Sunday, August 29, 2010

Writers Retreat on Dead Lake

I had the good fortune of being invited back to my writer friend's cabin on Dead Lake.  Author Julie Saffrin and her husband have what I consider the "perfect" cabin.  Unlike some of the more popular lakes in Minnesota with one cabin about every 20 feet of shoreline, Dead Lake in Otter Tail County has a minimal number of homes even though it is a very large lake. 

The weather was perfect each day...beautiful sunshine, warm temps, a nice breeze off the lake.  (And let me tell you, "perfect" and "weather" rarely coincide on the same day in Minnesota!)  The Saffrin's dock is surrounded by cattails on both sides and there aren't any other cabins or homes visible...which I love.  Earlier this year I wrote a historical fiction piece titled, "Cries on the Prairie", about a tragedy in 1870 that actually happened on Horse Head Lake in Otter Tail County.

On Friday afternoon I went down to the dock alone, the cattails were dancing in the wind, I saw several eagles flying overhead, and it made me this what it looked liked for my great-grandparents when they homesteaded on Horse Head Lake in 1870?  Maybe...maybe not, but it made me feel like I was seeing what they could have seen from their cabin.  Goosebumbs...

By the way, I entered "Cries on the Prairie" in the Writer's Digest Short Story Contest, and have another six weeks before I find out if I placed or not. 

My real goal in coming to the retreat was to work on Michigan and Rookie...Guardians of the Night, my next book project.  I was able to get a lot written for Chapter One, including writing in a dog's POV for the first time ever!  Anyway, I needed a quiet place to allow myself to get this book started...and Julie's cabin offered that for me.  It's amazing what you can accomplish in a couple days without any interruptions!

Author Joy DeKok joined Julie and I for the weekend.  As all writers know, when so much of our time is spent alone, it is all the more rewarding to come together as friends and lift each other up in our writing journeys.

Let me give a plug for both Julie and Joy; please check out both of their websites: 

Julie Saffrin, at, author of the forthcoming book, BlessBack, Those Who Shaped Your Life. 

Joy Dekok, at, author of Rain Dance, Under His Wings, and several children's books.

All for now and blessings to all,

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sundance, Wyoming...Town of One Author's Dreams

The hubby and I have been spending time in the beautiful Black Hills every summer since 2003 when we stayed in the historic Franklin Hotel, downtown Deadwood.  We were there to attend the grand opening of Kevin Costner's Tatanka museum, since Brule' was the guest performer for both day's opening festivities.  We followed that visit up the next summer with the Kevin Costner motorcycle ride from Sturgis to Tatanka, and another Brule' concert on the Tatanka property, overlooking the valley below. 

Starting in 2005 we found a campground near Hill City, adding another day or two each year to stretch out our visit.  One year while studying the map I noticed the hills actually spread a short distance into the eastern edge of Wyoming.  The town of Sundance, Wyoming caught my eye. 

Sundance...what a cool name!  It sounded so cool in fact, I told the hubby we had to check it out that summer. 

We hopped on our Harley and took scenic Highway 16 west from Hill City into Wyoming, coming into Sundance from the south on Highway 585.  My expectations were high; it was Sundance, after all.  Sundance, Wyoming, even.  As we drove down Main Street I studied the typical store fronts, and I have to say they looked "ordinary."  Honestly, I was a bit disappointed.  The hubby turned and said, "This is where you want to live?"  I had to admit there was no magical sensation or pounding heartbeat to indicate this was anything other than an average small town, except for that fact Henry Longabaugh, a/k/a the Sundance Kid, did spend time in jail there once, thus the nickname that followed him. 

Me and The Kid, July 2010
Downtown Sundance

The famous Sundance Film Festival, however, is in Utah, where the celebrities and Hollywood types all flock each September.  Sounds exciting, but I think I'll stick to "my" Sundance in Wyoming, where my affection has re-blossomed having visited there several times now.  Situated at the base of the Bearlodge Mountains, Sundance has a picturesque backdrop that pulls you in and a quaint, western appeal I can't really put into words.  My dream is to one day have business cards that say:

Barbara Marshak
Sundance, Wyoming

Until that day comes, however, my life is centered in plain ol' Minnesota where the hubby and I have good jobs, a nice home, lots of friends and close family.  Yeah, bottom line, I'm pretty lucky to be right where I am. 


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Hill City Book Club

Granted, Hill City, South Dakota is a long way to go to visit with a book club, but since the hubby and I camp in the beautiful Black Hills just south of Hill City every summer, it was only a short ride into town from our campground.  Paula DeMars, Library Director of the Hill City Community Library, invited me to lead a discussion with their book club about Hidden Heritage...the Story of Paul LaRoche. 

Since Paul, a/k/a Brule', has performed several times in the Hill City area, readers of the book were eager to hear a little more about Paul's family and their transition from Minnesota to South Dakota; from mainstream America to Native America. 

I chose five discussion points in the book:

1 - The prologue with Sister Mona Kirwan, the nurse who was in charge of the nursery when Paul was born and remembers both his mother, Arlene, and taking care of Paul as a newborn.

2 - When Paul and his family are returning to Lower Brule from Pierre on their first visit to the reservation, it is late at night on a gravel road that follows the Missouri River.  What did Paul, Kathy and their kids think, to see the reservation like that for the first time? 

3 - The decision to include Chapter Five - The Ancestors Speak, which tells a quick review of the history of the Lakota people using Paul's ancestors listed in his lineage, including Paul's great-great-great-grandfather Strikes the Ree, an influential Yankton chief.

4 - The fact that Paul wants everyone to realize it took both worlds to create his story and his music; the love of his adoptive family and the heritage of his birth family, together created Brule'.

5 - The story of Hidden Heritage touches people on multiple levels:  race, culture, adoption, a love story, and following a dream. 

I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the members of the book club.  It was a wonderful evening, both with the discussion time and enjoying some tasty treats.  A great big "Thank you!" goes out to Paula and the Hill City Library for inviting me to speak to their group.  It was a fun evening!