From the McPherson Sentinel daily newspaper
By Carol Dreiling
Sentinel Staff Writer
Flashing an engaging smile, and erupting in a hearty laugh, Jerry W. Engler describes himself as a storyteller.
Even in elementary school, when he was asked what he wanted to do when he grew up, he said he always answered, "I want to write a book."
But it was many years later--in August, 2005--that Engler's first piece of fiction, a collection of stories under the title, "Just Folks: Earthy Tales of the Prairie Heartland," was published.
When that met with success in the Midwest and elsewhere, Engler wrote another collection of stories, "A Heartland Voice: Just Folks Two," that was published in October.
The first voluime includes 65 stories, most of which are narrated aby a character outside of the action.
Engler also has created some memorable characters who appear in several stories in each volume.
One of them, Harlan Medlam, was described by Bob Spears of Heartland Reviews as an 85-year-old farmer who acts liike an elderly Tom Sawyer. According to Engler, Medlam[s character is one that reaers often talk about, noting that most people know "an old scoundrel like him."
Engler has his own facorites, Ricky and Roland, whose misadventures during Christmas holiday and on Valentines Day set the backdrop for stories that always earn reactions from readers.
According to Engler, he especially enjoys being able to write using sensory descriptions.
His use of description in the stories has been noted by other writers, including Jonathan Holden, Kansas poet laureate and university distinguishe professor of English at Kansas State University.
Holden told Engler that his description in these stories is poetic in its energy.
Engler, a 1968 K-State graduate in agricultural journalism, has been working for newspapers and agirucltural publications for many years since he finished school.
He's written for the Topeka Capital-Journal, and currently writes part-time for the Hillsboro Free Press.
However, he said he most enjoys his work as fiction writer.
"My newspaper writing is what I have associated with work," he said, "so fiction writing is a release. After writing objectively in reporting, I have been turned loose with fiction and description."
In "Just Folks," Engler opens one of his short selections with the following descriptive passage:
"Bird paused his walk through the thick leaf pack dominated by fallen oak leaves to chew contentedly on his banana.
What a wonderful cold, crisp day with the winter sun shining brightly, but barely warming, to be on vacation in the cathedral=like still air and overhanging limbs of a Kentucky state park foret.
Bird listened to the occasional scurry of animal movement around the different kinds of oaks, sweet gums and other trees. He contemplated the geology necessary to uplift or erode away the rock chasms and rubble that showed through the forest, and almost smiled in his contentment."
The art for the covers for both volumes, as well as the sketches for individual stories, is illustrated by his daughter, Sheri Schmidt. She has a connection to this community having earned a degree in art from McPherson College. Engler admits that athis children's insistence, he is the model used to illustrate the covers.
Engler said he promotes his books through book signings--he has had more than 50 since the first volume was published more than a year ago. He delights in meeting people and getting feedback from them after they have read some of his work.
While most of the sales come from the Midwest, Engler half jokes that he also enjoys book sales on all three coasts--east,west and Texas.
McPherson area residents will have a chance to meet Engler in person at his book signing from 10 a.m. to noon Sturday at The Bookshelf. Both "Just Folks" volumes will be availaable at that time.
Engler said he is not quite finished with the"just Folks" series; he has written approximately one-third of the stories needed for a third volume.