There are certain questions that come up during readings. For the benefit of those I am not meeting in person I have answered questions about Bend and the writing process for Bend. If I missed something you are burning to ask please email me.
Where can I buy Bend?
You can buy Bend by clicking the link at the bottom of this page. Bend is also available at several independent bookstores in the Twin Cities: Common Good Books, Magers and Quinn, and Red Balloon. Zenith Bookstore in Duluth carries it and so does A Room of One’s Own in Madison, Wi. Bend can be ordered through any bookstore. It is also available online through my publisher, Anglerfish Press, an imprint of Riptide Publishing. You can order Bend online through any book seller or Amazon. If you come see me at a reading or when I am hand selling my book at a brewery I will have several copies in the back of my Honda.
Is Bend a real town in Minnesota?
No and yes. There is no town named Bend in Minnesota, but there are many towns in Minnesota that are really like Bend.
Did you tell your own personal story in Bend?
There are things in the novel that are autobiographical, but it is not an autobiography. It is a work of fiction.
The fictional place of Bend shares some commonalities with my hometown of Swanville, Minnesota. Physically, Swanville and the surrounding countryside and Bend are very much the same, beautiful farm spotted land with lots of lakes, trees, fields and small towns. I projected the love I had/have for the land and people there onto Bend, and also the knowledge that being a queer at the time I was a teen was not the same as it is in the urban areas today.
My main character, Lorraine wanted out and planned to return after she’d secured her education, career, and someone to love. I am not Lorraine. Lorraine was braver and lived in a different time than I did. I left my hometown and did not return except for visits because I didn’t believe I could have the employment opportunity, the freedom to live as an “out lesbian”, and provide for the needs of the children of color I brought into my life.
I have great love for my hometown, the people who live there, and the institutions like the school, churches, and small businesses which anchor life. I wasn’t brave enough to wait for people to get used to me or tolerate me on a daily basis. I needed a community that included gay life as one of the many splendid ways of being in this world. I believed that I needed to be in a city for that freedom. In some ways, maybe I didn’t give my hometown community enough credit for what they could tolerate. I was scared, so I moved away.
Did you intend to make a spiritual statement in this book?
How I live my life and what I create is all a spiritual statement. There will be some talk about my treatment of the church in this novel. Bend is fictional and it is also part of what is intended to be a trilogy. Stray and the final book of the trilogy, Rise, will show more layers of Lorraine’s spirituality and the values of the local pastor and the other characters in the story. The drive to live in concert with what we believe is the will of God isn’t easily reduced to black or white in life or even in novels.
Lorraine, the protagonist is a spiritual person. She is trying to reconcile what she knows about God and herself with what others are professing to know about God and queers like her. I was aware that I loved women in high school, but I didn’t know there was anyone else like me in the world. I’d heard unkind remarks and insults toward a teacher who was presumed gay, but I didn’t know what to call myself or whether it would always be like that for me.
I certainly knew enough not to say I had crushes on girls. I had crushes on boys too, but not as intensely. Personally as a teen, the church saved my life. It was my faith and the kindness of people at my church that got me through depression and worries about sexuality and my family’s problems.
In college, my faith kept me alive even while I wrestled with the thought that I should die, because I was a lesbian and the church was saying to be gay or lesbian was against God. I knew in my heart that I wasn’t against God. I loved God. I also knew that I didn’t choose to be lesbian. It was something I’d known about myself since I was very young and long before I heard any of the names for it. It was something I prayed would go away. What kept me from killing myself was believing that God would not make me this way and also condemn me. That wasn’t the God I knew from my hometown church and the spiritual example of my maternal Grandmother. However, I felt very alone.
My novel isn’t an indictment of the church or small towns. It is just a story about the struggle of living life in the context of our families, our community, and the larger world. For some people the chance to experience diversity happens through fiction and other types of art. I hope that there are people who will feel less alone because of the stories I tell.
How long did it take to write Bend?
My debut novel took me over twenty years to finish and find a publisher. I started the book while I was taking a class at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. The Loft provides classes to improve the writing and advance the writing careers of writers in the community. I was taking a beginning fiction class with Ellen Hawley, author of The Divorce Diet, when I first heard what ended up being the narrator’s voice for Bend. At first I thought it was going to be a collection of stories about the momma, but over time the story took a different shape.
Mary Logue taught a class on plot for the Hamline University MFA program. That class helped me write a complete first draft of my novel. That was just the beginning of the revision process. I have over fifty electronic drafts of the novel before I found an agent. Then, my agent and I revised the novel. It took another couple years to sell. Next, I worked on revisions with my editors at Riptide. It was a long process. I can say that after completing my MFA at Hamline, I was able to write a first draft much more quickly.