Spink County resident to hold ‘River of Destiny’ book signing at Redfield Carnegie Library
By Shiloh Appel
Spink County resident, Richard Skorupski, will be at the Redfield Carnegie Library this Saturday, March 7th, to hold a book signing from 11a.m. to 1p.m. Skorupski just published his sixth book, a 406 page South Dakota love story titled ‘River of Destiny’, in early February. The book delves into the fictitious town of Helen, South Dakota and follows high school sweethearts Justin and Natalie as they set out on their life goals before the “River of Destiny” takes a turn. With a population of 300 people, Helen is the setting for all of Skorupski’s books. The town came into being one day in 2009.
“South Dakota has a Henry. They have a Howard. They have a Hazel. Why not have a Helen?” said Skorupski. “In 2009, I had only lived here at that time for about four years, and it seemed that there were a lot of towns that were named after people, like Gary. The town of Helen, in my mind (I never tell where it is, it’s a secret) but the main highway runs off one side, and everything happens on this big, long boulevard. It has a swimming pool. It has a tavern. It has two churches. Of course, you always have to have one more church than you have taverns. I think it is a rule. I even have a phone number exchange for it and a zip code for it. I took time and looked up all the things that weren’t being used.”
Before inventing the town of Helen, Skorupski first set a goal in 2009 to become a writer while he was on a 4,800 mile round trip with is wife to visit their grandkids in Georgia and New Jersey.
“We didn’t turn the radio on. We actually enjoy each other’s company,” said Skorupski. “And we like talking to each other, which is amazing after 30 years of marriage, but we do. I mentioned during this drive, I said, ‘you know, I really want to write a book. And I want to write a book about rural South Dakota — about small town South Dakota, because I fell in love with it.’”
So Richard and his wife, Cheryl, made a promise to each other to each write a book. Richard’s “River of Destiny” now joins his others, including “Tom and Sarah — The Beginning”; “Flyover County”; “The Fred Weber Story”; “The Frank Stanbauer Story”; and “Whiteout! And Other Stories.”
Both Richard and Cheryl Skorupski are natives of New Jersey, so Skorupski’s stories of life in rural South Dakota all have a touch of personal experience to them — the experience of culture-shock.
“When I first moved here, we went to a church around the corner because we wanted to be a part of a church. I was shocked, not surprised, but shocked, that all of the keys were hanging in the cars’ ignitions. You do that in New Jersey and you are not going to have a car. You go inside to get a quart of milk and you come out, there is no car,” said Richard. “People here are more real, they are more genteel. They are more honest. They are more forthright. You know within a few minutes where you stand with a person here.”
“I think Christianity has a big part to play in it,” said Cheryl. “People from the East Coast and West Coast would strike you as being very rude. Everybody is just out for themselves. When we came out here, we were in total shock. We were like, this is God’s country! This is heaven! This is wonderful compared to what we came from!”
“I honestly think — this is purely my personal opinion — everybody needs space. Out here [in South Dakota], we have space around us so that we are comfortable in our space. You get into New Jersey, for instance, the most densely populated state in the United States, and everybody is elbow to elbow. It is literally ‘pass the ketchup from one window to the other.’ You still need space. You can’t have it out ‘here’, so you make it in here,” said Richard, pointing to his mind. “You shut everyone out around you so that you are in your own little world going to your own little job to do your thing and the people that are walking on either side of you are not there, because they would be in your space and you need your space. You don’t look at each other. You don’t make eye contact. You don’t recognize that person is there. If you do, that’s a threat.”
Skorupski said he decided to write books about life in rural South Dakota because the rural life is something he has become passionate about.
“I learned a long time ago if you want to be a successful writer, you need to write about what you love. Because if you are just trying to write, it either comes out phony, or it is just not well-written. But if you are writing about a passion, it always comes out better,” said Skorupski. “…People who live here have no idea what they have. The sunrises. The sunsets. The open space. The beauty of it. The people who go out of their way to lend you a hand. I want to tell the story of of middle America.”
All of Skorupski’s books are available on Amazon.com in both e-book and print formats. The books are also available for checkout at the Redfield Carnegie Library. For more information, visit www.flyovercounty.com. Flyover County ( Skorupski’s first book) can also be found on Facebook or Twitter @flovercounty.