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Windbreak House
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If you Like me on this Facebook page you'll get notifications of my newly-posted blogs as well as announcements about my books, writing retreats, and other events to do with Windbreak House.​WindbreakHouse

No kitten videos, but I will post some writing-related jokes and grammar tips.

An Index of Blog Topics
may be found lower down in this left-hand column so, for example, you can search for all blogs with "Writing Suggestions."

A dated archive of blogs is also available below the index.

Click here to jump to the index, or scroll down to see what you might find in this left-hand column.

Is It Spring Yet?

Want to know more about this critter?

See the Gallimaufry Page for more photos and some odds and ends that don't fit anywhere else on this website.

Pumpkins for HAHA

Linda in the pumpkin patch.

The Diamond T, Jerry's 1947 truck, added some historical color.
The pumpkins were hauled to Hermosa for the fall fundraiser for HAHA and given in exchange for a free-will donation.

Loading up the pumpkins.

Hauling them away.

The HAHA fundraiser and pumpkin sale was on October 12th-- after the early-October blizzard that Linda wrote about in her blog for October 11th and in her Home Page Message on October 31st.

Within days of the blizzard the temperatures were back up to the usual mild fall weather we expect and the snows had melted except for the deepest drifts.

Read Linda's October 14 blog about the kids and the pumpkins.

October Blizzard!
See Linda's blog for October 11th.

Also see her Home Page Message posted October 31st.

Linda bundled up inside the cold house when the power went out.
"A hardpacked snowball makes excellent ice for a gin and tonic."

One foot of snow . . .
piles into massive drifts in 75 mph wind gusts. Linda near the writing retreat house, October 2013.

These boots were made for walking . . .
Linda's snow boots: tall, warm, waterproof and flowery. What more could you want?

Jessie Sundstrom
1922 -- 2013

Here are a couple of Jessie Sundstrom's history books about western South Dakota topics: Custer County History and Carl Sanson: Black Hills Rancher.

Read about Jessie's life in Linda's blog post for September 12.

Read about Linda's Birthday Month.

See her blogs posted on July 19, 2013 and on July 18, 2010. To find them, search for Birthday in the list of blog topics lower in this left-hand column.

Linda reads a birthday card.

Toby reluctantly helps with the celebration.

Linda dives into her birthday gifts.

More Stories and Essays by Linda
may be found on this website.

* Home Page Message archives
Many of these essays have writing advice. All have photos, some have recipes, a few have poems.

* Poetry Page essays
Read suggestions for writing and performing poetry and the stories behind some of Linda's poems.

* Critter Stories
Brief stories and photos of birds and wildlife seen on Linda's ranch may be found on this page.

* Gallimaufry Page
Stories and photos that don't fit anywhere else.

Linda on YouTube

Nancy Curtis, publisher and owner of High Plains Press, recorded a couple of videos of Linda reading her poetry and posted them on YouTube.

To see Linda read "Where the Stories Come From"
click here.

To see Linda read her poem "Make a Hand"
click here

Or go to and search for Linda Hasselstrom.

You may also want to visit the High Plains Press facebook page where you will find these two poetry videos and much more about the many great western books-- poetry and non-fiction-- published by High Plains Press.

Thanks, Nancy!

# # #

Index of Blog Topics

Quick Links

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Notes from a Western Life
Ranging Far and Wide on the High Plains and Beyond
Linda M. Hasselstrom's Blog

The Diversity of the South Dakota Grasslands

February 5, 2014

Tags: Spiders, Grasslands

A male Theridion pierre spider found on the Fort Pierre National Grassland. The tiny spider was discovered by L. Brian Patrick, an arachnologist from Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, SD. [photo courtesy L. Brian Patrick]

. . .
Recently I read that an arachnologist from one of South Dakota’s small universities, Dakota Wesleyan in Mitchell, discovered a new species of spider on the Fort Pierre National Grassland. Named for the grassland, the Theridion pierre spider is one of more than 500 species confirmed and announced in a six-month span.

Experts believe only 10 percent of spider species, and in fact all animals on earth, have been documented by humans so far, says the discoverer, Brian Patrick. He thinks he may identify as many as five new species from the spiders he has already trapped in the area.

Patrick has also found spiders in his traps whose find in South Dakota is the farthest west, east or north they've ever been documented. That's because few scientists are working on the sparsely-populated northern Great Plains, says Patrick, who is probably the only arachnologist working in the state. "It's not very sexy to work in South Dakota," he said. Big grants are usually given to study new species in places such as the rain forests of Borneo.

"I'm poor; I have to work in my backyard. Turns out my backyard is pretty fertile," he said. He added that "another common misconception about the prairie is that it's a two-dimensional environment, unlike rivers or forests where completely different creatures can live at different depths and heights." The researcher said in talking with colleagues, he's learned that, "I always have more diversity in my grasslands than they do in their forests."

I'm so delighted to see this story for several reasons. First, the local newspaper gave it prominent placement; I can't help think the management is reminding readers that they should not be so hasty to encourage "developments" that include mining and paving the prairie. Second, this is more confirmation for the fact that we haven't begun to discover what rich knowledge the prairie might still conceal.

# # #

For more information:

See the article in the Rapid City Journal.

See the article in the Capital Journal, Pierre SD.

See the article in the Sioux City Journal.

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Janet Lembke: Leaving Us Wanting More

January 7, 2014

Tags: Writer: Janet Lembke, Recipe: Cheese Bread, Recipe: 13-Bean Soup

Janet Lembke's "Soup's On!"
Published 2001 by The Lyon's Press.

When my Christmas card came back the other day, I feared the worst and found it was true: My friend Janet Lembke, the author of 20 books, a friend and chicken enthusiast, died in September. She was working on her memoir, "I Married An Arsonist"-- I was really looking forward to reading that.

Among her many books, I particularly enjoyed Because the Cat Purrs: How We Relate to Other Species and Why it Matters; Touching Earth: Reflections on the Restorative Power of Gardening; and The Quality of Life: Living Well, Dying Well.

I contributed a recipe to her collection Soup’s On: Sixty Hearty Soups You Can Stand Your Spoon In. This was one of those publishing stories: the book was published, and then because someone at the publishing house saw a competing book by a better-known author, the ENTIRE PRINTING was shredded. Janet later was able to get the book republished-- but I have one of the few copies of the original printing that she was able to get before it was destroyed. Lesson 9,999,999 in the strange world of publishing.

Besides the luscious soups, the book contains my favorite cheese bread recipe-- much better than Red Lobster’s.

Cheese Bread

2/3 Cup water
½ Cup butter, cut into pieces (not bad with Smart Balance)
2/3 Cup flour
¼ tsp salt
3 large eggs
½ Cup Swiss cheese, shredded (I use cheddar)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Bring the water and butter to a rolling boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat and immediately add flour and salt. Beat with a wooden spoon until blended. Return to the heat and beat vigorously until the dough balls up and leaves the sides of the pan, about 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 5 minutes.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until the batter is glossy. Blend in the cheese thoroughly.

Dampen a shallow baking pan or cookie sheet with cold water. Drop dough in large dollops onto the pan to form a ring, with the sides of the dollops touching.

Bake for 30 minutes, until puffed and golden brown. Remove from the oven and loosen immediately from the pan with a spatula. The cheese bread will stick a little.

Serves 6. Or maybe only two if you can’t stop yourself.

Janet said she got this recipe from her daughter Elizabeth.

* * *

Here is my recipe used in Janet Lembke's book:

Jerry and Linda’s Lucky 13-Bean Soup Mix

My partner, Jerry Ellerman, and I developed this recipe some years ago as a Christmas gift. For each recipient, we packaged all the beans and spices in a single quart jar, and tied a tiny bottle of Tabasco sauce in the bow.

Black-eyed peas, green and yellow split peas, lentils, pearl barley, bulgur, and the following beans: black, anasazi, baby lima, red, navy, pinto, and garbanzo.

1 bay leaf
1 chopped onion (or 1 Tblsp onion flakes)
1-2 garlic cloves (or 1 tsp garlic powder)
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp savory
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp dry basil
peel from 1/2 lemon, or 1/8 tsp lemon peel

To Make the Soup:
Use any combination of beans available. Dump beans into colander and wash. Cover with water and soak overnight. (Or see Options, below)

Pour one glass of your favorite wine or beer. Sip slowly as you follow these instructions.

Drain water and discard. Cover with 2 quarts water and simmer slowly until tender.

Add spices provided, and choose from the optional stuff listed below. The bay leaf will keep the beans free from crawlies for at least a year. Toss it in the pot too. But don't eat it. Bay is good luck as seasoning, very bad luck if eaten.

Simmer another 20-45 minutes. Serve with french bread, crackers, and a green salad. Sprinkle with Tabasco sauce to taste. Or shred cheese on top.

To skip soaking the beans overnight, simmer them slowly for two hours. Or, if it's too late, put beans in a large casserole with 3 cups cold water. Cover with lid or vented plastic wrap. Microwave on High 10 min., or until boiling. Stir. Microwave on high another two minutes, covered. Let stand covered for an hour.

Add red peppers, salt and pepper to taste, along with tabasco sauce.

For a thicker soup, mash or puree some of the beans and return to soup.

Add almost any meat, including sausage, hot dogs (bleah!), leftover meats, bacon, or ham. Add ham bones, or, to avoid having to remove them later, boil ham bones and scraps and add the water (stock) to beans as part of the 2 quarts, above.

Add a can of tomatoes, tomato paste or sauce, or leftover vegetables.

Add 1-2 Tablespoons of chili powder, cumin, oregano, or other spice.

Add a handful or two of pasta 10 minutes before serving. Dump in some of whatever you're drinking, unless it's milk.

# # #

For more information:

Janet Lembke's official website

Janet Lembke's GoodReads author book list

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Tom Laughlin: "Billy Jack" and Crazy Horse

December 19, 2013

Tags: Brush with Fame, Actor: Tom Laughlin, Crazy Horse

Tom Laughlin in his "Billy Jack" attire.
The photo is from the internet; I don't believe I have any photos of him in my personal collections.

. . .
I note with sorrow the death of Tom Laughlin, the star and producer of the "Billy Jack" movies.

While Laughlin was a student at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion (where I also attended college) he met his wife Delores Taylor. He said he wrote the original screenplay for the first "Billy Jack" film after visiting her hometown of Winner, South Dakota, and observing the prejudice against Native Americans there.

Laughlin wasn't only an actor and activist; with his wife he founded what became the largest Montessori school in the U.S., in Santa Monica, California. He left acting to devote all his attention to the school, which went bankrupt in 1965.

In another lifetime, one of my many past lives, Tom Laughlin read some of my writing, and invited me to meet with him and with his wife Delores Taylor in Minneapolis. There he hired me to write the screenplay for a movie he wanted to do about Crazy Horse, the charismatic Lakota leader who also caught the imagination of sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski.

I don't recall the exact dates and don't care to delve into my journals for the details, but I do recall that I was working on the screenplay during the Rapid City flood of 1972. After proofreading the first published issue of my arts magazine Sunday Clothes, I had left Rapid City early that afternoon in my VW van. Because the storm was so severe, I pulled over not far outside town and sat on the floor in the back of the van while the storm winds made it rock and roll, recalling that Crazy Horse, who was born along Rapid Creek, had once predicted a devastating flood there.

The next morning, I heard about the Rapid City flood, which killed hundreds-- and incidentally washed away the company that had printed the first issue of my magazine.

The Crazy Horse movie was never made, of course. And despite all the research I did on Crazy Horse, including some that I believe has not yet been duplicated, I have never turned the screenplay into a book.

But I appreciated the dreamer, Tom Laughlin, who had the thought, and the strength of his opinions and his devotion to them.

# # #

For more information:

See my website's page about Sunday Clothes Magazine

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HAHA Winter Carnival: Pumpkin Bread -- With Love

December 3, 2013

Tags: Hermosa Arts & History Association, Fundraiser, Bread-making

Linda serving at the HAHA Winter Carnival in 2012.
There is some debate over whether she is a "kitchen witch" or a "dessert elf."

. . .
In one of my many former lives, I lived and worked in Columbia, Missouri, where I was a graduate instructor in English and a grader for an English professor at the University of Missouri from 1969-1971, while working on my MA degree in English there.

I recall clearly my first sight of the woman who became my friend Kathy. Sometime during those years, I had probably trotted past the quadrangle full of war protesters on my way to the next class on my teaching schedule, freshman composition. I may have been wearing my favorite leather miniskirt, which I wish I’d kept just so I could be shocked today at what I once wore out in public.

As I took roll, I became aware that the class was almost entirely young men, their fresh and pimply faces upturned with various teenage looks of disdain or eagerness. But in the corner of the back row as far as possible from all of them sat a young woman with long black hair and an expression of loathing-- whether for the boys, for me, or for the class, I wasn't sure.

I don’t recall the details of the class that day, but as the others filed out, I asked her to stay and tell me who she was and what she was doing in my class. As I’d guessed, she was a senior, an art major who had left the dreaded freshman comp class until her last semester, hoping she could wiggle out of it. But the University had decreed she had to take it.

I couldn't absolve her. I asked her what she was reading.


I had no knowledge of Goethe, but we worked out a plan whereby she would write a comprehensive paper on Goethe's writings, presenting it to me several weeks before the class was scheduled to be finished. I didn't want her to neglect the paper in the rush to graduate, but I also was protecting myself; if she failed to deliver, I'd have time to devise an alternate plan.

The next morning I rode my bicycle to work as usual, locking the frame to one of the racks outside the English building and hauling the front tire up the steps with me. I threaded my way among the glass-walled cubicles of my fellow slaves-- I mean graduate instructors-- and thumped my books down on my desk. As I tucked the tire behind my desk, I realized there was a shiny package on my chair: a loaf of bread wrapped in tin foil.

On the outside of the package was a note from Kathy, explaining that she had been in St. Louis recently, and been handed a recipe for Pumpkin Bread by a hippie who told her that receiving the recipe required her to give it away-- with love-- to anyone who asked.

The bread was delicious.

I learned that Kathy lived only a few blocks from me and we became close friends for the rest of the time I lived in Missouri. She graduated in fine style and eventually moved to Montana; we remain friends.

So now I've been baking the pumpkin bread and giving it away for at least 43 years, always with the recipe and the reminder to give it away-- with love.

This week I baked loaves of the bread to donate to the Hermosa Arts and History Association’s fundraising Winter Carnival on December 8. Inside each one, I tucked the recipe, with love.

Besides my pumpkin bread, I’m taking pumpkin cake and rhubarb dreams for dessert, and a roaster full of posole. I’m told that other volunteers will bring soups including cheese, beef barley, potato knefla, chicken noodle, cheese tomato, and gluten free chicken and rice.

You're invited to the second annual Winter Carnival, which is being held to raise funds to continue with our project to turn our building, erected in 1896, into a community gathering spot and museum. As usual, we will be serving soup and desserts created by HAHA members, and offering a huge assortment of tasty things baked by volunteers, as well as providing games and entertainment for children and photographs with Santa Claus.

# # #

Pumpkin Bread Recipe


1 and 3/4 Cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon each:
– cinnamon
– nutmeg
1 teaspoon each:
– cloves
– ginger
– allspice
– mace
1 and 1/2 Cups brown sugar
1/2 Cup oil
2 eggs
1/3 Cup water (but see below)
1 small can, or one Cup pumpkin


3 and 1/2 Cup flour
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 and 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoon each:
– cinnamon
– nutmeg
2 teaspoon each:
– cloves
– ginger
– allspice
– mace
3 Cups brown sugar
1 Cup oil
4 eggs
2/3 Cup water (but see below)
2 cans, or 2 Cups pumpkin

Mix dry ingredients; mix liquids in separate, huge bowl. Add dry ingredients a little at a time to liquids, mixing well each time.

Grease pan(s) well. Bake 350 degrees F. for 1 hour and 15 minutes or so, until top springs back when you poke it lightly with one finger. Cool before removing from pan.

Doubled, this makes 2 large loaves and 1 small one or 4 9x3; grease well.

Substitute for brown sugar: 3 Tablespoons molasses added to 1 Cup white sugar

Can use whole wheat flour, but half white and half whole wheat works best.

WATER: If you use canned pumpkin, or frozen yellow squash you won't need the water, and no one will know it's not pumpkin. I've also used dried pumpkin and dried winter squash for this; just soak it in milk or water overnight in the refrigerator, and add the milk with the pumpkin or squash.

# # #

For more information: See the HAHA website at

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About the Author Susan Wittig Albert

November 26, 2013

Tags: Writer: Susan Wittig Albert, Book Review, Story Circle Network

See my review of this book below.

. . .
Recently I reviewed the book A Wilder Rose by Susan Wittig Albert. Though I did not receive any compensation beyond a free copy of the book, I do have a passing relationship with the author.

I first heard of Susan Wittig Albert when I read a mystery or two in her China Bayles herbal series, books so good I sometimes reread them. Each mystery has a signature herb connected to a major theme. They are good mysteries with settings that draw the reader into the countryside, written with considerable humor and filled with intriguing, unusual characters. Each one is packed with fascinating information about growing and using herbs-- even though the author is careful to say that a reader should not rely solely on the books for herbal information.

I have just discovered that the books' website provides tons more information on teas, on ways to celebrate with teas and herbs, including recipes-- a wealth of material.

Later I discovered the Robin Paige Victorian/Edwardian mysteries Susan co-wrote with her husband Bill Albert, and devoured every one. They are filled with information about the era, but they don't overwhelm the reader with historical details to the detriment of the mystery. Sadly for readers, the books took so much research that the co-writers suspended the series. Still, the books already written form a mother lode of good reading;

I particularly enjoyed her memoir about marriage and place, Together, Alone; she has also edited several collections of writing.

At some point, I wrote Susan a fan letter about her mysteries; she responded with the news that she had read and found inspiration in my books.

Since then we've exchanged comments every now and again; she's reviewed my books and books I've edited on the wonderful Story Circle Network website she founded ( She is a prolific and excellent writer, generous with other writers. We've had brief conversations via email about writing which demonstrate to me that we share many opinions about the jobs we have created for ourselves.

I'm looking forward to meeting her at last when I am a speaker at the annual Story Circle Network conference in Austin, TX, next April.

# # #

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Book Review: A Wilder Rose
by Susan Wittig Albert

November 25, 2013

Tags: Book Review, Writer: Susan Wittig Albert, Writer: Laura Wilder, Writer: Rose Wilder Lane, Family: Mother, Story Circle Network

. . .

If you loved Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books about her pioneer childhood, you should read A Wilder Rose by Susan Wittig Albert.

If you are reluctant to believe that Laura’s daughter Rose may have written the books, you must read this novel.

When I was rescued from my existence as the daughter of a divorcee because my mother had married a rancher in western South Dakota, Laura Ingalls Wilder became my guide, my sister and my best friend. I was nine years old when we moved to the ranch and I entered the small-town grade school, a society of rural kids who had known each other since birth and didn't care for "city kids." My happiest moments began when the teacher who wrangled five grades in the "lower room" read to us from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books about her "Little House on the Prairie."

Suddenly I could imagine myself living happily ever after among the neighborhood ranching and farming families. My parents made my childhood as educational as possible by buying a cow for me to milk and filling the chicken house with egg-laying hens. At home as at school, we spoke of Laura's family as if they were neighbors, as indeed they had been on the Dakota prairie a couple of hundred miles east of our home.

With my degree in American Literature, I was teaching and writing professionally before I met scholars of prairie literature who raised doubts that Laura had written her books alone. Some said that Laura's daughter Rose, a best-selling author in the 1920s and 30s, was deeply involved with creation of the books. Various scholars examined the abundant evidence-- Laura's other writings, Rose's writings, their letters to each other-- and concluded that Rose had edited Laura's work extensively, had rewritten it, or perhaps had written it in the first place.

These opinions met considerable resistance. Neither editors nor readers wanted to believe anything that alters our nostalgic image of the housewife seated at her well-scrubbed kitchen table writing masterpieces with pencil in a yellow tablet after gathering eggs and before starting supper on the wood stove.

A Wilder Rose features Rose Wilder Lane telling her story to a writer friend, Norma Lee Browning, allowing Rose to speak for herself. Rose's words are drawn directly from her letters and diaries. Each element of the novel is founded upon the historical record, including the writings of Laura, Rose, and various writers and editors who shared their lives.

Rose was a successful journalist, magazine writer and world traveler, author of Henry Ford's Own Story (1917), Diverging Roads (1919), The Making of Herbert Hoover (1920), and The Peaks of Shala (1923) among other books. In 1928, at her mother's request, she moved from Albania to her parents' Missouri farm to help the aging couple. She built them a new home and turned the old farm house into a writers' retreat, often filled with friends from all over the world. Rose's magazine writing paid the bills for both households-- until the stock market crash of 1929. Suddenly writers could hardly find sales in the formerly lucrative magazine market and both Rose and her parents were nearly destitute.

Then Laura wrote an autobiography she called "Pioneer Girl," more than 300 tablet pages she intended as a book for adult readers. Naturally, she brought the manuscript to her daughter, assuming Rose's professional connections would ease publication.

Rose was an experienced and well-paid ghost-writer for, among others, Lowell Thomas, a world traveler and broadcaster. Had she known she was going to ghost-write eight novels for her mother, she might have created her usual contract to do so.

Instead, she spent several months creating a coherent story from her mother's manuscript. Editing and revising, she drew more memories from her mother, but Albert indicates that, so far as is shown by the available documents, Laura never saw the first five chapters of the book. When the editor asked for 25,000 additional words, Rose rewrote the entire book, drawing on Laura's written vignettes to create additional scenes. Little House in the Big Woods was published in 1932, bearing the name of Laura as author. Meanwhile, Rose wrote Let the Hurricane Roar, a novel also based on her family history, published in 1933. She continued to write and publish her own work throughout the time she worked with her mother's writing. From Laura's initial outpouring came the material from which Rose produced subsequent books.

The character Rose, speaking to her friend Norma, considers how this deception evolved. "Would I have felt differently if I had known that this book was only the first of an eight-book series? Would I have asked for recognition and a share of the royalties if I had known that each book would take two or three months away from my writing projects and sap whatever meager store of energy I might have for my own work? Perhaps."

Because the author draws on Rose's own words throughout the novel, the conclusion is inescapable.

Susan Wittig Albert's introductory note to A Wilder Rose clarifies her position on the writing relationship between Laura and Rose:

"I have treated the real people as fictional characters and the real events as fictional events. I have chosen some storylines to expand and dramatize and omitted others. I have put words into people's mouths and listened in on their internal dialogue. I have invented incidents and imagined settings. In all this, I am exactly as true to the real events, settings, and people of A Wilder Rose as Rose and Laura were to the real events, settings, and people of the Ingalls family's pioneer wanderings across the American plains. The books they wrote are fictional representations of Laura's life as a child growing into young womanhood."

Therefore, the novel's central question becomes: how will each reader react to realizing that our concept of Laura writing her novels alone is impossible? How will readers who have loved Laura's stories accept that these two admirable women told lies of commission as well as omission? What justification might exist for the fiction they maintained all their lives?

Albert's novel is so moving and so convincing in part because her development of the characters of Laura and Rose echoes details true to the character of the prairie people where I grew up and where I live today.

Our relationships with our parents are complex and convoluted. Rose was burdened because, she wrote, she had burned the house down. Her story was that while her mother was ill after the birth and death of Rose’s baby brother, Rose stuffed too much hay into the wood stove and caused a destructive fire. If the story was true, Rose, little more than a baby herself, was already doing the hard work necessary for a prairie life. She knew that actions have consequences and we have to live with them.

I can identify with Rose's guilt. Growing up on the prairie with parents much like hers, I learned the same lessons early. Even accidents have repercussions and a responsible person acknowledges them and accepts blame if necessary. Guilt is a burden that moves many of us in many directions today, and Rose thrived on it through much of her life. Could she have assumed responsibility for that fire to avert blame from her mother? We will probably never know, but the idea is not impossible.

Rose wonders if her mother thought "that affection somehow 'spoiled' a child. That life was real, life was earnest, and too much coddling insulated us from that essential truth, which would shortly be visited upon us by cruel experience." Similarly, my father often quoted the "life is real" saying while my mother frequently assured me that it was her job to make sure I was not spoiled so I’d be ready for the horrors of real life.

Laura deplored fiction, including the best-selling novels her daughter wrote, but she insisted that her own writing was the truth. Even though I have always written nonfiction, my mother, until she died at 92, never stopped urging me to "get a real job."

As Rose ponders her mother's disregard for the life of a professional writer, she wonders, "Do any of us ever outgrow those old childhood hurts, or do they grow and fester in our spirits the whole length of our lives?"

The question might apply to any of us; as Albert has remarked, "the family censor sits on our shoulders, editing our pasts." I could believe that Rose was so anxious to create a better relationship with her mother that the deception became immaterial. When I found myself publishing a book that contained truths I knew my mother could not accept, I presented her with her own special manuscript copy-- from which I had removed anything that would disturb her rosy view of our lives. She loved showing her personal copy to nursing home visitors. "My daughter wrote this," she would say.

Perhaps as Rose took the written drafts and rewrote them, her mother became immersed in planning the next book. When Rose brought or sent Laura the finished drafts, she might simply have mailed them. Perhaps she convinced herself that the published version was what she had written. Even when my co-editors and I heavily edited manuscripts for our three anthologies of autobiographical writing by Western women (Leaning into the Wind, Woven on the Wind and Crazy Woman Creek), novice writers often told us how pleased they were that we had not changed their words!

And what about some of the editors who had seen Laura's writing before Rose worked it over? Did they suspect the truth? Perhaps they ignored their suspicious, afraid to lose such popular books.

Still, the Rose of the novel believes that her mother is deeply uneasy. "That was her mother’s way; the more troubled she was about something, the less likely she was to say anything about it to anyone." Precisely so do the people in my Dakota neighborhood behave today: the more unpleasant the topic, the less likely they are to talk about it. Rose and Laura never discussed their collaboration in public. Likely they never discussed it in private.

I've met many writers like Laura, people who enjoy writing as a pastime but cannot take it seriously as a profession. Laura says to her daughter in A Wilder Rose "The more I see of the hours you have to put in, the better satisfied I am to raise chickens. . . . I could never let myself be driven the way you are, Rose." Albert says the statement is almost a direct quote from a letter Laura wrote to her husband Almanzo from San Francisco in 1915, when she was visiting Rose.

Casual writers are not driven, but real writers must write and they may not be patient with anyone less serious about writing. Wanting to help her mother make an income as Almanzo aged and the farm income dwindled, Rose could have done the familiar work of editing and rewriting as a labor of love or duty without considering the job any different than dozens of others. However, in working for her mother, she didn't get the payment she so desperately needed.

What would you have done? Or perhaps more directly-- since I am a writer whose mother wrote journals and poetry when she was young-- what would I have done if my mother had brought me a manuscript to edit for publication?

I would have been flattered; I'd have worked hard to make it publishable. And because she was my mother, I would never have asked credit or payment, assuming that she would treat me fairly.

Albert presents another justification for Rose's work with her mother's memories, one I find particularly attractive. Rose's childhood was lonely and poverty-stricken. Writing her mother’s pioneer childhood as beautiful, abundant and generous might have been a way for Rose to do several things at once. Perhaps she wanted to imagine her parents' lives as more satisfying; perhaps she wanted to erase her mother's hardships by writing stories that made it brighter. The novels invent for Rose a mother who loved her as well as provided generously for her well-being. Did she create a happier childhood for herself, as well as for her mother? Did she enjoy creating a marriage partnership unlike her unsatisfactory union?

Every writing is a new challenge, one of the factors that keeps us working at the profession. Rose thinks that "from the day she’d begun professional writing-- almost thirty years now-- she had always felt that way. Whatever else she was writing-- it just wasn't good enough. It didn't meet her expectations of what it should have, could have been." Moreover, she felt each piece of writing completed was her last, that she’d never be able to find another worthy idea. I know no serious writer, including me, who hasn't wondered the same.

Moreover, many successful writers have had a fallback profession like teaching or selling insurance. Rose was writing furiously in the deepest darkness of the Depression of the 1930s, trying to survive on almost nothing while she helped her aging parents make enough money to live on. She had no insurance against failure, no spouse to support her. So she wrote constantly for money-- magazine articles, novels, nonfiction works-- anything to create an income.

Albert's scholarship has convinced me; the novel's structure allows the reader to understand and empathize with the way Rose was drawn into a collaboration that became a deception. Despite Rose's fame, she never received credit or financial benefit for the books. Laura got the pride of authorship; Laura got the royalties.

More importantly, Rose convinced me.

I don't care who wrote the books. Laura's voice, as Rose interpreted or created it, is still that of my guide and friend. Perhaps Laura's daughter made the storyteller a better person, helping her say what she could not express herself.

I was also delighted to learn what a very good writer Rose Wilder Lane was; she has much to say to our current political situation. Since her own writings were so much different than those of her mother, she proved her writing skill by creating the voice of the kindly storyteller for her mother's stories. Few writers are so skilled. Her benevolence created books loved by millions.

Interviewer Lynn Goodwin asked Susan Wittig Albert what advice Rose and Laura might give to aspiring writers. The differences, as Albert sees them, are intriguing.

Rose, says Albert, might say "“Write, write write . . . . And be sure to keep a day-to-day diary of your various writing projects . . . to satisfy the curiosity of the researchers who may come along and want to know what you were doing on a particular day." Such a diary became part of the background for this book.

And Laura? She'd say, "Tell the story you have to tell, as well as you can tell it. . . . And . . . it’s very good to have a daughter who is a professional writer."

* * *

Susan Wittig Albert is the national bestselling author of 50 adult novels and works of nonfiction, as well as more than 60 novels for young adults. She says, "I have a deep admiration for women writers who keep on keeping on through hail and high water. . . . Rose was one of those women."

She calls this work a labor of love, but notes that when she originally proposed it as narrative nonfiction, editors were enthusiastic about the writing, but worried that Laura's fans would not be pleased. So Albert chose to take a more direct route, self-publishing through her own Persevero Press. As major publishing houses have consolidated and narrowed their focus, this option becomes more and more attractive to authors, even well-known writers with proven records of saleable writing. And this, too, should encourage writers, particularly women, and particularly we who write about sometimes unpopular topics.

# # #

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book to read and review, but no other compensation.

For more information:

See an interview with Susan Wittig Albert and additional information about women writers, at Story Circle Network (

And for details about the lives of Rose and Laura, including photographs of the homes where they lived while writing, as featured in the novel, see

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Linda’s Pumpkin Harvest Benefits Hermosa Arts and History Association

October 14, 2013

Tags: Pumpkins, Fundraiser, Hermosa Arts & History Association

Trying to lift the pumpkins.

See more photos in the left-hand column.

. . .
We have the pumpkins in the back of the Diamond T and a big sign that says:

Along come 3 little redheaded boys.

"Do you want a pumpkin?" says Linda. "For Halloween?"

"We don’t do Halloween," says one.

"Do you do pumpkin pie?"

Shy nods.

"Well then, you’d better buy a pumpkin."

"What does free will donation mean?"

"It means you pay whatever you want to."

"Really??? Like maybe a penny?"

"Yep, a penny would do."

They each hand me a penny and walk up and try to lift a couple of big ones. Too heavy. So they run off and come back with a hand truck, load up 3 of the biggest, and the last we see of them, they are wobbling down the street trying to hold all the pumpkins on.

A neighbor says the family has 10 kids. Hope mom is happy to see those pumpkins!

* * *

HAHA made $91.03 on the pumpkins.

# # #

For more information:

Read about Linda’s membership in HAHA on this website: Linda's Memberships, Awards and Honors.

Read more about the Hermosa Arts and History Association at their website:

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October Blizzard

October 11, 2013

Tags: Blizzard, Cattle, Family: Jerry, Living in the Country, Ranch: Wildlife, Winter Storms

Linda reading with her headlamp
With the electricity off, Linda made do with candles and a battery-powered headlamp. Note the ice-covered windows from the blizzard. Thanks for the hand-warmers, Maura!

. . .
All night Thursday, October 3, rain fell, with thunder and lightning crashing around overhead. The lights flickered. Mari Sandoz wrote about the blizzard of 1949 in her book, Winter Thunder, so, forewarned, we made preparations: hauled jugs of drinking water from the retreat house, filled jugs here for flushing. Got out our long underwear, leg warmers, gloves, hats, boots, more comforters for the beds-- even dog coats.

Friday the wind was ripping at 75 miles an hour and more freezing rain fell; our total for the storm was about 3 inches. Every step outside was hazardous, with every surface slick from freezing rain. Our windows completely iced over so the light inside was dim and blue. Our vehicles, parked outside, were encased in ice. The deck, our walkways, everything was covered.

We knew that cattle out in the storm would be walking southeast, trying to escape the cold, walking to keep warm. But we had no idea what a horror for ranchers the weather was creating.

Our power went off Friday morning for a few minutes at a time and then went off finally at 2 p.m., meaning that our furnace would not work, nor our lights. More seriously our pump in the well would not work and therefore we had no water. Our refrigerator and freezer were off. I put a thermometer in both so we could keep track of temperatures. We could light our propane cookstove with matches and ate dinner by candlelight.

Jerry had come back up to the house at 9:30, unable to work in his shop because of the intermittent electricity. All day we worked together figuring out what actions to take.

When I lived in Cheyenne, I’d installed a small auxiliary propane heater in Windbreak House to keep the pipes from freezing while it was unoccupied, so we turned that up and heat rose naturally through the stairwell to help warm the upstairs. This meant, though, that the basement, with the freezer, would be warmer than we’d have preferred.

In late afternoon we got out our battery-powered headlamps and began reading with those, shuffling through the dark house in our slippers, scaring the dickens out of the dogs. I wore gloves and hand-warmers a friend had made. We seemed to have only two or three inches of snow, but the wind was still blowing ferociously so it was hard to tell how much. We hoped the state was advising no travel and closing roads so emergency personnel weren't out trying to rescue idiots.

Neither of us slept well because of the howling wind, but Jerry suffered most because his oxygen machine was also off. The screens, ice-covered, rattled all night as if someone was galloping around on the roof.

The dogs wanted out at 4 a.m. Saturday, but the door was frozen nearly shut, temperature 31 degrees. I had to kick and shovel to get it open. The house temperature was 58 degrees. No sign of letup in the storm and we couldn't tell if it was still snowing or just blowing. I sat up and wrote in my journal using my headlamp, and both the dogs dived under my covers.

Usually the bedroom and dining room have little golden lights from all the electronic gadgets-- computers, clocks, cell phone chargers-- but the rooms were muffled in black. I used the solar flashlight I keep by the bed to get around. Usually, even at 4 a.m., I hear truck traffic on the highway; this morning it was quiet except for the wind: clacking the window screens, thrumming around the metal roof, making the deck vibrate.

From the top pantry shelf, I took the old coffee pot I’ve kept for years and we made good boiled coffee to start our day. Jerry lit two candles and sat in the rocking chair by the bed, reading by headlamp.

Jerry tried to start his gasoline generator; no luck. It had sat idle for 5 years.

We spent Saturday melting snow to flush the toilets. We packed food into coolers full of snow to preserve it. We tried to eat leftovers. We put a few items in a big snowbank on the deck for quick access: a few leftovers, gin and beer, and the dogs' food. We played Rummykub, Boggle, Quiddler. We read books and threw balls for the dogs inside. We peered outside, watching the trees at the retreat house bend, wondering how long the storm would last. I got a ham bone and scraps out of the freezer and made cassoulet, which simmered all day.

We began to hear news by cell phone; there were near record accumulations of snowfall in the Black Hills; the blizzard warning would end that morning; roads were closed. Jerry walked to the highway mailbox but no paper was delivered. We learned later that none was printed because the electricity was off in parts of Rapid City; in fact, the Rapid City Journal did not print for three days.

When we got up, I wore: long underwear, compression socks, wool socks, tall boots, a cotton turtleneck, a wool sweater, hand-warmers, gloves and a hat inside.

About 8 a.m., Jerry started shoveling, walked the dogs a little. We had six foot drifts in our yard and around Homestead House. We started using paper plates to save doing dishes. Jerry brought up a bigger pot so we could melt more snow at a time. I got out big metal bowls I usually use for collecting vegetables from the garden.

The temperature outside rose to 45 degrees and we raised some shades to get some heat from the sun. We saw 13 grouse flying around our windbreak trees and a couple of dozen antelope on top of the high ridge south of our house.

Jerry used his tractor to dig a trail from the house to the lower ranch buildings, then broke trail to the highway. Again, no paper.

On Sunday the temperature around 4 a.m. was 38 degrees, so it hadn't frozen, which helped keep the house warm. The sun came out. As Jerry drove to the highway to help break the trail, he discovered that an electric line was broken along our private road. We continued to try to notify the electric cooperative since the line was now a hazard to any people or cattle in the area.

On Monday, October 7, we finally got to speak to a cooperative worker and a crew spliced the line temporarily; it's hanging below the barbed wire fence, still dangerous and vulnerable to wind. We walked the dogs, looked around: a total of maybe a foot of snow but huge drifts everywhere, trees and bushes entirely covered. The wind’s angle was from the northwest so the drifts were in slightly different spots than we’re used to. Snow began to melt; by Thursday, the dam below our house was more full than it’s been for three years.

We took showers and drove to Hermosa for the mail and to eat hamburgers at the local gas station. A lot of other people were doing the same and we began to hear stories about how severe the storm had been in this area: thousands of cattle missing, possibly dead; fences broken by snowdrifts, power out all over the Black Hills. Deadwood and places to the north got as much as four feet of snow.

We were amazed to learn how MUCH snow is required to be melted to make two gallons needed to flush the toilet. We had a snowcave on the north side of the house where we scooped bucket and bowl after bowl to bring inside to thaw. I think all teenagers should have to melt snow to flush for at least a day in their lives.

I realized that my family has been paying utility bills to this company for 60 years or so, but they bring power back to the subdivisions first. Naturally the cooperative must serve the greatest number first, but ironically it means that people who have been here the shortest time have the least understanding of how difficult life can be without electricity.

Friends who live in subdivisions couldn't understand why we talked of melting snow-- but they have communal water supplies and probably generators, so they never ran out of water.

Another discovery: a hardpacked snowball makes excellent ice for a gin and tonic.

We had a disoriented squirrel in our yard for a day but he seems to have disappeared; if he’s not used to the local coyotes he may have been a meal, though we had some nice cottonwoods with holes in them where he could hide. But where did he come from? We've never seen one here. And how did he get here? On the wind? A mystery.

Hawks have been very aggressive the past three days: one swooped within a foot of my study window-- outside, Toby lay under that window in the sun. Another was chasing a grouse and the grouse’s wings knocked my hat off my head.

As the week went on, we began to learn that thousands of cattle have been killed in northern South Dakota. One report says 10,000 cattle lie dead between Sturgis and Union Center, roughly 232 per mile or a dead cow every 20 feet. Many ranchers have lost 50%, 90% or all of their cattle. They are finding entire ravines full of dead cattle. State law requires they be burned or buried but the ground is so wet that normal ranch equipment is quickly bogged down. The governor has refused to call out the National Guard to help. Disposal sites have been established but we have no idea how some ranchers will reach them.

This is the kind of thing for which the word “disaster” exists-- but it has become overused. How can we describe what has happened?

One rancher went hunting for his cattle on horseback and had turn back after three hours because the horses were too worn out from slogging through the snow and mud. Another, using horses and 4-wheelers, found one of the 4-wheelers stuck. He hitched his horse to it and pulled it out.

Friday, October 11, and the storms go on: 60 mph winds today, a couple of inches of rain. Creeks are flooding in the Black Hills already, and much of the snow has not melted. Snowmelt is carrying the corpses of dead cattle into tributaries that will lead to the rivers.

* * *

Last Wednesday we went to town to run errands. One of them was to visit a company that sells generators that come on automatically with a power outage. As we visit with friends and relatives, we've discovered that many of them already have such a critter. Jerry and I had discussed it, of course, especially after last April’s blizzards when we were isolated for 9 days-- though we were never without electric power then. Now may be the time.

# # #

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Jessie Sundstrom: May 18, 1922 -- September 5, 2013

September 12, 2013

Tags: Friend: Jessie Sundstrom

Jessie Sundstrom

. . .
Jessie Y. Sundstrom, good friend, local historian, editor, author, book publisher, reporter, and former publisher of the Custer County Chronicle newspaper, died last week at her home in Custer.

Among many heartfelt and notable statements made by those who spoke at Jessie’s memorial services were these.

Linea Sundstrom, Jessie’s daughter, said she realized that she was raised as an anthropologist from her earliest days, because Jessie was interested in everything and expected her children to be as well. And Jessie’s teaching about difficult problems: "Just figure it out." So what if you've never done it before; you can figure out how to do it.

Linea's daughter, Jessie the third, said "If you can think of anything more intimidating than being named Jessie Sundstrom, I’d like to talk to you after the services."

Art Amiotte, noted South Dakota Lakota artist called Jessie the "matriarch and guardian" of the Black Hills, and an "advocate of the marginal." He bestowed her Lakota name, which means She Who is Acutely and Astutely Aware of the Nuances of the Environment and Human Condition. And then he closed the services by singing her toward the Road Made of Stars-- and many tears began to fall.

Here is the eulogy I gave:

I’m not sure how long I knew Jessie, but I think we met at the home of her mother, Camille Yuill in Deadwood sometime in the 1970s, making it about forty years.

We knew we might be related, since some of my cousins are Yuills, but I don’t believe we ever got around to drawing up a family tree that showed the specifics.

Our mutual love of writing probably brought us together. Jessie delighted in language and could be downright demanding about how it was employed. She had no tolerance at all for sloppy writing or sloppy thinking.

I had a couple of other mentors who were pretty picky about writing, but Jessie was the most persnickety-- and the most encouraging.

When I needed guidance on state or county history, I usually consulted Jessie. If she didn't know the fact I needed, she knew who did and she called to introduce me.

We both had backgrounds in journalism and therefore we both had strong opinions about how journalistic writing should be done.

Our conversations were never short, or slow, and they rarely stuck to one subject. No matter where we started, we usually veered off into history, current news, politics.

She was a meticulous researcher and collector of historical fact; her office was always overflowing with books, papers, projects. No matter what we were discussing, she usually leapt up and pulled down a file, a photograph, a book or a stack of books relevant to the topic.

We didn't agree on everything, but we agreed on some important things. She had no time for narrow-mindedness and used her abilities as a writer to work against it-- anywhere she saw it.

Jessie didn't care much for compromise, but that usually worked out fine for her because she was usually right.

She probably wasn't always right-- but I might not say that if she were sitting in the front row giving me That Look.

When I visited her for the last time, she explained to me clearly that the cancer was back, that she was not going back to the hospital and that she was going to die at home as quickly and efficiently as possible so as not to disrupt her children's lives any more than necessary. But first she was going to finish proofreading her book about her mother, Camille. And she did just what she said she was going to do.

She told the 4th graders who interviewed her at Custer grade school that she wanted to be remembered as a free spirit and a "real true friend."

And that’s how I will remember her.

# # #

Here is the obituary for Jessie Sundstrom

Jessie Y. Sundstrom, former publisher of the Custer County Chronicle, died September 5, 2013 at her home in Custer. She was 91.

She was born in Rapid City and spent her early years there and in Custer. She grew up in Deadwood, graduating from high school there in 1940. She began her long association with the newspaper industry at age nine by folding copies of the Deadwood Pioneer-Times, where her mother, Camille Yuill, was city editor. By the time she was in high school, she was writing articles and local news items for the Black Hills Weekly.

She completed a secretarial course at Black Hills Business College in Rapid City in 1943, and later took classes at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and Black Hills State College. From 1940-1947 she held secretarial positions for a judge, a state’s attorney, the U.S. Bureau of Mines, the contractor for the "igloos" at the Black Hills Ordnance Depot, and the Veterans Administration Hospital at Fort Meade.

In 1947, Jessie married Carl H. Sundstrom, publisher of the Custer County Chronicle. Five children were born to their marriage. Jessie worked at the Chronicle as accountant, reporter, photographer, and editor. In 1970, she was also employed as a crew chief for the US Census Bureau. With the death of her husband in December 1972, she took over as editor and publisher and continued to publish the paper until 1981. During that interval, she served as secretary and president of the Black Hills Press Association. Her reporting and editorials on racial unrest in Custer in February 1973 received praise for their thoroughness and objectivity.

Sundstrom served as president of the Custer County Extension Council; secretary of the Black Hills Playhouse board of directors for 25 years; secretary of the American Red Cross fund drive in Custer County for disabled children; secretary of the Badger Clark Memorial Society for 29 years; secretary and president of the Custer Parent-Teacher Association. She was active in Girl Scouting from 1948-1974, serving as troop leader, leader trainer, and president of the Black Hills Girl Scout Council. During the 1960s and 1970s, she served as media consultant for the national Girl Scout Roundup in Idaho, as delegate to the national Girl Scout Triennium in New Orleans, and as national committee member. She served on the board of directors of Crazy Horse Memorial for 35 years. Upon selling the Chronicle Sundstrom worked for several years as assistant administrator to Ruth Ziolkowski. Her accomplishments at Crazy Horse included helping to design and administer the Indian Museum of North America and the Indian Cultural Center.

Sundstrom was a member of the Custer County Historical Society from 1948 until her death. She managed the Custer County 1881 Courthouse Museum from 1998 to 2004 and was instrumental in preserving the Historic Landmark courthouse building. She was secretary to the museum board of trustees and the Custer County Historical Society board of directors until January 2006. As the go-to person for Custer County history, she often gave historic programs to the community and to school classes.

In 2003 she was honored at the Elders Program of the district. The fourth-grade class interviewed her and performed an original song about her life. The class wrote, "Jessie Sundstrom describes herself as a free spirit who wants to be remembered as a 'real true friend.'" She was Custer State Park historian for several years and a member of the South Dakota Historical Society board of directors for 12 years, also serving on the advisory boards for the State Archives and State Archaeologist's office.

She gave numerous presentations on history for the Jedediah Smith Corral of Westerners, the Black Hills Corral of Westerners, the Custer County Historical Society, and other organizations. In 1976, Sundstrom led a Bicentennial history project, culminating in publication, under her editorship, of Custer County History to 1974. She wrote several other books on area history including Pioneers and Custer State Park; A History of Custer City (1876-1925); Badger Clark, Cowboy Poet with Universal Appeal; and Carl Sanson, Black Hills Rancher. From 1995 to 2001 she published a monthly magazine, Hills and Plains History. She also edited and published books for other authors, including Tim Giago, Mel Gibbs, and Melvin H. Jackson. She had recently completed a biography of her mother, titled Camille.

Sundstrom received Girl Scouting’s highest award, the Thanks Badge, in 1974. The West River History Conference presented her its top award for preservation and history in 1994. The Badger Clark Memorial Society honored her in 1998 for service in connection with a South Dakota Public Television production of a play about Clark. She was awarded the Governor's Individual Award for History in 1999; the Dreamer's Award from Crazy Horse Memorial in 2001; Custer County Chamber of Commerce community service award in 2002, and the Community Circle for Education Award from the Custer School District in 2003. She was named Gold Discovery Days parade marshal in 2007.

She is survived by her daughters Julien (Bruce) Wiley and Linea Sundstrom (Glen Fredlund) and sons Carl (Phyl) and Roy Sundstrom, eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Carl H. Sundstrom, daughter Christine, and sister, Barbara Herigstad.

A memorial service was held Tuesday, September 10th at the 1881 Courthouse Museum in Custer, with reception following. Inurnment was at Black Hills National Cemetery in Sturgis that afternoon.

A memorial has been established in Jessie's name to benefit the 1881 Courthouse Museum.

# # #

For more information:

Arrangements have been placed in the care of McColley's Chapel of the Hills in Custer. Written condolences may be made at

You can read more about Jessie's life in her own words at (Elders' Wisdom, Children's Song: South Dakota) and even hear a song composed and sung by the children from one of her stories. Click on the link to Custer and then select the cd cover from March, 2006 which includes the program about Jessie.

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Circling Back Home: a new book by Darcy Lipp-Acord

September 9, 2013

Tags: Writer: Darcy Lipp-Acord

. . .
Here's information on Darcy Lipp-Acord's first book, which she worked on during a couple of retreats at Windbreak House. Disclaimer-- I wrote the foreword for this book . . . and was pleased and proud to do so.

Look for her at the South Dakota Book Festival in Deadwood, SD which will take place September 20-22.

Congratulations, Darcy!

* * *

Circling Back Home: a Plainswoman's Journey
By Darcy Lipp-Acord
Foreword By Linda M. Hasselstrom

Circling Back Home is the story of one woman, at a time when values of home, family, and care of the land seem increasingly absent, looking to her past to create a life of significance for her family. Her search takes her back to the prairie of her grandmothers, who survived personal hardships and lived off what the land provided. Lipp-Acord mourns the loss of one child and celebrates the birth of others, all while balancing her own desire to put down roots with her husband’s life as an itinerant ranch hand. Written over ten years, these essays compose a picture of endurance and grace as the author addresses her history and finds her way home.

The granddaughter of immigrants, Darcy Lipp-Acord grew up in Timber Lake, South Dakota, on a farm where three generations of her family have lived. She now resides on a ranch near the Montana-Wyoming border with her husband, Shawn, and their six children. Her memoir, Circling Back Home: A Plainswoman’s Journey, comes out in September 2013. Darcy graduated from Carroll College in Helena, Montana, and taught high school in Montana and Wyoming. She works as a youth services librarian for the Campbell County Public Library system in Gillette, Wyoming, and continues to write. Her essays have appeared in several anthologies, including Woven on the Wind, Crazy Woman Creek, and My Heart’s First Steps. She won Wyoming Arts Council’s Neltje Blanchan Doubleday Award for women writers.

An Interview with Darcy Lipp-Acord

Q. When did you begin writing?

A. I began writing as a teenager, working for our local newspaper, the Timber Lake Topic, as a feature writer. I measured the column inches of anything I wrote, kept track in my own ledger, and received my compensation twice a month. I eventually “graduated” from being a freelance feature writer to being the paper’s student employee. I still wrote stories, but I also took photos and learned to set type. It’s both ironic and rewarding to me that, recently, that same newspaper ran a feature article about me, my writing, and my work since leaving Timber Lake.

Q. When and where did Circling Back Home begin?

A. I spent an intensive four-day weekend with Linda Hasselstrom and other writers in Hermosa, South Dakota, during the summer of 1998, and some of the essays in Circling Back Home began incubating during that time. Linda encouraged me to work with the essays I’d written to find my writer’s voice. It was during that struggle that I realized that the storyteller’s voice in my head sounded a lot like the people around whom I’d grown up. As I listened, wrote, and honed that voice, the stories of those people began flowing from my black ink pen. I went back to Linda’s during the summer of 2011, as I was preparing the complete manuscript for publication, and hers is the voice of the book’s introduction-- another circle.

Q. How did you bring those essays together into a book?

A. Another writer friend, Page Lambert, introduced me to the idea of a story spiral-- the way good fiction, and nonfiction, spirals around and touches certain themes over and over. As I read the seemingly disjointed essays I’d been composing for writers’ groups and contests, I realized that my spirals kept touching on home, on family, on my agricultural roots. As I looked at those spirals, gradually a book took shape within their coils. Although I had started writing for myself, to understand my own life experiences, eventually I was writing out of great respect for my ancestors, for the prairies, and for the heritage that came from growing up in South Dakota.

Q. Being a first-time author, what have you learned from writing Circling Back Home?

A. In the process of writing, submitting, being rejected, and rewriting this work, I have learned much about my ancestors, my chosen lifestyle, and myself. I wrote the actual essays in Circling Back Home over a period of a few years, working on the book when I could-- during my kids' naptimes, when I had breaks from my teaching job, on occasional writing retreats. Although my busy life seemed to impede my writing career, in truth the rich experiences of motherhood, teaching, and ranching gave me something to write about when I returned to my desk.

Q. Do you continue to find time to write?

A. I am still writing, though I am not involved in any book-length projects at the moment! I write two blogs: “The Back Forty” continues to explore the connections between humanity and the natural world; it can be found at My other blog, “Teen Lit Talk,” is written as part of my current career as a youth-services librarian; it’s at Whatever writing I’m doing these days, I've finally found that my writer’s voice is less an expression of my unique individuality and more a blend of the enduring influences of my family, my heritage, and my South Dakota culture. This foundation has taught me a deep reverence for the land and for traditional values.

Interview questions are from the SD State Historical Society Press blog post:
“Finding a Voice: The Newest SDSHS Press Author, Darcy Lipp-Acord—Circling Back Home—Shares Her Writing Experience.”
Visit the SDSHS Press blog at

For more information:

South Dakota State Historical Society Press
900 Governors Drive, Pierre, SD 57501
(605) 773-6009

Circling Back Home: a Plainswoman's Journey by Darcy Lipp-Acord
$16.95 --- plus $5.00 shipping & handling --- plus sales tax
20% Discount for Libraries & Schools --- 40% Discount for Retailers
For orders of 3+ or for international shipping, please contact the SDSHS Press at

Information about Darcy's appearance at the South Dakota Book Festival in September may be found at the Book Festival website

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