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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Inspired by the northern shore

In 2001 I had the privilege of spending a week with Alice Walker ... Actually, it was a writing shed named for her. Inside that tiny space, I spent days working on fiction and non-fiction manuscripts. In the evenings the fire in the large cabin blazed while I read to other writers what I had written. There are some things in life you forget quickly, but the week at Norcroft will never leave my mind.

Outside of Duluth, in Lutsen, Minnesota, a piece of land hugged the northern shore of Lake Superior. The owner of the land opened this space up for women writers from all over the globe. All you had to do was get to Norcroft. Once there, room and board were taken care of.

Nancy Harless also had the gift of time at Norcroft. She was more productive than I was for her days there resulted in her new book, Womankind: Connection and Wisdom Around the World.
Because fellow-Norcrofters find each other and hold this common bond of time spent in this hideaway in the woods, we decided to exchange books. I sent her Rain Song and her book arrived for me.

I thoroughly enjoyed the adventure I was able to take as I read about women and places around the world where Nancy visited and worked. The accounts of these ventures are penned in this collection of stories--rich and poignant. These pages record the voices of women, women who don't have it easy, and yet find assurance in connecting with other women.

Many parts of Nancy's book stand out for me. Perhaps one I think of most often comes from the elderly Lillian, a maid in Jamaica, who said, "Oh, I have been very good. I am blessed. I have life, and life is enough." Sometimes, despite all that I have personally been through, I know that life should be enough.

My own novel, Rain Song, came after my time at Norcroft. (What I was working on in that shed during my time there never made it to publication.) I like to think that by spending a week at the northern shore I harnessed the inspiration to years later, develop my novel. Perhaps the encouragement from the women at this beautiful location in Minnesota gave me the desire to write a story that binds the lives of women a little further South---united by what keeps us all strong---family, love, and tradition.

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