Monday, December 29, 2008

The Year 2008

I am one of those people that like to journal highlights throughout the year (and sometimes lowlights, although that's not nearly as much fun!) and later look back and reflect. Sometimes I am surprised...maybe I've forgotten a really cool thing that happened and it feels good to think about it again, other times I feel a bit sad knowing certain things haven't changed or improved, but most times I am overwhelmed with a sense of God's goodness, recognizing His Hand in specific circumstances that have no other explanation.

Back in January I had just started "Seeds of Salton"...I think I had the first 4 chapters written. As 2008 winds to a close I can say I am nearly finished with the entire book, all 27 chapters.

Here's the new tag line that sums up the story:
A powerful true story of a heart redeemed, a love restored, and the gripping journey to forgiveness between a son and his father.

Two writers retreats at Julie Saffrin's cabin gave me a great boost, followed up with the residency at the Devils Tower. It was incredible to have that much time to write on the heels of seeing Wibaux, Montana and Beach, North Dakota, where much of the book takes place. All in all, it helped me achieve what I set out to do after reading "Secret Life of Bees" back in January, that I needed to go deeper with this book because of the powerful message within.

One of the most critical scenes takes place in a logging camp in the Rocky Mountains through a flashback. I couldn't find anyone who could tell me details I needed in order to write the scene. I contacted a reporter, a resort owner, and a rancher in the Missoula/Potomoc area and couldn't come up with anything useful. I thought, well, at least I tried. A couple nights later the phone rang and it was the rancher's son. Turns out he was the best friend of the man in "Seeds" back in third grade and remembered the event specifically. He lives near the logging camp and knew all the details I was looking for, actually gave me more details and information than I'd even hoped for. Amazing.

Midway through the book I was trying to write a scene about the oil rigs in North Dakota. Me, being technically challenged, could not grasp the workings of an oil rig no matter how many times it was explained or how much I read. My brain can't think in terms of diesel engines, the Kelly, tripping pipe, tripping in, tripping out, a round-trip, the mouse hole, the rat hole, and have it all make sense. One day while flipping channels I saw an advertisement for a brand new show called "Black Gold"...all about oil rigs. There it was, in living color, in HD no less. I recorded the show and watched parts of it over & over until I finally gained a (partial!) grasp of how it all worked. Those are just a couple of the cool things that helped propel this book forward throughout the year.

Next up I will begin a search for an agent or publisher for "Seeds of Salton" and I'm excited to see where my search might lead. I also have a brand new project for 2009...another powerful true story of redemption. The working title is "The Redemption of 3743", a story of one man breaking free from the clutches of addiction and reclaiming his Karuk (northern California Native American tribe) heritage, another amazing life journey with a powerful message.

As 2008 winds to a close I can look back and feel good about all that has transpired, both personally in our home and family, and professionally in my writing. I look ahead to 2009 with the hope that always comes new a new year.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Devils Tower National Monument Writer's Residency

Where do I even start? This was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had. I think it really hit me the second to last day. I'd taken a walk on the Joyner Ridge Trail, a beautiful hiking trail not far from the Tower. I walked about halfway and ended up sitting with my back against a Ponderosa Pine, the warm October sun in my face, big blue sky overhead, the Tower off to my left, pen and journal in sound except a gentle breeze whispering through the pines, just one example of the many ways God chose to bless my time there.

The trip started with three days of research in the Wibaux, Montana/Beach, North Dakota area, the main setting for my current project, Seeds of Salton. This book needs to have a gritty, western, rugged feel to it and seeing the iron hard land of that region in person really helped me work some of that into the manuscript, giving it much more authenticity.

From there I drove down through North and South Dakota, right at the tail end of an early snowstorm! Thankfully the roads were dry, and I found the snow covered buttes and breaks absolutely stunning the entire drive! When I turned west from Belle Fourche into Wyoming it was dusk, the clouds had started to dissipate, a little sun breaking through. I came around a curve and there it was...the tower, protruding above the hillside, the gray clouds hovering, giving the aura of something special.

And special it is. It lies at the edge of the beautiful Black Hills, near the winding Belle Fourche River, the red capped buttes here and there, the Ponderosa Pines. Beautiful. I feel drawn to this area, like I belong. In reality though, I was there to write. And write I did...morning 'til night, with only one stop for a walk each day. By the end of the week I was amazed how much I'd actually accomplished! As I packed to leave, I didn't feel sad the residency was ending. Instead, I felt blessed that my journey of writing Seeds of Salton continues forward.

I want to thank the Bearlodge Writers Group in Sundance, Wyoming who co-sponsor the residency. What a delightful group of dedicated writers and warm, friendly people! I also want to thank the staff at the Devils Tower National Monument for opening the park to writers in this fashion. This was such an absolute treasure of time!


Friday, September 26, 2008

BRULE' Live at Mount Rushmore: Concert for Reconciliation of the Cultures

GOOD NEWS...Twin Cities PBS, tpt 17, has scheduled the BRULE' LIVE AT MOUNT RUSHMORE: CONCERT FOR RECONCILIATION OF THE CULTURES to air on Sunday, November 16, 2008 at 8:00 p.m.

As many of you know in July 2007 Paul LaRoche, aka Brule', and his Native American band AIRO performed the concert of his dreams at Mount Rushmore's majestic amphitheatre with over 11,000 in attendance. The concert has since been edited into a one-hour HD program designed specifically to air on PBS. South Dakota PBS has already aired the program and received wonderful reviews.

It's our hope now that it spreads all across the September 2008 a digital feed containing the actual program was sent to all 220 stations across the country, along with a beautiful 3-page color attachment. The concert meets two important criteria for PBS schedulers on both cultural and educational levels. At the end of the program, 3 products are offered for viewers: "Live at Mount Rushmore: Concert for Reconciliation of the Cultures", the CD, the DVD, and the book, "Hidden Heritage...the Story of Paul LaRoche" by Barbara Marshak, Beaver's Pond Press, Minneapolis, MN.

If you are outside the Twin Cities area and would like to see the concert, feel free to contact your local PBS affiliate and ask them to air this program. On behalf of Paul, the Brule'/AIRO gang, and John and myself, we thank you in advance for your help!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Iris Ink Creations now on!

Earlier this summer I signed up to have a vendor booth at the Eagan Arts Festival. In preparation I made up over 150 of my photo greeting cards to have on my tables, along side my books. Most of the cards I make are made with photos taken while doing research for "Hidden Heritage" and the proceeds go back to the Lower Brule Boys & Girls Club.

I also made up two sets with photos taken on our mission trips to Iguala, Mexico, and the proceeds from those cards go to support Latin America Missions, Paul & Theresa Stilwell, Iguala, Mexico. One set is from the Mississippi Headwaters in northern MN; proceeds go to the White Earth Boys & Girls Club.

Long story short...............I only sold one card at the festival and ended up with a crate full of cards in my closet! A friend suggested I post them for sale at a website that features all homemade items for sale.

Mission accomplished this weekend! I created an account, IrisInkCreations and posted all 7 sets. Check it out if you or someone you know is looking for a gift idea!


Thursday, August 7, 2008

Beautiful Black Hills, Summer 2008

I was fortunate to spend an amazing two weeks tucked in a quiet little campground along a lazy creek near Hill City, South Dakota, called Crooked Creek Campground. Honestly, I can't think of a better place to be in mid-summer. We had a wonderful vacation with a real mix of events: family, friends, Harley rides, cookouts, campfires, and more.

The real treasure in this type of a vacation though, comes in the setting. An amazing bold, full moon the weekend we arrived, lighting up the nights in a soft glow. Sitting around the campfire with our kids and good friends. The fresh pine scents and simple beauty of the hills. Harley rides through beautiful canyons, creeks and trickling waterfalls nearby. Pink patches of sweet clover poking their heads above the prairie grasses. Majestic giant thunderheads that filled the otherwise blue sky. Cathedrals of granite spires aimed heavenward. All of it brings a deep appreciation for a land once called Paha Sapa, to the Lakota people.

I came home with my spirit refreshed and rejuvenated, ready to dive in head first once again to my writing projects.
Blessings abound,

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Eagan Art Festival

I'm excited to be part of the 14th Annual Eagan Art Festival on Saturday & Sunday, June 21 & 22, 2008 on the Eagan Community Center Festival Grounds. This is a large 2-day outdoor festival with crowds estimated at 5,000-7,000 people, featuring both fine and original handmade art, tasteful music and entertainment, art activities, and food--all in one easy-to-find location near Yankee Doodle & Pilot Knob, just north of I-35E.

If there are any Brule'/AIRO fans in attendance, I should have everything they could possibly want: copies of Hidden Heritage...the Story of Paul LaRoche, Brule'/AIRO CDs, the 2007 Holiday Concert Tour on DVD, plus the corresponding photo greeting cards with pictures from the Lower Brule Sioux Reservation & "Paha Sapa", the beautiful Black Hills, in South Dakota.

I will also bring copies of my compilation books, such as Cup of Comfort for Single Mothers, Cup of Comfort for Mothers & Sons, The Groovy Chicks' Roadtrip to Love, God's Way - Christmas, and Finding & Following God's Will.

Hubby John will be my assistant for the event. If you have time, please stop by & see us!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Devils Tower National Monument National Writer's Residency

I have a "joy" to share...and do so as an encouragement to all of you writers out there. I just found out I am one of two writers selected for the writer's residency program at the Devils Tower National Monument in 2008, based on a sample from my current novel Seeds of Salton. I will get to spend one full week at the monument in Wyoming in October "to pursue my writing under the shadow of the tower."

Here's the cool part: back in November I was on my way to work one morning thinking how cool it would be to go to Montana this fall to research the area where my character "Grady" grew up. Then it hit me...what if I got the Devils Tower residency, I could spend 2-3 days in Montana and then go right to the Tower from there and have a full week to write about the images and ideas from Montana, newly inspired. At that instant, the traffic light ahead turned red and I pulled up to a pickup in front of me and you guessed had MONTANA license plates. To me, it was a sign...a metal one at that! But isn't that how God works...He's with us all the time in our mundane, daily routines.

Anyway, I am thrilled beyond words to think that I will be able to do exactly that...spend a few days in Montana and then have a full week to simply write! Now here's my note of encouragement...last year I had applied for the residency and when I told a lady who lives close to the Tower I didn't get it, she looked right at me and said very firmly, "Well, try again!" don't give up so easily. Duh! It was a good lesson for me.

As you can imagine, I can hardly wait to go! My goal is to stay on task all summer and complete my first draft of Seeds of Salton. Happy writing to all!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

New Release: Cup of Comfort for Single Mothers

I'm happy to announce the release of another Cup of Comfort book, this one in honor of Single Mothers. If you or someone you know is a single mother, this heartfelt collection of stories just might be the perfect Mother's Day Gift.

"A Cup of Comfort® for Single Mothers is a celebration of the millions of mothers who go it alone. Suitable for single mothers of all kinds, the book contains sixty heartwarming stories of the unbreakable bond between mother and child. " (Edited by Colleen Sell, from Adams Media.)

As you may have guessed, I do have a story included in the book. "A Home Built for Three" shares the time in my life when I was living in Wadena and purchased my first home. As a fairly new single parent with two young daughters, Karli 8, and Emily 5, this was my first chance to establish “our new home” after moving from Tennessee back to Minnesota. (Soft cover. $10)

If you are interested in purchasing a copy, feel free to email me. The book cover can be seen on my Articles/Stories page, and costs $10, (soft cover), plus $2.50 S&H to have it mailed. Or check out all the great Cup of Comfort themed books at

To those of you who qualify, Happy Mother's Day!

And to everyone,
Many blessings,

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Bloomington Writers Festival & Book Fair

Saturday was the 5th Annual Writers' Festival & Book Fair in Bloomington, MN. Held at the beautiful Bloomington Art Center, it was a wonderful day of celebration of the literary arts. There were over 45 writers in attendance, with several more giving workshops throughout the day. Faith Sullivan, a well-known Minnesota author, was the keynote speaker...a great way to kick-off the day!

Once again, it was a great opportunity to network with other writers and meet new people. And as often the case, I also ran into a few friends...Milt Adams from Beaver's Pond Press, Gillette from Borealis Bookstore in Wadena, and a few other familiar faces.

I tried something new this time to help stimulate book sales. For each book sold, I gave away one of my photo notecards. People always have such good comments about the cards, and I felt it added something special to the sale. Plus it gave me a chance to share a little bit about the places where the proceeds from the card sales are sent, such as the Lower Brule Boys & Girls Club in South Dakota and Missions to Latin America in Guerrero, Mexico.

To top it off, my hubby John stopped by with a salad from Byerly's and had lunch with me, which is always appreciated!

The snow has finally melted...April showers are gently coming down as I write. Mmm, the fresh scent of spring rain just outside my window!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Lakeville Book Club

This past Tuesday night I was invited to share at the monthly meeting of a book club in Lakeville. I must say they are a delightful group of ladies! Cindy Korpela hosted the event in her home with scrumptious appetisers, wine, coffee, and treats. How can you go wrong there! The book club consists of: Sheri O'Shaunassey, Sandy Woker, Nora O'Leary, Barb Becker, Claudia Nelson, Bev Wood, Kathy Culp, Cindy Korpela, Rosemary Mikkelson, and Jane Hotzler. They meet once a month and discuss their current book selection, reading a wide selection of genres throughout the year.

On Tuesday the group came together to discuss, Hidden Heritage...the Story of Paul LaRoche. Typically most people who read Hidden Heritage are fans of Paul and his music, or simply know either Paul or myself. These ladies, however, chose to read the book as "readers." I couldn't help wonder what these true readers would think of the book or my writing.

Not to worry, each of the ladies said they enjoyed the book, and wanted to know more about Paul & Kathy. Since most of them had not heard Paul's music, I brought my collection of Brule'/AIRO CDs and no surprise, they loved the music right away. It was a unique chance for me to share some things that I did as a writer, and ask for their reaction as the reader. The intimate setting of Cindy's home made it easy to talk openly about a number of the issues that took place throughout Paul's journey. As often the case, different ones picked up on different things in the book. It was a wonderful opportunity to answer their questions and also share more about the process of writing the book.

A great big "Thank you" to Jane for inviting me, to Cindy for hosting the event, and to the entire book club for choosing Hidden Heritage as one of their selections.


Friday, March 7, 2008

Upcoming Events in the Twin Cities

I have two fun events coming up in the next several weeks. First, I've been invited to be a guest speaker with a book club right here in my hometown of Lakeville. Long time friend Jane Hotzler is hosting the book club event, Tuesday, March 25th, at her home (which just happens to be only a few blocks from mine!) The ten ladies in this book club have all read Hidden Heritage and are meeting to discuss the book. This is the first time I've participated in this type of a more intimate venue and I'm really looking forward to hearing from all the ladies and finding out their thoughts. Of course a setting like this has to have Paul's beautiful music playing in the background, so I will make sure to bring along the Brule'/AIRO CDs!

Also on the horizon is the Bloomington Writers' Festival & Book Fair, Saturday, April 5, 2008. This is held at Bloomington's beautiful new Arts Center and runs all day Saturday with numerous events going on throughout the day. Classes, speakers, workshops, readings, book sales, and more! Keynote speaker Faith Sullivan will kick-off the day at 9:30 am. It's a wonderful chance to network with the 46 published authors in attendance and check out all the different types of genres represented. Once again, it'll be a great day to celebrate the literary arts!

The other upcoming event I am awaiting with desperate anticipation is the arrival of spring! The view out my window is still completely white, I had to shovel several inches of snow this week, and I'll have you know it was below zero again last night. When, oh when, I wonder, will spring make its grand appearance??


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Literary in Lakeville, Heritage Library

On Sunday, February 24th, I was invited to participate in a program at the Heritage Library called "Literary in Lakeville." There were three Lakeville authors as guests on a panel to discuss a wide range of topics related to writing.

I was joined with author Samuel S. Conaway, a wonderful man who has too many stories to tell in one sitting! He loves the idea of storytelling and wrote a book to promote it to young people, titled The "Tell Me a Story" Book. His stories are perfect for late night campfires, and he leaves the endings for the storyteller to fill in, depending on the audience. Quite a clever idea!

Author Dolores Attias was also on the panel, a delightful woman originally from Cuba. She has written three books, but her "prize" is one called "Dancing with Alzheimer's", chronicling a time when Dolores cared for a woman with Alzheimer's. Dolores-with-an-O, as she likes to say, was afraid she wouldn't know what to say to the audience, but when it was her turn to speak, she charmed the entire room full of people! She is a wonderful woman with a sweet spirit and a captivating accent.

A nice group of people turned out for the panel discussion, many of whom are interested in writing, of course. It was a great chance for the three of us to answer questions about some of the experiences we've had in our journeys to publication. A big "Thanks" to Murray at the Heritage Library for hosting the afternoon event. It was a great joy to meet everyone and talk about my favorite topic!


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Southern California Writers Conference, San Diego, CA

For the second straight year I attended the Southern California Writers Conference (SCWC) in San Diego over President's Weekend. I'd have to admit that last year I was a little nervous and intimiated by the level of expertise all around me. This year though, I felt much more comfortable and allowed myself to relax, which made it much easier to connect with people and "have fun!"

I met some great new friends:
Tanya Miller, a teacher from Park Rapids, MN
Brian Frederick, a writer from Long Beach, CA
Charlie Redner, a writer from Laguna Woods, CA
Claudia Whitsitt, a teacher from Saline, MI
Kathryn Dionne, an artist from Fallbrook, CA
Christine Stenstrom, an artist from Poway, CA

As many of you know, writing is a unique bond that really draws people together. The Read & Critique sessions at the conference are a wonderful example of building up each other in our craft. After all, we're all there to learn and grow as writers. The real value of the conference comes in the professional writers and editors leading the workshops and seminars who are extremely helpful and open to questions.

During my one-on-one session with Judy Reeves, a writer and teacher from San Diego, she gave me a suggestion on how to weave in bits of critical flashback scenes into the opening chapter of my new book, Seeds of Salton. It's funny...sometimes I just need someone else to point out the obvious and then I "get it!" As soon as I got home I took her advice and divided up what I had written as one big chunk of a flashback scene and wove it into the first section in smaller pieces. I can already tell it moves the story along much better and builds the tension with a greater sense of urgency. It's advice like this that we hope to find at a conference and I'm thrilled to come home knowing I've learned something that will in fact improve my manscript.

I also spent time with author and screenwriter Susan Arnout Smith, the keynote speaker on Sunday morning. She has a brand new book out from St. Martin's Minotaur, The Timer Game. It's a fast-paced thriller that's "as riveting as a ticking bomb," an excellent read! Susan and I connected at last year's conference and she is interested in writing the screenplay for Hidden Heritage...the Story of Paul LaRoche. Susan is an absolute delight and I'm looking forward to working with her in the coming year.

Some of the other speakers and leaders that I found extremely helpful were author and screenwriter Alexandra Sokoloff, editor Jean Jenkins, and authors Michael Thompkins, Mark Clements, and Amy Wallen. Of course there were many others on staff, but in a conference this size it's impossible to attend all the workshops.

And now that I'm home, I have work to do: I must write!


Thursday, January 24, 2008

2nd Annual Writers Retreat, Dead Lake, Perham, MN

Those of us fool-hearty souls who make our home in Minnesota are always at the mercy of Mother Nature, especially in the dead of winter. This was especially true last weekend when Julie Saffrin hosted her second annual writers retreat in mid-January, roughly 200 miles northwest of Minneapolis. Her cabin is situated on a beautiful piece of property facing Dead Lake, west of Perham, Minnesota, with a panoramic view of the lake. True to January being the coldest month of the year, the temperatures plunged to -24 degrees below zero at night, with wind chills running a steady -40 below. One might think our brains would freeze in such circumstances and nothing would get accomplished!

On the contrary, inside the cozy cabin the warmth and creativity of those present sparked an energy level that defied the frozen conditions on the other side of the glass. I propped my table in front of a south-facing window and welcomed the sun's ray's in my face each day. God's beauty came to life in the simplistic setting of a snow covered prairie and frozen lake laid out before me. For three days I transferred notes from my last interview into the framework of the next several chapters for Seeds of Salton, relying on tiny seeds of imagination and artistry in my unique setting to help create new scenes.

The hearty Minnesota writers in attendance were: Julie Saffrin, Janelle Huston, DeAnna Brandt, Sheri Jacobs, Laurie Quinlan, Nancy Willette Jobe, and myself. Several different genres of writing were represented...children's books, non-fiction, short story, essay, and fiction. During the day we mainly spent time working individually on our projects. In the evening we came together around the dining table, sharing not only a wonderful meal but an abundance of ideas.

A writer's retreat is time well spent, an investment in our dreams and whatever the future may bring. As our hostess Julie made the retreat everything it was meant to be...and then some. Thank you, Julie!

Our challenge now is to bring that sense of inspiration home and continue the writing...despite the winter chill just outside our door on these cold January days!

Friday, January 11, 2008

A new year...a new project!

Here it is January already...sometimes I have to ask myself how time seems to stand still in one sense and yet fly in another. Another one of life's mysteries, I suppose!

Most of my time this past year was devoted to promoting Hidden Heritage. I loved getting out and meeting people, many who were fans of Paul's music and loved the book already. I enjoyed the traveling, the variety of different events, some with Paul and his band, some on my own. One thing I discovered during that time, however, is that I missed writing. There's something uniquely fulfilling to my soul when I can spend time simply writing. This fall I started a brand new project titled Seeds of Salton. Based on a true story, this family drama recounts a gripping story of forgiveness between a son and his father. It is set in the rugged terrain of eastern Montana and begins in the 1970s. It's a story with many layers...a mother's love, a broken heart, anger and rage, rebellion, a father's redemption, true love, forgiveness, healing, God's saving grace.

Last week I read The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd and I was really inspired by her style of writing. I felt her poetic and beautiful prose call out to me, challenging me to go deeper within myself in regards to my own writing. In order to write a book like Seeds of Salton, I know I will need to do that. My first chance will take place later this month. I've been invited to a writer's retreat in Perham, Minnesota, hosted by my good writing friend and mentor, Julie Saffrin, at her cabin on Dead Lake.

As Julie shared with us, according to Judy Reeves, author of The Writer's Retreat Kit, there are 20 reasons to go on a writer's retreat:
1. To renew your creative spirit
2. To connect with your inner voice
3. To being a project
4. To complete a project
5. To focus your attention
6. To change your perspective
7. To unkink the coils of your brain
8. To find connections
9. To cross-fertilize
10. To fill your empty cup
11. To set a place for the Muse
12. To have time to simply be
13. To rest
14. To read
15. To renew
16. To reward yourself
17. To be in solitude
18. To be with other writers
19. To honor yourself as writer
20. To write

I hope I experience every single one of them!

Blessings to you this new year,