It’s Christmas on Easter!

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A book project I’ve been working on for about a year-and-a-half is complete! Copies of the book arrived this weekend, so I feel like it’s Christmas even though it’s really Easter.

The book is called “Going Coastal.” It’s an anthology of Lake Superior-inspired short stories written by nine local (northeastern MN and northern WI) authors, including myself. My story, “Water Witch,” is the first short story I’ve ever written, so I feel honored that it’s included.

All of the writers are members of Lake Superior Writers, a local nonprofit group that “supports the artistic development of writers and fosters a vibrant literary arts community.” Proceeds from book sales support this group.

The idea for the anthology started with a conversation I had with the manager of a bookstore in Duluth.  She asked me what I was working on and I told her “short stories.” She said, “You know what customers come in and ask me for? Short stories about Lake Superior. I have to tell them I don’t have any.”

**Bing** Lake Superior Writers has an annual contest. What if we made the contest theme this year about Lake Superior? And what if we were able to find a publisher for the stories? And what if the book could be sold in this bookstore? (And others, of course.)

I’m a board member of the group and brought the idea up at a meeting where we were discussing the contest. The other board members thought it was a great idea, too. And a project was born. After the contest was over and the judges had chosen the winning stories, I started contacting publishers about the project. Several were interested, but I ended up going with North Star Press, the publisher of my novels.

The name of the writing contest was “Going Coastal,” and the board thought that was also a good name for the anthology, and so did the publisher, so it stuck. Then came the need for a cover image. I’m on Facebook probably way more than is healthy for me, and I recalled seeing an image there by a local photographer who often gets into Lake Superior to take his photos. His stunning photo showed the iconic Split Rock Lighthouse seemingly swamped by a large Lake Superior wave. Perfect!

I worked with the authors to edit their stories, and then needed to decide how to organize them in the anthology. I offered the other board members the opportunity to help with this task (which was new to me) but they said I could have the “honor.”

Shoot – how was I ever going to decide? Well, a couple of the stories had Native American themes in them. Some were more mystical than others. A couple focused on ships. A couple others were about rocks. One was about a lighthouse. Another was about a family drama and had a super strong ending. Some stories were short, others were long.

I finally decided to organize them along themes, but I also kept story length in mind and tried to switch that up for variety. Figuring out the story order was as much an art as writing one of the stories itself, and was a fun exercise. I hope it worked.

If you like lighthouses, ships, beaches, ghosts, road trips, history, storms, agates, islands, family drama, and the mystical power of Lake Superior, you’ll enjoy this book.  It costs $12.95 and is available from North Star Press, but also Barnes and Noble and Amazon, which have it as an e-book, too. Take a read!

Anthology authors are Theresa Allison-Price of Superior; James Brakken of Cable; Evan Sasman of Ashland, Johnna Suihkonen of Lakeville; and Judy Budreau, Eric Chandler, Phil Fitzpatrick, Maxwell Reagan and me of Duluth.

We’re having a book launch sponsored by The Bookstore at Fitger’s on Sat., April 29 from 4-6 p.m. in the August Fitger Room on the third floor of Fitger’s Mall (600 E. Superior St., Duluth). There will be free appetizers from The Boat Club Restaurant and a cash bar. Each author (except for one who can’t make it) will read from their story.

Come on out and keep that Christmas spirit going through April!

Wisconsin Public Radio Interview – Holiday Reads

love-books-1Greetings! I had the privilege of being interviewed last week on the local Wisconsin Public Radio affiliate, along with Julie Gard, a poetry professor at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, and Julie Buckles, the public relations person for Northland College in Ashland, Wis.

The show is hosted by Danielle Kaeding, now a full-fledged reporter for KUWS Radio (91.3 FM), who assisted me when she was but a college student and I had a radio show for work. Danielle hosts “Hear Me Out,” an hour-long show every Friday morning. She asked us what books we recommend for holiday gifts and holiday reading. (During all that spare time you have during holiday break – right!?)

In my role on the board of Lake Superior Writers (a local writers’ group), I always like to feature our member writers and other local authors when the topic of books comes up. And this interview was no exception. Between the three of us, we hit many of the most recent books produced locally. I only wish we would have had more time to highlight even more authors.

Our interview is featured in the first half-hour of the show. You can listen here.

Oh, and if you need a little romance during your holiday, don’t forget about my books.

Happy Reading!

Radio Interview About Writing

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Me doing my radio thang.

Hello! I was interviewed earlier this month by for a show on the local Wisconsin Public Radio affiliate station, KUWS. The show is called the “Nine O’Clock Meltdown, ” and it’s hosted by “Simply C,” who I met at an open mic poetry reading.

She allowed me gobs of time on her show to talk about my novels, writing, and creativity in general. The file is so large, she had to divide it into two parts so I could post it. Give a listen to find out what I’m up to in my writing life…

Part 1

Part 2

The Power of Collaboration (and how it Relates to the Pitch Perfect Movies)

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Teague Alexy, collaborator extraordinaire.

I admit it. I’ve watched Pitch Perfect 1 and 2 movies. Pitch Perfect 1 helped me escape from a hard time. The humor is truly funny and the singing – well, it just makes you want to walk around performing acapella and dancing all day. I just watched Pitch Perfect 2 and it’s got me musing about the value of collaboration.

In the movie, one of the lead singers of the “Bella” college acapella group ends up collaborating with one of the newest members to create an original song, which not only impresses her music industry boss, it helps the group win the world acapella competition.

This weekend I was privileged to be part of a book launch and music event that was a collaboration between 10 or so local authors. The lead author/singer (Teague Alexy) could have held the event by himself, but he chose to invite others to participate. He even took a chance on someone like me – a local novelist and poet who he just met a week ago (but we share a publisher.)

He held the event in an independent theater in downtown Duluth. Attendance wasn’t huge –a lot of events competed that night – but I’m sure it was larger than if he had been the only one performing. The range of styles of the authors was refreshing and mind-expanding, and I met several new ones.

Earlier in the day I had a conversation with an established author. We talked about how being an author (even one with a hard cover book published by a state university press) doesn’t mean you will rake in the dough. We agreed that the lifestyle is the reward, not the profit.

The night of the performance, I could have been sitting around home banging away at my computer or doing dishes, but instead I joined a bunch of other writers and we shared our work with an audience. The power of collaboration was evident then, and I’ve seen it at operate many times in the past in my day job, when organizations work together to strengthen the reach of their programs and projects.

I truly believe that organizations that try to protect their turf by outcompeting the competition are missing a great opportunity. I just want to say that if you’re an author, don’t be afraid to share the limelight with others – it will be to your advantage. Likewise if you’re an organization.

It takes a village to make a good book launch. And if enjoying Pitch Perfect 1 & 2 is wrong – if collaborating is wrong – I don’t want to be right.

“H is for Hawk” Book Review: The Value of Animals Apart from Us

A northern goshawk. Image by Norbert Kenntner.

A northern goshawk. Image by Norbert Kenntner.


I gave this memoir five out of five stars on Goodreads not because I agreed with everything in it but because I found it thought provoking and well written. It’s the story of Helen Macdonald, an Englishwoman who is dealing with the death of her father.

To help her get through her grief, Macdonald decides to train one of the most difficult of hawks: the goshawk. She names hers Mabel. She contrasts her experience with that of Terence White, author of the childhood classic, “Sword in the Stone,” and an avid falconer who wrote about his experience in “The Goshawk.” I listened to the audio version of the CD, read by the author in her classic British accent.

So many things to say. Where to begin? To start, it’s ironic that Macdonald chose to deal with death by training an avian killing machine. It’s kind of like dealing with a job loss by helping other people get fired from their jobs over and over again. But this technique worked for Macdonald, who wanted solace by forming an attachment to an animal, and by coming closer to the wild.

However, by the middle of the book, I found myself thinking how unfair it was to burden the bird with the owner’s grief and mental health issues – both for Macdonald’s and White’s goshawks. I mean, they are birds, not people. They are separate beings, but both authors are so caught up in themselves they don’t see this. It’s a lesson I learned years ago from living in the wilderness, and something I suspect most people, who are used to having animals around as pets or for food, don’t have an opportunity to realize.

Macdonald’s attitude of animals being defined in the world by the meanings given to them by humans came to light in a section where she attended an art exhibit about California condors. She says, “I think about what wild animals are in our imaginations and how they are disappearing, not just from the wild but from people’s everyday lives – replaced by images of themselves in print and on screen. The rarer they get, the fewer meanings animals can have. Eventually, rarity is all they are made of. The condor is an icon of extinction . . . How can you love something, how can you fight to protect it if all it means is loss?”

My argument is you fight for endangered animals because they have value apart from us. It’s perhaps the ultimate hubris to think the world revolves around us and our meanings. Most wild animals don’t need us to survive. In fact, they would probably do much better if humans were out of the picture. And why did the condor nearly go extinct in the first place? From human actions (poaching lead poisoning, etc.) It seem so unfair for humans to cause these problems and then to complain that thinking about these animals is depressing. What’s really depressing is what we do to some animals.

Toward the end of the book Macdonald finally realizes that people are more fitting agents for emotional support than animals. While animals provide great solace, they are no substitute for a pair of human arms around you. And she realizes that animals have intrinsic value apart from humans.

She writes, “Of all the lessons I’ve learned in my months with Mabel this is the greatest of all: that there is a world of things out there – rocks and trees, stones and grass, all the things that crawl and run and fly – they are all things in themselves. We make them sensible to us by giving them meanings that shore up our own views of the world.”

Right on. She says she learned with Mabel how to “feel more human once you have known, even in your imagination, what it is like to be not.” She could have ended the book there and I would have been happy but she continued on with White’s story, which at times, overshadowed her own. I could have done without much of the detail of his story and the book would have been stronger for it. I also found myself getting tired near the end from hearing mini dramas about how she was always losing her hawk. But I still gave it five stars, so it these things must not have bothered me too much!

One thing I thought was funny was how, once Macdonald started using antidepressants, she described the hawk as looking much happier, too. I think this was when she was still caught up in the hawk being an extension of herself.

And I was happy to see that Macdonald delved into the “conversation of death” described in Barry Lopez’s book, “Of Wolves and Men.” This is an exchange that happens between wolves and their prey that either triggers a chase or diffuses the hunt. If you’ve read my novel “Eye of the Wolf,” you know that I delved into it, too.

As I was thinking about writing this review, I came across a quote from Henry Beston (“The Outermost House”) that sums up my philosophy and what I think Macdonald was trying to say with her memoir well:

“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals…. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”

Agree? Disagree? Am I some psycho loony? (Smirk.)

Radio Interview About My Books

Hello — Life has been sweeping over me like a tidal wave recently, but I was still able to make time for an interview about my novels on a community radio station. Follow this link to hear my interview yesterday on KUMD’s Minnesota Reads show (and discover why I’m nervous to have my parents read my books).

I was honored to be included in the show, which airs every Thursday morning at 8:15 a.m. Tune in!

I’m an Isle-ophile. Are You?

St. Martin Island, West Indies.

St. Martin Island, West Indies.

An island doesn’t have to be very far away from shore or very big to accomplish its true work: to surround you with imminent water, and to unhitch you from the grappling hooks of your own life for a while. – Minnesota Author Bill Holm, Eccentric Islands

I love islands. I’ve known of this affliction for quite a while, even before I heard the term for it: isle-ophile. Some of my most intense experiences have happened on islands. I like how islands make me feel and how they make other people behave (unless they are deserted islands, then it’s not so pretty.)

I first got a feel for islands when my parents took us camping. I have hazy young memories of Mackinac Island in Lake Huron; Prince Edward Island in Canada; the U.K.; and Madeline Island, Stockton Island, and Isle Royale in Lake Superior.

My exposure to Isle Royale led me to work there during college for two summers at the rustic resort. Then there was Grand Manan Island off New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Gero Island in Maine, Cumberland Island Georgia, Key Largo Florida (and eventually all the keys), Puerto Rico, Catalina Island in California, Ludlow’s Island in Minnesota, Orcas Island of the San Juan chain in Washington, St. Martin in the West Indies, and Brigantine in New Jersey.

Each place has provided intense experiences — unlike those a person can have on the mainland. Islands have offered: opportunities to form and intensify friendships, crazy experiences with animals, cold refuge from storms, hot refuge from heartbreak, family vacations, work conferences, romantic vacations, and immersions in local culture.

Islands force people to depend on one another more than they do when on the mainland. Usually, you’re more at the whims of nature because you’re in the middle of a body of water. Communication with the outside world is sporadic and takes more effort (although it’s a lot easier now, with computers). You’re living on the edge, but that edge is defined and it’s hard to get lost.

I’m irresistibly drawn to islands. Are you?

Here’s another reason to ponder about why islands draw people, offered by Mr. Holm:

In one way, all islands are female, surrounded by female water. John Fowles, in his book, “Islands,” says, “The domain of the siren had been where sea and land meet; and it is even less for nothing that the siren is female, not male.” Islands are secret places where the unconscious grows conscious, where possibilities mushroom, where imagination never rests. “All isolation . . . is erotic.”