Sunday, October 7, 2007

Brainerd Writers Workship & Program

This past Saturday, October 6th, I traveled to Brainerd to attend the Brainerd Writers Alliance (BWA) Workshop and Contest Awards Program. Held at Central Lakes College, the morning session offered a panel discussion with Corinne Dwyer, from the North Star Press in St. Cloud, Seal Dwyer, from Sun Ray Printing, Dee George, a freelance writer & editor, and Donna Evans, with Echo Publishing in Pequot Lakes. Gary Midge, with BWA, hosted the question and answer session. The four panelists had a wealth of information regarding the local/regional publishing and writing industry, and provided many helpful tips for the attendees.

Following lunch, the program turned to the winners of the annual contest. First, second, and honorable mentions were invited to read their works in front of the group. It was quite a thrill for me to read, "One More Chance", the First Place winner in the Short Fiction category. The story is taken from a revised version of the first chapter of the new book I'm writing. As a "lonely writer, working at home," it's easy to question which projects are worth pursuing, and having the diligence to keep at it when the doubts and discouragement creep in. Let me tell you, having this story win first place in the BWA contest is truly an affirmation from God to "keep at it!" There were many wonderfully written pieces read in the afternoon, and it was a fun chance to put faces to the names I see so often on the email notices.

A big thanks to the BWA writers for hosting a great workshop & program!

Meeting a Mentor

It's funny sometimes how life comes together. In 2000 when I decided to take a bold step of faith into the world of freelance writing, I really didn't have a clue where to start. As I thought more about it and pondered my direction, I was drawn to the comfort and safety of my hometown, Wadena. My sisters had shown me a small periodical called LakesAlive, which featured stories and articles in and around the Detroit Lakes/Wadena areas. Dee George, who was editor at the time, responded to my very first query letter, and even more importantly, agreed to have me write an article about my sister and brother-in-law's gardens. The article, "Discover wine & waterfalls at Wadena's Lee Gardens," was published--I must say--after a fair amount of editing from Dee. More importantly though, Dee took the time to mentor me, to show me what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong.

Following that first article, Dee continued to guide me and published several subsequent articles. One was a feature article about the annual White Earth Pow Wow north of Detroit Lakes, a simple trip that for me turned into something much deeper. See, for the past three years I'd been denying a Voice telling me to write a book about a Native American man. The man had an incredible life story, but I didn't have any connection to him. And so with all of my great logic and justification I continued to deny the Voice...until the White Earth story came out.

The simple act of Dee's acceptance triggered something deep and powerful within myself, something called confidence. Any of you who have followed my writing journey know the man was Paul LaRoche, a complete stranger until I found the courage to contact him. The book, of course, took several years to complete, but since it was released in 2006 so many incredibly wonderful things have happened that I'm amazed each time I look back. And to realize all of that started with a little bit of encouragement from an editor in a tiny town in north central Minnesota, someone who took the time to give me a chance.

This past Saturday I had the chance to finally meet Dee George in person. We both happened to attend a workshop sponsored by the Brainerd Writers Alliance. Dee is now a full-time freelancer, busy querying and writing articles for numerous magazines and newspapers. It was fun to reminisce with her and I thanked her for her gracious spirit. She shared how someone had done the same thing for her when she first started writing, and so it goes forward, from one person to the next. Right now though, I simply want to extend my gratitude and appreciation to Dee.


Thursday, August 30, 2007

Northwoods Arts Festival, Hackensack, MN

On Saturday, August 25th, I participated in the Northwoods Arts Festival, way up north in Hackensack, Minnesota. It was a picture-perfect day in the north woods, with a steady stream of people coming through the festival all day. Most of the "book arts" were located in the community building, which gave us the chance to mingle and visit with one another. Gillette, from Borealis Books in Wadena, had a nice book table and invited authors to take part in the Wadena Writers Week in November. Several writers groups were also represented and it was fun to meet people in person that I've only known through email-newsletters. It's always interesting to see the variety of topics that people have written about and the avenue they chose for publication.

Once again many people were drawn to pick up a copy of Hidden Heritage and read the back cover. I enjoyed the chance to share the story over and over. Most were unaware of Paul's reputation as a Native American recording artist, but there were several who already knew of Brule' and their wonderful music.

I had some visitors in the afternoon. My sisters--Sharon Veden, Doris Veden, and Norma Lee--from the Wadena area, came by in the afternoon to stroll and shop. And a high school friend, Marsha Karam, came by with her daughter, Gabriella, which made the day that much more fun!

All in all it was a good day and I hope to go back next year!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Concert for Reconciliation of the Cultures

WOW! is the first thought that comes to mind after the powerfully moving Brule'/AIRO concert at Mount Rushmore. Brule'/AIRO and their dancers performed a two-hour concert both Friday and Saturday evenings, July 13 & 14, 2007 in the outdoor amphitheater at Mount Rushmore National Monument. Fortunately, John and I were able to be in the audience both nights. The concerts were so much more than "music on stage"...Paul has a gift for taking his music and embedding it into the hearts of the people listening.

The evenings started with an introduction to the dancers and what each dance represents. Gerard Baker, the first Native American park superintendent at Mount Rushmore, gave a little background about some of the history of the Black Hills, called Paha Sapa by the Lakota, and then introduced the band. Paul chose a variety of songs from several of their CDs, and often shared how he chose the title or what prompted the meaning in each particular song. The amphitheatre is designed to hold 3,000 people, but park staff estimated the crowds at 4,500 the first night, and well over 5,000 the second night. People found a place to watch anywhere possible--even the hillside was completely full.

As many of you know, this concert was especially meaningful to Paul. Not only was it his lifelong dream to perform a full-stage concert at Mount Rushmore, it remains today the epicenter of volatile relations between mainstream America and Native America. "The idea of a Native American gesture of healing and reconciliation seemed much more powerful and meaningful at Mount Rushmore," Paul states. "I have a unique background as a product of two worlds, and it remains by role to serve as a bridge between two cultures in the hopes of healing and reconciliation."

With the high energy and up-tempo rhythm of several songs, Paul and the band received standing ovations several times both nights. As he always does, Paul shared his story between songs, and this time it seemed to come through even stronger. Many in the audience were in tears, moved by his simple message of healing, brought through his unique life experiences. Paul always references the "welcome home" their family received from Fritz and Cheryll to come back to the reservation, Thanksgiving 1993, so it was great to see Fritz and Cheryll in the audience Saturday evening.

It was fun to watch Paul enjoying the realization of his dream and the wonderful reaction from the audience. As the concert progressed, the sun slowly set behind the stage, creating a beautiful background. The faces of the four presidents were lit at dark, adding to the breathtaking evening. "Star People" was the grand finale, a fast-paced, uptempo song that had the audience on their feet from beginning to end.

The concerts were filmed both nights with the purpose of being shown on South Dakota PBS for an upcoming fundraiser. This in turn could lead to other affiliates choosing to the run the concert and bring nationwide exposure to Brule'/AIRO. Let the journey continue!

Any time you have a chance to see a Brule'/AIRO concert in person, it is well worth the drive. As one couple stated, "we drove 1,300 miles round trip by car but probably would have walked if we had to", which gives you an idea of the impact of a Brule'/AIRO performance. I met many wonderful people both nights and had a chance to visit one-on-one with several. To me, that made the trip all the more special on a personal level.



Monday, July 9, 2007

Gatherings & Gifts, St. Charles, MN

On Saturday, 07-07-07, store owner Laura Kirby welcomed me to her charming gift shop, Gatherings & Gifts, for a book signing in downtown St. Charles, MN. The area is well known for drawing tourists who come to see the rolling topography of Southeastern Minnesota, a quaint, picturesque community not far from Lanesboro and Rochester.

A delightful store, Gatherings & Gifts is filled top to bottom with interesting and unique boutique-type items. Laura was a gracious hostess and introduced me to her family and several friends who stopped by to say hello and pick up a book or CD. Gatherings & Gifts turned out to be a perfect fit for playing Brule'/AIRO music. Laura, a music major in college, has a piano right in her store and invites local musicians such as friend Rose and her twin sisters who are known as The Bandanas, to perform on Friday evenings. She also hosts local fundraisers and other fun "gatherings" in her store. It was easy to see that Gatherings & Gifts is a integral spot in downtown St. Charles.

Laura apologized for the unusually low volume of foot traffic on Saturday, but we chalked it up to either the extreme heat (97 & humid!) or the July 4th holiday weekend. Either way, Laura and I thought we might try another signing in the fall. My chauffeur, otherwise known as hubby John, and I thoroughly enjoyed our day. A special thanks to Laura for offering us a chance to visit her store.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Mendota Dakota Community Center

On Wednesday, May 23rd, I was invited to speak at the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community, in tiny, little Mendota, MN. It was a warm, muggy evening, but those in attendance grabbed a cold bottle of water and settled in. After my presentation we shared a few refreshments and mingled. I was surprised to find out that a couple of the people knew Paul and his family. In fact, Bill White, who takes Dakota language classes at the center, knows Linda Thompson quite well. Linda is Paul's cousin from Lower Brule. I stayed with her "on the bend" a couple years ago when I was still doing research for "Hidden Heritage."

Tiffany Eggenberg, the gal who invited me to their meeting, introduced me to several Mendota community members. The Mendota Mdewakanton are one of the few tribes not recognized by the federal government. Even so, they are working hard to honor of their heritage. They have a brand new sweatlodge in the backyard, and are planting several varities of prairie grasses. After listening to some of their family histories, it was apparent they too have some stories worth sharing.

It was a wonderful evening and I want to send a big "thank you" to Tiffany for inviting me! Next I'm going to try something new...a book table at the Eagan Panera, Thursday & Friday, June 14th & 15th, as part of Panera's "Author on the Rise" program.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Presidio Schools - Tucson, AZ

On Monday, April 30th, I spent the day at Presidio Schools in Tucson with the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th grade social studies classes. Miss Majchrzak, otherwise known as my stepdaughter Summer, invited me to speak to each of her classes about "Hidden Heritage" since they had been studying Native American history this year.

It was a real joy to spend the day with Summer's students. The kids were very interested in the story and had lots of good questions already prepared. During each class I spoke for about 15 minutes and then answered questions for another 15 minutes. I then handed out a word search using words from "Hidden Heritage," which seemed to be a hit. I also brought a few books, CDs, and photocards to share. One of the first things the students noticed was my last name on the front cover... "Marshak" vs. "Majchrzak"...technically I had the same name as their teacer but with a different spelling. They all agreed it made sense to get rid of those extra letters!

Presidio is so different than the schools in Minnesota, with much of their campus open to the outdoors. Can you imagine that around here in January? Not! Anyway, it was a great day and I was honored to be a guest at Presidio Schools.

Our real reason for being in Tucson was not my speaking engagement, however, the real purpose was Summer's wedding! On Saturday, May 5th, Summer Majchrzak and Grant McCall exchanged wedding vows at the historic Stillwell House in downtown Tucson. Our entire family, extended family, and friends were all there to witness the beautiful ceremony and celebrate with them. I hope to have pictures posted soon!

While we were gone from Minnesota, there was an explosion of GREEN around home...grass, trees, shrubs...everything burst forth with a greenness. The bold color stood out especially after seeing the brown desert terrain around Tucson. Each is beautiful, yet a complete contrast.

"Best wishes and many blessings" for a long and happy marriage to our newlyweds, Grant and Summer McCall!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Prior Lake-Savage Native American Family Meeting

On Thursday evening, April 12, I was invited to speak at the Family Meeting of Native American students at the Prior Lake-Savage School District. The evening started with a pot luck dinner, enjoyed by the parents and students attending. After dinner I gave my presentation, which was a mix of Paul's story and "Hidden Heritage", and also how I got involved in writing the book. Some people find that equally interesting, since I had no connection to Paul prior to starting the book.

I brought along several Brule'/AIRO CDs and played them throughout the evening. As usual, those who hadn't heard Paul's beautiful music before were instant fans. And once again, my photocards from South Dakota gained a fair amount of attention. The set of "Lakota Images" were very popular with the students.

I want to thank Sheri Jacobs for inviting me to speak, and also John Walsh for putting together the potluck dinner. Both Sheri and John work for the Prior Lake-Savage school district in student services and do a fabulous job there. I really enjoyed the evening!

Next up is a visit to a charter school in Tucson, Arizona!

Friday, March 30, 2007

Bloomington Book Festival

On Saturday, March 24th, I took part in the Bloomington Book Festival at the brand new Bloomington Arts Center. The facility is very impressive, a beautiful new building. Thirty-three authors were featured at the festival this year. There were several writing workshops offered in the morning and authors were invited to do readings of their work.

I brought several copies of "Hidden Heritage...the Story of Paul LaRoche" for my book table. It never fails--Paul's stunning photo on the cover always gets attention from passersby. I have to commend MORI Studio of Minneapolis for their great design work, both on the cover and the layout of the interior. I can't tell you how many compliments I receive on the cover alone!

Since the weather was unusually warm for March, the attendance for the book festival was down this year. I did however have a nice surprise when three girlfriends from high school (we won't say what year, but back then it was Wadena High School in north-central Minnesota), showed up to check out the festival. I want to thank Irene Nelson, from Richfield, Eileen Westland, from Perham, and Marsha Karam, from Nevis, for stopping by to see my book table.

I am happy to say that my photocards received quite a bit of positive feedback as well. I brought both sets of the South Dakota series along and sold several packages. Both the "Holy Name Chapel" and the "Lakota Images" sets seem to be favorites with people.

A special thanks to Kate Pettit with the Bloomington Art Center for all her hard work in organizing the 2007 book festival! My next appearance will be at the Prior Lake-Savage Schools on April 12, 2007, with Sharon Boyer-Jacobs, Student Services Coordinator.

With our wonderful 81 degrees on Monday, I think we can safely say spring is on the way!

Thursday, March 1, 2007


Welcome to my brand new blog! Ever since "Hidden Heritage...the Story of Paul LaRoche" was released in 2006 from Beaver's Pond Press, I have received numerous emails from people who have read the book and want to share their comments. Paul too has been stopped by a number of people at his performances who want to tell him how the book has impacted or touched their lives. Because of this, both Paul and I would like to give readers of "Hidden Heritage" a place to share comments and thoughts about Paul's unique journey.

Just two weeks ago I attended the Southern California Writers Conference in San Diego and one of the things I learned is that "blogging" is the way to go! So a big thank you to my web designer, David Schneider, for getting me set up.

For any of you writers out there, I would highly recommend this conference. There were many topics covered, a wide variety of seminars to choose from, great speakers and presenters who were very approachable. The conference went from Friday through Sunday, and it was packed full of wonderful resources for writers of all levels. I came home with a huge notebook full of notes. I must say however, the networking and contacts I made with other writers, screenwriters, agents & editors at the conference will no doubt prove even more valuable.

I am looking forward to seeing how this blog develops. Another learning curve!

First blog

This is my very first time to write on a blog.