One Book | One Minnesota is a statewide book club that invites Minnesotans of all ages to read a featured title and come together virtually to enjoy, reflect, and discuss the work. The selection for Summer 2021 is Murder on the Red River by Marcie Rendon. A couple of years ago, I interviewed Marcie about the book and her work with writing program sponsored through the COMPAS organization, Writing in Jail for Women. I recently caught up with her again.
Kathryn Schleich: Can you talk a bit about winning the 2020 McKnight Distinguished Artist Award and how it has impacted your writing career? You mention you didn’t even know writing awards existed or have an MFA.
Marcie Rendon: The McKnight Artist Award gives me the opportunity to advocate for and name other important Native American artists in the state. Linda LeGarde, Art Coulson, Tashia Hart, Theresa Peterson, Denise Sweet, Dawn Quigley, the Erdrich sisters, the list goes on of accomplished writers and the list of visual artists is even longer. I think we as Native artists are the backbone of all art created here. The award also gives me the breathing room to focus more on my writing without worry, at least for this time period.
KS: I do not have an MFA either and one of the things I realize now is as you note, not having a particular degree doesn’t stop us from telling good stories.
MR: There are things about having an MFA that are useful – contacts and doors opened just because people know people within the academic settings; and there are business aspects to writing and arts careers that I think having an MFA can help with. I do agree that the degree is not an absolute necessity to achieve one’s dreams. I encourage everyone to write, to submit for publication and to just keep trying.
KS: What was your reaction upon learning Murder on the Red River had been chosen for One Book/One Minnesota?
MR: I am honored that a book so centered in the farm country of Minnesota will be read by so many people. I love this land – the fields, the rivers, the lakes, the trees. The stories we have as rural people – whether that is from the reservations or the farmlands or lake country – we can celebrate and tell those stories. It is a wonderful opportunity.
KS: You wrote a second book, Girl Gone Missing, featuring the Red River’s female protagonist. My books also are focused on women as central characters. Cash Blackbear is a young, smart, and tough woman who shares some of your real-life experiences. What message do you want readers to take away as she becomes involved in these cases?
MR: Again, I am honored and pleased that so many readers fall in love with Cash. I think she symbolizes many of the strengths – courage, integrity, a bravery – that many of us wish we had more of. She exemplifies what is possible for women. I think the Cash character also demonstrates how hardships can be turned into strengths.
KS: Do you already have a storyline for the two new books in the series?
MR: Yes, book three, tentatively titled Sinister Graves, is scheduled for publication by Soho Press in 2022 or 2023. Book four, untitled, has been started. Both feature Cash helping to solve crimes in the northwestern part of the state.
KS: You have also authored a children’s book, Pow Wow Summer. Besides the issue of diversity in children’s books, what else did you hope to accomplish with Pow Wow Summer?
MR: My primary goal with Pow Wow Summer was for Native American children to be able to see themselves in a contemporary setting. The story follows a family around to pow wows over a year, but they are driving cars and living in regular houses and wearing the same clothes as everyone else. So many children’s books still rely on the stereotypes of the prior century of feathers and buckskin and horses. I wanted to let everyone know we are still here living a similar life to everyone else.
KS: You are a woman of many talents, also a poet and the creative mind behind Raving Native Theater. With so much going on in your career, are you still working with the Writing in Jail for Women program?
MR: With the recent pandemic work within the jails has stopped. We – Diego Vazquez and myself – are in conversations with COMPAS and jail personnel to determine when it will be possible to restart the Writing in Jail program for women.
KS: I asked you this in our previous interview, but with the McKnight award and the Soho publishing contract, has the legacy you want to leave as a writer changed at all?
MR: My goal as a writer was and continues to be to write stories that people will enjoy and to write Native American characters in contemporary settings.
KS: Thank you so much for your time. I look forward to reading Murder on the Red River and Girl Gone Missing and participating in our statewide book club. For more information on Marcie and her many pursuits, visit her website.
Authors note: Girl Gone Missing was nominated for the prestigious Edgar Award in 2020, sponsored through the Mystery Writers of America. The G.P. Putnam Sons’ Sue Grafton Memorial Award honors the best novel in a series featuring a female protagonist.