I’m reading “David Copperfield” by Charles Dickens in preparation for reading this year’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “Demon Copperhead” by Barbara Kingsolver. Although it’s not a requirement to be familiar with Copperfield before reading Copperhead, the latter is based on former so I figure it can’t hurt.
Given my blog’s name, imagine my delight when, in the opening of Copperfield, I found a short treatise on meandering. David Copperfield was born with a caul (amniotic sack) around him. Back in the day, cauls were thought to have mystical properties, one of which was to protect whoever possessed it from death by drowning. They had value. David’s family sold the caul in a raffle. It was won by an old lady who died triumphantly in her bed years later at the age of 92. She was triumphant because she did not drown. But drowning would have been difficult for her even without a caul since she never went in or near the water except to cross a bridge.
Copperfield says, “Over her tea, to which she was extremely partial, she, to the last, expressed her indignation at the impiety of mariners and others who had the presumption to go ‘meandering’ about the world. It was in vain to represent to her that some conveniences, tea perhaps included, resulted from this objectionable practice. She always returned with greater emphasis and with and an instinctive knowledge of the strength of her objection: ‘Let us have no meandering!’”
That made me laugh. Good thing the dear departed lady is not alive to read my blog. She would surely find it objectionable.
I have been doing my share of meandering lately, thus my absence from this blog. I hope to write more soon about my adventures traveling around the state and culture of Wisconsin.
The book I wrote based on the best of these blog stories is a finalist for a Midwest Book Award. I can hardly believe it! “Meander North” was nominated by my publisher, Nodin Press, in the nature category. Two other books are finalists in that category also: one about Wisconsin rivers and lakes, and one about Iowa farmland.
I was surprised to see my book in the nature category. I think of it more as a memoir, but you’ve got to admit that the outdoors plays a big role in my life.
This is an annual competition organized by the Midwest Independent Publishers Association, which operates over a 12-state region. This year, they received 303 entries and 83 are finalists. Judges are booksellers, university staff, and librarians who are subject matter experts and collectively hail from the Midwest. Winning entries will be announced at a ceremony in Minneapolis in mid-June.
You can view all the finalists and purchase the books here.
I am a bit flabbergasted, but extremely honored just to be a finalist. I could not have produced the book without the help of Nodin Press, and my editors John Toren and Lacey Louwagie. Both of my editors are also bloggers. You can find their sites here:
I’ve mentioned a few times in passing here that I’ve been working on a collection of short stories. I tried for about a half year to find an agent for them, to no avail. So, I switched to contacting publishers directly.
I am happy to announce my collection will be published by Cornerstone Press, the publishing arm of the University of Wisconsin-Steven’s Point. They were actually the first publisher I tried!
I learned about them when I went to a conference by the Wisconsin Writers Association and happened to sit by someone who had a short story collection published by them. I checked out her book. It was good quality, so then I researched Cornerstone Press, and they looked good, too.
I had time between holidays in December to finalize my book proposal. The stories are of a magical realism bent, similar to my novels. They deal with the power of appearances to captivate and deceive. Plenty of nature is included, along with a monster, trees that can communicate, and a hot botanist.
It’s tentatively titled, “Don’t Judge a Book.” But we’ll see if that name sticks. I expect the book to be available in spring of 2024.
I submitted the proposal for my recent blog-memoir, “Meander North” a year ago between December holidays, too, when it got picked up. That seems to be a good time for me. Maybe I’ll make that a standing tradition!
So, I’m doing a little happy dance in Marie Land. Join in the dance with me . . . .
My memoir based on this blog has been printed and is on its way to the distributor. I haven’t received my copies yet, but soon…
Here’s the cover. The image was taken by the Nodin Press editor. I like how “Duluthy” it is, with the lift bridge, a person wearing flannel, and a ship coming into the harbor.
It’s available for preorder ($19.95) from Itasca Books in Minneapolis.
Here are the deets:
Bite-sized memories and adventures written on a weekly basis come together in “Meander North,” a blog-memoir by Minnesota author Marie Zhuikov. Collected over nine years on Zhuikov’s “Marie’s Meanderings” blog, the 51 quirky essays are arranged by season, and cover a wide range of outdoorsy and community-based reflections: from an insider’s view of Duluth’s Christmas City of the North Parade, to a spring cleaning trip to the local dump, and a description of a lawn-mower race. One piece depicts a gleeful summer morning paddleboard on a quiet lake. Another takes readers on a meditative fall walk on a woodland trail. The book finishes with specific topics including, “Brushes with Fame,” where Zhuikov describes close calls and meetings with famous (and not so famous) people, and “Bookish Adventures,” which detail her literary leanings and incidents that have added spice to book signings for her previous works.
Although the topics are diverse, all display Zhuikov’s love for her home state. “Meander North” is a celebration of Minnesota, its seasons and traditions.
Naturalist Marie Zhuikov’s sense of home bubbles up at the confluence of absurdity, loss, and transcendent beauty. Drawn from the annals of her long-standing blog “Marie’s Meanderings,” the short essays in “Meander North” shimmer like the northern lights in their illumination of the joy, folly, and hard-earned grit one develops living at the crossroads of Minnesota’s and Wisconsin’s north shores. From encounters with boat-towing loons to organizing a sea-lamprey tasting event, the stories within the collection are sometimes zany and always delightful, revealing a Midwestern outdoorswoman’s celebration of family, community, and the mysterious forces of the natural world. – Meg Muthupandiyan, author of “Forty Days in the Wilderness Wandering”
A walk with Marie through the seasons and terrains of her northland writer’s life, this interweaving of environmental science with a reverent appreciation for the Earth and its inhabitants is lovely and moving. In essays that evoke the fragility and toughness of this northern world of icy lake waters and rocky shores, rugged pines and graceful birches, this collection is timeless, a treasure to be read and reread. – Linda LeGarde Grover, author of “Gichigami Hearts”
With wit, reverence and unabashed honesty, Zhuikov offers us delightful insight into what it means to live with purpose in the North. – Sam Cook, “Duluth News Tribune” outdoors writer
Zenith Books (318 North Central Ave., Duluth MN) will host a book launch on November 17 at 7 p.m.
Old School Holiday Market (9165 Hwy 53, Cotton MN), Nov. 19, 10 am – 3 pm
Get it Local art and gift fair, Peace Church (1111 N 11th Ave E., Duluth MN), Dec. 3, 10 am – 3 pm
I haven’t been meandering much lately. I’ve been too busy with final edits to my “Meander North” manuscript — a book coming out this fall composed of the best of my blog entries. Choosing the stories was easy. Figuring out how to edit them was difficult because they occur during different timeframes during the first nine years of my blog. Plus, there are fifty-one of them!
But I think my editors and have I figured it out. If all goes well, the book should be available in late October. I’m planning a launch event in Duluth for early November. I will post details here once I know them, and I’ll be doing a cover reveal!
In other news, I’ve been continuing my kickboxing workouts. I love them. I am proud to say I can now jump rope 70 times in a row. That’s quite a change from a couple of months ago when my count was like, uh, nothing. Everytime I go to the gym, I feel like Rocky Balboa. 🙂
Russ and I have had many gatherings of friends and family lately. We’re looking forward to setting sail on Lake Superior soon.
Nodin Press in Minneapolis is planning on publishing a book of the “best” posts from this very blog. The process received a boost yesterday when I learned I received a grant from the Arrowhead Regional Arts Commission to pay for the book’s editing. I’ve received plenty of grants through my Sea Grant work before but this is my first personal arts grant, so I’m pretty psyched.
As planned at this point, my “Meander North” book will be arranged by season and will celebrate all things northern Minnesotan. Plus, bonus chapters will relate to bookish adventures and brushes with fame. There will also be some content you haven’t seen before. When asked what genre it is, I answer that it will be a blogmoir (blog memoir).
Thank you, Arrowhead Regional Arts Commission, for the grant and for all the work you do to support artists and writers in this neck of the woods!
Thank you, dear readers, for meandering around with me again this past year. Although our travels and musings were not as far-flung as in the past, we tried to make the best of things despite Covid. We narrowly escaped being infected just recently and hope you have remained healthy.
Here are the five top posts from this year, along with news about an exciting project I have in the works.
But first – a couple more numbers: views almost doubled again this year, with 47,600. My blog has about 700 followers.
The #1 new post this year was “A Keen Grasp of the Obvious.” I wrote it in homage to the Progressive Insurance commercials that feature Dr. Rick,” a pseudo-therapist who tries to ensure his customers (patients) don’t turn into their parents once they become homeowners (a.k.a. parentomorphosis). The commercials earlier this year reminded me of a saying one of my high school friends used to espouse. Several more commercials in the series have aired since then, and I still like them all! Other people must like them too, if they are finding my blog. If I had a second chance at a career, I’d like to work at whatever agency produced these ads.
#2: “A Review of the Lungplus Device.” This gadget is distributed by a Duluth-area woman. It’s a mouth-worn humidity and heat exchanger you can use while cross-country skiing to make your lungs happier. Yes, it works, and yes, it makes you look like a dork. But it’s worth it to have happy lungs.
#3: “Letting go of the Past.” The elevatorized Baby Butler was a combination highchair, play table, and bed for young children that was manufactured in the 1950s and 60s. I survived being placed in the contraption as a baby and in this post, describe the process of letting go of it.
#4: “A Time for Photography: Madeline Island.” This was about a life-changing photography class I took at the Madeline Island School for the Arts on a small island in Lake Superior. It features some of my favorite photos from the trip. Because I took the class for work, and I work for a public university funded by taxpayers, the photos are available for reuse. BUT, just a reminder that photos appearing in my blog that have my signature on them are ones I took on my own time with my own equipment and are not for reuse without permission.
#5: “The Path of Totality.” One of my short stories based on the 2017 eclipse was printed in a local literary journal. This post is about how I developed the story idea and what I hope to do with the collection of which it is a part. I’m still looking for an agent for this collection, hint, hint. Although I’m not having much luck with that.
Since you’ve read down this far, I have news to impart. During a bout of insomnia in the wee hours of the morning about a month ago, I got the idea to create a northern Minnesota memoir collection of the “best” stories from my blog over these past eight years. I thought “Meander North” would make a good title. I’d arrange the stories by season, plus add a couple of other miscellaneous chapters.
I developed a book proposal and sent it out to a couple of well-known Minnesota publishing houses. I heard back from one, and they want to publish it! EEEEEeeeee!
In 2022, I’ll be polishing up a bunch of these posts and they’ll be coming out in a book. I must say, I’m pretty darn excited for the new year. It’s about time one of those crazy insomnia ideas paid off.
Last winter, a rabbit lived in our backyard, sheltering under our neighbor’s shed. We’d awaken in the morning, shuffle downstairs and take a look out our window on the landing where we could see the back yard. More often than not, there she crouched, a brown cottontail, nibbling what grass wasn’t already covered by snow.
Since both of our dogs died, we’ve been petless. We saw this rabbit so much, it just seemed natural to start becoming a little attached. I began leaving her offerings of dried orchard grass, remnants of our deceased guinea pig. I also initiated a naming contest for the bunny on Facebook. My friend June won with the moniker of “Tater Tot.” It fit – the shape and coloring were approximately right.
Tator Tot survived the winter and this spring we noticed several Tiny Tots scampering around the backyard – her children, no doubt. They didn’t seem to be doing any damage to my hostas, just hiding under them instead of eating them, so we welcomed these new additions to the yard.
I suspect that Tator Tot eventually left our yard for the forest at the end of our road. We sometimes saw a rabbit fitting her description during our woods walks. Her Tiny Tots hung around for several weeks and then seemed to disappear. I hope they, too, found their way to the forest. But they could have easily been eaten by a neighborhood cat or a fox.
I rather miss these foster pets. They were easy to take care of. No fuss, no muss.
I recently read Linda LeGarde Grover’s book “Gichigami Hearts.” LeGarde is a former neighbor of mine – we grew up in on the same street on the other side of Duluth. Her book offers a Native American perspective of our old neighborhood. In one chapter, “Rabbits Watching Over Onigamiising,” she describes how seeing rabbits reminds her of the Native spiritual being, Nanaboozhoo. Now, if you’ve read my book, “Eye of the Wolf,” you know that Nanaboozhoo is a trickster– part rabbit, part human. He embodies the best and the worst of humans and the supernatural.
LeGarde’s backyard bunnies savored her tulips, necessitating a change the next spring to planting marigolds, which she says the “rabbits nibbled on, but not much.” LeGarde writes that planting different flowers rather than trying to eradicate the bunnies was a good compromise. “We are all here to live our lives . . . We know from traditional teachings that all animals are important to the earth, that no animal is ranked higher or lower than any other in the eyes of the Creator, and that all have a contribution to make.”
She recounted a conversation she had with a friend about seeing rabbits on clear nights in the moonlight in winter, sitting with their legs folded under them like a cat – like they were waiting for something. LeGarde’s friend told her, “When we see them like that at night it is because the rabbits are watching over us, over a sleeping world and our dreams.”
Here in the north, we have two kinds of rabbits: cottontails like Tator Tot and snowshoe hares, which are larger and turn white in winter. Rabbits in the moonlight reminded me of one of my favorite chapters in northland author Sigurd Olson’s book, “The Singing Wilderness,” about the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. It’s the chapter called “Moon Madness,” where he recounts seeing hares on his moonlight walks.
“If, when the moon is bright, you station yourself near a good rabbit swamp and stay quiet, you may see it, but you will need patience and endurance, for the night must be cold and still. Soon they begin to emerge, ghostly shadows with no spot of color except the black of their eyes. Down the converging trails they come, running and chasing one another up and down the runways, cavorting crazily in the light.”
Olson concluded that moonlight “made animals and men forget for a little while they seriousness of living; that there were moments when life could be good and play the natural outlet for energy.”
It’s comforting to think of rabbits or hares cavorting crazily in the darkness or quietly keeping watch. I never saw Tator Tot or the Tiny Tots at night because I was, well, sleeping. Perhaps I never saw them because the magic they worked was so effective.
When I emerged from my office building in Superior yesterday evening, I was thinking about all this. As I walked, who scampered across the parking lot pavement not ten feet from me? A big fluffy cottontail. She looked suspiciously like Tator Tot.
Hi – this Saturday (10/16) I’ll be selling books at the Twin Cities Book Festival from noon-2 p.m. Look for me at the Metropolitan Library Service Agency table. I’ll have copies of “Going Coastal” (a Lake Superior short story anthology written by Lake Superior locals, including me) and “Plover Landing,” my eco-mytic-romance novel.
I’ve posted several times about the “River of Poems” project on my blog. I’d like to let you know we (as in Wisconsin Sea Grant and the Lake Superior Reserve) finally got around to publishing this book of river poems from poets around the world.
To refresh your memory, in 2020, we sent out a call for river poems for The River Talks speaker series we hold with the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve. Poets were offered the opportunity to read their poems via Zoom during one of the River Talk monthly presentations.
Poets from across the world responded. With help from a judging committee, we narrowed the pool to a dozen poets, who read their works in March 2021 in conjunction with the St. Louis River Summit. The event was so moving, and the poems so well received, we created a publication to showcase them. “A River of Poems,” is now available as a free download.
In “I Held Us on for 36 Hours After the Levee Broke to Hell,” Heather Dobbins tells the story of a family who spends the night atop a phone pole to escape a raging river.
In “Catching Your Drift,” Lorraine Lamey highlights the subtle humor in natural resource regulations for a river in Montana.
Poet Ron Riekki shares how water can be an antidote for PTSD from war in “It Took a Long Time to Discover.”
A river in Detroit burns in Derold Sligh’s “Rouge River” poem, heralding a cry for environmental and social justice.