Friday, August 28, 2009

Cookbooks

Rebecca Reid's Spice of Life: A Reading Challenge appealed to me because I have several cookbooks and knew I'd post about cookbooks in some way. Some of my cookbooks are basic, while others have a foreign flavor (sorry, couldn't resist).


Although I already have enough cookbooks to choose from, my original plan was to go to the library and take out Julia Child's Mastering The Art of French Cooking. (Some of you already know this, having read my post, Potluck, and to you I offer my apologies for being repetitious.) The book was already taken out, so I asked the reference librarian to put me on the list for it. But I did find a couple of other cookbooks, some culinary library loot which seemed right for the Spice of Life Challenge. I could have gone crazy in the library, surrounded by such an impressive array of cookbooks, but instead I checked out only two books, The Medieval Cookbook by Maggie Black, and a huge one called The Way to Cook by Julia Child (not the one I wanted, but still Julia Child).

For this post, my second for the Spice of Life Challenge, I'll focus on The Medieval Cookbook, which was published in 1992, and which attracted my attention for a few different reasons. I liked the idea of learning about the cookery of a past era, namely the Middle Ages. Also, when I was in college, my school held an annual Medieval Feast which I enjoyed greatly, a lavish, six-course extravaganza, complete with costumes and skits. This cookbook also has reproductions of Medieval art, as well as recipes from manuscripts written in Old English (followed by modern English). It features Medieval fare such as Roast Pheasant, Civey of Hare, Grilled Quail, and Sweet-sour Spiced Rabbit. Since I don't eat pheasant nor hare nor quail nor rabbit, I was pleasantly surprised to find a recipe for Lasagne Layered with Cheese in this cookbook. It actually sounds delicious enough to try.

Here it is, from the book, in Old English:

"Losyns. Take good broth and do in an ethen pot. Take flour of paynedemayn and make therof past with water, and make therof thynne foyles as paper with a roller, drye it harde and seeth it in broth. Take chesrucryn grated and lay it in dishes with powdour douce, and lay theron loseyns isode as hoole as thou myght, and above powdour and chese; and so twyse or thryse, & serue it forth. (CI. IV. 50.)"

Maggie Black also writes out the recipe in modern English, and lets us know that we can use ready made lasagne noodles (how about the no-boil kind?). This recipe, which is basically lasagne noodles layered with grated cheddar cheese, calls for a pinch of ground mace and cardamom or cinnamon, and white pepper, which sounds interesting, and seems very easy. The author suggests that this would have been an ideal last course in the Middle Ages, " to 'seal' in the alcohol so often imbibed too freely by the young".

What about you? What kind of cookbooks appeal to you and why? I look forward to hearing from you.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Book Thief: The Power of Books

So many people raved about this book by Markus Zusak that I had to get a copy of it for myself. However, once I did, I put The Book Thief on a shelf under some other books. I wasn't sure I was in the mood to read a book for young adults. However, when I started reading it, I wondered if it really was intended for children. The book's major themes are rather adult in nature: the power of books and reading, love and compassion, brutality, the Holocaust, war, and death. In fact, the narrator of the story is Death, although not a mean and conniving death, but a gentle and sometimes even humorous presence, a "reluctant collector of souls". I've since learned that The Book Thief, published in 2005, was originally published in Australia as a book for adults.

The Book Thief
is the story of a young German girl, Liesel Meminger. While traveling to Molching, a small town outside of Munich in Nazi Germany, Liesel's baby brother suddenly dies. In a snowy graveyard Liesel steals her first book, The Gravedigger’s Handbook. At this point, Death, the narrator, becomes intrigued by the girl and starts to tell her story. She's given to foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann, for reasons that she does not yet comprehend (her biological mother has been labeled a Kommunist and is taken away). Despite Rosa's obstreperous and frequent swearing, Liesel feels secure and loved by her foster parents. She develops a special bond with her foster father, a gentle soul with silver eyes who patiently helps her learn how to read. Throughout the story her love of reading grows and becomes more significant, and she "picks up" a few more books. Liesel becomes best friends with a boy named Rudy ("with hair the color of lemons"), goes to school, and life is pretty good, although she's still haunted by her brother's death. But soon everything changes for the worse. As Germany prepares for WWII, Jews are threatened and taken away, and the Hubermanns, who oppose this senseless brutality, hide a Jew named Max Vandenburg in their basement. Germany's brutality toward Jewish people, and to those helpful to Jews, is a dominant theme in this book.

Throughout the book, Liesel is drawn in by the power of words and books and reads at every opportunity, sometimes aloud to others. She learns the significance of words--words in her books that help her escape from a bleak life, as well as words which hold the country under the hideous control of Hitler and the Nazi party. Hitler's autobiography and book of political ideology, Mein Kampf, is important in several ways in The Book Thief.

Let me stop now--before I give away too much of this book. The Book Thief is quite original, touching, and beautifully written. It brought to mind two other books I've read about the horrors of the Holocaust and Nazi Germany, Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi, and The Reader by Bernhard Schlink. In 2007, The Book Thief won the Michael L. Printz Honor Book Award and the Boeke Prize, and in 2009 it became a bestseller on the NY Times' list of children's books. I cannot recommend it highly enough, especially to adults.

If you've read The Book Thief or have a related thought, please leave a comment. For another review of this book, please visit The Reading Life.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Potluck


~Preface~
Spice of Life: A Reading Challenge, hosted by Rebecca Reid, is my very first challenge. I've avoided reading challenges in the past because I thought they'd have too many complicated rules, and I truly like to "do my own thing", to read what I want to read when I want to. I was quite pleased to discover that for this challenge, which I learned about initially on Books of Mee, you choose your level of participation, and that the "rules" are very relaxed. "A Taste" of the Spice of Life challenge only requires posting about two food-related books. Two is certainly possible for me! I also thought I'd start with Julia Child's first cookbook, Mastering The Art of French Cooking, because I recently saw the movie Julie & Julia and was inspired to read her debut cookbook, but I changed course this morning. I went to the library to find the cookbook, but it's already checked out (not surprisingly), so I won't be able to get it for at least a month. And I didn't want to splurge on a new copy for myself from a bookstore, as I've been buying myself far too many books lately.

* * * * * * * * *

"In the context of this sisterhood, I was introduced to the potluck, and it became my template for community"
~Potluck, Kim Thomas

Each year, I go to several potlucks. Usually they are held after the music recitals which my children perform in, but sometimes they are just get-togethers. When I spotted Potluck: Parables of Giving, Taking, and Belonging by Kim Thomas, I took a look inside and saw stories followed by recipes, and I thought this book would be fun to read. But that wasn't the only thing I was thinking. I have a confession. When it comes to potlucks, I am out of luck. Whenever I have to cook for a group substantially larger than my family, I fail. Miserably. For the last potluck I cooked for, a violin recital, I made fried rice. It turned out to be awful. I'd even packaged it with extra care so that it would stay warm while the violinists were performing, but this only served to ruin the taste of the dish even further. I'm not sure exactly what I did wrong, but the results were disastrous, and even my kids, who love and request my fried rice at home, hardly touched it.

As I read the lovely stories in Potluck, with titles and subtitles such as An Honest Little Cake: The Virtues of Imperfection, Root Vegetables: Life From Dark Places, and Cake Potluck: Creativity Is A Gift, which are followed by recipes guaranteed (under normal circumstances) to please any crowd, I felt hopeful. I felt inspired. I wanted to make the recipes in the book, Jamie's Carrot Muffins, Cristin and Kale's Spring Rolls, Scott's Tortilla Soup. I even wanted to try making the somewhat "risky" lime-loaf. I thought that maybe, just maybe, my "potlucking skills" would improve after reading this book. Maybe my dishes would be eaten up, maybe I would receive praise for my fine cooking, and maybe someone might even want my recipe!

To make a long story short, this book did not change my life, nor my status at potlucks. Potluck is an entertaining book, and I enjoyed the ideas and ideals in addition to the recipes, but it wasn't life-altering. I tried a few of the recipes (not the lime-loaf), but I still cannot cook well for a large group. Consequently, I've had to accept my inability to cook for potlucks. The last time I went to a potluck, I brought ready-made fried chicken and cookies from the supermarket. There were no leftovers.

If you have an easy recipe for a potluck dish, or an experience or thought that you'd like to share, please feel free to do so in the comments. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

BBAW Amazon Gift Card Giveaway





Book Blogger Appreciation Week was created by My Friend Amy to recognize and celebrate the contributions of a large and diverse community of bloggers. In September the second annual BBAW will highlight the work of book bloggers through guest posts, giveaways, awards, and more. I've been nominated for three awards, best literary fiction blog, best reviews, and best writing. I'm thrilled by these nominations, and very grateful to those who nominated my blog.

In honor of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, Sept 14 - 18, I'm giving away one $25 Amazon.com gift card!

  • To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment after this post.
  • For an extra chance at winning, become a follower of my blog by clicking on "FOLLOW BLOG" in the silver bar above. I've just added a Followers widget to the right side of this blog, so you can join that way, too. If you're already a follower, please indicate that in your comment.
  • For an additional chance, post about this giveaway on your blog or Twitter, and let me know.
  • For yet another chance, suggest a good quote for my blog from a book or author. I have a few quotes on my blog already, so be sure to pick something that I don't have.

This giveaway ends on Sunday, Sept 20, at 5 PM PDT. The winner will be chosen randomly, and will be announced on Monday, Sept. 21. I will then contact the winner and send a $25 Amazon gift card via email. Good luck, and thanks for visiting my blog!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Julie & Julia


















Friday night was "girls' night out", and I went with two friends, Katie and Laura, to see the new movie, Julie and Julia. Written and directed by Nora Ephron, this movie is based on two true stories.

Julie & Julia
depicts the story of celebrity chef Julia Child in the formative years of her career, contrasting her life with that of blogger Julie Powell, who takes a year to cook all 524 recipes from Child's first cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Ephron's screenplay is adapted from two books: My Life in France, Child's autobiography, written with Alex Prud'homme, and Powell's memoir. In 2002, Powell started a blog documenting her daily cooking experiences for each recipe in Child's cookbook, known as The Julie/Julia Project, and in 2005 published a book, Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen. The 2006 paperback version was retitled Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously. Julie & Julia is the first major motion picture based on a blog.

What a perfect movie for the three of us to see! As an avid blogger, I enjoyed the blogging aspects of this movie. I've been blogging for about a year, and my friends Katie and Laura have recently started writing blogs of their own.

This humorous movie is entertaining for many reasons, but I'll mention only a few. I think Meryl Streep is a wonderful actress and portrays Julia Child well, robust and full of life, while Amy Adams is adorable as celebrity blogger Julie Powell, who blogged her way out of the doldrums and into the hearths of many. It was refreshing to see loving marriages in a movie. Julia and her husband, Paul, are happily married in the movie and adore each other. In an era before many women had careers, Paul encourages Julia to pursue her love of food, to write, and to have her own cooking show on TV. Julie and her husband, Eric, also have a loving marriage in the movie (even if he does tease her about being a "lobster killer", qu'est-ce que c'est?). Parts of Julie & Julia were filmed in Paris and the movie has an appealing French look and feel. I left the theater craving boeuf bouguignon and wanting to get my hands on a copy of Child's cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

This is definitely a good movie choice for bloggers, cooks, fans of Julia Child or Julie Powell, and those wanting lighter fare.

View the trailer for Julie & Julia.

Your comments are welcomed.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Middlesex

I didn't know what to expect with this one. I'd heard of it but hadn't read any reviews of Middlesex(at least, none that I remembered) before finding it in a bookcase at the cabin we were staying in. I had already picked out my reading for the weekend, but changed my plans once I opened up this book, startled by two things. First of all, the sheer volume of acclaim in the pages before the first chapter whetted my interest. And second of all, I also learned what this book is about.

Middlesex
is a novel about a hermaphrodite. To be honest, reading a novel about a hermaphrodite was the furthest thing from my mind. Furthermore, this book is over 500 pages. But I dove into it and finished it quickly. The author, Jeffrey Eugenides, is a talented writer; he also wrote The Virgin Suicides, which was published in 1993, and adapted into a film by director Sofia Coppola in 1999. In 2002, Middlesex was published, and in 2003 it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

This international bestseller is a multi-generational novel. It's not just about Calliope Stephanides--called "Callie"--discovering that she or he is a hermaphrodite. It's the story behind the recessive gene which caused the hermaphroditism in the first place, of the family history, and history in a larger sense as well. Omniscient narrator and protagonist Cal Stephanides, now a 41-year-old male, tells a story which spans three generations, starting with his Greek grandparents, who leave Turkey in 1922 and travel to the U.S., settle in Detroit, and work hard to carve out a new life. The book covers a lot of history, including Prohibition and Detroit's 1967 race riots, and is at times insightful, painful, funny, and gripping.

"I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; an then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petosky, Michigan, in August of 1974."
~Opening lines, Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides

Before reading this book, I never really thought about hermaphrodites or how they might feel. I think Eugenides does a remarkable job writing about how it feels to live with a mixed gender or one that isn't quite right. Raised as a girl until she's 14, Callie is embarrassed about not developing like other girls as a teenager, and senses that something is wrong with her. She also falls in love with a female classmate, "the Object", which is troubling and confusing to her. Middlesex is very much a coming-of-age novel, made more unusual by the fact that Callie is a hermaphrodite, an intersexed person. Although Callie's parents love their child unconditionally, and try to help once they're aware that there's a problem, ultimately it's Callie who takes charge in this unconventional, unforgettable story.

If you've read Middlesex or have a related thought to share please leave a comment.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Buy a Book, Support a Cause

















In June, I reviewed the award-winning novel Saffron Dreams, and interviewed the author, Shaila Abdullah. She contacted me this morning because she's now hosting a book fundraiser to help the Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A., a non-profit organization which helps the most vulnerable population of the world. This is a great opportunity to buy Saffron Dreams at a reduced price and help others in need. Here are the details:

"According to the World Bank, the current global crisis has pushed 90 million people into poverty and is slated to have a disastrous impact on health and education projects in the developing world unless the rich nations begin aiding the poor. From now until September 15, 2009, if you buy a copy of Saffron Dreams using the link below, proceeds from the sale will go to the Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A., a renowned international development organization. The organization develops and promotes creative solutions to address problems that impede development, primarily in Asia and Africa.

Hailed as 'highly recommended' by Library Journal and many other critics, Saffron Dreams is a memorial to the victims of 9/11, a source of strength for the survivors, and a vehicle of understanding for those struggling to make sense of the conflict between the East and West. Saffron Dreams is offered at a discounted rate of $16.95 (reg. $19.95) for the duration of this event. Buy a few copies for friends, family members, and coworkers, and support this great cause."

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Buy Saffron Dreams now
http://shailaabdullah.com/SD-buy.html
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Monday, August 3, 2009

An Interview with Linda Weaver Clarke











"Good writers write the kind of history good historians can't or don't write. Historical fiction isn't history in the conventional sense and shouldn't be judged as such. The best historical novels are loyal to history, but it is a history absorbed and set to music, so to speak, changed into forms akin to opera or theatrical productions."
~Daniel Aaron

Linda Weaver Clarke fuses together her passions for history, storytelling, and writing. She's the author of a series of historical fiction novels called A Family Saga in Bear Lake Valley and has a new book out, and is currently teaching free writing workshops across the United States. I'm pleased to present an exclusive interview with this inspiring author.


1) Linda, let's start with your background. After you raised your six daughters, you went back to college, then became a writer and a teacher. You obviously have a rock solid work ethic. How did the hard work of raising a big family help prepare you for a successful writing career? 

LWC: I don’t know if it really prepared me, but to me, family always comes first. My children and husband are very important to me so I put off going back to college until my youngest was in 5th grade. That was when I finally made a decision to go back to college. While she was at school, I took classes and was home before she walked in the house. My husband and children supported me by helping me with my chores and cooking, etc. After receiving my degree, I put together my ancestors’ stories into a form that would be interesting to my children.


2) What--or who--inspired you to write initially?

LWC: My ancestors’ stories inspired me a great deal. When I noticed how intriguing their experiences were, I decided to put them down in story form, making them come to life on paper. After finishing that wonderful task, I couldn’t stop writing so I turned to historical fiction. I wanted to set my books in Bear Lake Valley in Idaho, where my ancestors settled. They were the very first settlers of Paris, Idaho and their names were on a plaque at a historical site. My ancestors were my first inspiration so I decided to give some of their experiences to my fictional characters. At the back of each of my novels, I tell what was really true. I’ve had many people say how much they love the “Author’s Notes” because they wanted to know what was true. After much research, I found that there was a lot of fun history in that area so I turned my book into a 5-book family saga.


3) You've written a series of historical fiction books called A Family Saga in Bear Lake Valley. Tell us about the inspiration behind these stories.

LWC: With each book I write, I always insert some true experience that happened to my parents, grandparents, or great grandparents. I also include a love story in each of my books. The first book, Melinda and the Wild West, was inspired by a true experience. A former teacher labeled a young girl as a troublemaker and her classmates would not let her forget it. A similar experience actually happened to my own daughter and my brother way back in the early ‘50s. I wanted to tell this story but in the form of historical fiction, bringing out the importance of not labeling students, that negative labels tear down and positive labels build up. This book eventually won an award as one of the semi-finalists for the “Reviewers Choice Award 2007.”

In my second book, Edith and the Mysterious Stranger, I based this story on the courtship of my parents. They didn’t meet the conventional way. They met through letters. She said that she fell in love with the soul of my father and they didn’t even know what one another looked like. The day they met, my mother told me that her heart leapt within her and a warm glow filled her soul and she knew she would marry this man. In my story, you don’t know who the mysterious stranger is until the end of the book. Some readers guessed right while others were pleasantly surprised.

In my third book, Jenny's Dream, Jenny learns to forgive. This also comes from a family experience, something that a family member had to learn. Jenny has many dreams and wants to accomplish something remarkable in the world. She has read about the courageous women who were self-reliant, daring and determined such as Susan B. Anthony who fought for Equal Rights, an important part of American history. This was one of Jenny’s dreams, to make a difference in the world. There is one thing standing in her way of focusing on her dreams, though. She must learn to forgive and put her past behind her. In this story, childhood memories begin bothering her and she realizes that before she can choose which dream to follow, she must learn to forgive those who have wronged her. She learns that forgiveness is essential to our well being, that we’re only hurting ourselves by not forgiving. This story is about accomplishing one’s dreams and the miracle of forgiveness.

To read excerpts from each of these novels, go to my website.


4) Historical fiction is both factual and fictional. How much research do you do for your books? Do you primarily use Google, the library, or other sources?

LWC: All of the above! Historical fiction helps us to understand the past. It educates and entertains us at the same time. History books give us the facts, but historical fiction helps us to understand history in a special way. Leon Garfield said, "The historian, if honest, gives us a photograph; the storyteller gives us a painting."

Research is an important part of writing historical fiction or nonfiction. Learn everything you can about the area your story takes place, the time period, non-fictional characters, and historical facts you would like to add.

Find out everything you can about the area to both educate your readers and to make the setting feel real. While the reader can’t be there physically, they can be there mentally. If possible, go to the area you want to write about, walk around, and look at the historical buildings. If you can’t travel there, find pictures of that area, study books at the library or search the Internet. Description is very important in a story. Paint a picture like an artist, describing what you see and feel. Make the scenery believable by describing the crunching of pine needles beneath your feet or allow the reader to smell the pine trees in the forest.

After much research I found that Bear Lake Valley had a lot of intriguing history. In my research, I found that in the western part of the United States, the market for cattle was lucrative. Cattle rustling was a terrible problem in the West. I also learned that a ten-foot grizzly bear by the name of Old Ephraim roamed the mountains of Cache Valley and Bear Lake Valley, wreaking havoc everywhere he went. I learned that the Bear Lake Monster is an old Indian legend and part of their history. Many accounts were written about it, testifying to its reality. I also found out that women had to fight for the rights of equality. A woman was not encouraged to go to college or become anything more than a teacher or a nurse. She could not bob her hair or raise her hemlines without the threat of being fired from her job. When doing research, it makes the book come to life and it’s so much fun to imagine what things must have been like as we learn more about history.

Research is an important part of writing. Learn all you can about the area, any non-fictional characters, and the time period. Remember: “The storyteller gives us a painting."


5) Let's talk about your latest project, the Family Legacy Writing Workshops. You hold these free writing workshops at libraries across the United States to teach the basics of writing and help others put their family history into stories. How did you develop this idea? Please give us more information about your Family Legacy Writing Workshops, which sound so intriguing.

LWC: I teach people how to turn their family history into a variety of interesting stories. The importance of family legacy can never be over emphasized. I believe we are the people we are because of our ancestors. Who are they and what were their traditions? Did they fight for a cause and what was it about? Each of us has a story from our ancestors or even our very own story to tell. If these stories are unwritten, then how are our children going to know of their parentage? It’s up to us to write these experiences down. We must record and share these stories with our children.

First, collect your thoughts; write down any experiences that you remember. Talk to family members and discuss memories. You can make several short stories, making the history into segments. Or you can write the whole history as a continuous flow. Your children will want to know their heritage, what their ancestors stood for. Make your Family Legacy something your children will remember, something they will be proud of. For a sample of what you can do with your family histories, you can read the short stories on my website.


6) They say that teachers also learn from their students. What do your students teach you about the art of writing?

LWC: Yes, I do learn from others. As we discuss writing, someone will ask a question that I’m not sure how to answer. I give my opinion but then someone else raises his or her hand and adds to it. Many times their ideas are even better. Here’s one example. Someone asked how they could get their parents to talk about their past so they could write down their biography. They had tried and tried and their parents would respond with, “I can’t remember that far back.” Well, one person raised her hand and said, “Get together as a family. Make sure you have some of your parent’s siblings or friends there, and then begin talking. It’s amazing how memories come back to us as we talk in a group. Also, make sure you have a recorder.” That was a fantastic idea. I learned something and was able to take this information with me to other workshops.

7) Without giving away too many of your writing workshop secrets, can you give us a few pointers on writing well? 

LWC: Emotion is the secret of holding a reader, the difference between a slow or a dynamic recounting of a story. When you feel the emotion inside, so will your readers. By giving descriptions of emotion, it helps the reader feel part of the story as if he were actually there himself. Emotions of a character can help us feel satisfied because we can feel what the character feels. Emotion is part of our lives, so why ignore such an important element in a story? But remember: Show, don’t tell.

If an ancestor had to defend her home from marauders, how did she feel? If she were frightened, then her heart would be pounding against her ribs. If an outlaw challenged your great grandfather, what were his feelings deep down inside? If he were angry, did his face turn red with defiance? If your grandfather was faced with a grizzly bear in the wild, how did he react? If he were shocked, did his face turn pale and was he trembling with fear? These are questions that you must research. Find out all you can so you can tell your story. If your ancestor didn’t record his feelings, then imagine what it would be like in a given situation.

For those writing their own autobiography, don’t forget descriptions of love. You know what it feels like to be in love or to be loved, so describe it. Tell how you met your husband or wife and how it felt when you realized you were in love for the first time. Did your heart swell within, sending a warm feeling down your spine, and making you feel as if life was worth living? Remember, emotions are part of life and can be an essential part of your story.

After finishing a workshop in Boise, Idaho, a woman at the Historical Society Library said to my daughter, who comes along to assist me, “I felt as if I had handcuffs on my wrists and your mother has just unlocked them.” I was so touched by what she said.


8) On your website you say that writing can be a healing process, and that it can act as therapy. Does writing about our experiences, even painful ones, help us?
 
LWC: Oh, yes! That’s why it’s a healing process. If we can express ourselves on paper, then that’s the beginning. We need to record our experiences, and in doing so, it might help us to understand ourselves a little better.


9) Who are some of your favorite writers of historical fiction and why?

LWC: Ron Carter is one of my favorites. He writes about the Revolutionary War and how we got our freedom, using fictional characters. His novels take us back to 1775 to 1812. This series, Prelude to Glory, has several volumes, of course. I learned so much about our “Founding Fathers,” the patriots, and George Washington. At the end of each chapter or at the end of the book, he lists his bibliography, where he got his information. I learned to respect and love these patriots and George Washington so much and my heart swells within every time I see our beloved flag.


10) Tell us about your two latest books, David and the Bear Lake Monster and The Art of Writing. Which was more difficult, or more fun, to write?

LWC: The Art of Writing is a 34-page booklet that I have available at each of my workshops. It contains my complete lecture. One has to attend my workshops to get it. It’s actually called Writing Your Family Legacy. I enjoyed writing this booklet but I can’t deny that writing historical fiction is a blast.

David and the Bear Lake Monster was so much fun to write. I have dedicated this book to my great grandmother, Sarah Eckersley Robinson, who was my inspiration. She became deaf at the age of one and was a very brave and courageous woman. She never let her deafness stop her from developing her talents. I took a lot of her experiences from her biography and gave them to my heroine to bring some reality into my story. To me, the experiences of my ancestors have always intrigued me. 

Sarah was known as one of the most graceful dancers in town. She never sat on the sidelines at dances because of her natural ability. She was known for gliding across the floor with ease, with just a touch of her partner’s hand. Sarah had such agility and gracefulness, not only on the dance floor, but also while swimming and diving. People would actually throw coins in the water so they could watch her dive after them. They would applaud, letting her know how much they enjoyed watching her, and then throw another coin in the water.

Once an intruder actually hid in her bedroom under her bed, thinking he could take advantage of her since she was deaf. He must have thought she was an easy victim but was sadly mistaken. She swatted him out from under her bed with a broom, and all the way out of the house, and down the street for a couple blocks, whacking him as she ran. She was a spunky woman! Because of my admiration for my great grandmother, I named my character “Sarah.”

In my research about the “hearing impaired,” and talking to a dear friend who became deaf in her youth, I became educated about the struggles they have to bear. It was a surprise to find out that some struggle with self-esteem and the fear of darkness. I didn’t realize that concentrating on reading lips for long periods of time could be such a strain, resulting in a splitting headache. After all my research, I found that I had even more respect for my great grandmother and her disability. What a courageous woman!

The different accounts of the Bear Lake Monster, the names of the people who saw it and their contribution to this legend are found in the bibliography at the end of my book. The accounts were true, according to Bear Lake History.

The mystery of the Bear Lake Monster has been an exciting part of Idaho history ever since the early pioneers arrived in 1863. The legend of the Bear Lake Monster made life a little more exciting for the pioneers. Some people claimed to have seen it and gave descriptions of it. Throughout the years, no one has ever disproved the Bear Lake Monster. A bunch of scientists tried to discredit the monster and said it was a huge codfish that was shipped in from the East but could not prove this theory. Does the Bear Lake Monster exist?

The interesting thing is that all the reports have pretty much the same description. The monster’s eyes were flaming red and its ears stuck out from the sides of its skinny head. Its body was long, resembling a gigantic alligator, and it could swim faster than a galloping horse. It had small legs and a huge mouth, big enough to eat a man.

Is the Bear Lake Monster fact or fiction, legend or myth? Whatever conclusion is drawn, the legend still lives on and brings a great deal of mystery and excitement to the community. Remember, when visiting Idaho, never doubt the Bear Lake Monster or you’ll be frowned upon. No one makes fun of the great legend of Bear Lake Valley!


11) What is the synopsis of your new book, David and the Bear Lake Monster?

LWC: Deep-rooted legends, long family traditions, and a few mysterious events! Once again the Roberts family is reunited with David trying to solve personal issues and overcome his troubles! David quickly becomes one with the town and its folk and finds himself entranced with one very special lady and ends up defending her honor several times. She isn’t like the average woman. Sarah is different. This beautiful and dainty woman has a disability that no one seems to notice. He finds out that Sarah has gone through more trials than the average person. She teaches him the importance of not dwelling on the past and how to love life. After a few teases, tricks, and mischievous deeds, David begins to overcome his troubles, but will it be too late? Will he lose the one woman he adores? And how about the Bear Lake Monster? Does it really exist?

Linda, thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview. I read some of your short stories online, and recommend them to readers of this blog. I will never forget the story about Sarah (mentioned briefly above), entitled The Intruder, and look forward to enjoying more of your Bear Lake Valley series.

As always, comments are appreciated!

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