See me – & Laura – at Wisconsin libraries

I’m bringing my presentation “Everything Laura Ingalls Left Out of Her Novels” to several Wisconsin libraries. Learn Laura’s real story, visit some beautiful Wisconsin towns and meet other Laura fans! I’ll have copies of my novel Laura Ingalls Is Ruining My Life available for signing.

Here’s my schedule:

  • Thursday, Aug. 2, Thomas St. Angelo Public Library, Cumberland. Program starts at 6:30.
  • Thursday, Aug. 16, Plum City Public Library, Plum City. Program starts at 7 p.m.
  • Monday, Aug. 20, Spring Valley Public Library, Spring Valley. Program starts at 6 p.m.
  • Thursday, Aug.23, Pepin Public Library, Pepin. Program starts at 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, Aug. 18, Frederic Public Library, Frederic. Program starts at 1 p.m.

In other Laura news, one of my all-time favorite books, Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser, recently won the Pulitzer Prize!




Double trouble at the Red Balloon

I’m joining my dear friend Becky Davis at the Red Balloon in St. Paul Saturday, Jan. 20, for a book appearance. The fun starts at 2 p.m.

I’m featuring Laura Ingalls is Ruining My Life, and Becky has a new middle-grade novel called Slider’s Son.

Becky and I have been in a writing group for nearly 18 years. Many marriages don’t last that long!

I fell in love with Becky’s first novel, Jake Riley: Irreparably Damaged. My husband had been Becky’s neighbor. One day he came home with a manuscript. It was Becky’s first novel, on submission to publishing houses, and she wanted my teenage stepdaughter Wendy to read it and give her feedback.

I was alone in the house later that day, so I curled up on the couch with Becky’s manuscript. I was hooked. I stayed up late and read the entire book, which captured the teen experience so vividly I felt like I’d traveled through time back to my bedroom at my parents’ house.

Hope you can join a couple of old friends this weekend!

(By the way, Wendy loved the book as much I did.)



The Long Winter

January is bringing arctic temperatures to western Wisconsin, which always makes me think of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her novel (my favorite) The Long Winter. It’s a survival story: Laura’s family, and the entire town of De Smet in Dakota territory, nearly starved and froze to death. Trains couldn’t get through the snow and ice to deliver supplies.

On February 6, I’m leading a multi-age book club featuring The Long Winter at the Hudson Library. Space is limited, so sign up soon!

Meanwhile, here’s a look at why those trains never made it. Fun times!


My 2017 reading list


I don’t write often enough about the books I’m reading. Time flies, you know. This year, I decided to track what I’m reading in a book journal. Now I can’t find the journal. That’s how I roll.

From memory, I’m recreating the list, which I think is accurate, give or take a few. One or two might be end-of-the-year 2016, and I’m sure I missed a few.

First, I want to highlight a book I finished last night: It Looks Like This by Rafi Mittlefehldt. My 13-year-old daughter handed it to me with a demand to READ IT NOW. So I did. It sounds pretentious to say a book is “profound” and “important,” but damn, this book is a profound and important story about a boy’s sexual awakening and the disturbing events that follow.

When you’re an author, you go through fits of author envy, shaking your head and thinking, I wish I wrote this well. I have a severe case of Mittlefehlt envy. Buy it. Read it. Share it. Read it again. Thank me sometime during the process.

Now, here’s a list of my reading material from 2017, in no particular order, and not including picture books:

It Looks Like This by Rafi Mittlefehldt

Pax by Sara Pennypacker

Rain Reign by Ann Martin

Slider’s Son by Rebecca Fjelland Davis

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

The Giver by Lois Lowry

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

Eleanor Roosevelt, Vol. 1: 1884-1933 by Blanche Wiesen Cook

Magnus Chase: Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser

Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder

When Madeline Was Young by Jane Hamilton

Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler

Found by S.A. Bodeen

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

Big & Little Questions (According to Wren Jo Byrd) by Julie Bowe

Original Fake by Kirstin Cronn-Mills

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer

Land of Stories: The Enchantress Returns by Chris Colfer

Land of Stories: A Grimm Warning by Chris Colfer

Heal Your Headache by David Buchholz

The Migraine Miracle Diet by Josh Turnkett

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Lunar Chronicles: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Lunar Chronicles: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

What Came From the Stars by Gary D. Schmidt


Nov. 11, River Falls: Laura, Laura’s cookies and me

Join me Saturday, November 11 at the River Falls Library at 11 a.m. for my presentation “Everything Laura Left Out of Her Novels.” I’ll be there with my new book Laura Ingalls is Ruining My Life.

A few days ago I started researching original recipes from Laura Ingalls. I want to bring something special to the event, and I knew there had to be a Laura cookbook out there.

There is, but it’s out of print. Thankfully some Laura fans posted a few recipes online. I found out how to make the maple snow candy from Little House in the Big Woods and her famous gingerbread cake. I even saw a link to jack rabbit stew.

No worries – I settled on molasses cookies. Not my favorite, but they didn’t have chocolate chips on the prairie.

Hope to see you there!


Hello world … It’s debut day for Laura Ingalls is Ruining My Life

My fourth novel is entering the world. Check it out:

A life on the prairie is not all its cracked up to be for one girl whose mom takes her love of the Little House series just a bit too far.

Charlotte’s mom has just moved the family across the country to live in Walnut Grove, “childhood home of pioneer author Laura Ingalls Wilder.” Mom’s idea is that the spirit of Laura Ingalls will help her write a bestselling book. But Charlotte knows better: Walnut Grove is just another town where Mom can avoid responsibility. And this place is worse than everywhere else the family has lived―it’s freezing in the winter, it’s small with nothing to do, and the people talk about Laura Ingalls all the time. Charlotte’s convinced her family will not be able to make a life on the prairie―until the spirit of Laura Ingalls starts getting to her, too.


A Patron Saint named Outstanding Book


PSThe Wisconsin Library Association has chosen A Patron Saint for Junior Bridesmaids as an Outstanding Book for 2017.

I’m thrilled to be recognized by librarians in my home state for a book that’s so close to my heart.

I started writing Patron Saint 15 years ago. There were times I wanted to rip it to shreds, throw it away and never think about it again. I never dreamed I’d finish it, let alone get it published and be recognized for it.

Patience. Persistance. Faith.

Struggling writers, hang in there.

It happens.


Summer reads

I’ve been on a blog sabbatical, so I haven’t written lately about the books on my nightstand. I read two books a week, sometimes three, and it’s been a long time since I’ve shared some of my favorites on the blog.

A quick round up:

Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko. Once I put Al Capone in my own novel (Finders Keepers), I devoured her Alcatraz series, which also includes Al Capone Does My Shirts and Al Capone Does My Homework.

The ongoing adventures of 12-year-old Moose Flanagan are funny, but the reason I love the books is the relationship between his autistic sister Natalie and their family. The secondary characters shine.

Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life by Pamela Smith Hill. This was one of the ten books I read as I researched my novel Laura Ingalls is Ruining My Life (slated for publication in 2017).

This book is not just another Laura biography. It probes her life as a writer, including her relationship with daughter Rose Wilder Lane, who was one of the country’s most acclaimed writers around the time of the Depression. If you’ve ever wondered about the influence Rose had on her mother’s series of books, read this book for its insight.

On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I read this book at least a dozen times as a kid. I needed to revisit it to ground myself in the setting of Walnut Grove, Minn., which is the modern-day setting for Laura Ingalls is Ruining My Life.

On the Banks of Plum Creek is my third favorite Laura book. Little House on the Prairie and The Long Winter are numbers one and two.

The Phoenix Files by Chris Morphew is a six-book series about three teens trying to stop a powerful man from destroying the world. Think of it as pre-dystopian. The plot speeds along at a breathtaking pace with three characters taking turns telling the story. Jordan is my favorite: tough, driven, fearless. I don’t read much science fiction, but this series left me hungry for more.

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt. I’m embarrassed I didn’t read this award winner years ago. It’s a lyrical and evocative story about a lonely hound dog who forms an unlikely family with two kittens. Appelt sets their current troubles against a magical history that seeps into the present.

Next up: Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos.

Making my list, checking it twice

Time flies, just like reindeer. My annual list of gifts for writers should’ve been posted weeks ago, which would have given you time to find them and ship them to me before Christmas. That’s the price of procrastination.

But there’s always expedited shipping!

Here is my carefully curated list:

1. Earrings that include the two words every writer loves to type:  The End.



2. A keyboard doormat. The keys aren’t in the right place, but the WELCOME is worth the inaccuracy.



3. A perfect over-the-mantel print.



4. Make your technology look old-school in this faux book cover.



5. This is for lovers of books and Michonne. If you’re not a Walking Dead fan, then disregard and skip to number six.



6. A collection of pens for every type of writer — the one who actually gets crap done and the rest of us.








7. Because who doesn’t love a book pun?



8. And who doesn’t love writer arrogance?



9. Writers are poor. Help your writer friend keep the furnace at 55 degrees with these convenient wrist gloves.



10. Because writing is hell.



11. A week-long writing retreat in January–I’d settle for Hawaii–would kick the winter blahs.  There’s slight possibility it’d be productive, too.