I would like to invite you into my kitchen, where we’d sit at the counter and talk about books and writing over coffee and a slice of my signature Scandinavian almond cake warm from the oven. As a journalist-turned-food writer, much of my work for the past 19 years has involved a certain amount of conversation and hospitality. Certainly not the often-envisioned solitary life of a writer! Perhaps that’s why I believe that stories are often best when developed and shared alongside community, and why I am so excited that I’m finally pursuing my longtime goal of earning an MFA degree and returning to writing fiction. I’m completing the final details of my first semester work this week, and as I’ve reviewed the work I’ve done since the beginning of the semester, I’m pleased to see the progress I’ve made and am so grateful that I have this opportunity. Here’s a brief history of how I got to this point in my writing career:
In college, I prepared for my dream career by majoring in communication with an emphasis in journalism at Seattle Pacific University. Working as a news writer and producer for a local television morning show was exciting enough for several years, but I moved on before achieving my goal of becoming a reporter and anchor. Churning out story after story about house fires and wacky weather just wasn’t what my artistic soul longed to do. I regretted not majoring in English but have since come to see that my degree equipped me with both the ethics to be a responsible writer and the ability to write clear, compelling copy, which serves me to this day.
When I first left TV news, I became the communications manager for a theater company in Seattle. The job was a perfect fit, as I’d find out one morning when I woke up to learn that the theater had been the latest target of a serial arsonist. My journalism skills proved helpful as I worked with the media to help turn what could have been simply a story of arson into months-long coverage complete with a silver lining as the theater reopened.
I eventually traded breaking news and media relations for food writing and have become recognized as a trusted source on Scandinavian cooking. I’ve shared a bounty of stories and recipes on the internet, in various newspapers and magazines, and in my three published cookbooks (two of which I authored, the third I co-edited). In 2020, the release of Modern Scandinavian Baking: A Cookbook of Sweet Treats and Savory Bakes marked the culmination of my years as a food writer. Last January, I made the shift back to fiction, a passion I put on the back burner years ago.
Before having children, my love for storytelling led me to start writing a novel about a present-day woman uncovering secrets of her grandmother’s past in wartime Norway. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was born of my own desire to explore my family history (and perhaps unearth some secrets of my grandparents!). I put fiction on hold when I began having children, believing it would be easier to embrace my nonfiction training in those early years of motherhood. Now that both of my children are in elementary school and I’m newly divorced, I’m living into the next stage of my life and career. I’m excited to be writing fiction again, and I’m in the process of writing a novel with Nordic heart as well as a collection of short stories that give a nod to the rich folklore and mythology of my Nordic roots.
As a reader, I loving having an excuse to devour books—I have to read for school! Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy, set in medieval Norway, are among my favorite books of all time; they formed the basis of Undset being awarded the 1928 Nobel Prize in Literature.
I also gravitate toward other stories set in the Nordic region, from mythology and folktales to novels and memoirs published in the past century. I appreciate Fredrik Backman’s ability to normalize tough subjects like mental health in Anxious People and A Man Called Ove. The stunning settings of Per Pettersen’s Out Stealing Horses and Christiane Ritter’s A Woman in the Polar Night draw me in and inspire me to craft my own dynamic environments. Some of my other favorite literary novels—ones that have shaped my own writing and storytelling sensibilities in some way—are Wendell Berry’s Hannah Coulter and the Brontë sisters’ Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. In addition, I also enjoy the magical qualities of The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library, and The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert.
I could list countless additional books that I’ve enjoyed and that inspire me in some way as I’m returning to writing fiction. Perhaps we should schedule that time for coffee and almond cake after all.
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