially intended to be temporary like blooming plants during the spring season. We sought out some of the things that weren’t available in our community, to encourage you to shop locally.  We added some specific gift lines that you asked for, like Willow Tree figurines and WoodWick Candles, to name just two.

And again, your response has been great!  All the kind words and encouragement, as well as the willingness to shop locally, have made The Next Chapter a success.  In April of this year, we annexed the suite of offices between the main shop and the dental office, and added a Home and Garden Décor section, stocking it with lots of beautiful things to make your house a home, and gourmet food mixes, coffees and teas to feed your loved ones.

A few months later, we realized we needed more help, so we hired Diane Gordon, the third member of our team, who brings years of bookshop and book-keeping experience along with a generous portion of creativity to the mix. We’ve enjoyed having her, and her new perspective, helping make this an even better place.

If you haven’t been to The Next Chapter lately, you may not know that the term ‘gift selection’ is perhaps a bit misleading.  We have a fashion accessories section, a paper goods section with cards and journals, and a toy section, and of course, our Home and Garden section.

One day, a year or so ago, a woman from out of town, who had spent some time browsing and shopping, stopped on her way out carrying several bags, and exclaimed, “This is a Book Boutique!  I love it!” We liked it too, and have added that to our description of The Next Chapter.

We like being a Book and Gift Boutique.  We also like being part of Knoxville’s own next chapter, as our town looks to the future and works to solve the problems facing many communities of our size.

Here are some of the ways we are trying to help:

  • We have donated over $5000 to local causes benefitting everything from homeless pets to college bound students.
  • We’ve sold nearly 20,000 new books, and 9000 used books since we opened – just think of all that reading!
  • We have entered into partnerships with other local businesses, such as the Peace Tree Brewing Company to bring entertaining events to the town.
  • We have worked with local schools, libraries and churches, offering discounts and services, because we want to be the local source for the books they need.
  • We have offered adult education classes on such diverse topics as Basic Computers, Flower Arranging, Memory Quilt Crafting and more.
  • We provide meeting space for several local organizations, and gathering space for the community at large.
  • We have sold tickets to numerous events for organizations like the Red Rock Arts Alliance and K-Act.
  • We have welcomed other would-be entrepreneurs, offering encouragement and practical assistance whenever we could.

As we look to the future, we’re ready for yet another chapter as we begin our 4th year of business.  We will continue to bring the best new books each season, finding those titles that make you happy and keep you informed and entertained. We will continue to find great new product lines for your gift-giving needs and your own pleasure.  We will continue to support our community with financial contributions, in-kind donations, and institutional discounts; as well as by being the local outlet for event tickets, and the ideas incubator for would-be entrepreneurs.

We not only want to encourage folks to shop local, we also want to become a destination for people outside of our community.  We will bring in more authors, more events, and more classes.  We want to live up to our name, by helping to bring the ‘Next Chapter’ to Knoxville.

Want more photos of life at The Next Chapter?  See our photo album


November at The Next Chapter Means Books for the Troops!

Last year’s book drive for the Troops was such a success, that we’ve decided to do it again!

In 2009, we had several customers come in to buy paperback books for friends and family deployed overseas with the US military. We learned that paperbacks, particularly used ones, are a great form of entertainment, relaxation, and even escape for many of our soldiers — they are portable, don’t need to be plugged in, can be shared, and can even be left behind if need be.

This gave us an idea, and in November of 2009, with the help of our wonderful customers, we shipped over 300 books to a Knoxville soldier serving in Iraq! He in turn set up a unit library that was then made available for all of the soldiers there.

This year, we want to do it again, and we’re asking for your help: Buy any used or new paperback here at The Next Chapter, and we will pack them up and to ship them overseas to the Troops. Most used paperbacks here cost $2 – $3, most new paperbacks are between $6 and $15.

We will be accepting donations through the end of November, which will give us time to package them and get them sent in time to arrive for the Holidays.  We will be sending our packages to a large group of Iowa National Guard soldiers stationed in Iraq, who are requesting books that will then be distributed to the many units working out in rural areas. As of this writing, we have not identified a local contact, but they’re all our soldiers anyhow, right?

So let’s let our fine men and women in uniform know how much we support them with a nice big shipment of books from the good people of Marion County — with a little help from the Next Chapter.



“Relics” Release Party a Great Success!

DSCN0019We ran out of standing room last night at the Next Chapter, as multimedia artist Michael Hammond and oral poet, Joe Plum, celebrated the release of their new book and DVD combination entitled Relics: Deep Mythic Image Poetry.

Mr. Hammond started things off with an entertaining description of traipsing about the countryside with his at-risk camera equipment searching for the perfect places to film complementary footage for the unwritten poetry that Plum composes.  The DVD is a lyrical visual interpretation of Plums words, skimming across the Iowa landscape as if the camera’s eye was that of one of the spirits who inhabit the poetry. The images celebrate the artistry of nature, with an intimate affection for the rugged landscapes it captures.

Michael Hammond

Michael Hammond

Attendees were unable to get the full effect of the gorgeous photography that Hammond showed us, due to some technical issues during the event; however, I know that for me, a quiet hour with the Relics DVD, a large-screen TV, and possibly a glass of fine wine is definitely on the docket some time soon!

After Hammond finished, Joe Plum took the microphone, and effortlessly flowed from casual narrative into his particular brand of complex mythic poetry and back again as if he were chatting over a cup of coffee.  Punctuated by the beat of a small hand-drum, the poetry lulled the audience into a slightly different state of consciousness where ancient knowledge flows  just below the surface and we feel that his words, composed over months and years following dream visions, are meant for us alone.

Plum answered questions about his artistic process and how he came to be an oral poet.  He said that he began composing his poems at an early age, and that as he grows older, he is better able to understand the dreams that initiate the poetry, and has structured his life so that he can be alone and work uninterrupted sometimes for weeks on end, so as not to lose the images and emotions he experiences in these dreams.  Some poems take years to compose, others come more quickly, and none of them are written unless they have been transcribed by someone else, as the poems in Relics have been.

Joe Plum and his hand drum

Joe Plum and his hand drum

The poetry itself is rendered in deceptively straightforward language with simple rhyming patterns, but the messages are complex and elemental, evocative of both the dream worlds Plum inhabits, but also of the internal landscapes of our own daily struggles.

i know
that my knowing
separates me from my being
and that being
keeps me from becoming
and that becoming
is but dusty powder made
by grinding here and there

from the poem “Relics”, by Joseph S. Plum

We are so pleased to have had the opportunity to share the wonderful artwork of these two gentlemen with the Marion County community, and we are so grateful for your ongoing support of these cultural events. We would also like to thank Jen Hall for helping Joe and Michael prepare; and Dr. Bob Leonard and KNIA/KRLS for producing and airing a program on Relics and for the loan of their sound equipment.

Relics (book and DVD) is available at The Next Chapter in limited quantities for $22.00 each.

What a great crowd!

What a great crowd!

More of the great audience!

More of the great audience!


“Relics” Release Party Friday!



We are pleased to host local oral poet , Joseph Plum, at a release party for Plum’s brand-new book and DVD entitled Relics: Deep Mythic Image Poetry!

Join us this Friday, July 24th, at 6 pm, when Joe will share a few pieces of his particular brand of spiritually provocative poetry meant to be recited in the ancient tradition of the oral poets of our ancestors.  Afterward, meet Plum and have your copy signed by the author.  If you have never heard Joe Plum in person, this is a great opportunity to experience a true artist at work, and if you have heard him before, you won’t want to miss this evening.

“The meter and rhyme undulate and shift to keep the ear interested, and startling metaphors flare even as the poems reach their moral climaxes.  The search in many of the poems is for a kind of wholeness of spirit and body, spirit and earth.”

Keith Ratzlaff

The Next Chapter is excited to bring this special event as part of our mission to bring cultural events to Marion County and to promote and encourage both the literary arts in general, and local writers in particular.  And, of course, when the opportunity to host Plum came up, we jumped at the chance!

If you are interested in hearing more, Dr. Bob Leonard will interview Joe Plum tomorrow on KNIA/KRLS Radio’s In-Depth news program (1320 AM or 92.1 FM; or online at — scroll down to “In-Depth”).

You can also visit Joe’s web site at: .


July at The Next Chapter

Special Events, Summer Merchandise, and a Special Offer on Used Romance Novels!

As we move at breakneck speed through the summer (I keep trying not to think about the fact that winter is now only four or five months away again), we are keeping very busy around the bookshop!

Thank you to all of you who came out for our book signing with Zachary Michael Jack and Bob Leonard this past Saturday.  Jack is the editor of Iowa: The Definitive Collection, a compendium of historic writings about Iowa written by Iowans.  We had a lively discussion about how Iowan history is taught in our schools and about the process of compiling and editing this comprehensive collection.

Please note a permanent date change for the Real Books for Real Men group:  they will henceforth meet on the FIRST  TUESDAY of each month!  So, July’s meeting of this reading and discussion group hosted by Bob Leonard especially for the guys will be on Tuesday July 7th.  They welcome new members!

We still have a FEW more spots for our Dream Collage Workshop that will be held on Thursday evening, July 9th at 6pm, and for the Fancy Nancy Tea Party on Saturday July 18th at 10:30 am.  See our Events page for more information, or call 641.828.7323 or email us at to reserve your spot today.

For those of you with a love of flowers — either the ones you grow yourself or the ones you purchase, Natalie Leisure, owner of Our Town Florist, will be giving a flower arranging demonstration on Saturday July 11th at 2 pm.  Come out of the heat, have a glass of something cold and a snack and sit back while Natalie shares some of her extensive expertise and some of the best tricks for making flower arrangements look their best.

It’s been fun unpacking all the gorgeous new merchandise we ordered over the past few weeks!  We have new jewelry — and more on the way; a beautiful new line of handbags has arrived which is manufactured with fair trade and living wage practices; a selection of French perfume sticks is just in, and since Summer is such a great time for writing, we have new notecards and journals arriving almost daily!  We’ve also restocked our gourmet chocolates and Rabbit Creek bread, cheesecake, and dip mixes.  And stay tuned, because many more things are on the way.

Of course, summer also affords many of us with extra time for reading, so we’re working hard to keep up with all the best in new fiction and non-fiction for kids and adults.   It’s a miracle that I’ve (mostly) resisted the temptation to install myself on the sofas and catch up on some of the most intriguing titles!

Downstairs in the used books department, we’re expanding our shelf space to make room for all the much appreciated donations you are all bringing in.  By the way, the beneficiary of June’s 10% of used book sales is Helping Hands, and to give it an extra boost, and to clear some room, we’re offering all Used paperback Romances at the rock bottom price of 3 for $1 during the month of July!!!

Thank you for all your support!

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