Aspiring writers

I received much advice and support from fellow writers throughout the process of writing, editing, and promoting Breath of Wilderness that when someone asks for my advice or support I feel it’s the least I can do. I also feel a calling to share Sig’s message with whoever I can.

This fall Melanie Lang, a 9th grader at Willow River Public School in Willow River, Minnesota, wrote a letter asking if I’d ever consider visiting her school to speak about writing. She told me that she loves writing and has already written five books, but that she’s thrown them away, because “they weren’t any good.”  She also said that she loves to write because she has lots of stories to tell. Truth be told, I had no idea where Willow River even is so I looked it up and found that it’s a long hike from northwestern Minnesota. Yet, I hoped to find a way to visit. I contacted Melanie’s teacher and eventually we set up a time to speak to the 9th grade Careers class.


When I arrived at Melanie’s school, I learned that she had ordered my book, but hadn’t received it yet. How had she heard of me, I wondered. Goodreads, she told me. Huh.This surprised me. I occasionally check out Goodreads for book suggestions, but I had no expectation that it could lead someone to find me or Breath of Wilderness. I spoke to the class about the writing process and my book, specifically, and answered many questions. Melanie and I talked afterwards and I encouraged her to keep writing and reading.


Later that afternoon, I met Grace Wenck. Grace is 11 and attends Bailey Elementary in Woodbury, Minnesota. I know Grace’s dad and he’d asked if I would sit down with Grace and talk about writing. Grace also wants to be a writer. She’s a voracious reader of mostly fiction, but some non-fiction if it’s written well, she disclosed. Grace told me that she has many ideas and starts lots of stories, but doesn’t usually finish them. Grace had prepared a list of questions for me and took notes as I answered. I was impressed with Grace’s enthusiasm and thoroughness and enjoyed hanging out with her.

I loved meeting these girls. I love their drive, their creativity, their dedication, their desire to learn more about writing, their wit and sense of humor and their smarts. I’m tempted to say what I love most about writing the book has been the connections I’ve made with kids. But, that isn’t exactly true. There are  many amazing and fulfilling aspects of writing the book and it’s hard to rank them, but this is definitely in the top five.

The best of luck to Grace and Melanie. I know they will do well. I, for one, am anxiously waiting to read their future masterpieces.

Promoting the book

I’ve been busy promoting Breath of Wilderness. The Village Bookstore in Grand Rapids held a signing right before Thanksgiving. If you haven’t shopped there, I recommend it. It’s a gem of an independent bookstore and the owner and staff are knowledgable and very kind.

This week my local library hosted two events — an open house and book signing at the library with me and Jeanne Cooney, the author of two mysteries set in northwestern Minnesota, and a program at Far North Spirits celebrating the end of prohibition. When we decided to hold the second event, I wondered how I could tie a children’s book about a nature loving writer and wilderness advocate to food-focused mysteries and the end of prohibition. Yet, I had the best time trying to do just that. I found out that in 1933 Sigurd testified for the first time at a public hearing (regarding the Little Shipstead-Newton-Nolan Act for state lands). Sig had much to say at that hearing and the audience responded warmly. He began to realize that he could share his enthusiasm and strong emotions for the outdoors with others and convince them to feel as he did. The day that prohibition was repealed (Dec 5, 1933) — 81 years ago today, Aldo Leopold offered Sig a job conducting surveys in marshes. Sig thought long and hard about that job. Leopold was his hero and the job would allow him to work outdoors, something he’d always wanted. Yet, he realized that it would not provide him the opportunity to connect with others, influencing them and creating fellow wilderness advocates. Thus, he turned down the job. It was a painful decision, but a smart move on his part. While I knew all along that Sigurd’s work had nothing to do with the end of prohibition, I learned that at the same time in history he was realizing his strengths and passions that would later change the world.