Saturday, December 15, 2018

The Trees of Northern Michigan PLUS Giveaway


The Trees of Northern Michigan

By Carrie Fancett Pagels
and Debbie Lynne Costello

There’s a reason people like to say “Write what you know” – it can make things easier as you’re writing. However, even if you write about a setting you think you know well, it can be good to verify what you “think” is true. And if you’re not writing about a setting you know well, it does help to know about the surroundings. In many places trees are a big part of the landscape. So before you mention the hero or heroine lingering under a certain tree, you’ll need to verify that those types of trees indeed grow in that setting. We had that come up in a recent collection, one of the few stories I’ve written where I hadn’t visited the location. So in due diligence we checked to see if one of our authors’ specific tree could actually grow there. It could but had to be near where the story was set as they didn’t grow far away from there in that state.



Sometimes the benefit of visiting a setting, even if you’ve grown up in the area, is verifying your hazy recollection. And what exactly do those trees look and feel like in person? After all these years does it feel the same to stand under that spectacular forest canopy? And what historical significance do certain trees have?



Northern Michigan features such beautiful trees as the American Basswood, also referred to as the American Linden. Many of my childhood stories featured linden trees, usually in a small town. 

The basswood was used by Indians. They would soak the bark for two to four weeks which would loosen long fibers. They used the fibers to make bags and baskets, fishnets, mats, snowshoe netting, ropes, and even sewing thread.




Do you remember the old song, “Don’t Stand Under the Apple Tree With Anyone Else but Me”? We don’t picture the couple being in the dessert or on an island do we? It’s pretty amazing how having the right trees and flowers and in the correct seasons can ground a story.

In northern Michigan and in the Upper Peninsula we have beautiful birch trees. They used to be everywhere in great abundance, in my youth. Less so now. All manner of beautiful local craft items would be made from birch. One of my favorites was a chunk of birch with a circle cut-out for a candle.

Native Americans used the birch tree in their healing tepees. They burned small pieces of the bark where the sick person stayed in order to purify the air and kill germs. They also took the bark and made a flour for baking.




The Sugar Maple tree is one of the favorites of my childhood. It’s very prevalent in the mixed hardwood forests of the Eastern Upper Peninsula and practically glows a florescent orange, red, or yellow in the autumn. If you’re lucky, one of your friends will collect maple syrup in the spring and invite you along to observe or help. Or better yet, they’ll also share the syrup and you can make something yummy with it.

Some of the earliest settlers in the new America Northeast learned about sugar maples from Native Americans. There are different legends that tell how the sweet maple syrup was found in these trees. One tale tells how a chief threw a tomahawk at a tree and sap ran from it. His wife then cooked venison in it.



When I lived in South Carolina and Georgia, I was really struck by how different the Southern pines seemed compared to the pines I’d grown up with in the Upper Peninsula.  However, I think part of that was because I was so used to young pines and different types of pines than the tall Eastern White Pine (pictured below). The northern Eastern pines are more substantial than the Southern pines but you can still see the same high up collection of extended conical tree top. White pines are of major historical significance not only to Michigan but also to the entire MidWest which benefited from the boom of “White Gold” the White Pines harvested out of Northern Michigan in the 1800’s, as I included in The Christy Lumber Camp Series. Towns and cities were built almost overnight as trees were felled, hauled to the mills for sawing into boards, and then shipped onto areas such as Chicago and Buffalo.



And last, but not least, one of my other favorite trees, the Northern red oak. They grow tall pretty fast and can really dominate a forest. They have such a really cool bark. Note how textured they are and rough (image below.)

The Red Oak is considered a medicine tree by many eastern and midwestern tribes. It's also associated with strength and protection.




Thanks for visiting with me and enjoying the view of the trees of Northern Michigan with me. Authors, do you have specific trees you like to put in your stories? Readers, do you notice if an author puts trees in a story that you know don’t belong in the setting?

GIVEAWAY:
To be entered in Carrie's giveaway of choice of any of her books, answer one or more of the questions above in the comments. Thanks!


ABOUT CARRIE:
Carrie Fancett Pagels, Ph.D., is the award-winning author of sixteen CF publications including her latest, a novella "Love's Beacon" in the Great Lakes Lighthouse Brides Collection.


50 comments:

  1. Truthfully, I don't notice if the author messes up. I trust them to be authentic, and usually the story isn't about trees anyways, is it? Something to consider, I guess. Thanks for the giveaway. bcrug(at)twc(dot)com

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    1. Maybe the story is about trees, too, as in my Christy Lumber Camp series :)

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  2. You have given me something to think about! I don't think I have noticed when an author has messed up about trees, shrubbery or flowers. I have believed that what the author has written to be true to the area and time that the book was written in. Now I will be more careful to pay attention to the trees! :)

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    1. Hi Joy! My Critique partner is really up on flowers and plants, too, which helps me! Xoxoxo

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  3. I will admit I have never noticed if the foliage in a book is true to the setting. Just another detail for readers to make note of and authors to research I suppose...lol. Thanks for the giveaway.
    betttimace at gmail dot com

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    1. I have the Jaqui Lawson Advent calendar and one of the days has all these Scottish unusual flowers that grow there!

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  4. I don't always think about nature in a story unless it's set in an area I'm familiar with. This was an interesting post. I enjoy the variety of Maple trees we have in our area of the country along with many others.
    Thank you for the giveaway opportunity, Carrie. Have a blessed and Merry Christmas.
    marilynridgway78[at]gmail[dot]com

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    1. It draws me out of a story if the character of the setting is flawed.

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  5. I have never noticed an error regarding trees when reading. fishingjan[at]aol[dot]com

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  6. I'm a nature lover and I've always loved trees. We have plenty on our property here in Ohio, including maple and pine. I can't recall ever reading a story in which the trees didn't belong in the setting, but now I'll be paying more attention to that! Thank you for the giveaway, and Merry Christmas! litteraegaudium(at)aol(dot)com

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    1. I love God’s beautiful nature too! merry Christmas!

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  7. I know the trees around our area in Texas, and if a tree is mentioned in a Texas setting and I'm not familiar with it, I will look it up to see if it's common. I love trees and like to set my stories in East Texas among the piney woods. Unless it's in Texas, I really don't pay that much attention or trees or flowers of the setting. We have lots of trees on our lot and they give welcome shade to our house.

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    1. Hey Martha! Great to see you!!! I especially notice the stories set in Michigan and Virginia if they don’t have it right. Merry Christmas!

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  8. Hi, Carrie.I probably wouldn't notice if a tree was in the wrong setting, unless it is a palm tree in Alaska or something.
    susanmsj at msn dot com

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    1. I want the story world trees to be accurate and the flowers and animals and all that! Merry Christmas!

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  9. I have not paid too much attention to types of trees in a story but I probably will from now on. Merry Christmas, Carrie! mauback55 at gmail dot com

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    1. Melanie!!! Hi!! How about after watching the Lumberjack show with me? Do you notice now? Merry Christmas!πŸŽ„

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  10. I haven’t really noticed any trees being in the wrong places in the novels I have read
    stimmer(at)familylife(dot)com

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  11. I really hadn't thought about trees being in, or not being in, a story but I would probably check if a coffee tree was mentioned in a book set in a state other than Kentucky.
    Thanks for a very interesting post.
    Connie
    cps1950(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. I think that most editors catch it if you have something like this wrong.

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  12. How interesting. I’ve never gave it a thought about the trees. I just assumed that what the author wrote was factual. Thank you for the great blog Carrie!

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    1. Hi Sherry! It takes a village to write a book! Blessings!

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  13. Great post! Really enjoyed it! I don’t know that I’d notice the accuracy of a tree unless it was really obvious but I think when the description is authentic it helps build the readers interest in the area. Thanks again for such a thought provoking piece!

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  14. Thank you! Not only go the trees have to be accurate but also historically correct. Merry Christmas!

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  15. I am not an AVID tree searcher, so I don't recognize if a tree us misplaced. Thank you for the giveaway.

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  16. That was interesting. I didn’t know about the difference in trees or authors putting them in their stories. I will try to remember that from now on. Thanks for the giveaway Carrie.

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  17. I forgot to put Avid in my comment. Thanks Carrie!

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  18. Thanks, Carrie, for such an informative post about trees in Michigan. We have a Willow tree in our back yard, two Canadian cherry trees in our front yard, as well as, two Crab apple trees in our front yard (that robins and cedar waxwings like to eat the fruit from), plus one Mountain ash tree in our back yard, that birds also like to eat the berries from, so we really like trees:) I do enjoy reading about accurate descriptions of trees and the landscape, etc., in CF books, as that helps lend authenticity, and grounds the story:) Thanks for the opportunity to enter a giveaway. Would love to win a print copy! God bless and Merry Christmas! Lual Krautter I also invite you to "Like" my Western art at: www.facebook.com/LualOKrautter krautter12ATbresnanDOTnet

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  19. You have written a fascinating article and given me new knowledge. I have never really thought about an author messing up about the landscape, including trees, of an area. A good author draws us into a story so thoroughly that we hear trees swaying and smell fresh pine and don't really think if about any errors. Thank you for the giveaway and have a blessed Christmas

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  20. I tend to notice when things are out of place in a book. I also have a hard time picturing trees I am unfamiliar with. Many books talk about 'live oaks'. Being familiar with oak trees (the township I grew up in is called Oakfield for a reason), I am not sure why they have to specify 'live' and am not sure what they are talking about.

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  21. This was very insightful! I haven’t really thought about the possibility of authors possibly making a mistake when it comes to landscapes. I will try to be more AVID about that. Thanks for the giveaway

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  22. I don't think I've thought much about if the right tree is in the right setting. Although I might notice, as one commentor mentioned, a palm tree in Alaska! I guess I just trust the author has done his or her research and has gotten the setting correct! Thanks, for the good article, Carrie.
    anne at rightler dot com

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  23. Interesting blog post. I do notice things like the trees and flowers mentioned in a book and many other details. If it sounds a little off, I check it out. I like to be able to trust that the author is being accurate and authentic in her writing.

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  24. I remember having to identify all of these trees 🌲🌳🌲🌳 for a biology project back in high school! Such fun to learn the history! #Avid #Pals
    Trdivincenzo (at) gmail (dot) com

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  25. We had to identify all the trees, flowers, etc and have scrap books for WV history growing up so I know what should be in our forests but maybe wouldn’t recognize a mistake in other areas. Thank you for sharing your knowledge, dear Carrie. Have a blessed and Merry Christmas πŸŽ„πŸŽ

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    1. Carrie has such wonderful details in her stories. She puts you right in Michigan!

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  26. I don't think I do. I am so entwined in the story adventure of what is going to happen next! However, if there was a palm tree in Minnesota, I would think we were at a conservatory. Merry Christmas!! Kathleen ~ Lane Hill House (and... I definitely would love to read Eugenie's story in the Victorian Christmas Brides Collection!) lanehillhouse[at]centurylink[dot]net

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    1. Thanks for coming by, Kathleen. Carrie is good about keeping you turning the pages as well as accurate with details.

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  27. I don't think I've ever noticed that about an authors trees. I'm fascinated with all the things (I've read in other places, too.) the Native Americans did and do with trees and plants.

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  28. Carrie, thank you for this interesting post! Merry Christmas!
    I'm a subscriber and a PALS

    psalm103and138atgmaildotcom

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  29. Would love to win a print copy of this book, especially since my husband grew up in NJ and his father was a forester by trade. Plus I've always been interested in trees in general. Thanks for the opportunity to enter a giveaway! krautter12ATbresnanDOTnet

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