THE OPEN BOOK

29
Apr

My First Organic Garden!

The sun is shining, it’s supposed to get up to 70 degrees, but you know the best part about today? I have a WHOLE DAY OFF! Naturally, my days off are filled with errands, chores, and homework. But today, I’m going to take a few hours and plant my garden!

I’ve loved being outdoors and gardening. Ever since I can remember, I’d be in the dirt helping my mom plant her giant vegetable and fruit patch. My parents grew a little bit of everything: grapes, strawberries, apples, peaches, pears, plums, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, gooseberries, mulberries, raspberries. My favorite job? Picking the ripe fruit. However, after my parents found out that I was eating more than I was putting in my basket, they made me a deal: fill the basket first, then I could eat whatever was left. DEAL!

Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE fresh produce. Fruits and veggies comprise about 70% of my diet, so being able to pick ripe produce off my own plants is beyond amazing. The taste and nutrition of homegrown food has no comparison, and that is why I’m SO excited for this year. For the past few years, I’ve been planting in pots because we lived in apartments. This year, we get to have a REAL garden for the first time! The plot is pretty small, but it is MINE and I am going to STUFF it with goodness.

I am a big believer in organic food, so I will not be employing pesticides or artificial fertilizers in my garden. Fortunately, there are a lot of really great gardening books and tips out there to help you avoid yucky poisons and get the best yield possible. You can check out my Pinterest page for some neat organic tricks to discourage pests from your garden.

One book I’m reading currently is Carrots Love Tomatoes. This book gives great advice about what to plant next to each other and what plants are natural pest deterrents. For example, if you want to discourage rabbits from eating your cabbage or lettuce, this book recommends interplanting onions and garlic between the rows of greens. Rabbits hate the strong smell–and so do a lot of bugs. Likewise, beets do well when planted next to onions and cabbage, but don’t like being next to strawberries or pole beans. It’s been fun finding out what plants are “friends” and what will help keep my garden (and us!) healthy and happy!

So, my soil is tilled and ready thanks to a few hours of work last week. Here’s what I’ll be planting today–all while wearing my big, floppy gardening hat, of course!

Julia’s First Organic Garden

  1. Russian Kale
  2. Swiss Chard
  3. Snap Peas
  4. Cucumbers
  5. Watermelon
  6. Strawberries
  7. Sunflowers
  8. Marigolds
  9. Popcorn
  10. Squash
  11. Lettuce
  12. Cabbage
  13. Onions
  14. Potatoes
  15. Sweet Potatoes
  16. Sweet Peppers
  17. Pumpkin
  18. Tomatoes
  19. Beets

The Herbs

Mint: I recommend growing this amazing herb in pots as it very quickly takes over! A container will keep it under control.

Basil: I LOVE fresh basil–I can’t get enough in the summer time! I use it on pizza, bruschetta, in basil lemonade–you name it!

Cilantro: This herb is fantastic for summer dishes. The citrus flavor goes well with almost any Mexican-inspired dish. The best part is after the herb goes to seed, you get coriander! Two herbs from one plant!

Sage: I always grow fresh sage. It is a great multipurpose herb to have around and is hardy enough to survive Minnesota. 

Lavender: In addition to its fragrance, lavender is wonderful in recipes. I use it for baked goods, ice cream, and lavender lemonade!

For more ideas on what to plant, check out this post from the Greenwordchef, one of my favorite blogs with great tips on organic gardening and inspired cooking.

Keep an eye out for recipes from my garden this summer! If you know of any helpful gardening tips or plants that are easy to grow, let me know. I’m always open to adding more veggies to my list. 😀

Happy Wednesday!

 

27
Apr

Power Monday Breakfast Pudding!

Photo courtesy of The Daily Burn

What a difference a week makes! Last Monday, we were in the low 30s and covered in snow. Yesterday, Shane and I took advantage of a beautiful sunny day and biked around Lake Bemidji. It was so great to actually spend time outdoors, and the nice weather almost tricked me into believing it was summer. The good news? I only have three more weeks to go this semester!

That means only THREE weeks until the start of my OFFICIAL BOOK TOUR!!!! If you haven’t seen my Events page lately, we are adding author events every week! My first book signing will be in Bemidji at Kat’s Book Nook on May 16th from 1-3pm. It will be an end of the school year celebration, as my last exam takes place on the 15th. If you are in the area on the 16th, stop by and say hello! I would love to see you and hear what you thought of Seven Stones, sign a copy, or tell you a bit about my book before you take it to a good home. 🙂

After Kat’s Book Nook, I have a great book tour schedule that keeps growing. If Bemidji is too far away for you, fear not! I’ll be making lots of stops around the Midwest. If you want me to stop in your area, let me know! I’d be thrilled to come to a book club, library, bookstore, or festival! Stay tuned and check out my Events page to see if I’ll be coming to your area in the next few months!

Okay, so that’s the good news. The bad news? I only have three more weeks to go this semester. Three weeks to get all of my final projects put together and study for my exams. In order to power through school, keep writing, working two jobs, cooking, and twisting into yoga poses, I need some serious energy. Enter, my secret weapon: Breakfast Chia Pudding.

Chia seeds are crazy awesome. One serving is packed with calcium, protein, and magnesium. Chia seeds can soak up to 10 times their weight in liquid, so they are ideal for making puddings without any other thickener required. If you like tapioca pudding, breakfast is perfect for you! This simple breakfast pudding recipe is one that I created specifically for exam weeks. It’s light and healthy, but packed with nutrition and taste. The chia seeds keep absorbing liquid in your stomach after you eat, so this is a breakfast that will leave you full and satisfied until lunch.

My simple recipe is coconut flavored, but feel free to mix it up! I’ve omitted the coconut extract and done chocolate (add 2 TBSP cocoa powder), Matcha (add 2 tsp Matcha), vanilla (add 1-2 tsp vanilla), and lemon (add 2 tsp of lemon juice) flavors. Experiment to find your favorite flavor! Just make this EASY recipe the night before to have delicious pudding for breakfast! Enjoy! 🙂

Julia’s Breakfast Pudding of POWER

1 can coconut milk (I use low fat, but full fat is great as well. Use your preference)

1-2 tsp coconut extract

1/3 cup chia seeds

2 TBSP pure maple syrup

Directions

Mix everything together with a whisk. Pour into a container, cover, and put in the refrigerator.

Go to sleep.

Wake up.

Top with shredded coconut, pepitas, almonds, fresh mango, strawberries, peaches, bananas, etc. DEVOUR! You are now ready to face your day head on!

SO EASY and SO DELICIOUS! Happy Monday, Everyone! 🙂

24
Apr

Friday Favorites!

On Monday night, a winter storm rolled in that dumped a few inches of snow on us all of Tuesday. Today, the snow has mostly melted and on Saturday, the high will be back up to 60 degrees. Who knows what will happen next week! After living in northern Minnesota for almost four years, nothing surprises me anymore (at least not weatherwise). That’s why I’ve been determined to bring spring onto my plate, even though it’s felt like winter for most of the week. I’ve been experimenting with a lot of spring inspired foods, in the hopes that Mother Nature will get the hint and turn up the heat. If nothing else, Shane and I have been happily munching on fresh treats and a few surprising dishes that may sound adventurous but are truly delicious.

In addition to the good food we’ve been making, there have been exciting updates to the world of books! So, without further adieu: FRIDAY FAVORITES!

 

Review Page!

Book 3

As an author, reviews are my best friends. I love them more than watermelon, chocolate, or tea. Yes, I love reviews THAT much. Why? Because reviews help spread Seven Stones to a bigger audience and makes people feel like buying an indie book by a new author isn’t such a big risk after all. Also, the more reviews an item has on a database like Amazon or Goodreads, the easier it is to find it in a Google search. So, by writing a review, you are making my book more visible. THE POWER IS YOURS!

As of this week, my fabulous web designer, Luke, created a Review Page right on my website. And as essential as professional reviews are for a novel, reader reviews are equally important. If you’ve read the book and post a review to Amazon, Goodreads, or LibraryThing, I’ll put your post on my website as well. You’ll be super famous! And I’ll love you forever. 🙂

 

Creamy Asparagus Noodles–With a Secret Ingredient!

It’s no secret that I love to experiment with tasty, healthy foods. Being creative in the kitchen and working with my hands inspires my writing, so that’s why you see so many recipes on my blog. Plus, I love eating.

The recipe I’m sharing became my favorite meal of the week because of it’s taste, ease of preparation, and nutrition. Now, I’m not usually one for cream based sauces–they leave me feeling weighed down and kind of gross–but when I saw the main ingredient in this dish, I was intrigued. What is this oh-so-secret base for the noodle sauce? Cauliflower. You heard me right: CAULIFLOWER.

At this point, you’re probably giving me the same look that Shane did when I announced my experiment of the week. But, since he’s a good sport and really willing to try anything at this point, he helped me throw it together for lunch on Thursday. The prep is super easy–the bulk of the work is just chopping up an onion, garlic, and a head of cauliflower. You boil the veggies until tender, then puree them with lemon juice until they die and go to velvety heaven.

If you are skeptical or questioning my sanity at this point, there are a few things you should know:

1) Until this year, I hated cauliflower. It was the one veggie I couldn’t stand to eat. Since experimenting with different methods of cooking it, however, I’ve realized I didn’t hate cauliflower. I just hadn’t discovered how I liked it prepared.

2) Shane, a true meat-eater at heart and not as big of an eating weirdo as I am, DEVOURED his bowl and said it was one of the best noodle dishes he’s ever had.

So, if you are feeling adventurous, here’s a fresh spring recipe from Detoxinista.com that will leave your tastebuds–and body–happy!

*Note: if you don’t have asparagus in your area, this recipe is just as good without*

Creamy Cauliflower Noodles with Fresh Asparagus

Ingredients: 

1 teaspoons coconut oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium head of cauliflower, chopped

Enough water to cover the cauliflower

1/3 cup milk

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 bunch asparagus, woody ends removed and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 pound shell noodles (or any other kinds of noodles, really. The sky’s the limit!)

crushed handful of oregano, basil, or Italian seasoning (optional)

Directions:

Prepare the pasta according to the package directions and set aside.

To prepare the creamy lemon sauce, melt 1 teaspoon of coconut oil in large pot over medium heat and sauté the onion and garlic until fragrant  and softened. Add in the cauliflower and enough water to cover, and bring it to a boil. Cover the pot with a lid and reduce the heat let simmer about 10 to 15 minutes.

Once the cauliflower is easily pierced with a fork, transfer the contents of the pot to a blender (including the liquid) and add in the milk, lemon juice, sea salt, and black pepper, and seasonings, to taste. Carefully blend the sauce until silky smooth.

In the same large pot, melt the other teaspoon of coconut oil over medium heat and sauté the onion for 5 minutes. Add in the asparagus, and continue sautéing until tender, about 8-10 more minutes. Add in the cooked pasta and pour the creamy cauliflower sauce into the pot, stirring well to combine. Season the pasta with additional salt and pepper, if needed, and serve warm!

 

Book of the Week: Princesses Behaving Badly

I’m not usually one for nonfiction unless it gives me a good story. This book hooked me from the very title, and has been delivering stories of intriguing, backstabbing, murderous, cunning, kind, brave, and adventurous women throughout history. Unlike the Disney version of princesses, these are real women who use their status to gain power, wage war, or shirk it to become pirates (which happens to a few!). It’s been a butt-kicking, action-packed read that I’ve been devouring all week. The stories are broken down into fascinating narrations and are bite-sized enough to keep you reading way past your bedtime.

Have an adventurous weekend! Happy Friday!

22
Apr

Seven Stones: A Multicultural Novel

Before we finish up talking about how Seven Stones came together, let’s do a quick overview of Monday: IT WAS AWESOME! After munching on an Earl Grey scone, I drove down to Brainerd and enjoyed a day full of food, friends, and book stuff! After lunch with a close friend for lunch at Christmas Point, I zipped over to meet with my publicist and did a really fun interview for a segment on “Community Corner” (and YES, I will be posting the interview online soon!).

Julia

Once the interview was over, I stopped by the Crow Wing Food Co-Op (home of the best sandwiches and wraps EVER), and had a coffee meeting with my publishers. One of the things we discussed was the second printing and just how many books we want to print. I’m not going to say anything until the numbers are finalized, but trust me: it’s something to get EXCITED about! 😀 We also got to talk about marketing & publicity and just getting our book “out there.” I shared a delicious wood-fired fig pizza at Boomer’s Pizza with another friend, and drove back to Bemidji. I was home around 9pm and went to bed like the old lady I am, exhausted but THRILLED with my day.

Wonderful things are on the horizon, people! Krista begins work on my Midwest book tour today, and my official author page is up on Blue Cottage Agency. Stay tuned for author events and book signings in your area. 🙂

Okay! Let’s wrap up our discussion on how Seven Stones came to be. When we left off last week, I had the Celtic background, the Ojibwe inspiration, and now I just needed to put the two together. To do so, I needed one last element: courage. As soon as I discovered such incredible parallels in culture, mythology, and history, I knew that Seven Stones couldn’t just be about Scotland anymore.

Long ago, a professor told me something that deeply affected how I write. She said that unless an author specifies otherwise, most people will assume a main character or narrator is white and skinny. Now, I’m not saying that is necessarily true for everyone, but I was disturbed to realize how true it was for me. Keilann Douglas was originally red-haired, thin, and white, but that is not what I wanted her to be. But I was scared.

You’re white, Julia, I kept reminding myself. You can’t write about other cultures. I was afraid of other people getting angry or offended. I was afraid of being judged, or getting something wrong. In the end, though, the story I wanted to tell was more important than me or my doubts. After all, if a white author is only allowed to write about white characters, should a white reader only read books about white characters? That is a slippery and dangerous slope, and also one that goes against what I believe writing and reading exist for: expanding your mind, bridging cultural gaps, and bringing people together.

Ultimately, that is why I wrote Seven Stones. It isn’t a book about white people or Native people; it’s a book about people, and the culture that defines and inspires them. Keilann is Ojibwe and Scottish–just like my novel. She is a real-sized girl with real life problems, and learns not only the power of her heritage but, more importantly, the power of her own voice.

Website Cover Art

So, armed with passion, dedication, and bricks of dark chocolate, I began writing Keilann’s story and haven’t stopped. I am now well on my way to completing the sequel, and am so grateful for the lessons I’ve learned on this writing journey. For all those of you who have joined me on this journey and have become a part of my story:

Miigwetch. Tapadh Leat. Thank you.

Seven Stones, Part I: A Celtic Novel

Seven Stones Part II: A Native American Novel

Happy Wednesday!

Any questions you still have about Seven Stones? Curious about me or my writing process? Want to know my favorite kind of chocolate? Ask away! 🙂

20
Apr

Earl Grey Scones with Lemon Icing

earl grey

This past weekend, Shane ran in his first 10K on Saturday in sunny 60 degree weather (and got 3rd place! Woohoo!), and I was out in my garden plot, tilling and prepping the soil for planting. Today, it is snowing. SNOWING. But that’s Minnesota for you.

But the snow isn’t going to bother me. Why? Because I am glowing! My publishers just told me that Seven Stones is going to a second print!!! That’s right, we’ve almost sold out of the first printing, so my publishers need to print more books!!! I feel like doing cartwheels–if I hadn’t thrown my back out ripping up soil. Instead, I’ll just do a mini-happy dance on my couch. YAY!

THANK YOU to everyone who has bought a copy of the novel, told their friends about it, or wrote a review. Word of mouth is HUGE and I just can’t thank you enough. If you’ve read the book, I’d LOVE to know what you think! You can post reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and LibraryThing. Or just send me a message! 🙂

In just a few minutes, I’ll be off to Brainerd for meetings with my publishers, publicist, and a TV interview! I’ll be sure to let you guys know how everything went in my Wednesday post, but until then I’d like to share a delicious spring recipe and my new obsession: Earl Grey Scones with Lemon Icing.

My favorite breakfast is a hot cup of tea and a warm, fluffy scone. One day, I wondered if I could combine my two loves into one delicious pastry. After much experimentation, I bring you Earl Grey scones! They are light, slightly sweet, and are topped with a tangy lemon icing that will melt in your mouth. As an added bonus, my recipe calls for coconut oil and whole wheat flour, so you can feel a little better about indulging in this spring inspired treat. Even if it is snowing outside, you can still have a little spring in your day with these sweet and tart scones!

Earl Grey Scones with Lemon Icing

2 cups white whole wheat flour (soft white spring wheat is what I use)

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

3 tsp loose leaf Earl Grey Tea, crushed (or the contents of 2-3 tea bags)

½ cup coconut oil (or Earth Balance)

½ cup milk (I found that either dairy or non-dairy work perfectly)

2 eggs (or vegan substitute)

1/3 cup Sucanat

2 tsp vanilla

Lemon Icing:

1 cup organic powdered sugar

3 TBSP milk

1-2 tsp lemon extract

*Note: I like mine tangy, so I used 2 tsp. Just keep adding a bit at a time and tasting until it is lemony enough for you!*

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and the Earl Grey tea leaves. Add the coconut oil or Earth Balance to the dry ingredients and mix in with a fork or pastry cutter until the dough is crumbly. *Note: I used my hands to squish it all together. It’s messy, but fun and effective!*

In a separate bowl, combine the milk, Sucanat, and vanilla. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir just until combined. The dough will be very sticky. Scoop the dough out onto a floured surface and pat it into a flat circle, about 2 inches thick. No need to knead. The less flour you incorporate into the sticky dough, the better as moist dough makes moist scones

Cut the circle with a floured knife into eight equal wedges (like a pie). Place wedges on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes, until scones have started to brown and firm up.

Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. Once cool, drizzle with lemon icing.

Pairing Suggestion: Enjoy with a cup of—what else?—Earl Grey tea

Happy Monday!

What is your favorite spring flavor?

17
Apr

Friday Favorites: National Library Week!

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Happy National Library Week!

It’s no secret that I love everything about libraries. To me, libraries represent the very best elements of democracy. They exist simply to better your life and the community. Librarians are not selling anything (except ideas, intellectual freedom, and individuality), and we genuinely want to help every patron that uses our resources. That’s it. There aren’t any strings attached. Looking for a book, movie, e-book, magazine, e-magazine, an obituary from 1901, your long lost family history, or even “that book with the green cover by that author”? Never fear, citizen! SUPER LIBRARIAN IS HERE!

super2

I have had a life-long love affair with libraries. As a kid, I remember getting my library card and the moment I realized that I could read any book I wanted. That the stacks and stacks of books I could see were all for me. I began devouring books like chocolate, and I’ve never looked back.

Me, in the library

 

To me, libraries have always been places of discovery, amazement, and–most of all–fun. That’s why I am studying to become is a Youth Services Librarian. I hope to be the person coordinating youth-directed programs (including storytime, summer reading program, teen council, book clubs, game nights, and literacy programs) and managing the Children’s and/or Young Adult collections. I want to provide a fun, safe environment for kids to love learning, reading, and curiosity. Libraries are my passion, and I want to share that with everyone who comes through the doors.

So this National Library Week, why not thank your local librarian? You can show your support by giving us chocolates, coffee, or–better yet–a reliable source of funding! If you love libraries, think about contacting your local city council or county commissioner and tell them you want more support for public libraries.

Library Inspired Recipe: Fig & Pepper Bread

This weekend, I’m going to be trying a recipe for Fig and Pepper Bread. This rustic bread was featured in First Frost (which I LOVED by the way), a book I checked out from my local public library! Fig and Pepper bread sounded so intriguing and the descriptions so delicious that I found myself wanting to jump into the pages and devour it all. Luckily, Sarah Addison Allen included a recipe in the back of the novel!

Book of the Week

While I munch my fig & pepper bread, I’ll be reading The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter. The story follows the life of Matt Prior who is on the verge of losing is wife, house, and entire life–until something comes along and changes how he lives his life forever. This is not the kind of book I usually grab for myself, but I had a recommendation from a friend whose literary taste I trust completely. I’ve only just begun reading and I am so glad I ventured out of my normal reading habits. The writing is out of this world, the story compelling, and the comedy will leave you laughing out loud. Brought to you, as always, by my local library.

Suggested Pairing:

A slab of fig & pepper bread smeared with cream cheese, an iced coffee, and a comfy lawn chair

Happy Friday!

How often do you visit your local library?

15
Apr

SEVEN STONES, Part II: A Native American Novel

So, there I was with a rough idea for a story. My main character–a red-haired, green-eyed teenager who just moved to Scotland–would be plagued by haunting dreams that tied into Celtic lore and mythology. At the same time, Shane and I were transitioning from our hometown in Southeastern Wisconsin to rural central Minnesota. Our new home was eight hours north and worlds away from the culture I grew up in. It was a time of great discovery. I’d never heard of lutefisk, krumkake, or lefse, and I couldn’t understand the local obsession with mini-donuts (they are EVERYWHERE up here). At first, I felt like a cheesehead who’d wandered too far out of Lambeau. But it was in the heart of the Northwoods that I was first introduced to Ojibwe (Anishinaabe) culture.

I knew about Native American culture, of course. Or, really, what stereotypes movies and the media had portrayed as Native American culture. I’d always been interested in learning more about the different tribes and their histories, and I figured the move was a perfect opportunity. I checked out as many local cultural events I could, visited the Indian museums around the area, and asked questions to anyone who’d listen. The more I learned, the more my fascination grew. Slowly, I began to realize that I loved this beautiful, marginalized culture because it reflected my own Celtic heritage. The parallels I saw intrigued me.

Someone should write a book about this, I kept thinking. Then, one day: I’ll write a book about this.

Perhaps you’ve heard the writing tip, “write about what you know.” Instead of that old adage, I’ll offer you a new one that affected how I write forever: “Write about what you think other people should know.”

Here are just a few of elements of Ojibwe culture I highlight in Seven Stones.

Dreams & Religion

Just like in Celtic lore, dreams have special meaning and purpose in Ojibwe mythology. In Ojibwe culture, dreams are a means of communication with the spirit world. Dreams can bring messages, connect with Gitchi-Manidou, and help children transition into adults through vision quests. A traditional vision quest includes a sweat lodge ceremony in which spiritual purification and fasting would weaken a person’s connection with the physical world enough to allow them to experience a vision. In this vision, the person would meet his/her spirit guide. Each vision is different, but the purpose of a vision quest is to discover who you truly are and the direction your life should follow.

If the idea of a vision quest piques your interest, you are in luck! That might just be one of the main story elements I’m exploring in the sequel to Seven Stones.  🙂

Of course, it’s almost impossible to talk about dreams without dreamcatchers. Dreamcatchers have become a common symbol in American society, but mainstream perception is somewhat skewed from the truth. The beaded, feathered dreamcatchers that you see everywhere are actually modeled after a baby’s dreamcatcher in Ojibwe society. In addition to protecting children from bad spirits and dreams, the feathers and bright beads were meant as decoration (kind of like an infant mobile). A child’s decorative dreamcatcher was made from willow which warped and bent over time. It was meant to be temporary, to teach the lesson that all things–even life–is fleeting. An adult dreamcatcher has little to no decorative beading or feathers, and has at least seven points to represent the Seven Grandfathers. It is made on a sturdy hoop and meant to last, unlike a childhood dreamcatcher. The hoop itself represents the circular path of life, and the unending renewal of the spirit. The web, the intricate pattern woven inside the hoop, represents how all life is interconnected.

Ojibwe Society & History

Traditional Ojibwe society was ruled by a clan system that existed to provide leadership and basic needs for the People. The seven original clans were named after different animals, and the clan members were said to inherit traits associated with that clan (for example, the Nooke (Bear) clan is responsible for defense and healing). The clans worked together in order to keep peace, maintain order, help each other prosper. Marriage within clans didn’t happen often because the clan was seen as a family. When two people from different clans married, the man would move in with the woman’s family and become a member of her clan.

History of the Ojibwe people is, as you probably can guess, not a happy story. Before European settlers arrived, the Ojibwe were self-sufficient and lived in complete harmony with their surroundings. After Europeans began settling, growing, stealing land, breaking treaties, introducing new diseases, and violence, life was never the same. Ojibwe were forced off of their traditional homes, forbidden from practicing their religion, wearing traditional dress, or speaking their language. Between disease and genocide, only a fragment of the original people existed a few hundred years after settlers arrived.

Though it has been slow and painful, a cultural renaissance has begun to take hold among the People. There has been a new resurgence of the Ojibwe language and traditions. Because of government bans and the horrible effects of Indian boarding schools, there are hardly any native speakers left. Due to the hard work of a small but dedicated number of people (including the amazing Anton Treuer), the Ojibwe language has been gaining speakers and recognition. Here in Bemidji, many public signs are written in both Ojibwe and English. There’s still a long road, but work is being done to remedy the injustice and wrongs suffered by Ojibwe at the hands of European society.

For more information on Ojibwe History, Culture, and Language check out the links below:

Minnesota Historical Society

Clan System

Language

Dreamcatchers

So, I had my Celtic book and white characters all but set. But the more I found myself reading and learning about Ojibwe culture, the more I yearned to include it in my book. But how?

Find out the epic conclusion in next week’s post!

Happy Wednesday!

13
Apr

When Life Gives You Lemons: Write About It!

After this class is over, I want a t-shirt that says, “I Survived E-Publishing & Web Design L&I SCI 685.” The lettering would be all in gold glitter–possibly diamonds–because after this weekend, I deserve at least some glitter. Remember back on Friday how in my ignorant bliss I rambled on about my great writing groove and how much I’ve been writing? Enter, my web design project. I had planned to work on it Friday and Saturday night, and have it completed by the end of the weekend. Such innocence.

Long story short, I worked on the project for four hours on Friday only to discover that I hadn’t saved it in the correct format. Oh yes, there were tears.

It’s okay, I told myself. You’ve got all day Saturday. You can fix this.

I woke up extra early on Saturday to begin work. Two hours later, after managing to tweak the web layout with some simple code, I got a little cocky. I figured I was ready to make some big changes. And totally screwed the entire layout up, and I mean BAD. Everything went wonky because I deleted a few lines of code and couldn’t undo the damage.

As you can imagine, I reacted the way any 26-year-old professional writer and graduate school student would react: I threw a temper tantrum. Tears, yelling, throwing things across the room, I did it all.

When I finally calmed down, I realized I was overtired and did the only thing you can do after a temper tantrum. I took a nap. Yup, just like a five-year -old.

I’d forgotten just how magical naps are. When I awoke, my friend texted me and asked if I wanted to go HORSEBACK RIDING. I immediately turned from a five-year-old in to a twelve-year-old girl and squealed. After riding horses, we grilled outside because it was a gorgeous 60 degrees (I had no idea, being trapped in my cave of despair all morning), and ended up at the Roller Derby after dinner. Have you been to one? Imagine Xena in roller skates. It was crazy awesome, and I instantly wanted to be a Derby Girl–until my husband reminded me that I have a bleeding disorder.

*Sigh* Oh well, I’d just have to kick my assignment’s butt instead. Sunday, I did just that. I am proud to say that I made actual progress during the five hours I worked, and even got to play outside a bit and watch an old Donna Reed movie with Shane.

But why am I telling you all this? What does this have to do with writing? Nothing. I did absolutely no writing over the weekend. I hardly did any reading. I always hear people saying that writers write every day. If you are a writer and feel inadequate because you can’t commit that time, I am here to tell you that you are not alone. There used to be whole weeks where I didn’t get a chance to sit down with my thoughts. Months. It physically pained me not to write, but what was worse was the guilt: How can I be a writer if I don’t write?

Life happens. Sometimes you end up riding horses or screaming your head off at a roller derby. I wouldn’t have skipped out on those things for anything. In the long run, actually going out and experiencing life helps make me a better writer than staying cooped up in my cave and thinking about what they would be like. I planned on spending all of Sunday morning working on the sequel to Seven Stones, but I have a serious project due this week. So, what is a writer to do? Write a blog post about it! This is the first chance I’ve gotten to write for two days, so I figured I’d make the most of it. In my writing, I’ve learned that ALL experiences–good, bad, and ugly–can be used to your advantage.

Which brings me to my writing tip of the day. I’ve been reading Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer. I’m not the biggest fan of non-fiction, so a writing guide has to be good to keep me turning pages. I’m happy to say that Writing Tools is full of inspirational tidbits and excellent workshop exercises to help get writers doing what we love best: writing! Here’s the tip that really hits home for me: Discount Nothing.

“Some days you will write many poor words. Other days you’ll write a few good words. The poor words may be a necessary path to the good words.”

As someone whose rewritten her current manuscript three times, I know that this is true. Words, whether they are gems or stinkers, are still words. Some days, you get to write them down. Other days, you just write them in your head. No matter what life throws at you, you are still a writer.

Here’s to a New Week of Writing! Happy Monday!

Ever have a story you wish you could write? What’s stopping you?

10
Apr

Friday Favorites!

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This whole week has been spent in a blissful egg salad food coma, I’m happy to say. I made not one, but TWO gigantic batches and happily munched my avocado egg salad sandwiches every day. Seriously, if you haven’t tried to recipe yet, you need to! But after reading this post, of course, because it’s FRIDAY FAVORITES everybody! Woohoo! 🙂

I’m feeling pretty great about life these days. In the past five days, I’ve managed to check off quite a few things from my chore list, worked on promotional stuff for the book tour, did yoga every day, read for pleasure, and got my homework done/started (because in grad school when one project ends, another begins). Best of all: I got into a fantastic writing groove! The words have been pouring onto the page almost faster than I can keep up with my pen. For whatever reason, spring always  seems to be my most productive time of year. Maybe it’s the return of warm weather, the promise of gardening and playing outside, and the fact that the school semester will be wrapping up in just about a month. I finished both of my previous manuscripts in April or May; though I don’t think I’m writing quite that quickly, I hope to get the biggest parts written before my birthday on May 27th. Wish me luck!

Now, onto the Favorites! The things that inspired me, picked me up, and kept me going all week:

Matcha

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For the tea lovers of the world, there aren’t many treats that compare to Matcha. It has long been one of my favorite beverages, but I also love putting Matcha in cookies, ice cream, and smoothies. Matcha is a powder made of finely ground premium green tea leaves, and has been the focal point of the Japanese tea ceremony for centuries. It has a delicate, creamy, slightly sweet flavor and nutritional value that is off the charts!

I love sipping Matcha any time of day, though if you are sensitive to caffeine don’t drink right before bed (a cup of green tea has about 1/4 of the caffeine of a cup of coffee). For a morning treat, I’ve been mixing two teaspoons of Matcha powder and a dash of vanilla into 8 oz. of heated coconut milk. Trust me, Starbucks green tea lattes have nothing on the homemade version. 🙂

Scorpion

I did it!

I did it!

As I may have mentioned before, I am addicted to arm balances and twisty yoga poses. Since I started practicing yoga over three years ago, there has been one pose I’ve been trying to master: Scorpion Pose. It requires strength, balance, flexibility, and a fair amount of fearlessness. Why? Because you have to kick up into forearm stand and then curl your legs over and try to touch your head. It’s the kind of pose that made me want to start practicing yoga: because of the challenge. Wednesday night marked the very first time I was able to go into Scorpion without using the wall for support. It just happened. I thought, “I’m going to try this,” kicked up into forearm stand, didn’t fall on my head, and arched my back, still without falling on my head! Accomplishing poses like this one make me feel like I can rise to any challenge!

Book of the Week: First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

I’ve been waiting for this book to be released for MONTHS and it finally came to the library this week. Sarah Addison Allen is one of my all-time favorite authors. I’ve read every book she’s written, and am so excited to read her newest adventure. All of her novels are beautifully written, lyrical stories about identity with love and magic woven into each tale. First Frost returns to the world of her first novel, Garden Spells, and continues the story of the magical Waverly family in the small town of Bascom, North Carolina. Ten years later, the Waverly sisters’ world is rocked when faced with a secret that could change the meaning of their lives forever. I’m half-way through already, and here is my favorite quote so far:

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“It had taken her a long time to realize that a prison sometimes isn’t a prison at all. Sometimes, it’s simply a door you assume is locked because you’ve never tried to open it.”

Grab a green tea latte and enjoy! That’s my plan for the weekend. What are you reading?

Happy Friday!

08
Apr

SEVEN STONES, Part 1: A Celtic Novel

The most frequent question I get asked about writing Seven Stones is where the heck I got the idea to combine Celtic and Ojibwe culture. The idea really seems to intrigue people (YAY! That was the hope!) because most wouldn’t have thought those two cultures have anything in common. Since it is such a fascinating topic to me (and hopefully my readers 😉 ), I decided to write a three-part post about the different elements of the writing process and how they all came together to form Seven Stones.

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Part One is going to focus on the Celtic aspects of the novel, Part Two will explore the Ojibwe elements, and Part Three will be about how I wove them together into a cohesive story. It was a fun, interesting, and ultimately organic process that lead to so many wonderful realizations, opportunities, and relationships. To get to the heart of Seven Stones, all I had to do was scratch the surface to see how these seemingly different cultures had so much in common. That is the goal of this whole endeavor, the reason why I wrote my novel: to show how when you just take the time to look, culture can bring us together instead of divide.

So! Without further adieu: grab a cup of coffee, maybe a lemon blueberry muffin, and read on!

Seven Stones, Part 1: A Celtic Novel

stone circle

Scotland has been a lifelong love of mine. Since I can remember, the craggy, heather-covered hills, windblown moors, and deep, mysterious lochs have held me in thrall. Everything about the land is seeped in mystery, drama, and a little bit of magic. When I set out to write a novel, I knew I wanted to capture that in words.

My fascination with Scotland and all things Celtic is in my blood. I am a descendant of Robert the Bruce (that guy from Braveheart? Well, not exactly historically accurate, but that’s my great-great-great-great-great x100 uncle) on my father’s side, something my family is very proud of. As a child, Scotland was always a wild, fairy tale land filled with castles, warriors, and the Fey. When I grew older, I devoured books on Scottish history and taught myself a decent amount of the Gaelic.

Robert the Bruce

Robert the Bruce

The history of Scotland is a proud one, but I wouldn’t exactly call it happy. Until recently (about 200 years, give or take), the Scottish people have fought constant power struggles with their neighbors, the English (or Sassenach, in the Gaelic). Ancient Scots were ruled by a clan (clann means “children” in the Gaelic) system. Each family was headed by a laird who provided land and protection in return for loyalty and service in times of war. During a time of English oppression, the Scots clan system was dismantled and Highlanders were forced off of their traditional homes, displacing hundreds of thousands of families. Speaking the native Gaelic language was outlawed and as a result, Scottish Gaelic almost died out completely.

I knew I wanted to incorporate some of that turbulent struggle into the story (and future stories!), and after researching Ojibwe history, I began to see the first parallels…but more on that next week. 🙂

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The bloody history of Scotland was inevitably intertwined with its mythology and religion. I was most interested in the Pre-Christian mythology, and was drawn to those ancient stone circles that dot the island. No one really knows how they got there or why they were built, but legends of their power have existed for centuries. Pre-Christian Scottish religion was deeply rooted in nature, so the stone circles are thought to have had a ritualistic or ceremonial purpose.

In Celtic mythology, dreams were sources of power, could provide glimpses of the future, and were closely connected to the spirit world. As stone circles were often known as portals to the Otherworld, dreams naturally played a big part in the legends surrounding the mystic power of the circles.

As a writer, that combination of mystery and drama is like chocolate to me–irresistible! So there I was with the beginnings of Seven Stones in Celtic lore and history. How did I decide to mix Ojibwe culture into the story? What kind of research did it take? Most importantly, how much chocolate did I eat during the writing process? The answer may shock you.

Find out in the next exciting installment of Seven Stones Part 2: An Ojibwe Novel coming soon to a blog near you! 🙂

If you want to learn more about Scottish history and lore, these websites were good starting places in my research:

Scottish History

Stone Circles

Happy Wednesday!