A Letter/Review from Paul Fiebich

June 30th, 2014 at 12:57 pm

I met Paul Fiebich on April 2, 2011, in Chase County, at the 80th anniversary commemoration of the plane crash that killed famed Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne. Paul and I were seatmates, I believe, on a borrowed school bus, and along with a couple dozen others, we bounced over a “road” in a pasture in the Flint Hills to the site of the crash that killed Rockne and seven others. Paul is immediately likable and we struck up a conversation.

Paul, from Derby, is a former engineer at Cessna, a pilot, and a builder of small aircraft. He flies an airbike and on his flights over Kansas, he often defends the Western Front from the Huns.

In addition to being a pilot, Paul writes how-to and humorous articles for numerous piloting magazines. If you’ll read that above-linked article or others from his website, airbikeace.org, you’ll see that he occasionally veers from reality in his writing, but that’s just part of the fun that he has with flying and with writing. I told Paul he has a “free-range imagination.”

When I received this heart-warming email from Paul this morning, I laughed at his bit about the tears and Kleenexes, but I absolutely loved his response to my new book, Waiting on the Sky. He allowed me permission to print his letter. Here it is:


Hi Cheryl,
I am nearing the end of your book. After reading since 3:30 this morning, I stopped at the page titled “Navigating Our Lives.”
Never have I read a book that when finished with a section, I first had to clear out all the tear-soaked Kleenex tucked between me and the chair arms and those strewn on my lap. Had I not done so and stood up, an avalanche of huge white “snowflakes” would have tumbled to the floor in front of me like snow sliding off a metal roof.
Your writing style and content is emotionally grabbing. Hardly a story is read that doesn’t cause my eyes to weep and often tears flow like little rivers down my cheeks. I wipe and wipe but the leaky tear ducts continue to leak.
Unfortunately, some of the book pages are now wrinkled. Tears on a page will do that you know.
You strike many chords that the reader can relate to. You have the wisdom and insight of someone 1000 years old! And you present everyday situations with such an element of pride and heartwarming feeling that one can’t help but fall in love with your life.  You are amazing! Thanks for sharing it, you have a gift.  Perhaps the seeds were planted in that little library next to the fire station in Pawnee Rock. Yes, I believe you would have dozed in there on the floor snuggled in your sleeping bag.
Your mother inserted the reading gene in your body as a youth. It was a normal activity as routine as brushing your teeth. What a fantastic mentor!
Each story concludes with some bit of wisdom or statement that sums up not just the story but that aspect of life. I love the analogies (is that the right word?) you provide that drives home a point. Two recent ones I recall are “Sugar, butter, and chocolate are all over December like needles on a Christmas tree.” And another said something about “being stuck on you like a birthmark.”
I wish I could remember all the analogies used in your book, they are clever, fresh, and punctuate the message.  But that is the point, to accent your writing and the visual memory for the reader, not to be remembered for future use.
Mornings are one of my favorite reading times. Occasionally my body says at 3:30 AM that I am done sleeping. No matter how much I will it to return to slumber, it refuses. So I get up and do something, often it writing or reading. 
This morning it was reading. In the dim pre-dawn light, I made my way to the kitchen. Assembling the coffee maker and then wrapping the electric bean grinder with multiple towels and placemats I set the thing to whirring. It is as noisy as a rock crusher, I didn’t want to wake my wife. The aroma of freshly ground coffee beans just says something about good morning! Remember that TV coffee jingle? Maxwell House was it? I can’t remember how it goes either, but I do remember IT.
Threading my way down the dark hall and to the living room, I carefully step over our sleeping Siberian Husky. She sleeps wherever she wants. Although she didn’t move (never does) even though my foot came down inches from her nose, she did open one eye and tracked me. Talk about having faith! 
Well, I finally made it to my chair and settled in for a good read.  After several stories the coffee pot dinged signaling its completed task. With a hot cup of java in my hand I settled back into my chair for more reading.  What a fine way to start the day!
Thinking back several years ago when we first met on the school bus going to the Knute Rockne memorial event; how fortunate an encounter that was. You were extremely pleasant and just sparkled with conversation.  Later we met again in the bookstore where I discovered you were an author and purchased your first book “Flyover People.”
That was a pleasant experience as is reading your second book. As you said to your brother Leon “Tanks for the memories.”
Paul Fiebich

other people's stuff, Waiting on the Sky, Waiting on the Sky book

Books at the Big Well

June 23rd, 2014 at 9:05 pm

Big Well 1

I visited Greensburg today. It’s always nice to be in Greensburg.They’re still rebuilding after the 2007 EF5 tornado. It’s just amazing what’s going on there. The museum reopened in 2012, but this was the first time I had been in it. And it was the first time since I was about 4 or 5 that I had seen the well. I don’t have strong memories of my first visit to the well, but I do remember coming here with my family.

Big Well 2

This picture was taken deep in the well looking up. The structure has the main floor and then a viewing area above that with windows all around the circle, and information on the windows showing what buildings you are looking at that have been built since the tornado.

big well 3

My new book, Waiting on the Sky, is now available in the gift shop at the Big Well Museum, right next to my first book, Flyover People.

If you don’t happen to be in the Greensburg area, you can purchase the book at one of the fine retail outlets listed on this page or you can purchase them online here. (And if you purchase one, or already have, thank you very much!)

Flyover Book, traveling, Waiting on the Sky

They’re here!

June 14th, 2014 at 6:32 pm

WOTS stack


NOW AVAILABLE!  To purchase visit Quincy Press. 

My second collection of Kansas essays is now available!

Waiting on the Sky: More Flyover People Essays.

I write about life in Kansas – about the wind and the weather and the seasons, about small towns, about growing up in a small town. I write about the people and how we live on this big old land under this big old sky.

Here’s a line from Waiting on the Sky:

When the world closes up shop, when the sky turns from blue to black for the very last time, when the final poem is written and read, this is where I want to be – out in my beloved Flint Hills.

And from Marci Penner, director of the Kansas Sampler Foundation:

Cheryl Unruh has Kansas sunlight flowing through her veins. What comes out in her stories about weather, death, growing up, friends, family and small towns is pure Kansas. Want to understand Kansas rural culture? This book is for you.

Because I’m an indie writer, I do all of the distribution myself. Every book that is sold goes through my hands. I deliver or mail them to stores or mail them to customers.

Right now I’m in the process of distributing the book to various retailers in Kansas: independent bookstores, museums, art galleries. It takes time, because, when possible, I love to travel from town to town and meet the booksellers, get to know them. I want to know these people.

So far, Waiting on the Sky (and Flyover People) books ($15 each) are available at these Kansas locations:

Town Crier, 716 Commercial, Emporia

Bluestem Farm & Ranch Supply, 2611 W. Hwy 50, Emporia

The Raven Book Store, 6 E. 7th, Lawrence

Signs of Life, 722 Massachusetts, Lawrence

Southwind Gallery, 3074 S.W. 29th, Topeka

Strecker-Nelson Gallery, 406 Poyntz, Manhattan

Flint Hills Discovery Center, 315 S. 3rd Street, Manhattan


UPDATE 6/17:

Eighth Day Books, 2838 E. Douglas, Wichita

Watermark Books, 4701 E. Douglas, Wichita

Great Plains Nature Center Gift Shop, 6232 E. 29th, Wichita

UPDATE 6/23:

The Big Well Museum Gift Shop, 315 S. Sycamore, Greensburg


The book is also available at my Quincy Press website, $20 includes sales tax and shipping charges.

Help me out, if you’re willing. Please share this link with your friends – on Facebook, on Twitter, via e-mail. Thank you so much!


Flyover Book, Waiting on the Sky book

First Book Event

June 4th, 2014 at 8:09 pm

The first book event with my new book, Waiting on the Sky, will be Friday at Emporia’s own Town Crier Book Store. Thirty-some authors till be there.

Saturday, June 7, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Town Crier

716 Commercial, Emporia.


Waiting on the Sky is a second collection of my Flyover People columns as seen weekly in the Emporia Gazette over the past 11 years.







May 29

June 4th, 2014 at 8:00 pm

May 29

For Marilyn


Maryland, oh my Maryland.

It’s her birthday today!

My friend till the end:

Marilyn. I could tell all

of the stories – of riding

around town in cars,

of breakfast at The Rock,

of telling tales

at the lumberyard bench

of machetes in the milo,

of swimming

in the horse tank,

of tossing bread dough

across the home-ec

work stations,

of finding the cooking

sherry, of swimming

at the river, of climbing

into the historic cabin behind

her house and finding

“True Detective” magazines

in its loft. I could tell

of walking to school

every morning in the rain

in the snow, in the sunshine.

I could tell of sitting in the

post office, loitering against

the law, and reading the

FBI’s Wanted posters.

I could tell about babysitting

for her neighbors, The Beanies,

or about gym class

and “scooter days,”

about Mr. Smith spitting

into the wind during

track practice. I could

tell about all of these

things, but two words

sums them up:

We laughed.

life on the ground, nostalgia, Poetry & Haiku

May 23

May 23rd, 2014 at 5:54 pm

May 23

Sometimes thunder
comes as a teenage boy,
reckless, loud,
a demolition derby in the clouds.
But today,
thunder is an old man,
hesitant, lurching
across the sky,
the pain of age
pulling at his bones.


Cover Art – WOTS

May 23rd, 2014 at 1:35 pm


Soon, very soon, in a few weeks, my second book, Waiting on the Sky, will be available! I wasn’t sure if putting out the second book would be as exciting as the first, but it is. I know a few things this time around that I didn’t know last time.

This book, like the first, is a collection of my Flyover People columns that were first published in The Emporia Gazette over the past 11 years.


Waiting on the Sky book

Sunday morning in Emporia

May 23rd, 2014 at 1:16 pm

I’ve been posting some of the poems I’ve written lately. Here’s one from Sunday morning. I wrote this while sitting on a bench on Commercial Street in downtown Emporia.


May 18

Sitting on a bench
along the town’s main street,
two Harleys pulse the air
in front of me while
church bells at the
First Methodist play
“God Bless America.”
A whistle announces
a train from the east,
and heavy freight plows
through the city.
Down the street, parked cars
wait in front of the diner,
where new graduates
face questions from parents
about the future. Maybe once
we could guess the future,
but now the world,
perched precariously
on its axis, tilts more
every day. Who can know
what lies ahead?
All I know is here and now:
birds sing, a young couple
passes by, a cyclist;
a train blares, from the west
this time. On a Sunday
morning I sit and watch
this town, Emporia,
a place I’ve grown
to love. When I graduated,
moved in thirty-three
years ago, I didn’t know
that someday I would feel
like I belonged here.
But I love this town now –
its heartbeat of trains,
the people on main street,
the sense of finally, finally
being home.

E-town, life on the ground, Poetry & Haiku


May 12th, 2014 at 12:47 pm


peony in rain_sm


In honor of the rain (finally!), here’s one of my poems that was published in The Christian Science Monitor.



All day rain has

held to the clouds,

the sky turning from

gray to purple to purple-blue

and back to gray again.

A soft wind, the breath

of spring, pushes the yellow

kitchen curtains into the room.

Now, as dusk falls, so does the rain,

darkening the sidewalks,

the street. As cars dry by

the sound of wet tires

splashes in through open windows.

I listen in the dark,

the rain filling a place

I didn’t know was empty.


~ Cheryl Unruh


First published in The Christian Science Monitor June 7, 2001


Poetry & Haiku, seasons, weather

Bonita Garden

May 7th, 2014 at 8:06 pm


My friend Marcia Lawrence leans dangerously against the unexpectedly non-anchored peace pole in the brand new Bonita Garden of Grace.

This community garden, for which Marcia wrote the grant, is a project of the Grace Methodist Church, which is right across South Ave. from the garden. Tonight they are having a picnic at the site.

E-town, life on the ground

A Flyover Farewell

April 29th, 2014 at 8:00 am

Today’s Flyover People column as seen in The Emporia Gazette:



For more than 11 years now, my dear readers, I have dragged you along with me on the gravel roads of Kansas. Willingly, I trust.

Eleven years? Even I find that hard to believe somehow. My first column was published in The Emporia Gazette for Kansas Day 2003, and since then I have been putting miles and dust on my car, and sharing Kansas with you as best I can.

But there comes a time to move on, and that time is now. I am ending the Flyover People column. My biggest sadness with this comes from a feeling of separation, because it has been you who kept me going. Each Tuesday evening, I knew that you were settling in with The Gazette, reading the front page news, page 2, 3 and then on to page 4.

I was pleased each time one of you stopped me in Reeble’s to share with me what you remember about your own grandmother’s farm or your small-town childhood. When you told me your own stories, that’s when I felt I had done my job.

And many of you have suggested places for Dave and me to visit. Early on, someone recommended Frannie’s in Yates Center. The place is closed now, but in 2006 Frannie was selling $1 lunches in her second floor restaurant, as she had for 20 years. Another reader suggested Courtney’s in Toronto, still a fabulous place for an upscale Italian dinner.

I’ve always enjoyed touring Kansas, but with the column I had a perfect reason to do so. And it got to be a fun obsession, rolling into a town I had never visited. I began to crave the next town and the next and the next.

Driving down a highway, Dave and I chased road signs. We’d see a sign pointing to Neosho Falls or to Dexter, and we’d veer off the highway onto a county road to see what those towns held for us. What made a community most memorable was when we had a conversation with a resident or two. Even after visiting more than a hundred towns over the past 11 years, I still remember towns and faces and how welcomed we felt by the locals.

When I began writing this column, I wanted my pieces to show the beauty of the world around us, to raise the everyday scenes of Kansas to a place of attention and glory.

There are unpleasant things in and about Kansas, no doubt about it, but I wanted to keep the column positive. I tried to stay realistic; I also wrote about decaying and shabby towns in Kansas, but I wanted to show that even though a town may not be shining all the way through that there are still good things in each town, good people and stories, interesting history, a great little café or a library or a park. Each community has worthwhile things to offer. And I’ve noticed that when residents nurture a place, the town improves.

What’s up for me now? Well, I’m about to release my second book of columns. In the next month or so, “Waiting on the Sky: More Flyover People Essays” will be published and I’ll be traveling around the state promoting my new book.

Although I will no longer write the weekly column, I’ll still be writing, just without the burden of the weekly deadline. Deadlines can be wearying. There’s something about being creative on demand that takes some of the fun and the magic out of writing.

I will write books that will be different in style and content than these columns, although Kansas will likely be the backdrop for future books.

I’m proud to have contributed to The Emporia Gazette over the years and my sincere thanks go to Chris Walker, and to everyone at the paper. Chris told me that I can still send in pieces if I want, and I may do that. So, a Flyover People column may show up in your evening paper from time to time.

But for now, it’s time to go. And for you, my beloved readers, this heart is filled with gratitude.

columns, Flyover Book, life on the ground, nostalgia, traveling