Archive for the ‘WRITING’ Category

It’s Up To You!

August 21, 2014

I’ve loved to read for as long as I can remember. When I was nine or ten, I decided that if reading books was so much fun, writing my own stories would be even better. In a few months my 30th title will be published!

Reading

That’s me, lost in a book.

People often ask if my editors at American Girl tell me what to write. No, they don’t. Although I work with a great team of people who help make each book the best it can be, I make up my own stories. I decide what my characters should do.

Peg Ross, my editor, spends a lot of time combing through my manuscripts to make sure the stories are clear.  We've worked on 15 books together!

Here’s Peg Ross, my editor, making notes on one of my manuscripts.

Until now, that is. Catch The Wind:  My Journey With Caroline offers many opportunities for you to decide what the characters should do!

Catch The Wind

Imagine yourself transported back to Sackets Harbor during the War of 1812. Would you want to leave at once, or would you stay a while? If you saw an enemy ship, would you give chase or go for help? If your best friend was going on a raid, would you tag along or decide it was too dangerous?

In Catch The Wind, you get to decide all of those things—and make lots more choices too. When you finish the book, you might even want to go back and see what happens if you make different choices.

Catch The Wind was the first Choose Your Own Adventure story I’ve ever written. I drew diagrams to help keep everything straight.

Catch The Wind diagram

Here’s one of my early diagrams. The numbers refer to different scenes.

Catch The Wind Outline

Here’s part of the graphic organizer my editor made to help us make sure the story flowed properly.

I loved having the opportunity to explore lots of plot ideas and possibilities. I was able to include some situations I didn’t have room to include in the original Caroline stories.

So settle down with the book, and settle in for an adventure that has lots of twists and turns. It’s all up to you!

Pioneer Winter

March 1, 2014

I’ve been reading a lot about winter lately. While working on a book project for the Wisconsin Historical Society, I’ve dug out a lot of primary accounts from European and Yankee immigrants settling in the Upper Midwest in the 1800s. Not surprisingly, the most poignant accounts describe the earliest days of white settlement.

When I worked at old World Wisconsin, one of my favorite buildings to interpret was the 1845 Fossebrekke Cabin. The Fossebrekkes, like many immigrants, opened their home to late-fall arrivals who had nowhere else to go. Some visitors couldn’t imagine surviving a winter in such a small building.

That's me in warm weather, heading into Fossebrekke, 1983.

That’s me heading into Fossebrekke, 1983.

But when Knudt arrived in Wisconsin, he had nothing. He worked as a laborer and spent his first winter in some kind of a shelter dug into the side of a hill. So I imagine that he and Gertrude Fossebrekke took enormous pride in their sturdy cabin.

I haven’t found a first-person account describing life in a dugout through long, dark, bitterly cold months. However, here’s a story shared by a descendant of a Norwegian immigrant who joined forces with two other single men. The three spent their first winter in a dugout…and their second winter as well:

A large log house was built on Nils Gilderhus’ land in the summer of 1841, but as they did not get it ‘clinked’ (sic) between the logs before cold weather set in, they continued to live in the dugout that winter.

Here Andres Lee and his wife, Gunvor, a sister of Nils, came from Norway late in 1841 and lived with all the rest in the dugout, as did a man named Andres Fenne. Later in the winter, Tore Kaase was also welcomed to live in the same dugout, there being no other shelter, which made a family of six men, one woman and two children, all in the same small dugout.

(“Mrs. Styrk Reque Tells History of Early Pioneers of Gilderhus Clan,” Capital Times, September 7, 1930.)

Those who barely managed to build some kind of free-standing structure often didn’t fare much better:

The winter was severe, and the house being enclosed by foot wide boards, but neither plastered or sealed the green boards warped and left great cracks, and the water froze in our glasses on the table, and if a little spilled on the floor it would freeze before we could wipe it up.

Renee Fossebrekke

Fossebrekke interior.  (Renee is making flatbread.)

We had no crib for the baby and had to keep him tied in  a chair. Our mother was sick all winter and we hung quilts and blankets around the stove pipe and fixed her bed in the enclosure; our money was nearly gone and we had to plan closely to get provisions but by hook and crook we managed to keep alive.

(Hannah L. Parker, “Pioneer Life in Waushara County,” Wautoma Argus, February 13, 1924.)

And here’s one more:

Only those who have experienced it can imagine the loneliness of the first winter 30 miles from a post-office. One inconvenience was the lack of matches. One wild, windy night Mr. Gardner’s fireplace went out. Soon Mr. Salisbury came. He, too, had lost fire. Together they started for Moses Smith’s to borrow coals. Mr. Salisbury fell into a river when crossing on a fallen tree.

Schulz cooking nook Old World Wisconsin

Cooking nook, Schulz Farm, Old World Wisconsin.  Without matches, fire could not be taken for granted.

While Mr. Salisbury remained at Smith’s to dry his clothing, Mr. Gardner started homeward. After going some distance he thought the pail seemed light and found that the bottom had melted and the fire was gone. Returning he borrowed an iron kettle, filled it with coals, and succeeded in reaching home with it, and a good, comfortable fire greeted Mr. Salisbury on his arrival.

(Helen Hicks, “Pioneer Settler of Spring Prairie was New York Man,” Racine Journal-News, January 15, 1932.)

Last week, while on a writing retreat, I stayed in a cabin built in 1853. I’ve stayed there before, and it’s a good space for me.

Fern Hollow Cabin

Fern Hollow Cabin in NE Iowa, owned by Liz Rog and Daniel Rotto.

Fern Hollow Cabin

From the family album–Fern Hollow Cabin before restoration in 1989.  Liz’s great-great-great-grandparents raised six children in this home, and Liz and Daniel later raised their own two children here.

It was cold during this stay—often below zero. The cabin’s only source of heat is a small wood-burning stove.

Fern Hollow Cabin

That’s a slab of soapstone on the top right side of the stove. After heating it up, I’d wrap it in a towel and take it up to bed in the loft.

I got a lot of work done, but the status of the fire never really left my awareness. A rhythm developed:  fetch wood, tend the stove, write. Fetch wood, tend the stove, write.

Fern Hollow Cabin

All the essentials—laptop, companion feline, and stove. Not shown: steaming mug of cocoa.

I was also acutely aware of how easy I  had it. I did not cut the wood, or stack it. When I had to leave for several hours, my hosts kindly stoked the stove. And I knew that if I did “lose” my fire, all I’d need to do was crumple newspaper and light a match to get it back.

This has been a long winter for most of the country. I will savor the first warm days of spring as much as anyone. But the accounts of pioneer winters have helped me keep the season’s challenges in perspective. It’s snowing as I write this, and I can’t help thinking that I have a lot to be grateful for.

Fern Hollow Cabin

Fern Hollow Cabin.

We can never truly imagine how our ancestors experienced winter, while struggling to build a better life for generations to come.

Winter in Mineral Point

February 6, 2014

Mineral Point, in southwestern Wisconsin, is one of my favorite towns. A lead mining boom attracted early prospectors. In 1829, the population of Mineral Point was greater than Milwaukee and Chicago combined! In the 1830s, experienced miners from Cornwall arrived and settled in.

I’ve traveled to Mineral Point many times to visit Pendarvis, a state historic site that preserves the homes of several Cornish immigrants. But until recently, I’d never visited in winter.

Mineral Point Pendarvis

Early stone cottages preserved at Pendarvis.

That changed in January of 2013, and again this past January. Thanks to Shake Rag Center For the Arts and the Council for Wisconsin Writers, I was granted a weeklong residency both years. The temps were cold—this year below zero, at times. But I discovered that winter is a great time to visit Mineral Point.  Here are some of the things I enjoyed:

Peace and quiet. The ambiance was perfect for contemplation and writing.

Mineral Point Gundry House

Wonderful restaurants. I spent most afternoons writing at the Gray Dog Deli, which has a great menu, very nice staff, and your choice of tables or comfy sofas.

Mineral Point Gray Dog

This gray dog has watched over the building since 1867.

It’s also my tradition to visit the Red Rooster Cafe whenever I’m in town.

Mineral Point Red Rooster

Mineral Point Red Rooster

The Red Rooster has a long history of serving comfort food and traditional Cornish favorites.

Mineral Point Figgy Hobbin

I recommend the Figgy Hobbin.

Shake Rag Center For the Arts. A sale of hand-crafted Valentines took place while I was there.

Mineral Point Shake Rag

The lively arts center has programs and classes going on year-round. Their workshop listing is diverse. Wouldn’t a class provide a great pick-me-up in the middle of a cold winter?

Yarn Painting 2

A yarn painting class is scheduled for late February. So cheerful!  Shake Rag Center photo.

Architecture. You can’t take a walk in Mineral Point without seeing lots of great old buildings.

Mineral Point Washington

I stayed in this lovely home, 219 Washington.

Mineral Point Gundry House

And I walked by this beauty, Orchard Lawn, every day.

Mineral Point Shake Rag

This cottage and cabin are preserved at Shake Rag Alley.

Art.  The town is a well-known artist’s colony. Yes, some of the shops were closed—but others weren’t. (Another of my traditions is to buy a new pair of earrings whenever I start a new Chloe Ellefson mystery.  Lots and lots to choose from at the Johnston Gallery.)

Mineral Point Johnston Gallery

The Johnston Gallery photo.

The landscape.  Mineral Point is nestled in the beautiful rolling hills of Wisconsin’s Driftless Region. If you like snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, you won’t have to go far. Check out a recent post on High Street Beat blog.

Mineral Point High Street Beat

Taken by my friends Lisa and Don Hay on a recent cross county ski excursion. High Street Beat photo.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to spend two weeks in this lovely town. Huge thanks to everyone who made it possible.

Interested in a getaway of your own?  You’ll find lots of information here.  Enjoy!

Postcard From Angela

January 1, 2014

I received an amazingly wonderful gift a week or so ago when a postcard arrived in the mail.

postcard from angela

The postcard itself was from a copy of Midnight in Lonesome Hollow, one of my Kit mysteries from American Girl.

postcard Midnight

It was forwarded to me from the publisher. I’d really, really like to write back to Angela, and tell her how much her words mean to me. Unfortunately, no return address was included.

So this seems like a good time and place to tell Angela—and all the readers who got in touch during 2013—how appreciative I am.

Some of my favorite correspondence has come via email, such as this one:

Hi Mrs. Ernst my name is Abigail and I just wanted to wish you a
merry Christmas. My American girl dolls Kit and Caroline say
merry Christmas too.

Here are two letters that arrived in the mail after I did a program about the book-making process at an elementary school.

scan0001

(I do try to encourage kids when I visit schools. I’m not sure about this one.)

letter

(The program includes one photo of my cat Sophie sitting by my computer. Sophie sometimes gets more mail than I do.)

I’ve gotten some special mail from parents this year, such as this one:

My 8 year old daughter and I just finished the first book in your
American Girl Caroline series. We are both hooked and loving it!
She is having a difficult time keeping up with her peers in
reading and this book has sparked an interest in history, sailing,
nautical knots and everything that goes with the story. She could
not wait for the next night to read another chapter. And all this
coming from the girl last year who said reading was boring
(only because she wasn't able to do as well as her classmates).
Now she brings books with her everywhere we go.

And I’ve heard from readers about the Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites mysteries, too:

I love the combination of mystery and history in your books!Please
keep this series coming!!!

I just wanted to tell you how MUCH I am enjoying "Chloe's" adventures!
Thanks for your gift of writing, Kathleen!

I've almost finished re-reading all the Chloe books. I'm telling you,
after I read Heritage of Darkness -- I really really really did not want
it to end so I started the whole series over :-)

When I was ten years old, and dreaming of being an author, all I knew to hope for was having stories that I wrote turn into published books. Although that is indeed wonderful, what’s even better connecting with readers.

So for all of you who have taken the time to communicate here, on Facebook, via email or snail mail, or in person at an event—all I can say is thank you.

And for all of you who have taken the time to post an online review, recommend one of my books to a friend, or ask a librarian about my titles—huge thanks to you as well.

Hardangar Heart600w

This lovely Hardanger heart was a gift from two special readers. It hangs in my kitchen window, and reminds me every day of the reader-friends who have come into my life!

You made 2013 very special! I’m grateful, and I wish you all a most wonderful new year.

Lost, 1867

November 10, 2013

I’ve been compiling a collection of poetry about immigrant women’s experiences in the Midwest. I can’t possibly use in novels all the compelling tidbits I find when doing historical research! When something calls to me, but it won’t work in whatever book I’m writing, I often channel it into a poem instead.

Two years ago one of my poems, Facing Forward, was chosen for an exhibit called “Mark My Words” at the Pump House Regional Arts Center in La Crosse, WI. The exhibit organizers selected twenty poems and twenty artists, and asked each artist to create a piece in response to one of the poems. I was thrilled to be included! (You can see the poem and accompanying artwork HERE.)

The Pump House

Last spring the good folks at the Pump House put out another call for entries. “Mark My Words Again: Artists Respond To Short Poetry” was more of a challenge because I don’t write many short poems, but I managed to submit a suitable entry:

Lost, 1867
From the train, the prairie looked flat as a cracker.
She didn’t learn until settling on their new place
that the land sank and swelled like a restless sea;
that the tall grasses, gently beckoning, hid swales that swallowed
the silk bonnet blown from her head while they wagoned to town,
the plump ruffed grouse she’d hoped to shoot for Sunday dinner,
and—as she pegged out wet laundry, humming a hymn—
the child who toddled from her side, chasing a butterfly.

In this poem, I wanted to reflect how life has both changed and stayed the same since 1867. While the loss of a bonnet may feel irrelevant today, the loss of a child evokes timeless emotions.

My poem was given to an artist, who had three months to create a partner piece. I didn’t see the results until the exhibit opened.

Mark My Words KAE

A reception to celebrate “Mark My Words Again” was held at the Pump House last month, and it was a fascinating evening. The poems selected for the exhibit were diverse, and so was the artwork. Some artists chose to illustrate the poem they were given; others used an idea in the poem as inspiration to move in a new direction.

My poem was given to talented photographer Jerry Weigel.

Mark My Words Again photo

Jerry said, “The poem reminded me that we only find new things when we are lost.  Like the child chasing the butterfly in 1867, this little guy lost himself in the vine tunnel just to see what was on the other side.”

Heartfelt thanks to Lynne Valiquette and the “Mark My Words Again” committee not only for selecting my poem, but for mounting such an extraordinary exhibit!

Holiday Food Traditions Class – You’re Invited!

September 8, 2013

I am very excited about a weekend workshop I’m teaching this fall, Holiday Food Traditions:  Remembering, Writing, Tasting, Sharing. The class is scheduled Nov. 1-3, 2013  (Fri. from 6:00-8:30, Sat. and Sun. from 9:00-5:00) in Decorah, in northeast Iowa.

Precious family stories are often shared around the table, and many involve favorite recipes. This holiday season, treat yourself to a special weekend designed to help you recall, record, and celebrate food traditions from your family or community. Tattered recipe cards can lead to reminiscences, poetry, scrapbook pages, family cookbooks…the possibilities are endless, and the results make perfect gifts.

DSCF2605

I’m teaching this class at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, but you do not need to be of Norwegian descent to participate!  This will be an easy-going weekend intended to help capture and share some food memories in whatever form works best for you.

The workshop includes fun, reflective, and imaginative writing activities. You’ll also enjoy baking demonstrations of favorite traditional Scandinavian Christmas goodies, as well as advice about preserving and protecting kitchen heirlooms. You’ll leave with some holiday treats, a finished scrapbook page, and lots of creative ideas for turning recipes and memories into cherished family gifts.

cookies

I’m team-teaching the workshop with Darlene Fossum-Martin. Darlene’s cooking style is shaped by the Norwegian cuisine of her ancestors. Although she holds a degree in home economics and education, her strengths in cooking come from the women in her family. Darlene has taught traditional Scandinavian food classes for adults and children of all ages throughout the Midwest and at John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina.

Darlene and Kathleen

You may know me, but if not - I‘m the author of twenty-five books, including the Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites mystery series for adults and historical novels for young readers. I’ve taught writing at the University of Wisconsin-Extension, Mount Mary College, and many conferences and workshops. I’ve also spent thirty years exploring and writing about food heritage and traditions.  During my decade as a curator at Old World Wisconsin, an outdoor ethnic museum, I coordinated the historic foodways program for different ethnic groups represented in fourteen period kitchens. I trained museum staff in foodways traditions and techniques, and often wrote about food history for professional publications.

Can you join us in Decorah?  Here’s everything you need to know:

Level of instruction: All levels. Youth ages 14-17 signed up with a participating adult receive a 25% discount.

Dates: The class is scheduled Nov. 1-3, 2013  (Fri. from 6:00-8:30, Sat. and Sun. from 9:00-5:00) at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, in northeast Iowa.

Cost:  $148 Vesterheim members / $198 non-members.  There will be an ingredients fee.

Registration:  You’ll find registration information and forms on Vesterheim’s website.

If you have questions, please call Darlene, Vesterheim’s Education Specialist, at 563-382-9681, Ext. 215.

 vesterheim cookies

 

 

Remembering Marty

May 7, 2013

Old World Wisconsin opened to the public last week, as it has every May since 1976. As always, the new season brings a variety of changes intended to improve visitor experience. But this year also marks an unwanted and profound change. For the first time ever, Marty Perkins isn’t watching spring unfurl at the historic site.

Marty in front of Caldwell Farmers Hall, OWW.  (Milwaukee-Journal Sentinal photo.)

Marty started working at Old World in 1974. He began on the restoration crew, helping to dismantle, move, and reconstruct some of the historic structures.

Marty Perkins-Koepsell Construction1975

In 1975, Marty helped reconstruct the half-timbered Koepsell home in the German area.

For most of his career he served as Curator of Research and Interpretation. Most recently he concentrated on his primary love, research.

He loved his work. Part of his job involved driving backroads all over the state, searching for historic buildings. The people who owned the old homes or barns or shops quickly learned that Marty was a friendly, down-to-earth guy who truly wanted to hear their stories. He had a rare affinity for getting along with everyone.

Marty Perkins 2012

Marty sharing stories at the Kvaale Farm, OWW.

I met Marty in 1982, when I moved to Wisconsin to work at the site. On a cold April day during training Marty gathered the German area interpreters in one of the old farmhouses. We built a fire in the woodstove and he shared tales about the buildings and the people who once occupied them. I knew I’d come to the right place.

The Koepsell house, 1982.

The Koepsell house, 1982.

During the thirty-eight years he served at OWW, he saw many colleagues come and go. Marty chose to dedicate his professional life to the site he’d helped plan, develop, and interpret. No one knew more about Wisconsin’s ethnic history and architecture than he did. No one knew more about Wisconsin’s crossroads villages, or 19th-century baseball teams, or the workings of farmers’ clubs, or so many of the other topics he explored.

Gathering facts, though, wasn’t the point. He was a storyteller.

Marty leading a tour.

After Marty died suddenly last November, his coworkers referred to him as the heart and soul of Old World Wisconsin. He was. One colleague said that the site’s institutional memory had burned to the ground. That’s also true.

Marty was also the site’s conscience. He knew that research had to be the foundation of everything that happened at Old World Wisconsin.

That may sound obvious. But historic sites never get the funding they need, and research takes time. It is not uncommon for a distant administrator or generous donor to suggest some new program, with little thought given to what’s truly involved. At any site, loud voices can clamor for something old-timey if people think it would be fun and/or sell more admission tickets.

Marty calmly and pleasantly insisted on a solid foundation of research for every new program or initiative. He helped others see that documentation wouldn’t detract from popular programming, but instead enhance the site’s educational offerings.

The Benson House at OWW, Christmas Through The Years, 1990.

The Benson House at OWW, Christmas Through The Years, 1990.

Of all the things I learned from Marty in the years we worked together, that philosophy is perhaps the most important.

Now that I’m writing stories instead of greeting visitors, I try to bring that ethic to each new book project. It doesn’t matter if I’m writing an historical novel for children or fictionalizing historical events in a mystery for adult readers. Research forms the foundation of the story.

In 2012, Marty and I teamed up again to offer two History and Mystery tours at OWW.

But I’m not the only person Marty mentored.  I can’t even imagine how many lives he touched over the years:  how many novice interpreters came to share his passion for the site, how many colleagues developed a lifelong habit of looking for vernacular architecture on country drives, how many interns chose to make museum work a career.

His work lives in in the historic structures and programs at Old World Wisconsin, and in the many people he inspired.

Creating Caroline Abbott, an American Girl

June 7, 2012

Lots of you have already heard the latest news: Caroline Abbott’s stories are set in 1812!

That’s all I’m able to say about her for now. What I can do is tell you a little about the process for creating Caroline and her world.

When I was invited to join the project, the editors at American Girl had chosen 1812 as the time period for the new character.  Nothing else, including her name or where she lived, had been decided.

I spent about a month doing lots and lots of research about that era.  I read everything I could find:  books written by modern historians, books written by people living during the chosen time period, letters and diaries.

After that I met with the project’s editor and researcher at American Girl. We narrowed down possible locations for the setting, and—after getting feedback from other editors—we chose the location. Once that was decided, I traveled to do more research.

Next,  I created a proposal for each book, sharing my ideas for the stories. My proposals were read by several editors and the researcher. The editors have lots of experience with American Girl books, and they know what readers like.

Once everyone agreed about the basic ideas for the stories, I began writing.

Sophie, my writing companion.

When I finished the first draft of Book 1, I started on Book 2 while the editors and researcher reviewed Book 1. I did several drafts of each book. Each time, they got better. With all the back-and-forth, we were sometimes juggling three or four books at once!

The researcher helped find answers to historical questions. Once I had complete drafts ready, the researcher also identified several content experts—historians who know a lot about the time and place I was writing about. They read the drafts and looked for any historical errors that might have crept in.

The whole process of researching, writing, and revising six books about Caroline took over three years. One of the hardest parts for me was that everything was a secret!

Next month, I’ll tell you more about the process of creating Caroline. Check back soon!

Witness Trees

November 8, 2011

In the 1800s, when public land was being surveyed for Euro/Yankee settlement, surveyors marked the corners of sections and quarter sections. In prairie landscapes, they pounded posts into the corners. In woodlands, surveyors marked blazes on “witness trees.”

In more recent times, historians have named specific old trees in certain places as witness trees. For example, a small honey locust sapling was growing on a Pennsylvania field during the Battle of Gettysburg  in 1863, and it stood about 150 away from the speakers’ platform when Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address. The tree survived for 145 more years, providing visitors a tangible living link to those desperate days. Only a handful of such trees survive on the battlefield.

The honey locust is in the center. Gettysburg National Military Park photo, 2008, taken shortly after the storm that severely damaged it.

I’m always on the lookout for grand old trees. Recently, while trying to meet multiple deadlines, I holed up for a few days at Holy Wisdom Monastery near Middleton, WI. The 138-acre grounds include restored prairies, woodlands, a small glacial lake…and several witness trees.

A stunning old oak.

None are famous, as far as I know. But I find it impossible to contemplate these ancient trees without wondering about all they have seen. Pre-historic mound builders and Ho-Chunk travelers likely hunted here. Perhaps a young couple’s long wagon journey ended when they decided to build their cabin nearby. Maybe a family farmed this land, managing to hang on during World War I, the Great Depression, World War II.

It's hard to get a grasp of scale, but this is one of the largest maple trees I've ever seen.

In the 1950s, land was purchased by a community of Sisters of St. Benedict. Today the Benedictine Women of Madison, an ecumenical community, lovingly maintain the prairie and oak savannah. And through all the changes, a few magnificent trees have remained.

Trunk of the maple shown above.

As I worked to finish the first draft of my next Chloe Ellefson mystery, I found that thinking about these trees and the lives they’ve witnessed was somehow inspiring.  People continue to visit this landscape, each with their own story. Two weeks ago one of those travelers was me. I pressed a couple of autumn leaves to bring home. Maybe my brief stay left an ephemeral imprint in the continuum, too.

How about you? Any witness trees in your area?

An Ale Bowl With Cow Heads

June 8, 2011

If you’ve read Old World Murder, the first Chloe Ellefson/Historic Sites mystery, you know that the plot revolves around a missing antique ale bowl. Ale bowls were used in rural areas of Norway during the period many immigrants came to America in the 19th century. They were used for special occasions, and were often beautifully carved and exquisitely rosemaled (painted).

Often ale bowls were carved with animal heads serving as handles. I chose to make my fictional bowl feature cow heads as handles, something I’d never seen on an actual bowl. It worked for the story. (For more visuals, see earlier posts Rosemaling Through Time and Ale Bowls:  Migration of a Tradition.)

When Old World Murder was published, my husband Scott suggested that we commission a carver and painter to create the bowl described in the novel. It was a lovely idea, but after several discussions, I nixed the idea as impractical.

Well, Scott ignored me. He surreptitiously made arrangements with woodworker Becky Lusk and rosemaler Judy Nelson Kjenstad.  These two incredibly talented women worked from the description of my fictional bowl to create the piece. Scott gave me the bowl for my birthday.  Surprise!

The bowl is spectacular. Becky and Judy have both earned Vesterheim Gold Medals in their respective arts. Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum awards Gold Medals to artists who have repeatedly won ribbons in the annual National Exhibition of Folk Art int the Norwegian Tradition. These are coveted awards, earned only by those who truly excel.  My new ale bowl is a beautiful piece of folk art for our home.

I also look forward to displaying the ale bowl when I give programs. Since the novel was published last fall, lots of readers have asked what such a piece would look like.

I think my favorite aspect of the gift, however, is Scott’s assertion that publication of Old World Murder deserved some kind of commemoration. He knows the publishing biz can be…shall we say…fickle. He’s celebrated high notes and successes with me, but he’s also seen me work hard on novels that have yet to find a home. He wants me to have a memento to remind me that this book did find a home with publisher Midnight Ink, launching a series I am enjoying immensely.

When I think back on our earlier discussions about whether or not to have this particular bowl made, I realize he was right all along.


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