Kuchen: The State Dessert and Love Affair for the Tongue

kuchen

Welcome, dear readers, to a tour of the great state of South Dakota, the state of my birth, the refresher of my soul, and the setting to my book Amber Waves of Grace and the continuing sagas in the following sequels. For those of you who are natives to this great state, I hope you chime in on the comments section with your memories of each stop. To those of you who haven’t been fortunate enough to visit us yet, I hope you leave with a little taste of this endearing part of the country.

Our first stop: Eureka. This community weighs in at a whopping 800ish inhabitants, but don’t let that fool you. Upon meeting most people, they either have been there, know someone who’s been there, or have driven through it. Back in the 1800s, this little community was thee Wheat Capital of the World. That’s right! Originally called End of Track, this town was the hub of business, a bustling mini-city with every right to strut its stuff around the area.

As with most communities in South Dakota, after the railroad activity decreased, so did the population and commercial and industrial promise. But just because the population declined doesn’t mean the work ethic that drove it did. People living in this small town have a fierce dedication to seeing it survive and thrive. In fact they are currently building a new high school!

But that’s not the coolest thing about my hometown. It’s kuchen: a delicate crust in which a rich, fruit-filled custard nestles sweetly and softly inside. Hungry yet? You should be! Several years ago, a committee from Eureka lobbied the state legislature to make kuchen the state dessert, and abracadabra…kuchen is officially the tasty after-dinner treat of the state.

So thanks for Eureka’s predominantly German Russian heritage and several amazing bakers, Eureka put itself on the map. I’m okay with going from Wheat Capital of the World to Kuchen Capital of the State. It’s tastier, that’s for sure.

So the next time you’re going through Eureka, stop and grab some kuchen. Whether you like peach, apricot, strawberry, or prune (yes, prune), you will find a flavor to match your style and personality.

Please join me next week for the next stop on our tour of South Dakota. I believe we will be visiting the home of the Jackalope. Exciting stuff … don’t miss it!

Freedom Behind the Wheel of a Tractor

farm girl

You want to know the best thing about being raised a farm girl? It’s not the freedom to skip through the meadows, picking wildflowers. It’s not even the cute kittens that seem to pop out of nowhere and purr and cuddle into your arms. Nope. It’s … tractors! Big ones, green ones, cabless ones, air-conditioned ones. Doesn’t matter the type or make (however, if you noticed, I did purposefully leave out red ones), tractors and other big equipment makes a farm girl’s heart purr more than that kitten she was holding just minutes ago before plopping it on the ground to hitch a ride or … even better … drive the darn thing herself.

Yes, my dear readers, nothing beats the roar to life and then the constant rumble and grumble of the motor vibrating your seat. As a young girl, however, driving grain cart for my dad, I did not appreciate it. To tell the truth, at times I hated it. I wanted to go play with my friends or do normal summertime activities.

me and tigey

Now that I’m a grown up, caged city-girl, I relish the opportunity to fire up an engine and go play in the dirt. There’s power in that steering wheel, ladies. It’s a power that says we can drive a tractor with the best of them. It’s a power that says we can plant fields and then harvest the fruits of our labor. It’s a power that embodies the old WWII Rosie the Riveter poster.

There’s also humor seeing the faces of men as they pass on the highway and see you, a woman, behind the wheel. Simply smile and wave, girls. Smile and wave. So, kick back, ladies, and enjoy your drive. You are kid-free (unless they suckered you into letting them have a tiny ride), dishes-free, lunch duty-free, and laundry-free (for now) for the entire day! Tune into whatever station will come in, turn it up, and embrace the dirt under your fingernails.

What I couldn’t understand as a young teenager, I grasp now: there’s nothing a man can do that a woman can’t behind the wheel of a big piece of machinery. Behind the wheel there’s an equality that’s not prevalent in other facets of society. Behind the wheel there’s a sense of belonging in a male-dominated farming culture. Behind the wheel, you are a farm goddess, rolling things, planting things, digging things, or harvesting things.

I can’t tell you how excited I am about the next step in the life of my next book, Amber Waves of Grace. It’s about to go to agents who requested it. Hopefully, soon, my main character, Corrie, can show the world that farming isn’t just a man’s world. It’s a woman’s world, too.

When I Grow Up, I Want To Be A Farmer

Wholeheartedly Commit

Wholeheartedly Commit

The prairie. My home. It beckons me, soothes me, inspires me, rejuvenates me. Under my feet are generations upon generations of history, legacy, and story. It’s where I spent my childhood and where I now spend my summers, trying to give my children the experience of playing in the dirt, campfires, and riding in tractors. Now that I live most of my life in the city, I crave the smells of grass and dirt. I miss the whispers of wind as it blows through the ripening wheat or the chatter of corn, dried, shriveled, and brown.

Just today on the way home from work I passed a soybean field being harvested. Honestly, I felt jealous. I wanted so badly to park my van, run through the ditch, and hitch a ride for a while. Call me crazy, but if my husband were to come home one day and announce that we were packing it all up and farming, I would leap with joy.

This love for the land and the people that dedicate their lives to working it propels me to write. My stories center around the prairie, hard-working families, and farming. They are a self-portrait of what I wish my calling would be. I don’t need fancy dinners; I’d much rather eat a ham sandwich on the end gate of a pickup. I don’t need a limousine ride; I’d much rather climb into a John Deere tractor, turn it on, and feel the rumble beneath my feet.

So, as I wait for my husband to come to his senses and begin farming, I shall bide my time and finish my edits for my book Amber Waves of Grace, a story that celebrates women, farming, and family. I hope you join me over the next couple of weeks as I concentrate my blog posts on the beauty of the prairie and the incredible experience of farming.

Compliment Me, Please!

validation

After riding the high of ACFW conference week, I’ve asked myself this one question: does validation matter?

Before going to the American Christian Fiction Writers’ conference, I was a bundle of nerves. Fear (as per my last blog post) twisted my mind, making me doubt myself as a writer and a survivor of a plane trip. But, after landing in Dallas, my nerves wouldn’t give me a moment of peace. My inner self kept nagging with inspirational quotes such as, “People will think you’re a horrible writer” and “Agents will only laugh at you and chuck you out of the room.”

Now, my inner self can certainly have her moments, but I believed her. I invested in those thoughts and held on to them like my daughter holds on to her security blanket even though its been dragged through the dirt. I did not believe in my ability or myself, making me a rather wet blanket to be around.

Upon entering my first agent meeting, my stomach wanted to meet my mouth several times, but I stuffed my anxiety in the remotest corner of my soul and waltzed in with a smile on my face and a look of dread on my heart. You want to know what he said? He said I was a good writer, that I knew how to write dialogue, and that he noticed I could tell a good story. Did he ask for my proposal and manuscript? No. But at that point in time, it didn’t matter to me. Somebody besides friends and family told me I was good at writing.

Here’s the thing, dear readers. My manuscript didn’t magically change when I walked in that room. My bumbling pitch didn’t work miracles. My smile didn’t win anyone over. What did happen was this: I was validated. Someone who didn’t have to told me I was good at something.

I walked out of that room, weightless and justified. All those hours over the past two years culminated in one affirmation. I became a different person after that meeting. I held my head high, walked into agent meetings with hope, and flew home, proud of my writing and confident in my goals.

The moral of this blog? Simple. Don’t wait for validation like I did. Don’t hesitate on your dreams because you are waiting for someone to give you permission. Chase your dreams, attack your goals with ferocity, be confident in who you are and where you plan to go.

Think about things you’ve been waiting on. Make a list and start checking them off.

Thou Shalt Not Fear

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As I write this blog, I am 32,000 feet in the air. I wish I could enjoy the white, fluffy clouds outside my window, but alas, I’m doing my best not to burst into tears of fear. This got me thinking. Thinking about fear.

Isn’t fear a funny thing? It’s universal, crosses all gender roles, races, ages, and abilities. Every human feels fear, but what each human finds fearful is different. Take my husband, for example, he loves to fly but is afraid of mice. I, on the other hand, hate flying and don’t mind mice.

Fear, if uncontrolled, has the ability to take hold of a person’s ambitions and goals and keep him/her in a perpetual status quo. Just think about it. Where would we be if our ancestors allowed fear from keeping them from coming to this country? Where would we be if we allowed ourselves to succumb to the fear of the unknown future and simply stayed in our tree house, coloring?

If I allowed my fear of flying to keep my two feet on the ground, I would have missed out on so many amazing journeys. In fact, I’d be missing one now. As I’m headed to Dallas, Texas, for the American Christian Fiction Writers’ conference, I’m looking forward to learning new writing techniques, meeting new people, and speaking with agents. Even though my fear is real, my quest for learning cannot be quenched.

I’m glad my fear is not keeping me from exploring the world and all it has to offer, but I can’t promise my stomach won’t dip to my toes the next time this plane experiences turbulence!

Please don’t let fear rule your heart. We are children, the princes and princesses of God. We have nothing to fear! So, spread your wings, let your tray table down, put your seat back (do be mindful of knees, though), and tell fear to go fly a kite!

Facelift Complete

I’m going to be honest with you all.  When I first self-published my book three years ago, I felt a sense of shame, a sense of failure at going “indie.”  The dreaded question, “So, who published your book,” sent shivers of self-doubt down my spine, and I often ended up muttering that I did it myself.  End. Of. Conversation.

Fast forward three years.  I’m a much different person.  After educating myself, joining groups, and asking for help, I’m proud of my literary baby, my first born book.  Did I get a book deal?  No.  Does it matter?  No.

With my newfound knowledge, I revamped my book, gave it a facelift, and provided it a breath of fresh air.  As any proud mother would be, I’m showing off my creation with zest and zeal.

So, please, be a part of the rebirth of my book.  I would love if you were to stop by and say hi and maybe leave a review before you leave!

Visit it here:  http://www.amazon.com/Place-Call-Home-Jessica-Berg-ebook/dp/B00BRQWSEW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1441894280&sr=8-1&keywords=a+place+to+call+home+jessica+berg

And before I sign off to go celebrate by grading high school English papers, I just want to thank you all for your support.  Without you, I would just be writing for myself, and that is no fun at all.