Nora’s New Year’s Resolution

New Year’s resolutions are as old as the Romans (according to Wikipedia), so it’s likely that Nora Helmer might have considered some self-improvement around this time of the year. The image above is of a New Year’s resolution card from 1915, and I love how it starts with the statement “I will this day try to live a simple, sincere and serene life.” If my character Nora were to adopt a New Year’s resolution, the idea of living a sincere life would be a good place for her to start. Telling the truth is her particular challenge: she’s a quick… 


The Julenisse

The Julenisse In my novel Searching for Nora, there’s a figure known as a nisse. Nisse are mythological creatures from Nordic folklore popular in Norwegian traditions, particularly around Christmas and the winter solstice. They are little people, between six inches to three feet tall (depending on whom you ask) and they usually help a family tend a farm or house. They are what most Americans would call gnomes, often pictured in breeches and boots, with a colored jacket cinched by a belt, and wearing a tall pointed cap. Male nisse have long white beards, like little old men, and big… 


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,… 



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