All the writing and editing for my new novel are done, and Final Rounds: On Love, Loss, Life, and Lefse is in the final stages of production. My designer, Jenny Mahoney, is laying out the pages and incorporating the 20 color illustrations by Heather Bassler Zemien. Exciting!
I call Final Rounds a lefse novel. Let me explain. It is a novel about grief for people 12 and over. Certainly, there is sadness with loss, and the novel brings tears throughout. But the bulk of the book is a set of sweet and funny and moving recollections by Amaya, a 12-year-old whose grandfather, Papa, has passed away the day the book opens.
One of Amaya’s memories is of a snowbound night of making 630 rounds of lefse. In this night, Papa explains to Amaya his rather goofy Eight Rules of Life, which includes a rule on how to handle failure in general and in particular in learning to make lefse. Here is part of the rule and part of the conversation that follows. By the way, the rules are presented in verse and the conversation is also in verse—part of the creative fun in writing fiction!
First, Papa expounds on failure in general:
Does failure mean you will not succeed?
Failure, my girl, may be just what you need…
Failure may mean that something is lacking.
Is backing behind a façade that is cracking?
Failure is often ’tween you and your dream.
Your boo-boos and flaws are not what they seem.
Failure’s an invite: Develop. Be humble.
Strengthen your weakness so you will not stumble.
And then Amaya responds with a question about wanting to learn to make lefse but fearing she will make bad lefse, which is a common concern for beginners. So Papa gives a a lesson, passing on the tradition of lefse making.
“Papa,” said I, “may I ask this of you?
“I want to roll lefse, so what shall I do?”
He stopped rolling lefse and stared at me so.
“Yes, my granddaughter, this skill you should know.
“What am I thinking? You should roll; it’s time!
“You’re steady, you’re ready—you’ve entered your prime.”
He gave me his pin, wood smoothed by his love.
Was I nervous and tense, apprehensive? Sort of.
“Roll dough in your hands and please make a patty.
“Its edges have cracks? Your round will be ratty.
“Amaya, my dear, don’t bang and don’t squish.
“Let the pin work—if not, you’ll have ish.
“Start round and stay round, check always the shape.
“Lift at the edges; roll thin as a crepe.
“Flour them well, your board and your pin,
“For flour will stop your round from stickin’.
“Turn your round once when rolling’s half done,
“Then finish the rolling—that’s it, have some fun!”
I smiled and I tried, and I tried once again.
Yikes: one round was shaped like Lake Michigan!
The next was Kentucky, and the next round like Maine.
Texas, New Mexico—no two were the same!
Papa just smiled and said, “It’s OK.
“Keep rolling, Amaya, and do not dismay.
This is one of the many tender moments in Final Rounds. I will keep you updated, and you will be the first to know when the book is published in August.