23 September 2012

Chippewa Customs - Book Giveaway

Announcing a giveaway for one person: Chippewa Customs by Frances Densmore.  This is a reprint by the Minnesota Historical Society Press of her book first published in 1929 by the Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology as Bulletin 86.

This book was a must have for many people in our village when I was growing up.  The people who had copies lent them out until they weren't returned.  Thereafter, one could only read this book in the presence of the owner.  I read the book and was lucky enough to have people who could answer my questions.

Some of the patterns for beadwork were used with new materials, new colors.  They were the basis for creating more.  The birchbark basket was another thing I could watch as they were being made.  There was a round house, lean-tos and other buildings used for storage mostly when I was growing up.  

I remember my grandfather having snowshoes in the house. There were traps which kids weren't supposed to touch until they knew how. Rabbit snares, a metal contraption that held beaver hides on it to dry out. Reading this book brings back so many memories.  

I am interviewing Rosemary Berens who is the Executive Director for the Bois Forte Heritage Center & Cultural Museum, *Atisokanigamig or Legend House, which is where I bought this copy. The time for the drawing will be on Monday, October 1, 2012.

Entries will be from the comments on this post or on my Facebook Fanpage link on the sidebar.  Good Luck!

18 September 2012


My friend and I ate at a restaurant featuring a buffet a while ago.  I noticed this lady moving chairs at a set of tables.  An elder man was sitting in the chair at the end of the table. A bit later a couple more people sat down.  Lastly, two more sat. Then, the waitress moved a wheelchair out of the aisle.

I didn't think much more about it until the lady came back with a plate for the man. His demeanor was quiet, not wanting to call attention to himself.  His head hung down, his hands were in his lap and he slouched. A cursory glance at the rest of his family showed them settling in for their meal.

I happened to look at that table later and there was a change in the man.  His face was lit up, he was smiling, he sat straighter.  It was like a light had come on.

I stared far longer than needed. I was that amazed at the change in this elder.  The rest of the diners at his table were looking at him.  I shook my head, then paid attention to my own table companion.  I told her of my observation.  I was still amazed.

A few minutes later, I glanced at the table. The man was back to the original demeanor, a bit more tired.  The lady across from him was getting his food. I know, because I looked for her.  This intrigued me.  I began to wonder what was happening to cause this change. It wasn't an isolated incident.  Our meal lasted about 45 minutes.  In that time, the man's face changed three times.  I watched him eat, normal.  He didn't put himself forward though.

My companion and I left the restaurant before I could observe their leave taking.  There were other details: one of the females, the youngest, had her meals served to her also, as did one other woman at the table.  I noticed their physical characteristics, the limits of their physical boundaries.

My companion was too polite to ask me if I was planning a scene around this incident; she had that puzzled look which meant she was thinking.  I hadn't thought of it at the time. In my reading over what I wrote, there did happen to be a scene with some of the elements of my observations.  I hadn't realized how deep an impression it made.

Thinking about this has made me realize that I could plot at least three different story lines. Hey, I think a light bulb has just clicked on, 45 years late. I look for writing prompts on the net, when I have a great deal of my own already.

11 September 2012

Mapping and Attendant Quest

I've been busy, busy, busy the last two days tracking down a missing something for an essential part of my software needed to run a program called paint.NET which is going to help design a map for my world.

Being one of the dangerous sort who only knows part of what is needed and then allowed to run amok in the world, I found out I needed to check a lot of the tech support blogs around the net.  I started my search with cartography and joined a forum of cartographers because of a free program, GIMP, which couldn't be downloaded.  When I checked the bug discussion, there was a scrap of dll I would have to hunt for involving something in the system32 which I was horrified at messing around with having just gotten a flashback to the time of "no computer" due to a motherboard being fried. {Another adventure which I think I've referred to elsewhere.}

Searching for maps was taking a little long as I wanted to get my descriptions matched up in my stories.  One can't really have someone(s) going in circles, even though people have been known to do so in "real life."  And one can't have two or three groups being on the same route or the same place without sounding totally lost.  Just makes for a lot of revising and hunting for where one went wrong. {as in trying to find out why certain somethings won't work on my computer.}

I came across a couple maps after going through a process of elimination for ideas on what to use for a map.  This problem has been plaguing me since I started my first book.  Finding aids for my creation process is akin to that which I use in working on traditional arts and crafts.  And having little storage for such aids since books, beads and cloth are taking up a lot of the space in the house, sewing machines are here somewhere as there are four of those,  I tried to find something I could use on the net. Google Earth {and finding my way to Google and Blogger} have been great for some of the process. Now I need specific points in my world. The above maps had been posted on DeviantArt and the maker's use of paint.Net and satellite pics.  Lucky for me was the fact that my search history hadn't been cleared. Unlucky, "application not found."

All of this led to my deciding to use the Microsoft Paint program already installed. Eeyii, what a mess.  I don't draw as my stick figures tend to look like something out of a nightmare which caaaan have its place in a novel.  Just not this time.  The hunt for tutorials to use the program was on.  Enter Paint.Net. and days looking for the missing something on my hard drive.  Weeelll, two days.

The two days were well spent as I know a good deal more than when I started the hunt for a map that looked a little like what I had in mind.  And having this map has aided my imagination so much more.  Reminds me of the exploration and discovery we all study in school, though geography was never a strong point as I barely know mountains, valleys and plains.  The difference between seas and oceans is still hard for me to grasp.  Ridgelines and other such technicalities will have to wait until the light bulb goes on and I don't have to rely on someone explaining such concepts to me. Or til a character takes it into their head to further my education on such things.

07 September 2012

The Dreamcatcher

A teacher used to read us a book in class every morning-"Charlotte's Web" by E.B. White.  A chapter a day got me to school as early as I could so I wouldn't miss anything.  Out of everything I learned that year, I remember the spider talking to the pig.

The spider's web is important in my culture.  It's where we got the design for the dreamcatcher basically for babies, a mobile on the ticananga {cradleboard} that catches bad things and lets good things come through.  It's so much more than that.

Now, imagine what a book about the spider talking to a pig did for all of us in that class.  Here was the dreamcatcher helping a pig with his problems.  And the emotion evoked when the spider died was akin to when we'd sit and listen to the storytellers in the village. When the spider's babies flew off in the wind leaving us behind we were sad. And then the voice spoke to the pig; hope. The thing I remember most was the spider's web in the barn door.

That image has stayed with me through bad times and good times.  I make dreamcatchers. I remember learning how to get the web portion just right.  I remember going out with my mother and sister to gather the right kind of wood.  Then we'd get the sinew ready.  It had to be just the right length, the right thickness.

Learning to start the web was the most frustrating part for me.  The circle had to be divided just so to get the required amount of strands.  I'd look at my mother, hoping she'd take pity on me and start the web.  After the first time, it was nothing doing.  To this day, she still shrugs her shoulder, grimaces, then tosses her head whenever I look like I'm going to get that "help me" look.  My heart sinks.  Then I carry on with whatever I'm doing.

Writing is like that process for me.  Gathering the words, the images, putting them together in just the right way and then satisfaction with the finished product.

I've gathered words, mostly by myself in the beginning.  My son started on this particular path with me. We each started gathering our words and now we've gone on our separate paths.  I've met others while traveling along that web who've helped or hindered.  Glad to say that those who hindered proved to have helped me become a stronger person, able to appreciate the help.

The final portion of constructing a dreamcatcher is the selection of the ornaments.  Some are dictated by tradition, others with a special meaning to the maker and some are intended for the recipient.  Some of these are worked into the strand while the web is being made, the rest are attached when the web is finished.

Constructing my books has those same elements: tradition, meaning for the maker and intent for the recipient.  Getting those words into the proper shape has been an experience I'll remember each time I look at the dreamcatcher, my books, the words and images I use in that construction process. Even the image of my mother shrugging her shoulder and tossing her head whenever I get stuck and have to find my own path.

My own dreamcatcher hanging alongside the original in the barn door.

03 September 2012

Writer's Dreams

This is the culmination of several years of dreams, along with a little procrastination while my characters danced in the world between sleeping and waking. Of course they were intent on having the time of their lives while my world building skills were being put to the test.

I've had a bit of trouble with a few of the characters as they wanted to step through the portal to my world before theirs was ready.  It's been an adventure most of the time, a hard day's work sometimes, to keep them in their proper place.  Hopefully, they have learned the same lessons I have as their world unfolded in fits and starts.

Some of them have pushed their way to the forefront, making sure I knew they were there and ready to tell their story.  Others are still hanging back and need to be coaxed to tell me a few tidbits about their lives.  Still, I stand at that portal and can see others in the background that I'd dearly love to talk to and get their stories.

A bit about the process and the people who have inspired me to continue on this journey through another world, another time and other's lives.  This is by no means a comprehensive list.

The first to give me that "aha" moment was, of course, my high school English teacher.  Amazing what those little notes in the margins can sprout in the mind of a student. That one little seed has given me a whole new appreciation for "faith like a mustard seed."

A few years ago, when I set out to write a book and found the Nanowrimo site, my niece bought a book "Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy" by Crawford Kilian.  I've read that book though many times when I got stuck on something.  I've fav'ed a lot of sites that offer writer tips and strategies-I keep grabbing this one book when I need to think something through and that couch looks very inviting.

Another set of people who have encouraged me one way or another are my sons and their friends.  At the turn of the century, (heehee), my computer skills were next to nothing and my sons and friends patiently taught me enough to run through the "big library in the sky" on my own. {I have me own ideas on the 'Net and where it is.}

Another part of the education was listening to them as they created their own worlds in the rpg's they enthusiastically engaged in.  I even participated in a few of the games until the XBox came along with its many, many buttons. That still defeats me. Arrrgh, one of these days, I'll advance past Hexic D. My son downloaded Peggle for me and I've looked at it, even tried one or two of the buttons.

Some of the other ideas for my world came from answering the questions I had about the world when I was growing up in my own fashion.  We'll just have to see how that turns out when I finally get my first book published.  Dream, dream dream. Work, read, work.

A few of the bloggers who have contributed to my world building and character sketches through their various posts may agree to do a guest post.  My way of saying thanks for their contribution.  MiiGwetch, many thanks.