First published in The Emporia Gazette March 1, 2005
by Cheryl Unruh
Max Yoho came to Emporia full of stories.
He left some of them behind.
With friendly eyes and white hair in his beard, Max looks like he could be any child’s favorite grandfather.
Max is a storyteller. Or, perhaps he’s a stand-up comedian.
His serious delivery leads one to believe that he’s telling a true story. Max’s eyes glimmer, but only for a second. His smile flashes so quickly that it’s difficult to read truth or fiction into his expressions.
“I always like to see how I’m introduced,” Max said. “Sometimes I’m introduced as a writer. Sometimes I’m introduced as a storyteller. Once I was introduced as a liar.”
Liar, writer of fiction—it’s kind of the same thing. And his tall tales stretched as Max talked about a farm on which he had purposely planted fields with lespedeza, bindweed, and ragweed.
Max spoke last week at the Emporia Public Library as part of the Meet the Author series. However, due to low attendance at these events, the series will end.
“There are just not enough people that show up. Sometimes only one or two come,” Library Director Sue Blechl explained.
It’s sad that Kansas writers are under-appreciated. And it’s unfortunate that many Emporians missed Max’s appearance. About 10 people listened and laughed as he told stories.
I’ve heard him before. I met Max and Carol Yoho a few years ago when they taught at Emporia State University’s Tallgrass Writing Workshop.
It was after Max retired as a machinist in 1992 that he wrote his first novel.
Set in the imaginary town of Epic, Kansas, The Revival tells about “two rival revivals.”
“The Holy Rollers didn’t care what the Methodists were doing but the Methodists cared about what was going on in that tent,” he said.
“The Revival is a one-week story in an 11-year old boy’s life,” Max said.
“I owe a great debt to Don Coldsmith because he was there when I needed him, like he’s been there for other writers,” Max said, acknowledging Coldsmith who was in the audience.
“He wrote the introduction for my book and his name is on the cover,” Max said, holding up The Revival.
“Nobody’s heard of Max Yoho, but everyone’s heard of Don Coldsmith. I can’t imagine how many books have been sold just because Don Coldsmith’s name is on it.”
“I will be immodest and say that we’re about ready for the fifth printing on this one. Maybe (on the next printing) we’ll put Don’s name in great big letters,” he joked.
Max’s second novel is Tales from Comanche County: the Peculiar Education of Max Freeman.
“It is roughly based on a great-uncle and great-aunt of mine whose relationship was loving, but adversarial also.”
Felicia, These Fish are Delicious is his latest book.
Felicia has poetry, essays and short stories. In addition to humorous pieces, Max included some introspective and more serious selections in this book.
He read several of his lighter poems to the audience, including Cornbread Poem which tells of a wild (and exaggerated, I assume) baking experience. As he read, two lines jumped out at me:
“Two teaspoons of baking powder? Well, I like it rather flat. / I substituted cayenne pepper; it should get a rise from that!”
Max’s writing has the energy of cayenne pepper. It is bright and spicy and bold.
After sharing a few of his colorful stories, Max is back at his writing desk in Topeka, sweating out his fourth book, another novel.
Max Yoho’s books are available at Town Crier Bookstore in Emporia and online at www.dancinggoatpress.com.
2005 by Cheryl Unruh