My Musical Family - Joy Riggs

Syndicate content
My great-grandfather, Bandmaster G. Oliver Riggs, right, gives a cornet lesson to my dad, William J. Riggs, near Bemidji, Minnesota, in the early 1940s.
Updated: 39 min 25 sec ago

Writing Retreat in Wisconsin

Sun, 10/19/2014 - 9:42pm
Last week at this time, I had just returned from an amazing four-day writing retreat at Faith’s Lodge in northern Wisconsin. I was even more productive than I could have hoped: during the retreat, I wrote two essays, worked on Chapter One of my book, wrote a scene for a later chapter of the book, and transcribed my two most recent interviews with Ted Papermaster, one of G. Oliver’s former band boys.

I am feeling even more excited now about the direction and progress of my book, thanks to the feedback of the other women writers at the retreat, and the encouragement of retreat organizer and facilitator extraordinaire, writer and teacher Kate Hopper.

I took a break from writing one afternoon to explore the lodge property.And I saw this little guy on the path.I am hoping to return for the next retreat in February. It will be colder and snowier then, no doubt, but all the better for sitting inside in front of one of the lodge’s many fireplaces and immersing myself in my writing.

How could I not be inspired to write, with views like this?!
Categories: Citizens

Writing Accountability Plan – My New Great Idea

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 10:31pm
We have been celebrating my youngest child’s birthday for the past couple of days – first with a friend party/sleepover, then with a family party, and today with leftover cake and ice cream. Elias turned 14, which seems impossible in some ways. What’s even more unsettling than how tall he’s getting is what else his birthday represents for me – it marks the passage of another year of my work on the G. Oliver Riggs project.

Elias celebrates turning 14It was eight years ago this month that I first began to help my dad with some research into the career of his paternal grandfather. At that time, I didn’t know where the research would lead, or how long it would take, but it seemed like an interesting and important project to pursue.

The project has come a long way in those eight years. And although I sometimes feel discouraged that so much time has passed without the completion of an “end product,” I also realize that the time has been necessary for the project to grow and evolve into its current shape: a narrative non-fiction book that explains G. Oliver’s pioneering efforts to shape Minnesota's community and school band traditions and explores the power of music to connect people across generations.

Because I do want to complete the book before another eight years have passed, I recently came up with a writing accountability plan. Instead of proceeding with a vague goal of finishing the book “soon,” I have created specific goals and deadlines for completing all of the chapters in the next 12 months. My friend and writing colleague Randy Brown, who inspired me to start this blog in 2010, has agreed to play the role of bad cop editor and help hold me accountable for meeting my deadlines.

I already achieved my first goal when I sent him a draft of the book’s prologue on Oct. 1. If I continue to meet the deadlines I’ve set, I will have a draft of the entire book done around the time Elias turns 15. That, my friends, will be an achievement worthy of several days of celebration and a generous amount of cake!

Categories: Citizens

Channeling Family History

Tue, 09/23/2014 - 5:04pm
Help – I’ve already fallen behind in watching Ken Burns’ new film The Roosevelts: An Intimate History on PBS, and now I discover that season two of Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates Jr. is starting tonight on PBS.

I never even saw one episode of season one! I guess I’m going to have to block out more time in my schedule to watch television. It counts as research, right?

I also never found the time to finish Gates’ four-part show in 2010 called Faces of America, although I enjoyed it very much. All of these shows are right up my family history/research alley. Maybe I can binge-watch this weekend, and get caught up on those Roosevelt episodes, too.

Tonight, the new season of Gates’ latest show kicks off with “In Search of Our Fathers,” an episode featuring writer Stephen King and actors Gloria Reuben and Courtney Vance, who learn more about their fathers’ histories.

Here’s a preview:



Other well-known Americans who will be included in this season include Tina Fey, Ben Affleck, Billie Jean King, Carole King, Anderson Cooper, Angela Bassett, and Ken Burns himself. You can’t get away from that guy these days.

I want to be sure to catch the episode he’s in, based on the brief clip shown in the preview, where he tells Gates: “My mother died when I was eleven. I think the reclaiming of the loss made me an amateur historian.”

The other quote I particularly liked from the preview was from Billie Jean King, who was busy making history herself when I was a kid. She tells Gates, “The more you know about history, the more you know about yourself.”

If you need to contact me tonight, don’t bother calling between 7 and 8. I have a date with Twin Cities Public Televsion, and I will be busy finding out more about myself.

Categories: Citizens

Bookmark and Share