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No Place Like Home Notes from a Western Life

What's Here?

No Place Like Home: Notes from a Western Life was published in 2009 by the University of Nevada Press.

A paperback version was released in the fall of 2010.

Note: Any parts of this page labeled "coming soon . . ." are still under construction.
Please check back later to read those sections. Thanks.

Linda describes the lengthy process to bring this book from idea to print.
coming soon . . .

"We're not in Kansas anymore . . . Are we?"
Some words about the title and the cover photo.

Awards won by No Place Like Home
The 2010 WILLA award for creative non-fiction from Women Writing the West
The Zonta Award for Best Women Writer at the 2010 High Plains Book Awards

Linda answers questions about No Place Like Home and her views on community.
Clarification on the South Dakota subdivisions mentioned in the book.

"Waiting for the Storm"
The poem from the Epilogue had its portrait painted for the P3 Exhibit.

Collected comments by commonplace readers.
We've collected some readers' comments about the book here. Send us a note and we may include yours too. A few excerpts from professional reviewers are included.

Table of Contents
A list of those intriguing chapter titles. Notes about them coming soon . . .

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Linda describes the lengthy process to bring this book from idea to print.
coming soon . . .

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"We're not in Kansas anymore . . . Are we?"
A few words from Linda about the book title and the cover photo.

Q: Tell us about the book's title. Are you a big fan of The Wizard of Oz?

I believe my mother read me the book The Wizard of Oz. I must have seen the movie once as a child, and perhaps once since I've been an adult. My partner, Jerry, can recite entire segments of it; he's particularly entertaining when doing the song the Munchkins sing, but I've never had that closeness to the book or the text.

My interest grew when I discovered that L. Frank Baum had lived and worked in South Dakota, and likely wrote the book here. By then I'd realized that South Dakota is simply not in the knowledge of most people: I found it entirely believable when Rand McNally left the state out of its maps of the states in the nation a few years ago. South Dakota just doesn't get much attention, and if it does, is often confused with North Dakota.

I started reading about Baum's work, and in a small way trying to bring more attention to its connection to our state; many other people have done more research and more promotion. But the phrase "no place like home" stuck in my mind, as it does with many people. I used to think of Dorothy clicking the heels of her ruby slippers together when I was stuck in Missouri trying to make a marriage with a cheating husband, and wish I could go home as easily.

I proposed the title for an earlier book but that was about the time that Gary Larson ended his cartoon series with a panel derived from The Wizard of Oz, suggesting that all his cartoons had been a dream, and the phrase "no place like home" appeared in that final cartoon. I was advised by publishing insiders that I couldn't possibly use the title at that time because it would be associated with Gary Larson. So my book was instead titled Feels Like Far, its name taken from a line in another movie.

But I held onto the title No Place Like Home and waited. Eventually it became clear that it would be an ideal title for this book about community.

# # #

Great cover photo
but there's no place like home.

Q: Some of your book cover photos are of you and your ranch (Windbreak, Dakota Bones, Feels Like Far). Was the cover photo of No Place Like Home taken at your place?

Sorry, Toto. The photo isn't of South Dakota. And we're not in Kansas, either.

A friend found the photograph online and learned it was taken in Texas.

Initially, I found the cover disappointing, because it doesn't look to me like my grasslands. The elements that jar for me are the obviously cultivated and very flat land in the background. The strips of gold and green indicate planted grain. And the ground is extremely flat, whereas my grasslands neighborhood is rolling, sensuous. The grass in the foreground appears to be brome grass, an invasive, not a native.

I do like the perspective done with the fence post and wire. And the clouds offer a nice stormy atmosphere that fits with some of the book's comments.

At my first book signing, as I stood behind a table full of the books, I watched passersby. Many came over and expressed delight at the cover-- picked the book up, thumbed through it. They loved it.

This is a fine illustration of why writers are almost never allowed to choose the covers of their books. Apparently book designers know a lot more than we do about what appeals to the reader.

# # #

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Awards Won by No Place Like Home

Women Writing the West -- WILLA Award
No Place Like Home: Notes from a Western Life by Hermosa, South Dakota author Linda M. Hasselstrom has been selected as the 2010 winner of the WILLA literary award for creative nonfiction by Women Writing the West. The award will be presented at the 16th annual WWW conference at Rancho de los Caballeros in Wickenburg, AZ on October 15-17, 2010.

The WILLA awards represent the best of 2009 published literature for women’s stories set in the American West, chosen by professional librarians, historians, and university-affiliated educators. Awards are also given in contemporary, original softcover, and historical fiction, scholarly nonfiction, poetry, and children’s/young adult fiction and nonfiction. WWW is a non-profit association of writers and other literature oriented professionals, writing and promoting the Women’s West. Membership is open to any person worldwide who shares those interests.

For more information:
website for Women Writing the West

# # #

High Plains Book Awards -- Zonta Award for Best Woman Writer
Linda Hasselstrom won the Best Woman Writer Award from the Zonta Club of Billings for No Place Like Home, her 13th published book, which examines the changing nature of community in the modern West.

The awards were presented as part of the High Plains Book Awards in Billings, MT, Friday October 8, and included recognition for best poetry, best first book, and best nonfiction.

The awards recognize regional authors and/or literary works which examine and reflect life on the High Plains, including Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, and Kansas, and the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan.

# # #

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Linda answers some questions about No Place Like Home and her views on community.

Little Fireplug on the Prairie
This is yet another subdivision near Hermosa
not even mentioned in the book

Q: The book jumps between Cheyenne, Wyoming and your ranch near Hermosa, South Dakota. But are all the stories set in South Dakota about the same subdivision?

No. There are many subdivisions in the Hermosa area now. My book has stories about three of them.

The subdivision created on Paul's ranch is west across the highway from where I live, and it's the one that creates light pollution and where the houses are perched on pointy hills dissolving in the rain.

To the immediate north of my ranch house, more subdividing is going on; I mentioned that land going up for sale the day my Aunt Anne died.

Six miles farther north and somewhat east, along Battle Creek, is another subdivision which lies west of my hay ground; that's the one where the flood displaced 34 of the 36 houses-- and most of those poor folks are still there, because their insurance didn't cover the flood, and they can't afford to move. And no one will buy their damaged houses. So they have paid a high price for not looking at the consequences of their actions.

Unfortunately, the book, being nonfiction, is not as tidy dramatically as I would have liked, since the subdivision that opens the story is not the one struck by the flood. And in neither case has the developer suffered the consequences of his actions. Both developers continue to make money while their victims pay the price for not asking enough questions about the flood potential of the nearby creek, or the discomforts and dangers of building on pointy hills.

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"Waiting for the Storm"

The epilogue of No Place Like Home contains the poem "Waiting for the Storm" which tells the story of twelve-year-old Linda and her father cutting grass at a hay field near a creek. As they watch a storm blow up over the Black Hills, her father points out the row of cottonwood trees growing in a drainage ditch.

"They look like little old ladies going to town,"
my father said, grinning. "All stooping in a row."
We watched a cloud bank rise beyond the Hills,
growing blacker as it towered toward the sun.
The old trees bent their backs, tattered women
hustling towards shelter, tipping toward the earth.

In the poem, Linda visits those same cottonwoods forty-five years later and reflects on how the trees, the land, and the people have weathered the storms of life.

Linda Hasselstrom and Rebecca Mulvaney

In the spring of 2009 Linda was invited to participate in the "P3: Poets and Painters at the Pavilion" exhibit sponsored by the Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science in Sioux Falls, SD.

Linda chose to collaborate with Rebecca Mulvaney, an artist who had worked in South Dakota for many years. Linda admires her art (she owns an original oil painting by Rebecca) and felt her style would complement Linda's writing perfectly.

After some correspondence, they agreed to work from Linda's then-unpublished poem "Waiting for the Storm."

Rebecca traveled to Linda's ranch in the late summer and spent some days with Linda getting to know the cottonwoods and their environs.

Rebecca and Linda discuss the clouds and the cottonwood trees.

Fifty feet above us, green and yellow leaves
rustled in the sun, flung cottonwood shadows.
We stared westward, toward the Black Hills
trying to foretell the weather.

from No Place Like Home
"Epilogue: Waiting for the Storm"
published by University of Nevada Press, 2009

The painting "The Storytellers" and
the poem "Waiting for the Storm" at the P3 Exhibit

The Storytellers

Oil on canvas, gallery wrapped, with painted edges.
24" high x 36" wide.

A group of battered cottonwoods in a moist area of an extensive hayfield in western South Dakota.

Created in collaboration with prairie writer Linda Hasselstrom for her poem, "Waiting for the Storm".

Copyright 2009, all rights reserved.

Rebecca Mulvaney died of lung cancer at age 65 in March, 2013.

* * *

Approximately 24 pairs of regional poets and visual artists participated in the exhibit which opened on December 4th, 2009 and ran through February 28, 2010. An exhibition catalogue, with photos of the paintings, accompanied with the poetry, is available for purchase from the Pavilion.

For more information:

Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science
301 S. Main Avenue, Sioux Falls, SD 57104

To read about Linda's second P3 collaboration, with the artist Cory Knedler in 2010
see the Poetry Page in the Books & More section of this website.

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Collected comments by commonplace readers.

We've collected some readers' comments about the book here. Send us a note and we may include yours too. A few excerpts from professional reviewers are included.

From a gentleman who has attended a writing retreat and worked with me online:
Looking for some inspirational literature this afternoon, I opened up NO PLACE LIKE HOME. To my mind "The School Bus Driver Waved" and "A Rocket Launcher in the Closet" are examples of your best writing. Re-reading them I found the special kind of comfort I can only acquire through beautiful writing and heartfelt stories. Thank you.

From a reader in New York:
Every single chapter is a jewel! And the titles are terrific. I thought "Watching for Grizzlies Anyway" was particularly lovely. Just gripping. The last chapter gave me tears and goose bumps. No one else could hear the gorgeous prairie grass music you describe so beautifully. Truly a crescendo ending for a book that sings with flawless writing. Triple bravos!

From Maura, a writer who has attended a number of retreats, and a dear friend.
Of all the books I’ve held in my hands recently-- maybe in years, which you know would easily list in the hundreds-- yours was undoubtedly the most tactilely pleasant I have had the pleasure to hold. Whatever kind of paper the University of Nevada Press used for both the cover and the interior pages, it was delightfully smooth (dare I say, sensuous?). Just wanted you to know that. Not something a reviewer will probably tell you-- ha!

From a South Dakota fan of Linda's books:
The first chapter, "Selling the Ranch" -- wow! Nail-biting suspense. Who will win? How will it all turn out? You made that story of the land auction as exciting as any great courtroom movie I’ve ever seen.

From a gentleman in Santa Fe:
I just finished "No Place Like Home." I enjoyed it immensely. I was a little nervous in the early going, thinking it might be heavily weighted towards teens and lowlifes in Cheyenne. But I found myself touched by your stories of Red and Darrell and "The School Bus Driver Waved," and "Stalking Coffee in Sitka" (what, that piece had never been published?). I'm sure other readers have other favorites but for me those were lovely and thought-provoking.

Took two of your books to show and tell with the 6th graders I tutor. Wanted to show them that they can use diaries to write stories and, whether they are ranchers or students, they can still write in their spare time. (One of my students gasped, "You call her "Linda"? I guess she expected "Ms. Hasselstrom.")

From Hobie M., a long-time correspondent:
Incredibly thought stimulating ideas . . . amazing concern for Mother Nature and one’s legacy to future generations. All pretty heady things . . . Fantastic job!

From Mary Scriver's review at Prairie Mary, Sept. 29, 2009
The first review of the book, and definitely among Linda's favorites.

But like that gentle stream, when blocked in one direction, Linda found another way, and then another, until the meanders-- looking back-- have formed a pattern and watered much grass. She has worked in community, braided waters, so that her own force is matched with others. Water is a continuing theme, whether the dwindling aquifer supporting too much population or the roaring floods that comb housing built on floodplains across the fields, and she has not neglected sewers. What goes in must come out, what goes up must come down, what is born must die, and what is dead gives new life to something beginning again.

It’s all very well to say this sort of thing at conferences and write flowery poetry about it. It’s quite another to get out there with a shovel or a backhoe and do what needs to be done. One of my favorite Hasselstrom essays is missing here, the one about putting the barn cats into the tractor cab to take them through the snow to where mice had infested the hay yard. They didn’t appreciate the favor and bounced off the windows and ceilings the whole way, yowling and scratching, until she finally released them, moved a few bales and hordes of mice ran out. For the rest of the winter, if they saw the tractor heading towards the hay yard, they came in a line right behind, picking their way along the snowy double trail.

But there is one about the field cats getting trapped in a tree during a flood and how Linda went out on horseback to bring them back inside her jacket, regardless of the ruckus and wounds. I mean, you just have to respect a rancher who herds cats.

For more information and the entire review:

From Jenny Shank's review at New West Book Review
An entertaining review.

Linda M. Hasselstrom, the author of several books of nonfiction and poetry and the director of prairie writing retreats in her South Dakota home, is a passionate, entertaining, and cranky companion in the landscape of the evolving West, in which she finds more and more people who don’t think about the consequences of their actions. She describes herself and a friend as "a couple of cynical old broads who never benefitted from innocence even when we had it."

Hasselstrom suffers from some uncommonly bad neighbors at her houses in Cheyenne and rural South Dakota, such as the meth-using pink-haired mother who leaves her baby unattended while she gets high and flushes all manner of unspeakable items down her toilet. . .

Linda Hasselstrom knows what you’ve been flushing because your sewage backed up into her basement. She knows how long you’ve been in the shower, wasting precious western water resources. She knows which punk kid lopped the tops off of all of the irises growing around her Cheyenne home. She knows which subdivision-dwelling newcomer ignited that grassfire in the South Dakota prairie near her ranch because he failed to disable the catalytic converter on his pickup. And she knows all about the shoddy planning for the new subdivision next door because a flood picked up one of the houses and set it down in her pasture. In her new book, No Place Like Home: Notes from a Western Life, she has a few things to say about all of these issues.

For more information and the entire review:
New West Book Review

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Table of Contents

Prologue: A 54 Chevy Named Beulah
Selling the Ranch
Dear John: How to Move to the Country
The School Bus Driver Waved
Laughter in the Alley
Tomato Cages Are Metaphors
A Rocket Launcher in the Closet
The Beauty of Responsibility
Watching for Grizzlies Anyway
He Pinched the Burning End
Shoveling Snow in the Dark
Stalking Coffee in Sitka
Recycling Freedom
Tattoos and a Thong
Learning the Names of Cows
How to Live at the Dump
It Doesn't Just Happen
Making Pottery out of Sewage
Pray for Me I Drive Highway 79
The Stolen Canoe Mystery
Playing Pool with the Cat Men
Sounding the Writing Mudhole
Investigating the Heron Murders
Who's Driving the Subdivision?
Overlooking Antelope Ridge
Epilogue: Waiting for the Storm

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