Archive for the ‘DAKOTA updates’ Category

DAKOTA as Audio Book!

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013


The audio version of Dakota, Or What’s a Heaven For has just been released from  It is unabridged and narrated by Margaret Daly.  Readers/listeners can also access the audio book from their Amazon accounts.


Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Former North Dakotan and retired academic Brenda Daly has a new blog,, that is devoted to books about North Dakota or by North Dakota authors.  Ole Rolvaag’s homesteading classic, Giants in the Earth, was the first book to be discussed.  The January selection is Dakota, Or What’s a Heaven For, and I have happily agreed to answer any questions Dakota readers might have.  You don’t have to be from North Dakota to join in!

A Paraphrase, Not a Quotation

Friday, December 14th, 2012

I just read, with some horror, of a quotation attributed to me on an on-line quotation-churning site.  The problem is, the words belong to Wilkie Collins (from The Woman in White).  Throughout Dakota, Or What’s a Heaven For there are occasional nods and winks to Victorian fiction (to George Eliot’s Middlemarch, to George Meredith’s Diana of the Crossways, to Charles Reade, for example).  These intertextual paraphrases and hints serve a number of purposes.  Most importantly, they provide a narrative link to the rich tradition of Victorian novels, which Dakota, set in the mid-19th century, hopes to evoke.  This is one way in which literary historical fiction can acknowledge both its literariness and its fictionality (in that it recognizes that it is working within a network of texts that precede it).  It is an acknowledgment of influence.

When I use the phrase, “working within a network of texts that precede it,”  I am talking about intertextuality.  Intertextuality foregrounds the notion that all literary production takes place in the presence of other texts.  Julia Kristeva said that “any text is constructed of a mosaic of quotations; any text is the absorption and transformation of another.”   Although Kristeva’s work is far more theoretical and complicated than I am suggesting here, applied to a literary work we might say that the work is not simply the product of a single author, but of its relationship to other texts, and to the structures of language itself.

My first book, Teaching the Postmodern:  Fiction and Theory, was a study of how postmodern fiction and poststructuralist theory were in many ways covering the same ground, albeit in very different narrative form.  Although my second novel, Dakota, Or What’s a Heaven For, reads as realist fiction in the Victorian vein, it also reflects, on a deeper level, my postmodern sensibilities, which are inscribed within the novel most obviously through paraphrase and allusion.

The paragraph with the paraphrase, by the way, comes at the end of Dakota‘s “Pre-Amble”:

I am Frances Louise Houghton Bingham, daughter-in-law of John Bingham, wife of his son, Percy, friend of Percy’s sister, Anna, and I mean for this to be my story.  It, too, is a story of what a woman’s patience can endure, as well as of what a woman’s resolution can achieve.  As to whether that refers in this case to one woman or two, you will have to make up your own mind.

And so, Reader, to Frances, alone in the bedoom she shares with her husband in his father’s home in St. Paul, Minnestoa.  It is January of 1874.  There is a photograph in her hand.

Now, you, lucky reader, should go right to Collins’ The Woman in White for a great read!


Especially for Michiganders

Monday, April 16th, 2012

Children’s book author Deborah Diesen has a blog, Jumping the Candlestick, on which she runs weekly profiles of Michigan or Michigan-related authors. Today, April 16, it’s my turn to talk about Dakota, Or What’s a Heaven For and about life in Michigan. Thanks, Debbie!

Connecting with an Old Friend

Friday, February 17th, 2012

Skyping last night with a book club from Grand Forks, North Dakota, I had the chance to reconnect with a college buddy I haven’t seen for years. I was really pleased to get a couple of tough questions from the club, and of course I’m always happy to talk about the research that went into writing Dakota, Or What’s a Heaven For, as well as the process of writing itself. Sometimes I hear from readers who just aren’t sure whether they like the central character, Frances Bingham, who can be just as bad as Scarlett O’Hara, and just as driven as that famous North Dakotan, Jay Gatsby, but this crew got right behind her.

Thanks, Kim, for inviting me into your living room. It was great to catch up, and nice to talk with your club.


Friday, January 27th, 2012

I had the chance last night to Skype with a Fargo book club, and it was a real pleasure. Thanks for inviting me into your home, Michelle, and thanks to all the club members for the great reception you gave me and Dakota! I have visited with book clubs via Skype a couple of times now, and love how this allows an author and readers to connect. If your club is interested in a Skyping session, please get in touch.

2012 BookTalk at Bismarck State College

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

March is not when most folks choose to visit North Dakota. Go figure. I, however, am looking forward to a visit to Bismarck State College, March 1-4, 2012, as a Visiting Writer (with a reading/book signing at 7:30 p.m. at the Student Union on March 1). I was especially pleased to have Dakota, Or What’s a Heaven For selected for BSC’s 2012 BookTalk series, along with Willa Cather’s O Pioneers! and Will Weaver’s Red Earth, White Earth. I will be leading the discussion of Dakota on March 4, 1-3 p.m. at the BSC Library.

High Plains BookFest

Monday, October 17th, 2011

The three-day High Plains BookFest wrapped up in Billings, Montana, this past Sunday, and it was a privilege to to participate as a finalist for a High Plains Award for Best Woman Writer. Of course, I would have liked to have won the award, but I was simply honored to be included in this group of fine writers, and grateful to be in the company of so many serious readers. Special thanks go to Corby Skinner and Susan Lubbers for their dedication and hard work (and enthusiasm and good cheer), which made for such a rewarding literary celebration. And here’s a personal shout-out to new friends and supporters, Connie and Brian Dillon and Mike Fried. Thanks for all of your good words.

And now, after a month-long book tour, I am home. It was a privilege to talk about Dakota, Or What’s a Heaven For at each event, but it’s a relief to be home.

Spearfish Canyon, South Dakota

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

So here was the plan: with a handful of free days between the South Dakota Festival of Books in Deadwood and the High Plains BookFest in Billings, Montana, I would sequester myself in some quiet spot where I would write, write, write. I chose Spearfish Canyon.

Then the sun came out and the temps went up, so I thought I’d better take advantage of the mid-October weather and go for a hike.

Okay, two hikes.

And if it’s this nice again tomorrow, I’m heading out for hike number three. This place is just too beautiful to look at through the window. Writing happens in lots of different ways.

Post-SD Festival of Books and Pre-High Plains BookFest

Monday, October 10th, 2011

The 2011 South Dakota Festival of Books ended yesterday, and I’m happy to say that the rainy, chilly weather didn’t keep book lovers from making their way to the almost-100 events (readings, talks, panels, workshops).

A highlight of the festival was meeting and talking with Joseph Marshall III, author of The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History, which was the 2011 One Book South Dakota selection. Oral history is the basis of this biography of Crazy Horse (Tasunke Witko, or His Crazy Horse). Joseph Marshall, who was raised on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation and is an enrolled member of the Sicangu Lakota tribe, explains that the Lakota people view Crazy Horse differently than do non-American Indians: “We don’t focus on the warrior persona that seems to appeal to other cultures….There are other aspects of him that we perceive to be just as important.”

I had great audiences for my reading and for my panel on “Reimagining the Dakota Past” with Ann Weisgarber, author of The Personal History of Rachel DuPree, a novel about an African-American woman and her family who homestead in the South Dakota Badlands in the early 20th century. I recommend it.

Next stop: Billings, Montana, for the High Plains BookFest in Billings, MT.