Free Books!

Going Coastal

If you’re active on Goodreads, a book giveaway is currently open for “Going Coastal.” This book is a collection of short stories about Lake Superior. Authors hail from northeastern Minnesota and northern Wisconsin. (A story by yours truly is included.)

The stories were chosen by a panel of judges during a contest offered by Lake Superior Writers last year. Lake Superior Writers is a nonprofit group with over 200 members that supports the artistic development of writers and fosters a vibrant literary arts community.

“If you like lighthouses, ships, beaches, ghosts, road trips up the shore, history, storms, agates, islands, family drama, and the mystical power of water, you’ll enjoy this book,” said Marty Sozansky, board chair of Lake Superior Writers.

Like the horizon blurs between sky and water, reality and fantasy merge in these tales of human struggle on the edge of one of the world’s largest lakes. Click here to enter the giveaway and the chance to win one of two copies. The giveaway is open until June 24, 2017.

If you don’t win, you can always purchase the book for $12.95 at Fitger’s Bookstore in Duluth and online through North Star Press, Amazon.com, and Barnes and Noble. Sales support Lake Superior Writers.

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!

Marie’s Meanderings in Review – 2016

 

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My favorite photo of the year: The Moray Coast of Scotland.

Hello blogging friends. As I complete my fourth year of blogging, I am still amazed by the geographic reach of the visitors to Marie’s Meanderings. It tickles me to start the day knowing that someone in Swaziland or Moldova read my blog.

The reach of my stories continues to slowly grow. In 2016, more than 4,000 people from 100 countries viewed my blog. My homeland of the U.S. had the most viewers, with the United Kingdom second, which may have something to do with my series of stories about my trip to Scotland this year.

Here are the five top posts for 2016:

Invisible Gold Medals for Mom
Maybe I should feel insecure that my most popular post was not written by me. It was a posthumous guest post written by my father as a tribute to my mother for their fiftieth wedding anniversary. I lost both my parents this year, and telling their story in my father’s words was much more comforting than writing something myself. The story was shared among my relatives, which accounts for some of its popularity.

How I Fought for my Mole
I suspect this 2015 story about a skin care treatment I underwent is so popular because people are actually searching for information on how to rid themselves of fuzzy moles – not on their faces, but in their back yards. (The animal kind of moles.) The story describes how I decided to keep my facial mole, despite the best efforts of the skin care technician to dissuade me. (I’m still glad I kept it, BTW.) But the story could also be popular because a lot of people are considering having the same facial treatment I had.

The World’s Largest Freshwater Sandbar
This is where I use science to explode the popular myth that Minnesota Point and Wisconsin Point in Duluth make up The World’s Largest Freshwater Sandbar. Close, but no cigar. And I guess a lot of other people need the facts about this one because it pops up in searches a lot.

How I got a Job at Mayo Clinic
The venerable Mayo Clinic is one of the largest employers in Minnesota. I worked for them for a year a few years ago, and this story describes how I got the job. The story was shared among my former Mayo colleagues, and many people find it through searches. I suppose they want a job at Mayo, too.

The Rachel Files: Week 7 and the Real Cost of Toilet Paper
This is a perennial favorite that’s been a top story since I began blogging in 2013. It’s popular mostly for its image: a sad-faced toilet into which someone is throwing toilet paper. The toilet paper has a big red X across it. But it’s also popular among people searching for information about excessive toilet paper use. I once lived with a roommate who had this problem, and the story is about how we addressed the issue and how much it cost to have my plumbing repaired. I have mixed feelings about the popularity of this tale, but will keep it up as a service to the world and for people who need an image to post in their bathrooms.

I plan to continue blogging in 2017 as long as the ideas keep coming. Thank you for meandering with  me!

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!

How I got into a Fight with Carol Bly

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Carol Bly. Image courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.

For those of you not familiar with the literary scene in Minnesota, Carol Bly is a literary legend in the state who has passed on to the great beyond. She is best known for her nonfiction essays about rural life compiled into the book “Letters from the Country.” She was born in Duluth and lived not too far away for most of her life. She was divorced from poet Robert Bly and they had four children. Carol’s writing had a strong moralistic and socialist voice. In her later years, she started teaching writing.

That’s where I come in. In the 1990s, I was one of about a half-dozen local writers selected to take a workshop with Carol. At the time, I was working on my first novel, “Eye of the Wolf,” and I was looking for all the literary education I could get.

I entered the workshop with trepidation because I had heard how forthright and brutal Carol could be with her critiques. Little did I know that her feedback would turn me off from writing for two years and that we would have a literary argument that would even be reflected later in Carol’s relationship with one of her daughters.

Most of the several-day workshop was great. I enjoyed Carol’s quick wit and literary experience. We had group discussions and writing exercises, which culminated in a one-on-one review of our work by Carol. As you know, my work is fictional and romantic and Carol was a nonfiction writer. I expected some differences just based on our genres, but I didn’t expect the depth of those differences.

Through her critique, I became aware of how much more work I needed to do with my novel to better incorporate descriptions of the settings into the story. I could see how much more time that was going to require, which was depressing and overwhelming at that point because I felt like I’d already put so much time into the story.

Then came the comment that cut the most. She wrote on my manuscript that she was a “serious creative writing teacher, not a hack manuscript-assister.” She hoped I would take on a sincere personal narrative instead of the story I was writing.

Our resulting one-on-one discussion, which was as polite as two Minnesotans can be who disagree with each other, centered around whether one can reflect real-life issues in fiction (vs. nonfiction). Carol argued that it was impossible to address true-life themes in fiction, especially the clap-trap kind of fiction that is romance writing. I strongly begged to differ.

Creative differences aired, we left it at that.

After two years of being overwhelmed by the thought of all the rewriting I needed to do, I pulled up my big-girl coveralls and got to it. And I finished my gosh-darned novel, and I got it published. Take that, Carol! My ego felt better, and I’m sure my novel was better for the extra work I put into it.

Imagine how much more happy my fragile writer’s ego was when I discovered years later that one of Carol’s children was a published fiction author (Mary, who wrote under the pen name of Eloisa James). Even “worse,” she was a romance fiction writer! Carol was quoted in one news article I read saying she wished her daughter’s efforts were “focused more towards more literary works.” After my exchange with Carol over the value (or lack thereof) of romance writing, I could totally see why her daughter felt like she needed to write under a pseudonym.

Imagine that same vindication magnified by one-and-a-half when, a couple of more years later, I discovered that Carol’s last book (she was terminally ill) was to be a work of fiction (“Shelter Half”). I bought the book as soon as I had a chance. It was pretty good, I admit, and it reflected many of the social issues she addressed in her nonfiction works.

I had to wonder though, if her final work was an apology to her daughter. Did Carol have the same argument with her daughter that she had with me so many years ago? I have a sneaking suspicion that she did. I suspect she wrote her book in part as a consolation to her daughter, and maybe to all the other fiction writers to whom she caused angst.

It made me feel good that I stuck to my guns during our discussion about the value of fiction writing. And it made me feel good that I discovered the strength within myself to work on my book because I thought it had value, even if Carol wasn’t so sure.

Writers – remember this story. If you truly believe in your work and your talent, don’t let a teacher dissuade you. Learn from them, yes, but keep going if what you’re working on rings true to you. And then do your damndest to make sure your work gets shared with the world. Because if you find it of value, no doubt others will, too. Even if it is a smarmy romance novel.

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

Nobody Dies in Spring in Duluth

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Marsh marigolds. Credit: Brian Robert Marshall [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons.

April is National Poetry Month in the U.S. I couldn’t let it pass without posting a poem. This is one I just finished, inspired by a poetry class taught by Duluth Minnesota’s Poet Laureate Jim Johnson, based on Philip Appleman’s poem, “Nobody Dies in Spring.” Try your own version! It’s a fun exercise. I hope this Spring finds you well.

Nobody Dies in Spring in Duluth

Nobody dies in Spring in Duluth.
That’s when we hold gloved hands
with total strangers on the Lakewalk.
We sing sweet nothings to our dogs,
who have been lying by the fireplace
all winter, gazing up at us
with walk-hopeful eyes.
Kids yell and splash bikes through street potholes.
High school students don shorts
when the mercury hits forty-five.
Fathers take a year’s worth of family refuse
in pickup trucks to the dump.
Pussy willows sprout gray fuzzy nubbins
for mothers to cut and bring inside.
Shy yellow marigolds beckon in marshes.
White gulls cry and fly over melting snowdrifts.
The sun reaches down with tentative warm caresses.
Nobody dies in Spring in Duluth.

©2016 Marie Zhuikov