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University of Minnesota
April 28, 2011
Lisa Peters' immediate neighborhood mingles gritty warehouses with glitzy new condos. Her blog, bridgenumber9.com, shares her everyday discoveries in all of southeast Minneapolis.
Photo: Patrick O'Leary
U alum and author Lisa Peters blogs about ‘everyday discoveries’ in the neighborhood
By Rick Moore
When Lisa Peters steps outside her door in southeast Minneapolis, there’s an entire world to explore.
Shuttered mills from the era when Minneapolis reigned as the Mill City. A former soap factory turned art gallery. The iconic Stone Arch Bridge as a visual platform to the waterfalls that shaped Minneapolis. Heck, even a “secret road” for good measure.
And that’s just within a block or two.
It’s a world to explore and a world to share. So University alum Peters, by turns a print journalist and then an acclaimed author of children’s books (she has 19 titles to her credit), has turned her gaze and her writing skills to the world of blogging.
The result is “bridgenumber9.com”—named after the old railroad bridge spanning the Mississippi that spills out behind the U’s Education Sciences Building.
Bridgenumber9 is “dedicated to the everyday discoveries that make life interesting,” Peters says in the blog. Indeed, it’s a treasure trove of observations for those of us with at least one foot in southeast Minneapolis—including the University of Minnesota—or anyone who wants to see the area through the eyes of a keen observer.
The science of blogging
Peters began her journalistic career as a writer for the St. Cloud Daily Times, then took up freelancing when she moved with her husband, also a journalist, to Seattle. When her children were born her attention turned to children’s books … in more ways than one.
“I was reading hundreds of children’s books, and I had sort of opposite reactions,” she says. “Some I loved and was inspired by. Others I was pretty sure I could do better than.”
Nineteen books and numerous accolades later, she decided another shift was in order. Given her love for her neighborhood, a blog about southeast Minneapolis seemed the perfect fit.
She picked up an insatiable curiosity for science from her father, and first envisioned a science-oriented blog. But “because I’m a writer and maybe because of my journalism background, I recognized that it’s fun to have readers,” she jokes. “I thought it might be fun to take a more general interest approach.”
The durability of Swedish flat bread and the Rickety Chimney Contest
Beyond an occasional serving of easy-to-digest science, the topics for Peters’ blog posts are wide-ranging, even a bit random, which leaves readers curious about what might be next.
In March 2011 she dubbed herself “spring thaw queen” and chronicled (via text and photos) the flow of the Mississippi over St. Anthony Falls through two crests. You can compare that with photos she posted of St. Anthony Falls at its high-water marks in 1859 and 1939. When the water is high, Peters writes, “it’s not just a visual experience—you feel the spray and hear the roar!”
She points out the Ry-Krisp plant on 6th Avenue SE just north of 8th Street—the only place in the world where the cracker is produced—and highlights the company’s advertising strategies of yesteryear: pushing the product as a diet food for women in the 1930s and 1940s and then tying it to patriotism during World War II. The accompanying ads offer hilarious proof of the campaigns.
That post closes with Peters’ own wry assessment of the snacks:
So. Do I eat the crunchy crackers? I do. They’re good. I’ve taken these sturdy crackers along on camping and road trips. You stuff them into a pack and you know they’ll emerge intact. I also recommend eating them in a way that might confuse those Swedish bakers: settle in with a good book, a stack of Ry-Krisp, and a big tub of Middle Eastern hummus from the Holy Land Bakery on Central Avenue.
Call it fusion.
Then there was the Rickety Chimney Contest. A red brick chimney across the street from Peters reminded her of an illustration from one of her favorite children’s books, and that set her on a journey to discover southeast Minneapolis’s most interesting chimneys, a list that includes entries from the U campus.
Speaking of campus, Peters is “following” a branch from one of her favorite trees, the bur oak, as it moves through the four seasons. The branch she has chosen is in front of the oldest building standing on the East Bank. Tune in to bridgenumber9 to discover the location of Peters’ budding experiment.
A writer first … who happens to have a blog
Most good blogs have shorter entries, Peters has learned, so she strives for posts under 500 words. “Most children’s books are under 600 words [total],” she smiles. “I already know all about brevity.”
She’s also aware of the reputation that many blog posts are vacuous or “dashed off,” a categorization she’s trying to avoid. For that matter, she doesn’t always describe herself as a blogger. “I describe myself first as a writer—that I write about my neighborhood and I have a blog.”
Coming from the world of print, she’s tickled that she now gets comments on her writing almost instantaneously.
“If I never got any feedback I would quit—all writers need an audience,” Peters says. “It’s more immediate with this electronic communication than it ever was for children’s books. I have to admit, that’s been fun.”
In an entry recounting her exploration of the old Harris Machinery building just off University Avenue at the edge of Prospect Park, Peters recalls her sister’s favorite expression when encountering a sudden shift in scenery: “What land is this?”
As that question pertains to the nooks and crannies (and chimneys and secret roads) of southeast Minneapolis, you can look to bridgenumber9.com for illumination.