Posted by: alisa | January 24, 2010

book a success!

alisa hoven, sarah pesola, betsy popelka

hey all!  thanks to everyone who made it to our book release parties!  we sold enough to just break even. we are very grateful for the support from all of you.  my wish is that you enjoy the book and laugh out loud and believe that adventure and unconventional is possible.  please pass it along to co-workers, community members, neighbors, strangers on the bus, etc.  you are our promotion team!

if you want to buy more (or know someone who wants to), we have plenty of extra copies.  just email with your contact info and one of us will get it to you.  they are $13.

much love and peace to you all.


Posted by: alisa | December 25, 2009

it’s not all downhill

hey all!  as the snow falls down on this christmas morning, a new direction in the wind has been set.  that new direction is a self-published book!  yes, we finished our collection of stories, have ordered copies and are now able to sell it to the public.  here is how you can get your hands on your own copy:

1. come to our book release parties, both in Oconomowoc and Minneapolis and get your own signed copy!  (see details in the Order Our Book tab at the top of the blog)

(at both of these parties, you can buy your own copy, hang with the three of us, and share in celebration of a yearlong project.  there will probably be snacks and drinks available.  this is the preferred method, so that we can see you!)

2. order online.  we are officially launching the book on 01-01-2010, but if you can’t wait that long, you can go to our page and order one to be delivered to your doorstep.  check out the Order Our Book tab at the top of the blog to see how you can do that as well.

stay tuned to hear more about the book.  and as always, let us know what you think.  post a comment!

en paz,


Posted by: sarah1123 | October 16, 2009

Here we are again after another book weekend.  Betsy came to Minneapolis last weekend and we began an intense editing process.  Alisa’s cousin Holly agreed to be our editor and has spent the past month reading through all of our stories and making edits.  We met with her to go over everything and she gave us great feedback…and much of it was positive…yay!  We began the process of going through our book page by page and making all necessary edits so that it can be as perfect as possible.  This is a very tedious task!  It took us the rest of the weekend to get through 200 pages of our book, so we still have a good chunk left.  Even so, we have high hopes of finishing that process at the beginning of November when Alisa and I visit Betsy in Wisconsin…we’re also aiming to get all of our art and pics formatted into the document that weekend, and to print a “final” version!  Ambitious…but now that we are so close, we are eager to finish this thing!

Posted by: alisa | August 18, 2009

we have a book!

hey friends!

after a long weekend in the woods of wisconsin, we now can proudly say that we have a book!  we compiled all 53 stories into one big document, added in photos, artwork and a little introduction and there you have it.  285 pages of our journey.  our plan now is to get it into the hands of an editor for a few weeks and then clean it up and self-publish it.  hopefully we’ll have a hard finished copy by thanksgiving….

here are a couple photos to help demonstrate our process.  it was pretty intense, but we knew we had to get it all done.


we first cleared out the living room

we then put down our stories in the order of our journey

we then put down our stories in the order of our journey

we then added needed "fillers."  green for sketch/artwork.   blue for photo.

finally we added needed "fillers." green for sketch/artwork. blue for photo.

we are excited to take a break from all the writing and reflecting.  time to just make artwork and let other eyes take a look at our collection of stories.

oh, and we decided on a title for the book.  are you ready?

It’s Not All Downhill From Here:

Tales and Trials of a Bicycle Adventure Along the Mississippi

stay posted.  the journey continues.

en paz,


Posted by: alisa | June 30, 2009

another bunch of stories

greetings old and new friends,

it has been awhile.  as of late, we have been working on finishing up some stories and having a few new sets of eyes take a look at them.  we have been very fortunate to have some editing help with a few of our stories.  our friends tom, eriks, anne, reneee, tim and holly took a look at some stories in june and are now being sent another bunch for july.

we are still following the timeline we have made for ourselves: text of all 45-50 short stories done by the end of the summer and art work to be done soon after.  we’re meeting up once again in minneapolis july 10-12th for another writing weekend.  this will be our last before our longer weekend in august where we hope to put it all together!  boy, do we have some work before us.

for now, here is a story i have worked on in the last few weeks.  let me know what you think of it.  it’s one of my favorites…

rope swing adventure

we were in muscatine, iowa and it was nearing midnight.  nathan, one of the anderson sons, suggested we “go for a swim.”  that night, the air was real cool, a mid september breeze blew past us, asking calmly, “do you really want to go swimming tonight?”  i had no time to answer that question.  with the tug of the anderson charm, we had our shorts and tops on and a towel over our shoulders.  we drudged our way through the hills towards the andersons’ very own private pond.  back behind some of the gated paddocks, we arrived safely, without disturbing the sleeping sheep.

i thought to myself, when sheep can’t sleep, what do they count?  do they count us?  how many humans can jump over the fence?  i smile at the thought of sheep counting humans.  it is comforting to believe we all are a little restless at the end of the day.

it took a few minutes to enter the pond.  the water was uncomfortably cold.  as i was shivering, the bright moon made visible the enumerable small, pointy goosebumps on sarah’s skin.  we waded around in the water, with hopes of a warm spell.  eventually, with time and convincing to go a little deeper, the water began to warm us.  we made our way across the pond to the other side, where large trees and free ranging sheep wander during the daylight hours.  we watched as the andersons crawled up out of the pond and mounted a large, dark platform up on the bank.  they grabbed a hold of a rope and let it take them high over the pond.  they flew into the air, before falling gracefully back into the pond with a light splash.

i watched them fall deep into the pond.  rgace.  they held onto the rope with such strength, but let go of it with such bravery.  i thought to myself what it is that i am both holding onto for strength, but that i know i need to let go of?  in between the releases and splashes, i thought of myself up there on that platform.

of course, it was expected that the three of us would do the same.  we looked towards the bank of the pond and to the platform.  three large tractor wheels stacked high onto themselves, with a big piece of plywood balancing on top.  there were no secure bolts at the bottom.  there weren’t even nails to keep the wood down to the tires.  it was all a balancing act.  this was the ledge where my tippy toes would last feel hard surface.  i crawled up, certainly giving everyone a show with my saggy bottoms and wet tank.  i grabbed the rope above me, just barely above my head.  my toes were bent sharply over the edge of the platform, trying to hold on.  the scratchy rope scraped my palms dry.  it created a burn that made it hard to hold.  at the same time, i was afraid to let go.  there was no running room.  there was no space for me to catch speed so i could fly safely into the pond.  i just had to jump up, let the rope hold me, and let go.

it wasn’t long enough, i thought to myself.  i’m not strong enough.  the rope won’t hold me.  i’ll just lose my grip and fall to the weedy grass and mud below.  i will embarrass myself.  i can’t, i’m scared.  okay, on three i will go.  one, two, three.  still on this platform, i feel like my toes are glued down.  i can’t move.  why can’t i just do it?  just let go.

after counting to three maybe a dozen times, i closed my eyes, squeezed my hands around the rope until they burned, and fell forward, letting the swing of the rope and gravity take me down.  instantly, i was high into the air above the pond and sooner than i was expecting, i was swinging back toward the platform.

oh no!  i’ve lost my chance to let go, i am still hanging onto the rope.  why didn’t i just let go when i had the chance?  it took me so long to jump off the platform, why am i still holding on?

i swung back towards the pond, a little less high in the air and now just dwindling down to a slow steady pull of the rope.  it was at this moment that i let go of the rope and fell.  i crashed into the water, going deeper than my breathe could hold me.  i felt a sense of panic and my body moved fast to get to the surface, to get to the air above.  as i surfaced, i looked around and saw that the other two girls were up on the platform too, holding onto the rope just as i had.  after watching them peer into the darkness and the shallow pond below, i could sense their fear of letting go, too.

how do we let go of that fear?  we see the fall before us, we see the andersons get up and do it over again, but yet we still can’t believe it for ourselves?  we let others take the plunge and show us their release.  with that, we learn to be unafraid.

in time, i look up to the platform and see the girls swinging high into the pond.  we are all going back for another jump, just a little higher.  maybe i can do a flip in the air.  maybe even a back flip.  maybe i can go to the top of the platform, where the rope is just out of reach.  maybe i can…

when the moonlit pond adventure neared its end, i thought, when did it become so easy to let go?  what was i so afraid of anyways?  and what was it that i was holding onto?

Posted by: alisa | May 19, 2009

paper mess

yet another weekend spent revising and discussing the direction of our book.  we met at my dad’s house, which has become my new home as of late, and laid it all out on the bed.  we are almost there, friends.  just a few more stories to finish, then we plan to spend the summer with our final edits and artwork.  come fall, we will have a product to share, even if its in rough form.  thanks for still thinking of us.  and especially thank you to all who have been thinking of me and my family after my father’s unexpected death.  i am finding my writing as a therapeutic release.  more to come….

for now, here are two pics of our paper mess…

Posted by: sarah1123 | April 13, 2009

Just to update those of you who are still following our writing process…we’re still plugging away.  As many of you know, Alisa’s dad has been dealing with unexpected health issues and she has been doing all she can to care for him.  But even so, she remains committed to writing…our latest goal is to have this thing totally done by Christmas.  We hope to make some major progress on it throughout the summer.  Now that spring is finally here I’m definitely feeling renewed energy and excitement for everything…especially this project.  I will be in Milwaukee this upcoming weekend for yet another writing session with Betsy.  We are certainly making progress!

Posted by: sarah1123 | April 13, 2009

Sarah’s Art


Here’s some art I did!

Posted by: alisa | March 23, 2009

bicycle beginnings


this is just something

i’ve been working on….

hope you enjoy it.

en paz,


bicycle beginnings

I sit down with a cold can of beer in my left hand.
My journal of words and pen in the other.
I sit with Lewis, a middle aged man
with dark freckles and graying hair.
A native New Orleanian,
from the Lower Ninth Ward.
He knows a segment of the city,
forgotten, in all its wonder after the storm.
Beer and cigarette in hand,
Lewis looks at me from across the table.
Smoke streaming high into the air,
I watch it rise and chew on my shyness a little longer.
It has been a long night of story telling for Lewis.
It is his 54th birthday,
and we have heard him share so much of his life.
Does he still have another story in him?
But there is still something more I need to know.
As the moment arrives, I finally ask him,
How did you start biking?

I ask because I want to feel inspired.
I want to find a commonality
among a man from the deep south
and a young woman from the north country.

Oh, you want to know how I started riding bike.
That’s what you sat down with me for?
Ahh, that’s sweet of you darlin’.
We may need another beer….
I don’t have no special story,
but I will tell you how it all happened,
how I got on a bike for the first time.

I ease up a little, breathe in, breathe out.
Knowing that I can sit back and listen
I look to Lewis for his bicycle beginnings.
What is his story?  And what is mine?
I decide it is Lewis’s turn to share with me.
A part of me wants to write it all down
But I don’t.
Some things are better left to memory.
Or subjectivity.
I just sit, sipping my beer,
letting his words transform the space between us.

Well, let me start from the beginning.
Oh, let’s see.  Well, I was just a fourteen when I started.
It was then I made a decision to attend an integrated school.
I wanted an equal opportunity at a brighter future.
A future that would let me see more than the Ninth Ward.
This new school was on the other side of New Orleans,
ten miles from my neighborhood.
I hadn’t really been across the city before
I only knew the Ninth, home.
And that was all about to change.

I take a sip of my beer.
I let it go down my throat and I let it settle.
God, what was I doing at fourteen?
I was stuck in the suburbs.
White.  Homogeneous.
Isolated.  Segregated.

Now, going to this new school proved
to be more difficult than you think.
See, I thought I could take a school bus across town.
But, there was no school bus.
Not for me, and not for anyone in my neighborhood.
You see, they didn’t want to pick up a black kid
and bus him to the white neighborhood.
No, it was harder than that.
And it didn’t end there.

Black?  White?
All I can remember is wanting to know his
bicycle beginnings.
What did all this have to do with color?  And crossing the city?
Maybe there is more to his story
than he made it out to be.

So, when the school bus didn’t come,
I tried to take the city bus.
I took it across town but came across
people who thought I should stay in Lower Ninth.
These people would throw rocks at the windows
They would yell through the windows.
“Hey nigger!  Get off that bus!”
I could hear them even when the
windows were closed.
Damn, I was just fourteen.
But, I still wanted to go to school.

The ugly past hits me.
It hits me harder than this beer.

Such ignorance, hate and greed.

Lewis was just a kid who wanted a fair chance.
What chance did I have to do this bike trip?
To ask Lewis for his story?

I felt it too dangerous to take the city bus,
so, I started walking.
It took me all morning and all evening
to get across to school.
And, again, they didn’t want a black boy
walking through white neighborhoods.
It was too dangerous.  I was followed at night.
I felt so worn, tired, and defeated
every night I returned at nightfall.

He walked ten miles to go to school?
God, I couldn’t walk the five blocks to my school.
I drove.  And I drove alone.
I didn’t have to work so hard to get to school.
Privilege in a choice and proximity.

After all this, I decided to get on a bicycle.
I had never ridden one before.
Ha!  It took me awhile to figure it out.
Can you picture a black kid trying to cross town
on a bike that was too big for him?
Ha!  I can see it now.  Shit, it feels just like yesterday.

Getting on a bike.  I was just a kid too.
But I was little.
My brother helped push me along the sidewalk.
Before too long I was on my own.
Riding my bike around the block.

I know it’s hard to believe.
but I’ve been riding ever since.
You’ve gotta believe me.
I am always on my bike now.
You think a 54 year old would look like this
without having crossed so many miles?
I know New Orleans now.
But I still live in the Lower Ninth.
You see that trailer over there, that’s mine.
It ain’t much, but it’s home.
I’ve been living here my whole life.

Forty years of riding his bike in New Orleans.
He must know all the routes.  He must be so sure of himself.
He must know where he’s going.
When will I ever have that certainty?
So, that’s how it started.
You must have a story.
Why, would you ask me if you didn’t.
So, tell me, how did you start biking?

Posted by: betsy | March 13, 2009

Hey folks,

Well, we had a very productive time writing, editing, and discussing our stories together! We even had time to drink some wine and have a make-art party!  We also added up all of our stories thus far and concluded that we have around 20,000 words, which is about 60 pages in a standard size book.  It’s really exciting to be making some good progress.

We’re also planning on updating you all regarding our artistic endeavors! Like Alisa’s post earlier, we plan to upload our doodles and drawings not only as a post but into a new album, so check it out under our Photo Journal page! It’s been a fun break from writing to attempt to make some art! 🙂

I’ll leave you with two of the four drawings/paintings I’ve come up with so far.

peace with pedaling,


Wheels Keep Turning

Wheels Keep Turning

Gas powered!

Gas powered!

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