Posts Tagged With: Milton House

A Homegrown Book Tour

There’s nothing like homegrown, whether you’re talking tomatoes or sweet corn or even book tours. This week Emily and I made a quick trip to Wisconsin for two book events, both of which featured delightful down-home folks and homemade desserts.

After meeting with our accountant/manager (also known as Mom) in Yorkville on Wednesday, we headed west for a book signing in Cooksville.  On the way, we left a copy of Plank Road Summer at the Milton House, Wisconsin’s best-known Underground Railroad station.  Years ago at the Milton House, Emily and I had discovered the names of steamships that served as “floating stations,”  smuggling fugitives from Wisconsin harbors to freedom on Canadian shores.

A bottle of wine with a souvenir Milton House label led us down the street to the Northleaf Winery, housed in an 1850 wheat warehouse.   The winery’s logo features a sheaf of wheat and the slogan “The winery with deep roots.”  We enjoyed sampling local wines, and owner Gail Nordlof bought a copy of Plank Road Summer.

When we arrived in Cooksville, innkeepers Bob and Martha Degner invited us to join them for dinner in the barn.  An ingeniously renovated 1914 barn is now the Degners’ home, and the original house on the property has become a bed-and-breakfast known as the Cooksville Farmhouse Inn.  Fellow writers, take note–this beautiful old farmhouse on ten acres of restored prairie would be an ideal place for a writers’ retreat at any time of year.

Later that evening at the Cooksville Community Center, which is an 1886 schoolhouse at one corner of the Cooksville commons, we spoke about Wisconsin history to community members who take great pride in the unique heritage  of “the town that time forgot.”

During our drive through central Wisconsin on Thursday we saw almost as many orange construction signs as red barns, but the countryside was so beautiful we generally enjoyed the scenic detours.  In Kimberly we met with our publicist (also known as sister Gretchen), who welcomed us to “the kind of bed-and-breakfast where you make your own bed and get your own breakfast.”   At Gretchen’s house we also got to read to toddlers and help put them to bed.

At the Kimberly Public Library our audience included many young mothers eager for a “grown-up” evening.   We hope they appreciated hearing about our own struggles as mothers trying to make time to write.  We know we appreciated the homemade black raspberry bars and chocolate chip cookies served at our book events.  Even better were the folks who welcomed us not as outsiders, but as members of a community in which people cherish literature, local history, and Midwestern values.  There’s nothing like homegrown.

Categories: On Writing, Plank Road Summer book | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Plank Road Trippin’

Nine winters ago Emily and I were plugging away at our Plank Road book, snatching time from our families and other responsibilities–“sneaking away to write,” I called it.  When we weren’t scribbling, we were daring to dream about what our summer would be like if I received a Lilly Teacher Creativity Fellowship.

I got the grant.

After much whooping and hollering we  finalized our plans for the Plank Road Trip–a week of travel to historic sites with a Dickensian entourage (two authors, our mother, Emily’s husband Franklin, our sister Gretchen, and six children, ages four to ten) followed by a week of digging in archives and scribbling without the entourage (courtesy of Mom and Dad and Gretchen, who looked after the children while we snuck away to write).

Many of Wisconsin’s best-known historic sites are relevant to Plank Road Summer:  Wade House was an inn on a plank road, Pendarvis was settled by Cornish immigrants, and Milton House was an Underground Railroad station.  The Scotch Settlement church building attended by the McEachrons now stands in Stonefield Village.  The living history interpreters at Old World Wisconsin and other sites provided us wonderful details about daily life in pioneer households.

“We’re the Demuth sisters — we’re writing a book.”  That line opened doors and drawers and cupboards for us, as volunteers and staff members shared what they knew, eager to discuss the making of strawberry preserves or the threshing of wheat.

Nine winters later, we are planning a reprise of the Plank Road Trip, this time to schedule book signings.

At this point we don’t know whether our entourage will be quite as Dickensian, but we do know how much we owe to the volunteers and staff at historic sites who share our passion for the past.

Categories: On Writing, Plank Roads | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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