South Dakota Festival of Books
I just got back from a long weekend in Brookings and Sioux Falls, SD, where I spoke at the South Dakota Festival of Books. I gave my popular workshop, “Exploring Your Publishing Options,” to a dozen very attentive (thank you!) participants and received some nice reviews from a few of them. I also appeared on a panel with two very talented and hard-working writers.
We discussed our difficult or tough or resilient protagonists, as we all write fiction about women facing challenges (like Clotild, the rebel nun of The Rebel Nun, available at Amazon here.). Sarah Stonich is one very funny writer from Minnesota, published by the University of Minnesota Press, (on the left in the photo to the right) and Christina Abt (middle), a self-published author from Buffalo, NY.
The festival was exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. I made a lot of new writer friends, and I hope to go again next year when it will be back on the other side of the state in Deadwood.
Good news from Washington
I just received the news that I have been accepted for a month-long residency at the Vashon Island Arts Residency in Puget Sound, starting at the end of April. This is a residency I’ve been coveting for a long time, and I’m so thrilled to get the chance to spend a month on the water on one of the most beautiful islands in the Sound.
The quiet environments of artists retreats are perfect for writing, especially first drafts. In 2020, I wrote most of The Candlemaker’s Woman during a solitary week on Vashon Island in a cabin in the woods after not being accepted that year for a residency by the arts council. And in 2021, during a month-long residency at the Dorland Mountain Arts Colony near Temecula, CA, I wrote the entire first draft of What I’d Do to Save Her, a contemporary novel set in Nebraska.
I have outlined the project I intend to finish this coming year on Vashon and will be working on it until I go. It is a two-time-period story about an assistant professor who is studying feminist thought in the Middle Ages, and finds herself, unexpectedly and episodically (are they dreams or is it real?), in the midst of the sixth century in Gaul, witnessing the ill-fated betrothals of three cousins of the Merovingian dynasty — all daughters of the famous “Dark Queens,” Brunhilde and Fredegund.
The story came out of my research into that fascinating but obscure time in European history. The first novel that came out of this research was The Rebel Nun, which many of you have read (thank you!), and the second is (was?) The Candlemaker’s Woman, a story of a young Germanic girl sold into slavery during the diaspora of the fifth century. (I think it’s timely, given the major refugee movements of our time.)
I’m looking forward to the time and space to concentrate on nothing but my new project. There is nothing like an island in the middle of the sea to give you focus!
50th High School Reunion
It doesn't seem possible, since I'm not even 50 years old yet, that Ben and I attended my 50th high school reunion in Story City, IA, this summer. I've heard horror stories about such events, but this one was wonderful. We had more fun than pig in a puddle. We stayed with my friend Diane Larson, whom I've known since kindergarten; played in a golf tournament at the venerable Riverbend Gold Course; and went on a hike in the Skunk River Greenbelt. We also ate and drank a lot.
Here (below) is a shot of Diane and Ben at the reunion dinner. They have no choice but to get along.
As the holidays approach, the Colorado Authors League arranged for a booth for its members at the Christmas bazaars in both Colorado Springs and Denver. Although the timing could be better (see Move below), I’m grateful for the opportunity to put some books out there for gift-givers. The Springs sale is November 4-6 at the CS Events Center, 3960 Palmer Park Blvd., and the Denver show is at the Convention Center, November 11-13. On sale will be the books of 40 different authors, representing a wide range of genre fiction, literary fiction, poetry and nonfiction, most priced at discounts for holiday giving.
I’ll be at the authors league booths on the 5th and 6th, and the 11th and 12th. Come by, say hi, and see what Colorado authors are producing.
Yes, finally it appears that we will be moving into our new house, after waiting a year, six months longer than promised. If the gang that couldn’t shoot straight finally quits making major boo-boos and successfully completes the final touches (no guarantees), we should be closing on Oct. 27 and moving over the next few days.
Of course, we are buying a house at precisely the wrong time, as usual, as house values are expected to decline as much as 10% over the next couple of years. I’ve never bought or sold a house at the right time, it seems, and this will be my 11th purchase. But it was the right time for us to get out of hot, hot, hot Palm Springs, CA, and into cool and calm Colorado Springs. So we’ll take the hit and chalk it up to experience. (How much experience does one need?)
At least the move to Colorado Springs was timed right for great weather and wonderful hiking. I’ve been out for about 25 miles a week since the first of June, although it’s not a mileage contest. Ben has been joining me on Mondays since he cut back to working four mornings a week instead of five. Trails at Red Rock Canyon and Stratton open spaces, Cheyenne Mountain State Park, Garden of the Gods (the outer trails), and North Cheyenne Canyon are favorites, as well as a few trails on the west side of Pikes Peak, like the Crags. All very close, none very crowded. The photo above is of Garden of the Gods, taken from Red Rock Canyon.
I spent a long weekend in lovely Salida, CO, with my friend Janet, helping her with her booth at the
fiber festival. I took time off from the booth to go on a hike on Tenderfoot Hill (left, a view of Salida from the top) with a friend and her dog. We stayed in a house owned by another friend of Janet's, and explored the town's Mexican restaurants and pizza joints. I returned a few pounds heavier.
A new studio When we got back, I rented a small studio (right) for my own sewing hobby in a creative resale store within walking distance called Who Gives A Scrap. I don’t have to worry about picking up my messes at the end of the day. I can just close the door and walk away, and pick up where I left off the next time I go. It’s amazingly inexpensive and quiet. I may even start doing some writing there.
And, as always, agent wanted!
Meanwhile, I’m still looking for agents and publishers for The Candlemaker’s Woman and What I’d Do to Save Her. If any of you, my friends, know an agent looking for a few new novels from a new client, let me know. I’m eager to get these books out in the world.