DeKALB – Kristen Alger has always been a storyteller. From telling wild, crazy stories at parties with friends to humorous, educational stories to her class of junior high students, to bedtime stories to her daughters, Alger loves to tell stories.
On Dec. 16, Alger published her first book, “So, It Happened Like This.” The book is a humorous memoir full of true short stories that have occurred throughout her life, from growing up in the south to living for 12 years in DeKalb.
"So, It Happened Like This" is available for purchase as a paperback and an e-book through Amazon. To get a flavor for the types of stories she tells, go to soithappenedlikethis.com and read a free story by selecting "Sit for a Spell."
Alger spoke to MidWeek reporter Katrina Milton about her book and memories from DeKalb
Milton: Are you originally from DeKalb?
Alger: I lived for 12 years in DeKalb with my family. My kids went to St. Mary’s and DeKalb High School. I taught at St. Mary’s and my husband worked at Ideal Industries in Sycamore. I was born in Detroit but raised in Alabama. My husband is from Aurora and graduated from [Northern Illinois University]. Before moving to DeKalb, I had never seen a snowplow or that much snow. There’s no concept of that much snow down South. We don’t even have salt for the roads.
Milton: What do you miss the most about DeKalb?
Alger: I miss Inboden’s [Meat Market.] In the south, it’s all seafood with lots of fresh fish, but no beef. In DeKalb, it was hard to find fresh seafood. I also miss the university. Friends of ours own Fatty’s [Pub & Grille], and our oldest daughter worked there all four years of college. Another friend owns Whiskey Acres. I also miss the little shops in downtown DeKalb, I loved the downtown area. I also miss the train crossing Main Street. That’s such a rare occurrence, you never see an intersection like that. I remember how long it took me to learn about the route you could take to duck under the train tracks and avoid the delay of a train. I also miss bumping into friends and students at church or the store or Corn Fest. St. Mary’s was like a family and whenever I’d see them, former students would come up to me and give me a hug and ask me how I’ve been. It was absolutely wonderful. I miss that, I miss that a lot.
Milton: What is one story you remember about moving to DeKalb?
Alger: I remember when we first moved to DeKalb, I knew I crossed the Mason-Dixon Line. Down south, the Civil War is a big topic. People ask why that is, and I think No. 1, it’s because we lost and nobody likes to be a loser. No. 2, do you know how many monuments and battlefields there are down south? You pass them constantly, a few dozen a day. You can see that that exact house was a hospital, that field was where a battle took place and soldiers are buried there. We see the remnants of the Civil War all the time, and it’s hard to forget. So, as I was driving with my family through DeKalb, I remember seeing a sign on a front lawn: “Proud Union Home.” I immediately started a rant, about how Northerners say we Southerners can’t get over the war and here they have a sign right on the front lawn. After trying to interject a few times, my daughter finally told me that that’s not what the sign meant. She told me, “Union like the workers, not ‘The Union’ and the Civil War.” And I just said, “Oh.”
Milton: Why did you decide to write a book?
Alger: I’ve always been a storyteller. I was always the type who could spend hours rattling story after story. I remember going to an event or party with my husband and I started telling a story. After the first story, four or five people came over to listen. Then 10 people, then everyone came over to hear my story. I think something in a conversation can spark a story. People like hearing humorous happenings and goings-on. I grew up hearing stories, and I think writing down the stories and turning them into a book is a way to leave them behind for my kids, for my family to have and keep always.
Milton: Is there art inside the book?
Alger: Each chapter features an illustration I made and a recipe. My daughter did the illustration for the book’s cover. The DeKalb chapter has a drawing of a corn cob with barbed wire wrapped around it. The recipe is for grilled corn. I included a recipe so people could experience the flavor of the town. Every chapter has a totally different flavor and feel to it, and each location has different stories as well.
Milton: Have you been surprised at people’s reaction to the book?
Alger: The main reason I wanted to write a book was to make people laugh. A friend in Illinois read the book and edited it for me, and she told me she didn’t realize how many parallels there were between her family and mine. Another friend said that reading a book never makes her laugh. She called me to tell me she laughed twice and she had hardly started the book. I said, “OK, keep reading and call me back when you snort.” I was surprised at how well people relate to the book, no matter where they’re from or their background. Whether it’s my uncle or your grandfather, I’ve been told that hearing my family’s stories is like hearing your family’s stories.