Norsk Høstfest, Minot, North Dakota is the largest Scandinavian Festival in North America. Each year about ten authors from around the world are invited to sign books in the official Norsk Høstfest bookstore. Deb Nelson Gourley has been one of the authors for each of the past ten years. Her 2013 Astri My Astri Publishing Norsk Høstfest team included from left to right: Deb Nelson Gourley, Lila Burmeister, Margit Nysetvold Bakke, Alf-Torgny Nøkland, Gunlaug Nøkland, Astrid Gullestad and Bjarne Gullestad.
Printed October 5, 2013, MinotDailyNews.com
Those seeking a quiet way among all the music, dancing and eating going on at Norsk Høstfest should make their way over to the bookstore in Trondheim Hall.
There, The Minot Daily News spoke with three authors and interviewed another at her own booth in the corner of Stockholm Hall next to the entrance to Helsinki Hall.
At her own booth in the corner of Stockholm Hall next to the entrance to Helsinki Hall, Janet Martin sits behind her 17 books and innumerable other offerings. She is the author of 17 books starting with 1983’s “Cream and Bread,” about growing up in a “Scandinavian, Lutheran community in North Dakota.”
“All my stuff is humor based,” the Hillsboro native, who now lives in Hastings, Minn., said.
Many of her books are written with her writing partner, Suzann Nelson.
“We are known as ‘Those Lutheran Ladies’ and we have performed out here,” Martin said. “We do stand-up.”
One of the books she co-wrote is called “Growing Up Lutheran,” which has jumped from book form and onto the stage.
“This was turned into professional musicals called ‘Church Basement Ladies,’” she said of the book. “There’s five of them. They’re the most successful musicals that have ever hit Minnesota. Over a million people have seen them across the nation.”
The author said that she is “100 percent Norwegian American,” and that her children retain 75 percent of that heritage, with the other 25 percent being Swedish.
She described her work as having univeral appeal, but admits that much of the humor and references are regional. She has attended the Høstfest ever since its launch 35 years ago.
Deb Nelson Gourley
Deb Nelson Gourley owns Astri My Astri Publishing, based in the city she lives in, Waukon, Iowa. The publishing house describes itself as “Your #1 source of bilingual English Norwegian books.”
And the subtitle doesn’t lie.
The recently released three-volume set “Norwegians in America, their History and Record” is quite the undertaking that had her working with her two sons to transform old Norwegian record books into volumes to help Norwegians trace their ancestral roots in America.
Working as a type of “Who’s Who” for Norwegian Americans, the book is transcribed by her son Benjamin Keith Huntrods and translated by her son Alexander Knud Huntrods [Correction: Translators of the Martin Ulvestad 3-volume-set were Olaf Tronsen Kringhaug (Volume 1) and Odd-Steinar Dybvad Raneng (Volumes 1, 2, 3)].
But record books aren’t all she writes. Gourley, who describes her own bilingual abilities as “survival Norwegian,” and who grew up on a Norwegian farm in Fillmore County, Minn., keeps Norwegian culture alive in America with several bilingual translations of classic folk tales and original Norwegian novels. This is her 10th consecutive time being invited to [Norsk Høstfest as an author].
Gunlaug Nøkland is the author of “Legend of Siljatjern Seter: Life, love and faith on a Norwegian mountain dairy,” published by Gourley’s company in 2007. The book was originally published as two books in Norwegian before being combined and translated.
She comes from southern Norway and all of her other nine books are in Norwegian.
The book in English is the story of a girl named “Mette,” who she falls in love, solves mysteries and other things when she decides to take a summer job in the Norwegian mountains as an old fashioned dairymaid.
“It’s actually for all ages,” she said of the novel. “Youth love it because of the love story, old people like it because of the history and traditional stuff. And there also is life and faith. It’s based on the Lutheran faith.”
The novel is fitting because Nøkland is primarily a historian.
She has written two books about an orphanage in the far north of Norway after the whole region was destroyed by fire during World War II by Germans so that Russians would not be able to sustain if they attempted to march through.
“So all the people had to move south,” she said. “But these Sami people, they didn’t move, they just escaped into the mountains.
Described as the most famous author at the event by Gourley, Lauraine Snelling sits behind a table laid with tons of books displaying her name and a line snaking around to get copies signed.
The prolific author has written over two books a year, having published 78 novels since 1980.
“I work hard at it, but I love what I do,” she said of her pace. “The closer I am to deadline the harder I write. My deadlines are frequent so I better keep on it is what it comes down to.”
She writes both historical fiction and contemporary novels, but one of her several historical series has kept readers flocking back to her, including her novel “An Untamed Heart,” which was 15 days off the presses when she was interviewed Thursday.
“I have a lot of different series, but the one I’m most known for is “The Red River of the North,’” she said. “Those are Norwegians coming into the Red River Valley of North Dakota in 1880.”
“I also write contemporary novels. The latest is ‘Wake the Dawn’ set in northwestern North Dakota and it’s a Border Patrol story and I write books for kids, too.”
“They’re all here,” she said. “This is the only place anywhere where someone can see all of my books laid out in one spot.”X