From a need for creative expression . . . to figuring out what my “voice” was and what I wanted to say . . . to countless writing groups, writing workshops, writing conferences—the process of creating Circling Back Home: A Plainswoman’s Journey has been exactly what the book’s title implies: a circle, a journey, a coming home.
I began writing as a teenager, working for our local newspaper, the Timber Lake Topic, as a feature writer. I measured the column inches of anything I wrote, kept track in my own ledger, and received my compensation twice a month. I eventually “graduated” from being a freelance feature writer to being the paper’s student employee. I still wrote stories, but I also took photos and learned to set type. It’s both ironic and rewarding to me that, recently, that same newspaper ran a feature article about me, my writing, and my work since leaving Timber Lake—just one of the circles that has been part of this process.
When I was in my mid-twenties, actively involved in a teaching career, a marriage, and motherhood, the itch to write continued. My first attempts at writing sounded much like whatever author I happened to be reading at the time, and I struggled with the concept of finding my “voice.”
Wonderful, invaluable mentors appeared during those years. I joined the Wyoming Writers and began learning all I could from conferences and newsletters. I spent an intensive four-day weekend with Linda Hasselstrom and other writers in Hermosa, South Dakota, during the summer of 1998, and some of the essays in Circling Back Home began incubating during that time. Linda encouraged me to work with the essays I’d written to find my writer’s voice. It was during that struggle that I realized that the storyteller’s voice in my head sounded a lot like the people around whom I’d grown up. As I listened, wrote, and honed that voice, the stories of those people began flowing from my black ink pen. I went back to Linda’s during the summer of 2011, as I was preparing the complete manuscript for publication, and hers is the voice of the book’s introduction—another circle.
Another writer friend, Page Lambert, introduced me to the idea of a story spiral—the way good fiction, and nonfiction, spirals around and touches certain themes over and over. As I read the seemingly disjointed essays I’d been composing for writers’ groups and contests, I realized that my spirals kept touching on home, on family, on my agricultural roots. As I looked at those spirals, gradually a book took shape within their coils. Although I had started writing for myself, to understand my own life experiences, eventually I was writing out of great respect for my ancestors, for the prairies, and for the heritage that came from growing up in South Dakota. Because our modern world is so disconnected from the natural world, I found I was writing to preserve traditional values and a lifestyle rooted in agriculture.
In the process of writing, submitting, being rejected, and rewriting this work, I have learned much about my ancestors, my chosen lifestyle, and myself. I wrote the actual essays in Circling Back Home over a period of about eight years, working on the book when I could—during my kids’ naptimes, when I had breaks from my teaching job, on occasional writing retreats. Although my busy life seemed to impede my writing career, in truth the rich experiences of motherhood, teaching, and ranching gave me something to write about when I returned to my desk. I took a lengthy break from this book to work on another manuscript and then picked it up again in early 2011. By that time, of course, some of my perceptions had changed; the final publication has actually gone through several edits over the last two years.
I am still writing, though not involved in any book-length projects at the moment! I write two blogs. “The Back Forty” continues to explore the connections between humanity and the natural world. My other blog, “Teen Lit Talk,” is written as part of my current career as a youth-services librarian.
Whatever writing I’m doing these days, I’ve finally found that my writer’s voice is less an expression of my unique individuality and more a blend of the enduring influences of my family, my heritage, and my South Dakota culture. This foundation has taught me a deep reverence for the land and for traditional values. My husband, Shawn, and I work to pass those values on to our own children. We still live on a ranch in northeastern Wyoming, and our children keep us active. I am so glad that I have been able to see Circling Back Home come to publication, and I look forward to meeting you online or at writing events and to visiting with you.
Thank you for your interest in Circling Back Home: A Plainswoman’s Journey!
The book Circling Back Home: A Plainswoman’s Journey is NOW available through most independent and retail booksellers. Darcy Lipp-Acord’s book can also be ordered by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 605-773-6009. Visit www.sdshspress.com for more information about this book or talk with the author at the South Dakota Festival of Books in Deadwood, 19–20 September 2013.