Tag: Ojibwe

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! 🙂

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!