1. The Difficulty of Writing about War

    December 16, 2017

    During my school appearances, students often suggest topics for novels they’d like me to write.  The request I get most often is for war stories. However, students are often surprised when I tell them that writing about war is very difficult for me.

    Half way through the first draft of my novel, The Winter War,  I was giving a talk at a middle school  in Park Rapids, Minnesota. After I’d finished my presentation, one of the students asked if I was working on any new books. I told him that I was part way through a novel about the 1939 war between Russia and Finland. Several of the boys got excited and said that they were looking forward to reading the story. When I told them that it had been a very hard book to write,  one boy asked me why.

    Instead of answering, I turned the question back to the students, asking, “Why do you think it might be challenging to write  about war?”

    After a long pause, a girl in the middle of the room raised her hand and said, “Since wars are so violent, it could make you sad writing about all the battles.”

    “Very true,” I agreed.

    Next, a boy beside her added, “And the reader might get grossed out if you put in too many gory things.”

    “Yes,” I nodded.

    Then a girl near the front said, “It also might be hard to write about war because wars happen on so many fronts at the same time. It would be hard to show all the action.”

    I agreed that a rapidly changing setting can be very problematic for an author.

    Another girl said, “And if you weren’t in the war you’d have to get all your information from other people, and they might have trouble remembering things or they might not want to talk about it.”

    “An excellent point,” I said.

    Finally, a quiet boy in the back of the room raised his hand and spoke in a soft voice. “If you wrote a war book too good and made it sound really exciting, kids might think it was cool to go off and join the army and fight in a war.”

    “Exactly,” I said. “That is, no doubt, the greatest challenge of all.”

  2. North Dakota Reading Association Conference

    September 15, 2016

    margi p me

    North Dakota Reading Association Fall Conf.

    I’m looking forward to visiting with my friends from North Dakota at their fall conference in Fargo. And I’m excited to me a part of a historical fiction panel with Margi Preus.

  3. The Desert Southwest

    May 8, 2012

    Last month I visited 12 schools in St. George, Utah, and Las Vegas over a two-week period. Early spring is a perfect time to escape the “tundra” country up here near the Canadian border. It’s a shock to leave home with Lake Vermilion frozen and snow on the ground, and step off a plane in eighty degree weather and sunshine. But it’s a good shock.

    Las Vegas is a bit too neon and artificial for me, though the teachers were welcoming and kids were enthusiastic and attentive during my assembly presentations. But the high desert country around St. George, Utah, had a spiritual strength to it that left me admiring the open sky and the red rock mountains. I hiked in Zion National Park–a place I’d never been before–and found myself thinking a lot about the smallness of man in this great wide universe. But feeling small in a good way.

    St. George lies in the valley. Zion is in the distance to the north and east.

  4. Coffe mugs and tee shirts

    February 27, 2012

    When I visit schools, I often receive coffee mugs and tee shirts as thank you gifts. And it’s a great way for me to remember past events. On a cold winter morning in Minnesota I enjoy sipping tea from my Assumption Orthodox School mug and recall the week that I spent working with students in Houston, Texas. And it’s fun to wear my bright orange HMS Spuds tee shirt in the summer and watch people’s faces as they try to figure out what the HMS stands for. “Her Majesty’s something,” folks guess, and I shake my head, knowing the odds aren’t great that they’ll identify Horizon Middle School in Moorhead, Minnesota. But of all the mugs, posters, and shirts that I’ve received, a piece of artwork from last February’s trip to Otte Blair Middle School in Blair, Nebraska, clearly stands out. This giant cover of my novel, The Winter War, was hand-painted by a retired industrial arts teacher, and it provided a impressive backdrop during my assembly presentation.

The Broken Blade Wintering The Journal of Sean Sullivan The Journal of Otto Peltonen The Journal of C.J. Jackson Song of Sampo Lake Blackwater Ben The Darkest Evening El Lector The Winter War