Reader issue #684 For the second year, the River Cities' Reader is publishing winners from the Mississippi Valley Poetry Contest.

The awards ceremony for the 35th-annual contest will be held on on Saturday, May 17, at the Butterworth Center in Moline.

Peter Quinn Peter Quinn studied for a doctorate in history that he never finished, and his literary career - which overlaps with three decades as a political and corporate speech-writer - retains a deep curiosity about the past.

But it's not only history of the verified, annotated variety; it is history also imagined and remembered.

Cynthia CooperIn Extraordinary Circumstances: The Journey of a Corporate Whistleblower, Cynthia Cooper quickly reveals herself to be surprisingly open-hearted about the multi-billion-dollar WorldCom fraud that she exposed in 2002.

The author, who will be speaking at Augustana College on Thursday, treats her subjects as people rather than villains, which plays into what she hopes to accomplish with her book.

"I felt strongly that there were such valuable lessons that could be gleaned and shared, particularly with the next generation," she said in an interview last week. "With professionals, but also with students."

Stacey Cordery Stacy A. Cordery didn't want to rescue Alice Roosevelt Longworth from her reputation.

Elizabeth McCracken The literary works of author Elizabeth McCracken include a novel about an unusual romance between a 26-year-old woman and a boy 15 years her junior; a period piece exploring the 30-year friendship between two vaudeville performers; and a short-story collection that includes tales of a wife who allows her tattoo-artist husband to use her body as a canvas, and a man who grows his hair irrationally long so his comatose spouse can cut it upon her awakening.

Felicia Schneiderhan Freelance writer Felicia Schneiderhan - the Midwest Writing Center's artist-in-residence beginning March 1 - is currently at work on a nonfiction book detailing her first married year with husband Mark. The endeavor, which focuses on the Chicago author's adjustment to her new home, is still only in rough-draft form, yet you can likely get a sense of the finished piece by visiting ( and reading the entries that are flush with Schneiderhan's newlywed spirit, including "Peeing in a Bucket," "Why Our Shit Don't Stink," and "You Want to Put It Where?"

Reader issue #670 "One of the hazards of telling your tales, recounting this kind of adventure, is that the marvels of them cannot be hidden; they rise to the surface like bubbles and burst with tiny explosions of excitement."

So writes Eddy Harris in his 1988 nonfiction Mississippi Solo, a first-person account of the author's 99-day trek down the Mississippi River. Yet while that sentence boasts a lovely analogy, why would the telling of tales - at least for Harris - be considered hazardous?

"It's exposure," the author explains during our recent phone interview. "You expose yourself - in many ways physical, but primarily emotional ways. People just get a glimpse at you and somehow it's... well, dangerous, because it can be used against you sometimes."

Doug Smith ephemera Authors who'd kill for a publisher to even consider their works probably hate Doug Smith.

The Davenport native, a bio-medical equipment technician at Genesis Medical Center, is also a noted collector of local photographs, papers, and artifacts, and has written a regular feature column - "Doug's Q-C Collectibles" - for the Quad-City Times since February 2007.

Yet finding a company willing to publish his first book, says Smith, wasn't a struggle: "They actually found me."

The words "thoughtful" and "newspaper columnist" don't normally go together. Columnists can be many things - angry, or incisive, or crabby, or nostalgic, or funny, or cloying - but rarely do you find one who seems genuinely curious about the world around him, and who has many experiences through which to view it.

John Buchtel When you pick up a book or magazine, your conscious mind is almost certainly looking at the cover and the text inside.

But what else are you processing? You might not realize it, but the book is sending signals about itself with cover art, typography, the thickness and texture of the pages, binding, printing mistakes, wear and tear, and heft.