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Entries in Interview (2)


Wolf-Ely Writing Project: Day 27

(This is the second in a series of posts that chronicle my year-long writing project. I'm writing fiction to explore how wolves and the legalization of wolf hunting and trapping affect residents in northern Minnesota. This post was written during my first research trip to Ely in January. For more information about this project, please scroll down to Wolf-Ely Writing Project: Day 1, or click here.)

January 27, 2014

The northern road is extra wide and compacted solid white with snow and ice. It cuts great sweeping curves through the forest. You drive down the middle. Like all the roads in this part of northern Minnesota, the plows on Highway 1 have pushed four-foot tall banks far to the edges. The snowbanks are so tall and wide that even if you were to lose control of your car, the cushion of white lining the road would stop you from smashing into a tree. The worst would be waiting for another car to come along for help. It’s 16 below zero. It’s eight o’clock on a Saturday morning. You’re on your way to interview a woman who breeds goats 60 miles from the Canadian border. So far, you’ve had the whole highway to yourself.

When you turn north onto Highway 53 that runs up from Duluth through the Mesabi Iron Range, you feel lucky to see other vehicles. Cars pass you from the other direction, but mostly pickup trucks and the occasional empty semi-truck returning for another load of logs to haul to the paper mill in International Falls. You relax your grip on the steering wheel, just a little, because now you can follow two dark ruts where the pavement is visible—except when you get to a flat plain of bog when the snow sweeps with prairie-force winds across the roadway. You see your first snow devil. It swirls in a ghostly whirlwind beside the road.

You turn west off the main highway onto a road that dead ends at an Indian reservation. The world is once again stark, white and clean, the landscape unblemished but for the wind-blown snow drifts curling over the tops of stone outcroppings.  As the road cuts through the forest, pine, spruce, birch, poplar, willow and alders line the sides depending on if you’re on high or low ground. When you come to a rise, in the distance the forest blankets the hills in dark, bristling fur until it reaches the cedar-lined voids of flat, frozen lakes. You imagine a muffled, dim world of life swimming in slow motion beneath the ice. The snow hazing above the trees mimics a dim fog in bright daylight. Even the braided snowmobile tracks that swerve up and down the hills alongside the road are blown over, burnished with fresh white snow.

You pull the car over, unroll the window and turn off the ignition. Frigid air collects at your feet. When you look up close, the wind-sculpted snow resembles a three-dimensional topographical map with treeless mesas, valleys and plains in miniature. You hold your frosting breath and listen. Silence. Cold. Brittle.

A few hours later, you have the answers to your questions and know the soft warmth of a goat’s winter coat on your fingertips. On your drive back you’re more relaxed. The sun is higher. The sky is bluer. As you pass through one of the few small towns on the main highway, the American flag at the McDonald’s ripples and snaps proudly against the azure of clear sky. You imagine it snaps with the same pride deep within the miners, truck drivers and war veterans who drink their black coffees inside.



Wendy Skinner is a fiscal year 2014 recipient of an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature; and by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.


Terrifying Transformations and the Wolf Lady: An Interview With Author Shannon Scott

When I began researching wolves for my next writing project, I thought of Shannon Scott.

Years ago, she read her work to our MFA class as we crowded around a long narrow table in a fluorescent-lit dank, basement classroom. As I closed my eyes, her reedy soprano voice transformed into the heavily accented alto of a babushka warning about the dangers of black magic and making deals with the devil.

Mysterious wolf women and missing village infants soon follow, as well as a Russian mail-order bride wearing a thick fur coat in a confessional as she bartered with a priest for her salvation.

Scott clearly knew things about werewolf lore that I did not, so I asked if she would recommend some texts. She recommended reading her Terrifying Transformations: An Anthology of Victorian Werewolf Fiction filled with 359 pages of remote European villages and the wild forests of another era.

The stories’ persecuted outcasts, she-devil women, and desperate, mournful wolves enthralled me. At the closing of the last page, “…Lycanthropy, or wolf-madness was not myth, but a dread and appalling reality,” I knew I had to ask Shannon to share more about the Victorian werewolf genre and what it took to publish this seductive, lycanthropic collection…

Read the interview here on