Posts with the category ‘Author’s Desk’


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,… 


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…. 


Channeling Ibsen

The very first word of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, the play my book is built upon, is “hide.” Nora Helmer, the heroine, is talking about hiding the Christmas tree from the children. But that one word opens a door to how she prevaricates, shades the truth and masquerades as a silly, incompetent wife. Indeed, as the play unspools, it’s clear that all the main characters are hiding things from each other. This gap between appearance and what is actually true grows with each act, and finally splits the Helmer’s marriage apart. The entire disaster starts with that single command,… 


What’s In a Book Title?

While promoting my novel Searching for Nora last week, I got an interesting question: how did I come up with the title? Ah, the title. It seems like that should be the easiest part of the book to write. In the movie version of a writer’s life, you see the author slip a piece of paper into a typewriter, roll it into place and, click clack, type in the title. Then they start writing. Or, if they are going to be ambushed by writer’s block, they stop after the title. The title should be obvious. The title should be easy…. 


Launching my Book

My new book, Searching for Nora: After the Doll’s House, officially launches today, which is exciting but also a bit harrowing. It’s like sending your five-year-old off on the school bus for the first day of kindergarten. Will your kid do well in the big world? Will she make friends and prove helpful to others? Will she come home crying or jump off the bus with a smile? Novels, after all, are like people: complex and idiosyncratic, with hidden beauties and often obvious flaws. Not everyone likes every person, and not every person likes every novel. At some point in… 


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