Posts Tagged With: Paddle for a Purpose

Third Year Thoughts

As the third publication anniversary of Paddle for a Purpose approaches, my thoughts turn to the difficulties of the past year, which far eclipse any satisfaction we get from reaching a personal benchmark date such as this one. So let me begin by saying that Gene and I send our best to each of you. We hope you and your families are healthy and safe, and that you are weathering this trying time. I’m sure you, as we, have strained to make sense of it all. We pray that you have occasionally been able to see glimmers of empathy, compassion and kindness to sustain your hope. God is at work, even in this, and will use ALL things for the good of those who love him.

When we decided to use the profits from the book to fund the charities we served during our trip, we committed to transparency and communication with you, our readers and friends. With the limitations of the pandemic, I haven’t been able to visit and write about the non-profit organizations I had lined up for Charity Spotlights. I’ll continue those posts as soon as I can. But here are a few book-related thoughts about our third year:

One of the joys of being an author (and a reader) is the chance to attend book festivals. Listening to panels and presentations helps keep the literacy flame alive. One of the things I truly enjoy most is meeting and chatting with other authors and readers who love books as much as I do. This year, both of the festivals I attended were virtual. The Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books, for which I serve on the Planning Committee, was abbreviated to be a series of Zoom presentations on different dates. Many of the authors who planned to participate were kind enough to postpone their participation until this fall’s festival. This spring was the first year I also attended the Deep Valley Book Festival. It’s held in Minnesota, so the fact that it was virtual this year made it easy for me to join in. I attended many of the presentations and even got a chance to be a participant on a panel about connecting with readers through social media and book clubs. I wouldn’t have missed either virtual festival, but am looking forward to attending in person next time around!

Book clubs are my absolute favorite way to connect! No two conversations are ever the same, as the members of the groups determine the topics and questions. I love that I don’t have to be the center of attention and that I get to meet people with such varied and interesting personalities! (If you are a member of a book club that would enjoy reading Paddle for a Purpose, feel free to get in touch with me.)

Nearly all of my book club meetings this past year were, of course, virtual. But during the summer, Gene and I were invited, by the sister of a past colleague, to stay as a guest in a camper in the driveway of her woodsy home in Three Lakes, Wisconsin. Linda and her husband treated us to a socially distanced get-together with friends, berry picking and pontoon boat rides on the lake. The book club met at a local park, where we gave the members and guests a chance to paddle Kupendana afterwards if they wished.

The other notable event of the past year was a chance to do something I’d never been asked to do. I was invited to give the keynote presentation for the annual convention of the Wisconsin Retired Educators’ Association. It was originally planned in person, turning virtual out of necessity. Maybe I lucked out, not having to get up in front of an auditorium, but it was actually lots of fun. Together with my writing teacher, Kathie Giorgio and with author Nancy Jorgensen, I also held a breakout session encouraging other teachers to write their own stories. When all was said and done, the convention was well-attended and resulted in new relationships across the state and presentations to smaller, local groups of the WREA.

With all of the virtual presentations, you may think our profits from sales might not have suffered this year. There was a decline, which may have been from the pandemic, or a natural consequence of a book that has turned three. We are thankful, though, to have made a little over $450 this year, which we were able to distribute to the nine organizations that didn’t get a share last year. Our grand total, for the three years so far, is $2,308.40. We really had no idea what to expect when we began this venture. But we have always felt that the meager financial help the book supplies is secondary to the message of kindness and charity that the book offers to those who read its stories. Many of them are YOUR stories. If they are, we thank you for sharing your lives with us as we paddled and for the honor of putting your stories in a memoir to bring encouragement and hope to others.

In closing, I’d like to honor the memory of two very special people, near and dear to us, who have left us this past year to be with Jesus. In March, we lost my mother, Fran, to Alzheimer’s Disease and in November, Gene’s mother, Delores, due to Covid-19. Both were women of strong faith and models of love and kindness. We are forever grateful to have known them and to have had the chance to call them Mom.

Blessings to you, friends,

Barb and Gene

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Second Year Lessons

It is hard to believe that it’s been two years since the release of Paddle for a Purpose, in April of 2018. And even harder to believe that we find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic, the likes of which I’ve never seen during my lifetime. I hope that wherever you are and whatever you are doing, you and your loved ones are safe and well.

My friend, Kristine, and her family send a message of hope and love to neighbors passing by.

I know that the nearly constant negative news we hear can be daunting. Add to that the argumentative nature of conversation surrounding the issues it presents, and it’s tempting to fall into a paralysis of fear. Gene and I are doing our best to stay safe, devoting time to social connections in the absence of physical ones, and helping out wherever we can in small ways. Like Fred Rogers learned from his mother, we find that looking for acts of kindness and generosity help to fend off fear and to inspire hope. We have seen the heroic efforts of health care workers compassionately treating an onslaught of patients in overcrowded hospitals with a dearth of medical equipment and PPE. We’ve watched people in their communities line the streets and applaud from windows and doors as shifts change and exhausted doctors and nurses head home to get some rest before starting over again. Sewing machines, in closets everywhere, are dusted off to create masks for family, friends, and hospital staff. Companies change production lines to help make ventilators, shields, and meals for those in need. Grocers, restaurants, and small retail stores continue to show up, offering curbside service to keep others safe. And not without pain, some businesses close their doors and lose precious income, some even furloughing employees to help flatten the curve. Artists of all kinds record performances, providing entertainment, encouragement, inspiration, and sometimes just a good dose of relief. And efforts of those who govern around the world, disagree as they might, come from a desire to fend off a common invisible enemy. Gene and I hope that during this time, you are able to take comfort in the small gestures you see around you. We will get through this together!

As you can imagine, book promotion is taking a back seat to other, more pressing things right now. From the beginning, Gene and I had faith that God would use our story in God’s own way, and that our job was to be available and show up. Whatever book sale profits we receive are donated to the charities, but these are merely small supplements to large budgets. In our second year, we were able to divide $800 between nearly half of the organizations, and will donate next year’s profits to the rest. We have, however, been fascinated to see God working through connections between people to bring the stories of our journey to new reading audiences. Here are a few highlights:

After meeting with an area book club, Gene and I were invited to speak to the Waukesha Chapter of WREA, a retired teacher’s organization. As a result of that meeting, I became a member. Since the Waukesha WREA is hosting this fall’s State Convention, I volunteered to help present a breakout session to encourage retired teachers to publish their own stories. In addition to agreeing to that, the organizing committee asked me to be the keynote speaker. Hmm. Didn’t see that coming.

PenCraft Award for Literary Excellence

For my birthday, Gene bought me a promotional program to send information about Paddle for a Purpose to libraries around the country. But first, I needed to request some professional reviews. I sent the reviews to the promotional company and posted them on our website. One of the review companies entered my book in a contest and it was chosen as the first place winner of the 2019 PenCraft Award for Literary Excellence in the category of Memoir. It was fun to travel to Louisiana to accept the award, but in the end, it may help persuade librarians to order Paddle for the library shelves in their communities. Hmm. I had no idea.

As a member of the Planning Committee for the Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books, I help coordinate visits by published authors to area schools. Last fall, I had the opportunity to speak to the English classes at Pewaukee High School about writing and publishing. One of the students brought our bookmark back to his father, an avid kayaker himself. His dad, Jeff, already knew us, but didn’t know we kayaked. He recognized us, instead, through the volunteer work we did with the Outreach for Hope family bike ride, which he helps to coordinate. Jeff read Paddle, then asked to use our book and its mission for this year’s Outreach for Hope event, adopting the motto, “Pedal for a Purpose”. He invited us to do a presentation for the event volunteers and encouraged book clubs from Milwaukee Synod Lutheran churches to read and discuss Paddle for a Purpose. Hmm. I couldn’t have planned that if I tried.

As a result of the same Pewaukee connection, I developed a friendship with Christine Nekas-Thoma, one of the high school English teachers. When she discovered our kayak trip was a response to God’s call, she confided that she was working on a book about listening to God’s whispers. I read the manuscript she’d been working on for years, gave her feedback, and recommended AllWriters’ Workplace & Workshop to help bring it to completion. She did just that, and is currently submitting her manuscript to publishers. Keep an eye out for “God’s Whispers: A Gateway to Hope.” I’m sure it’ll be published soon. Hmm. Often, it’s not about me at all!

Karletta Marie shares inspiring stories from her home in Cyprus

And one more example: In one of my online memoir groups, I read a post by Karletta Marie, a resident of Cyprus, looking for inspiring stories. I shared with her about our kayak journey and found we had a connection of mission, both endeavoring to encourage and inspire others by sharing stories of kindness, compassion and inner strength. She read Paddle, and published one of the stories from the book on her website. Check out her site, Daily Inspired Life. May you find stories of others that lift your spirits and offer motivation to keep on keepin’ on! May you then help inspire others by sharing the beautiful things you see!



Stay well and stay inspired,

Barb and Gene

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Book Trip #1: Reconnecting in Iowa and Missouri

Gene’s truck, Lucy, loaded down for fun in Iowa and Missouri

Our first Book Trip ended up being filled with wonderful experiences – better than we ever expected. And, it had very little to do with selling books. Once again, it was about the people that we met, and those with whom we reconnected.

Our first studio experience, Talk of Iowa, on Iowa Public Radio

Sure, Gene and I got to be on the radio for the first time ever: Iowa Public Radio’s program, Talk of Iowa, with Charity Nebbe. With her bubbly personality and excellent interview skills, she calmed our newbie jitters in no time. I almost forgot other people might be listening. Well, except for the cool headphones, the microphones and the brightly-lit “On Air” sign.

Sue Davis, owner of River Lights Bookstore, welcomed us warmly and found a spot for Paddle for a Purpose on her shelf!

We also got a chance to meet Sue Davis, owner of River Lights Bookstore, who arranged for us to do a reading and signing while we were in Dubuque. Friends, new and old, attended to hear sections about our service with The Open Closet clothing ministry of St. John’s Church and about the day we spent on the river with the ever-ebullient Connie Roling. (You can read about Connie and her husband, Dave on pages 194-199 of Paddle for a Purpose!) Connie brought several members of her family to listen, Paul and Carol, in the area from Waukesha, surprised us, and we even met some new friends who heard our interview. If you live in the Dubuque area, be sure to stop in and browse at River Lights. You’ll even find Paddle for a Purpose on the shelves!

Staff and Volunteers at The Open Closet

While in Dubuque, we reconnected with Pastor Jay Ilten and volunteered again with The Open Closet. We helped with preparations on Friday, and with Open Closet hours on Saturday, when over 330 customers came to choose free clothing while their children were invited to create painted frames for their silhouettes, drawn by an on-site artist. Ruth, the director of The Open Closet, and her husband, Richard, hosted a lovely dinner where we met even more people involved with the awesome ministries happening at St. John’s.

Gwen, Executive Director of Almost Home, ministries of St. John’s Lutheran Church

Speaking of awesome ministries, Gwen Kirchoff, our host in Dubuque and director of Almost Home, St. John’s title for the umbrella of ministry services, explained more about the new community partnerships they have developed since we were last there. “St. John’s is involved in so many things that benefit the community,” she said. “We’re known as the Little Downtown Church that’s Doing Big Things.” New initiatives include:

* expanding the existing 12-bed Guest House men’s shelter by creating 6 transitional living apartments
* partnership with Habitat for Humanity to construct the apartments and remodel the kitchen
* Path to Employment program provides intense case management, mentorship and monitored linkage to employment to prepare homeless individuals for living-wage employment and housing
* Partnership with North Iowa Community College provides classes and vocational coaching
* Partnership with Greater Dubuque Development Corporation researches jobs that are needed in the Dubuque County area
* Partnership with Resources Unite connects men to job coaches
* Let’s Put Daddy to Work program uses grant money to hire homeless fathers so they can afford to pay child support
* Homeless men are hired to work at the Guest House
* Free bus passes are provided for necessary transportation to interviews
* Dress for Success area in The Open Closet stocks business attire, such as dress slacks and white shirts suitable for interviews and employment
* McDonnaugh Foundation and Mercy Hospital provide scrubs for individuals working in health fields
* Black Hills Energy Company provides used heavy construction clothing
* New steel-toed boots are provided for those going into a construction program
* Claire Cares makes lunches and delivers them for men to take to work, puts on a Christmas dinner, and makes winter care bags
* The As You Grow consignment store donates children’s clothing that isn’t sold or picked up, and J & J Consignment does the same for adult clothing
* Holiday Inn, Best Western and Divine Word Seminary donate gently used bedding and towels
*The Open Closet provides sweats and new underwear and socks for health rooms at six elementary schools
* Sleeping bags and tarps are given to homeless during the winter, and the church is opened up as a cooling center during extreme summer heat
*The Red Basket program provides feminine hygiene products and Depends for older men and women
* Pre-assembled emergency bags are assembled for specific boys’ and girls’ sizes can be given out whenever needed
* The Open Closet is available on special nights for women from the area women’s shelter, so clients who may have lived through trauma can feel safe. Only women volunteers assist during these times.
* The Alliance for Opportunity helps people who are behind on rent or utilities to go through case management to get vouchers written out to landlords or energy companies
* The Open Closet gets volunteers from surrounding colleges, the Dubuque Eagles Eyes on the Future Youth Leadership Program, Mary’s Inn for pregnant women, Catholic Charities, Hills and Dales program for the disabled, Capable Volunteers (Part of Resources United), and the Living on the Outside program (women from the Elm Street Correctional Facility)
* Thrivent Action Teams help with special projects like providing shelving, totes and baby products
* Wartburg Seminary sends seminarians for field work at St. John’s to learn about working with area businesses, other non-profits, and the city government
Thank you, St. John’s, for your example, seeing the needs in your community and making connections which help make the greatest possible impact, serving those in need and accompanying them on a path toward independence.

A morning hike group selfie with Professor Joe


In Hannibal, our last stop, we got a chance to catch up on five years of family news with Professor Joe Coelho, from Quincy University, as we hiked together through a nature preserve. We not only got some exercise on a sweltering day, but learned more from Joe about the flora and fauna of Missouri. One thing that gave us a chuckle is that chipmunks are a delightful rarity in those parts. We offered to send him a box of them from our yard in Wisconsin. (You can read about Professor Joe on pages 221-224 of Paddle for a Purpose!)

We can’t wait for our trip to northern Minnesota this July. If you want to schedule a book event, or just get together to say hi, we’ll look forward to seeing you!
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What I Learned from “The Friendliest Group on Facebook”

When I began writing my memoir, Paddle for a Purpose, I felt a need to immerse myself in the world of memoirs, in order to more fully understand the genre. I read Wild, by Cheryl Strayed, Dirty Shirt, by Jim Landwehr, and – Packers fan that I am – The LeRoy Butler Story: from Wheelchair to the Lambeau Leap, among others. I also joined the Facebook Group, We Love Memoirs. They billed themselves as “The Friendliest Group on Facebook.” Why not check it out? I thought.

We Love Memoirs has a strict policy against self-promotion, which didn’t matter to me – I didn’t have anything to self-promote. I did, however, get acclimated to the group, which was rather small at the time, but had members from all over the world. I participated in the conversation threads, contests, and sometimes quirky games. The conversations were not just about reading, but also about the people’s lives in the places where they lived. I met people (authors and not) from all over, including Europe, Australia, South America, Canada, and various states here at home. This group lived up their self-appointed moniker. I even saw posts of WLM members meeting up with each other as they traveled to other places around the world!

Before long, I noticed that the admins promoted many books by member authors – when they were newly-released, or if they were free or on sale. And, once in a while, special party days gave authors a chance to talk about their own work. But the rule against self-promotion (and Clarissa the Crocodile, who gulped down offending posts) kept things from getting out of hand. I soon discovered a companion group as well, We Love Memoirs Authors Group, which offered writing and marketing advice with a side order of well-earned wisdom. I turned to them occasionally with questions, and found them eager to share advice with a newbie like me.

On most Sundays, WLM highlights one author with a Sunday Spotlight. At any time during the day, members can ask questions of the Spotlight author – not just about their book, but about anything. I met some awesome authors this way – by popping in and asking some questions about their books and their lives.

When WLM finally got to announce the release of Paddle for a Purpose, I was congratulated by a group of now over 4000 memoir enthusiasts, many of whom had become FB group acquaintances. I asked about having a Sunday Spotlight and was given the date of May 20th. (Thank you, Julie Haigh!)

Nowadays, an author is expected to help “market” their book -which basically means to put yourself out there. A publisher can help with ideas, visibility and encouragement, but the book launch, readings, signings, appearances, and the use of social media are expectations if you want the book to do well. After an amazing book launch with wonderful friends from all areas of our lives there to share the excitement, Gene and I have been enjoying appearances and loving the creative pictures you’ve shared of yourselves reading the book. But, we’re finding that marketing can also be old-fashioned, time-consuming hard work.

My Sunday Spotlight reminded me of something we learned during our trip. On the river, we soon developed a motto, “It’s not about the paddle; it’s about the people.” During Sunday’s conversations, I communicated with people from England, Maine, Canada, Ireland, Uruguay, Sweden, Arizona, Florida, Massachusetts, Colorado, and France. We talked about my memoir and our trip, but also about kayaking, canoeing, bicycling, and Mark Twain. Authors and readers shared their experiences navigating with barges and living on barges. They shared their experiences with volunteering for charities and their bucket list travel destinations. It occurred to me that memoir writers and readers desire most to share each others’ life experiences, and that sharing them with one another is one positive way we can learn to understand each other more fully and care for each other more deeply. I plan to remember that my true marketing goal is to share our story with people who are interested to read it. After all, “It’s still about the people.”



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Check Out Our New Look!

Now that we have a release date (April 3) for the memoir, Paddle for a Purpose, we’ve been busy updating our website. To share our excitement with you, we’ve added a countdown to the release date, and to make it easy for people to order, we’ve added a link to eLectio Publishing. You’ll be able to order Paddle for a Purpose right from there, as soon as it’s available. Before then, feel free to click on the link to look over eLectio’s varied selection of great books!

We’ve added new features to the website for readers, too. An interactive map is available here to help readers follow along as they wind their way to the Gulf of Mexico within the pages of Paddle for a Purpose. Markers on the map show towns where we stopped to volunteer with service organizations. Clicking on each marker pops up a photograph, a link to the charity’s website in that community and a brief description of what they do. Feel free to explore the links and support the wonderful things these organizations are doing to help others.

In addition, we’ve added five pages of photo galleries with pictures of the people, places and wildlife that are mentioned in the memoir. As readers enjoy the small moments on the water, the conversations with people we meet and our camping exploits, they can refer to color photographs which couldn’t possibly all fit in the book itself. The interactive map and the photo galleries can both be accessed at the top of the home page on this site. We hope the interesting sights whet your appetite for the many entertaining and heart-warming stories of our Paddle for a Purpose!

Barb and Gene

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An Author with eLectio Publishing: A Dream Come True

A few years ago, when I was barely into the first draft of Paddle for a Purpose, when I wasn’t sure it would ever be polished enough to be published at all, I read Dirty Shirt: A Boundary Waters Memoir by Jim Landwehr. Jim was a colleague of mine at All-Writers’ Workplace and Workshop. I was eager to read his first book. Like mine, it was a memoir, and it was about canoeing! I loved Jim’s humor, gentle storytelling style, and emphasis on family relationships. His publisher? eLectio Publishing.

Intrigued, I visited eLectio’s website, and learned their mission included discovering and publishing works by both new and established authors, and publishing God-honoring stories…stories that exemplify Christian living. A seed was planted. If my story was ever ready to send to publishers, I wanted to send it to eLectio. I wanted to work with a God-honoring publisher. I certainly met the criteria of an unknown author. Maybe I had a shot.

Last fall, after more drafts than I ever would have predicted I could write, the manuscript was finally ready. “I have a publisher in mind for you,” said Kathie Giorgio, my writing coach and founder of the AllWriters’ studio. “I think eLectio would be perfect.” I agreed, but together, we still came up with a list of over twenty small presses for submission. Despite plenty of options, my heart was set on eLectio. I submitted to them first, determined to give them a head start before submitting elsewhere.

“Don’t worry,” said Jim, when I didn’t hear back. “They’re really busy. But, I’d be surprised if you don’t hear from them.” I hoped he was right, but submitted to another group of publishers. If God did have a different publisher in mind for Paddle for a Purpose, who was I to submit to only one?

And then, after a few weeks of hoping, doubting, praying, trying to distract myself… I got the email. Christopher Dixon, of eLectio Publishing, wanted to speak with me. Oh, my heart raced! After talking with him, I could barely contain my excitement. It was really going to happen. Paddle for a Purpose would be published. I would be an eLectio author!

Still in the middle of the process, I am grateful, each day, for the opportunity to work with eLectio – for their faith in me and in the quality of my work and the merit of our story. Click on the link to check out their website and see if you don’t agree. I couldn’t have found a better home.



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Welcome to Paddle for a Purpose!

Hello! I’m Barb Geiger. This site is dedicated to my memoir, Paddle for a Purpose. Feel free to browse around. If you enjoy what you see, check out my author site, There you can get to know me better and contact me easily. You can also learn about my other projects, including my poem collection, Mississippi Meanderings, which has recently been accepted for publication as a poetry chapbook by Finishing Line Press. I’ll let you know when it will be available for pre-purchase online. Stay tuned for updates!

My husband, Gene, is a dreamer. Maybe you know someone like that – someone who has grand ideas of epic adventures. Maybe you are a little like that yourself. Or maybe, you’re more like me; you’d need a pretty good reason to hop into a twenty-foot boat for five months. Either way, my memoir, Paddle for a Purpose, has something for you. I hope you’ll join us for an amazing adventure!

“You want to WHAT?” I ask, when Gene suggests, after one practice run in the tandem wooden kayak we built ourselves, that we take her down the Mississippi. The WHOLE Mississippi. Our search for a meaningful journey leads to a faith-inspired paddle down one of the most scenic and powerful waterways in the United States, stopping in quaint river towns along the way to volunteer with 26 different charity organizations. Overcoming obstacles like stump fields, poison ivy, boating accidents and equipment failures, a sense of humor, love and trust in God help us remain committed to the service purpose of our journey.

This book will appeal to anyone who dreams of taking an epic journey and those who are inspired by stories of God working in the world today. Campers, boaters, and nature lovers will enjoy the picturesque settings, the wildlife and the river’s changing moods. Readers looking for inspiration will find hope in the people we meet along the way and the touching stories of everyday heroes who donate their time and talents to offer compassion, care and opportunity to others.

Paddle for a Purpose was released by eLectio Publishing, a small faith-based press, on April 3, 2018. I admire the work they do, and am delighted to join the eLectio family of authors! On this website, you can find a link to eLectio Publishing, where you can purchase the book for yourself or for your friends. We will post current information about appearances and signings. But even more, you can visit here to see photo galleries of our trip – the rivers, the wildlife, and the amazing people we met. You’ll also find an interactive map of the towns along the river where we stopped to work with charity organizations. Pop-ups explain about each organization and link you to their websites, where you can learn more, volunteer, or donate to their missions if you wish. Feel free to visit us often, as you read your way down the river!

One hundred percent of the author profits of the sale of this memoir, after taxes and expenses, will be donated to charities including, but not limited to, the organizations highlighted in this book. We hope you will enjoy our adventure as much as we did!


Barb and Gene Geiger

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