…and I live in Minnesota (where there are veeerrryy long winters!). I am an enrolled citizen of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe. My first memories of my childhood are of sitting on my mom’s lap while she read to me. Books have been important to me my entire life which is why I’m so excited to be an author now.
Dawn Quigley, Ph.D. and citizen of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe, ND, is an assistant professor in the Education Department at St. Catherine University. She taught English and reading for 18+ years in the K-12 schools along with being an Indian Education program co-director. In addition to her debut coming-of-age Young Adult novel, Apple in the Middle (NDSU Press), Dawn has over 28 published articles, essays and poems. Dawn lives in Minnesota with her family.
AND, a much shorter, kid-friendly one:
Dawn Quigley, Ph.D. and citizen of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe, ND, is an educator and former Indian Education program director. She loves to read, write, and sometimes cook healthy. Dawn lives in Minnesota with her family.
What do you like to read?
I like to read anything I can get my hands on! I’ll read fiction, nonfiction, magazines, cookbooks-you name it. Growing up I always ate my breakfast while reading the cereal box-EVERYTHING on the box: ingredients, advertisements, and promotions.
Now I also read more children’s books (baby book through teens) for fun, and to learn how other writers create stories. I’m not too much of e-reader person because I love the feel, look and even smell of actual books! Being Ojibwe, reading Native American literature is a passion of mine, too.
What inspired you to write your first book, Apple in the Middle, which is focused on Native American characters?
I taught in K-12 grades for over 18 years, and years ago it was challenging at times to find books and materials that reflected Native people respectfully. As a Native teacher, I wanted to show the positive aspects of our culture. I knew that I have lived and seen these beautiful Native aspects, and began to educate myself and my peers that there are books out there, but we all need to put in the effort to find, read and evaluate them.
I began this book because of a beckoning voice I kept hearing: Tell them the stories. My first instinct was to push it away. How could I write a book? Who was I? But I felt this book was to be a legacy for my children to hear about my Turtle Mountain grandparents and what they taught me-and are still teaching me today even though their footprints are no longer on this Earth, but in my soul. And like many Native people who are story tellers, I knew that the best way to share history and life lesson is through the telling of tales.
As I was in the middle of the book I started to wonder if this was meant to be more than just a family tale, but instead a way to let non-Native people peer through the keyhole to get a glimpse into our world. A world that is a beautiful one, but also a world that is many times misunderstood.
What is your writing process?
My greatest challenge for my first book, Apple in the Middle, was that I had no idea how to write a book, or at least I couldn’t describe it! In teaching middle school English and reading, I spent countless hours reading YA books for my students to select read aloud, and class novels. I fell in love with reading books that could transform my students.
I began writing letters to the editors of our local newspapers, then wrote full commentary essays. I gained a lot of confidence each time something was published. Next I branched out to poetry. But, to write a book, this was the challenge. I took a few courses at a local writer’s loft on how to sell and promote books, but not on the actual task of writing. I did read only a few books on it (Stephen King’s On Writing and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird). Those books, and reading up to 10 books a month, were my writing teachers. I would use favorite sections of a book to learn how the author crafted dialogue, the climatic parts, etc. Then, I wrote roughly two pages a day for some time until I had a finished book! I didn’t outline my story at all, and this is something I will do in the future: begin with a rough frame. Maybe…
When you’re not reading or writing, what do you like to do?
Well, those two things take up most of my time (and I love it!). We have two children, so I am often driving them around to activities. I also like to garden, but lately the weeds seem to have taken over. All winter long I think about being on the lakes here in Minnesota-I love being on the boat.
I am also a professor and teach college students who want to pursue a degree in education.