A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Constance Alexander: Three little words from classic book spark timely discussion of timeless issues

Politics, power, and corruption. Can you think of three better words to spark a lively community discussion? On Monday, September 24, at 6:30 p.m., the Calloway County Public Library is hosting a program focused on Robert Penn Warren’s groundbreaking novel All the King’s Men. The book reflects those three little words and provides a launching pad for civil discourse on timeless issues. Readings...

Constance Alexander: The semicolon is a valuable writing tool, that could some day save a life

“The great thing about the semicolon,” I tell my students, “is that it can make your writing look more sophisticated, and forge longer sentences that are flowing, not choppy.” But what I like best about semicolons is how Amy Bleuel transformed the symbol into a badge of hope. Thanks to her, the punctuation mark is a way to honor those who struggle with depression, suicide addiction, anxiety,...

Constance Alexander: The last holiday of summer also a time to honor the legacy of our labor unions

The pressman always talked too loud; in fact, he shouted. When I asked my father why Daddy explained that the man had to make himself heard above the presses. He had gotten so used to the din, he seemed unable to turn down the volume even when things were quiet. For so many people, work does not stop when the whistle blows, or the boss goes home, or the time clock punches them out. Today, technology...

Constance Alexander: Justine Riley shares her sensory appreciation of the horse in new book

“Most people think horses are beautiful, but I think they smell good,” says Justine Riley. In fact, she is so passionate about sharing her sensory appreciation, she created a book called “I’m a Horse Smeller.” When she wears the teal t-shirt that depicts the book’s cover, equine enthusiasts approach and tell her they understand exactly what she means. Those who don’t have much experience...

Constance Alexander: Communities benefit when their workplaces are accessible and inclusive

When Carrissa Johnson sends me an email, I pay attention. As Satellite Office Manager of Murray’s Center for Accessible Living, she champions causes affecting people with disabilities and shares valuable information associated with this often overlooked and under-employed group. The other day she forwarded an announcement about a free screening and panel discussion of an important film, “Bottom...

Constance Alexander: Online resources can help in getting the straight scoop on complicated issues

“In today’s digital age, it can often be challenging for consumers to determine what information is truly reliable. But whether it goes by the name of ‘propaganda,’ ‘hype,’ or ‘spin,’ it is possible for news readers to identify ‘fake news’ and avoid it entirely.” So said Laura Harvey, a reporter for The Messenger, Madisonville’s newspaper, in a recent article about how discerning...

Constance Alexander: A lesson about living gracefully as flowers fade and summer ends

The hydrangeas are past their peak. Blue-green fades gracefully to a luminous, pearly luster, while rose-colored bursts ease toward rust. Brawny weeds and muscular green leaves threaten to overpower, yet they seem unconcerned. Grazed by a gentle breeze, they nod their shaggy heads and bow, still cheerful as summer ends. Years ago, I wrote a piece about the last roses. Mourning their loss before it...

Constance Alexander: Rita Dragonette’s new novel explores coming-of-age conflicts, conscience, war

Every would-be novelist struggles to explain what sets her fiction apart from others. The alphabet soup of categories begins with action/adventure, beach books, and classics, and goes on to include romance, science fiction, westerns, and zen. Every once in a while, however, a writer ventures into territory that has not yet been claimed, and Rita Dragonette’s first novel is one of those.   Set in...

Constance Alexander: ‘All the King’s Men’ sparks conversations about politics, power and corruption

Six hundred-sixty-one. That’s a passel of pages to read. Just figuring out how long it takes to reach the end of such an epic is exhausting; nevertheless, “All the King’s Men” is worth the slog. The novel begins like a travelogue, giving directions to Mason City on Highway 58. It could be a description of driving on the West Kentucky Parkway: “…straight for miles, coming at you, with the...

Constance Alexander: Logan County’s South Union settlement celebrates Shaker tradition of equality

When I was growing up, “Life” was a staple in my house. Joan, my piano teacher’s daughter, worked for the weekly magazine. I glanced admiringly at her name on the masthead every week; it was an honor to know someone with such a glamorous job. Occasionally, a front cover made a memorable impression. For instance, when I was about five years old, there was one featuring Marilyn Monroe in a clingy...

Constance Alexander: Local news organizations are an important part of the fabric of our communities

When photojournalist Joshua McKerrow was asked what plans the Capital Gazette had for going forward after the slaughter of five of the Annapolis newspaper’s employees, his answer was simple: “We’ll just get back to work,” he said. “You know, July 4 is next week. We’ve got to cover the parade.” McKerrow answered without hesitation, with no thought that coverage of community news would...

Constance Alexander: A nation that went to the moon should be able to solve today’s complex problems

Families got a package deal on tonsillectomies when I was a child. At least that is how it seems to me as I reflect on my experience. I was the one with constant sore throats and upper respiratory infections. My older sister Jeanne had none of those complaints, yet we had our tonsils out at the same time. Daddy stayed home from work, and my mother made us dress in church clothes, white gloves and...

Constance Alexander: Pulitzer Prize-winning musical ‘Next to Normal’ explores bipolar disorder

Demi Lovato, Russell Brand, Carrie Fisher — even adorable girl-next-door-who-happens-to-be-host-of-ever-popular CBS Sunday Morning, Jane Pauley – admit to bouts of bipolar disorder. Others in the spotlight have gone public with their struggles, and awareness of various mental disorders are discussed more openly now than they were a few years ago. But while the glitterati appear on talk shows...

Constance Alexander: Father’s Day tribute to an unconventional dad who ruled the dawn

Daddy talked back to the radio and TV when he disagreed with political news and views. He described the U.S.A. as “the greatest country in the world,” but stubbornly retained his Canadian citizenship. Father of five children, he left the details of our academic lives up to my mother, but had a reputation for relentless cross-examination of any potential suitor of one of his four daughters. Although...

Constance Alexander: As a teenager, a springtime drive along Main Street provided a lasting memory

In the northeast where I grew up, it was springtime until prom was over and graduation loomed. The promise of summer glimmered on the landscape, just barely out of reach. By early June, the days began to stretch out like a sinuous silk road that led to somewhere better, someplace special, something more exciting than a small town where you could tell time by the train whistles and the chimes of the...

Constance Alexander: Author Rick Bragg’s new book offers intimate look into his mother’s kitchen

Anyone who thinks the Calloway County Public Library doesn’t need more space for community gatherings should have been on hand for Rick Bragg’s visit the other day. The down-home writer typically attracts so many followers, the Friends of the Library asked people to sign up in advance to make sure there were enough chairs. The 118-plus who registered sat elbow to elbow in the library meeting room,...

Constance Alexander: Royal wedding spurs memory of a childhood fascination with fairy-tale lives

When we were little, my sister Jeanne and I were fascinated by England’s Royal Family. The children’s room at our local library had a couple of tell-all tales about Queen Elizabeth from girlhood to growing up, including her marriage to dashing Prince Philipp, their children, and her coronation. We read them from cover to cover more than once, relishing every detail. According to the pictures,...

Constance Alexander: A stint in the circus leads to a lifetime in the theater for Liz Bussey Fentress

My friend Liz gardens with gusto and doesn’t mind getting dirty as a result. She is also a beekeeper, a playwright, and a woman who knows her way around a sewing machine. She grew up in northern Wisconsin, youngest of four, in a family that values education and the environment. With scores of nieces and nephews, great and grand, she knits Fair Isle sweaters with ease. An actor and director with impressive...

Constance Alexander: Kentucky Derby evokes memories of Aunt Agnes, the odds-on favorite

Aunt Agnes was my favorite relative. She was out-spoken and creative. She lived on Rittenhouse Square, a lovely neighborhood in the City of Brotherly Love. She told stories about my mother when they were both little girls, and if Mother tried to correct her — or change the subject — Agnes just sailed on, deliberately oblivious. Aunt Agnes had a bookie. Whenever she and Uncle Pete came to...

Constance Alexander: Celebration of Kentucky writers attracts words for all seasons

A realtor, two feminists and an elected public official walk into a public meeting room… It could be the beginning of a joke, but those four — plus about 40 more random individuals — showed up last week to celebrate Kentucky Writers Day, National Poetry Month, and Shakespeare’s Birthday at the Calloway County Public Library. Dr. Bob Davies, President of Murray State University,...