Missing Family Stories

When you write a novel, you never know what readers will take away from it. A reader recently thanked me for my book Searching for Nora because of my focus on the Norwegian immigrant prairie experience. She was grateful because she knew little about her own family history beyond the fact that they had emigrated from Norway to Minnesota in the late nineteenth century. She said her grandmother, who might have been a font of family lore, had been reduced to a “silent, little old lady” by the time my reader met her. Unfortunately, the reader’s grandfather didn’t communicate much,… 


Solvi and her Camera

When I was creating the character Solvi Lange, the heroine of the secondary tale in Searching for Nora, I wanted her to be someone trying to capture history. As a young woman raised in a family that kept secrets, Solvi feels like time and memory are eroding away beneath her. Instead of burying the past, she wants to dig it up, examine the remains, trap the images so that they cannot fade. And so I gave her a camera. I have always been interested in people who create visuals things. I don’t have that gift, so I admire those who… 


Harvest Time on the Prairie

It’s not clear how many of the nineteenth-century settlers on the American prairie celebrated the official Thanksgiving holiday, which was not established until 1863. Many families must have had harvest feasts when they were finished gathering in what the land had produced, and as most settlers were religious in their orientation, they probably gave thanks to God. But the truth is, prairie harvests were often not that bountiful. Most settlers planted a cash crop – usually wheat – and many planted some corn and alfalfa to feed their livestock, as well as garden vegetables that would keep through the winter,… 


National Novel Writing Month

When I’m out talking about my book Searching for Nora, the question I get the most is: how long did it take you to write this? People asking me are usually holding the printed version, a hefty, 400-pager. When I tell them it was a twelve-year effort, they shake their heads sympathetically. Wow. Twelve years, locked in my office, toiling away. The truth is, I spent some of that time on book-related projects other than writing – like finding a new agent and sending the book out to small publishers. I also spent time skiing and kayaking, traveling to China… 


In the Land of Lutefisk

While researching my novel Searching for Nora, I was often asked “are you Norwegian?” The book is set in Norway and Minnesota, and so I traveled to both places to interview scholars, historians and Norwegian American descendants. The Norwegians, in particular, were curious about my heritage and sometimes spoke Norwegian to test my understanding. But I could only offer a faint smile, because I wasn’t Norwegian American any more than I was Italian American. I didn’t grow up attending lutefisk dinners in a knitted sweater and singing Norwegian table graces. Along the way, however, I came to wish I had…. 



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