Cheryl Unruh praises Kansas, its beauty, people and lifestyle, in her new book, "Flyover People — Life on the Ground in a Rectangular State." The Pawnee Rock native who now lives in Emporia will sign copies of the book, published in August, from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Mystic Trove Book Boutique, 422 Broadway in Larned.
The soft-cover book is made up of 80 of Unruh’s personal columns — essays — published since 2003 in the Emporia Gazette. She will speak to the audience that develops at the book signing. Copies of "Flyover People" will be available for purchase. "Flyover People," by the way, is the standing headline for her weekly columns in the Gazette, with each column also getting its own individual headline.
Her essays speak of the solitude of the prairie, its beauty, the resilience of Kansans, and much more. The "pretty people," the jet-setters, flying over this roughly 200 mile by 400 mile rectangle may think there’s nothing down here worth seeing or learning about. Well, that’s their loss, she feels.
Unruh attended Pawnee Heights Schools until they closed in 1972, then graduated from Macksville High School in 1977. She worked at the Larned newspaper for a while, as did her brother, Leon. She self-published the new book with his help, at the Quincy Press in Emporia. Leon also worked at the Tiller & Toiler for a while.
She wanted to have the book published and distributed in time for Kansas’ sesquicentennial (150th birthday), which is officially Jan. 29, 2011, with celebrating expected to last much of the year.
Flyover people is the name some bi-coastal (East and West) people have given to those of us who live in Kansas, Nebraska, the Dakotas, Iowa, Oklahoma, and, yes, Texas, as well as other interior states.
"Pawnee Rock is splattered all over the book," she told a reporter for an area newspaper. She writes a lot about her childhood and growing up in a small town.
Eighteen of the essays have aired as commentaries on Lawrence’s Kansas Public Radio station.
"I write about the Kansas topography, the wind, the people, seasons, small towns, and about growing up in a dirt-street town of 400 (Pawnee Rock)," she wrote in a letter to Dale Hogg, managing editor of the Tribune.
Unruh’s husband, Dave Leiker, took nearly all of the photos featured in the book.
"I’ve always written since I was a child and could put two words together," she said Tuesday. She’s always been an avid reader — "Bad poetry, essays, short stories or something."
Ideas for her essays are everywhere, she said. "Anything — the topic is Kansas. My topic might be a trip out of town. Coming up with ideas is not difficult, but sometimes developing them into a column can be." People, places and events usually make for "good copy."
"Flyover People" is available for purchase at Heart of Kansas Mercantile in Great Bend; Mystic Trove Book Boutique in Larned; the Kansas Wetlands Education Center at Cheyenne Bottoms; and the Village Mall, 210 North Douglas in Ellsworth, among other places.
Marci Penner, director of the Kansas Sampler Foundation, said of the book, "If I were to choose one book to put in a time capsule to describe our state, it would be this one. As the decades pass, Cheryl’s easy-to-read stories will become a descriptive and colorful memorial to Kansas nuances that are often overlooked."
Dave Kendall, host and executive producer of "Sunflower Journeys" for Topeka’s Public Television station, said, "Read this book slowly as you would sip your favorite beverage and savor the taste."