What better way to finish writing Plank Road Winter, set in Chicago and Wisconsin in 1871-72, than by candlelight, with the power knocked out by the second largest blizzard in Chicago history? Though some people might have complained about the storm, for Hilda and me, it was a perfect gift. In our own homes, we settled down to hot chocolate or coffee and, sheltered from the howling winds and blowing snow, hammered out the last couple of chapter revisions.
Winter, with its shortened days and cold weather, can be a season of darkness and despair. My few hours of candlelight, while the blizzard raged outside, were enough to make me thankful for central heating and electricity. The next morning, when the sun was bright, I sent my teenagers out to shovel. When a neighbor came by with a snowblower, I felt obliged to leave my manuscript and lend a hand. Once outside, my children and I found that the snow that had cut us off from the wider world also reconnected us to the neighborhood, as we ventured through the drifts to see how others were faring. We helped dig out an SUV that tried, unsuccessfully, to make it down an unplowed road. We invited a neighbor boy to jump off our porch railing into the snow below. There was time for simple pleasures we don’t make time for in the rush of our everyday lives.
Plank Road Winter captures despair and dark days, but the story also celebrates the neighborliness that gets us through our difficult times. We look forward to sharing the story with our readers. In the meantime, we hope that you have come through the Blizzard of 2011, and we would like to hear snow stories from your neighborhood.