Jacqueline Pine Savage didn’t start out to be a book author.
Instead her musings grew essay by essay, column by column. And in the beginning, even readers didn’t know who was really behind the alter ego of the wife and mother raising young saplings in the north woods of Minnesota.
She juggled her writing and running a busy household with three growing boys. It all started when she was approached to write a column for Lake Country Journal magazine. Writer Jodi Schwen had a wild idea. What if she wrote about life in the north woods from the feminine perspective. Schwen penned a column. They liked it and asked for more. Her essay was in the magazine’s first issue.
Year after year, Schwen brought bits and pieces of her family life, humor and observation, into the columns. For six or seven years, no one knew she was the creative force behind Jacqueline Pine Savage.
Jacqueline took on a life of her own. She had a hotmail account where Jacqueline received email from readers. Readers, it seemed, enjoyed not knowing who the author was. Jacqueline became a fixture.
Schwen thought of her alter ego as a woman who learned to “survive and thrive in her rural lifestyle by keeping her wit about her.”
Schwen’s essays became a family commentary. Jacqueline helped give Schwen’s boys and her husband a blanket of anonymity. The humor often was there in everyday life, class reunions, family trips, all the extra budgeting demands that come with having a high school senior. The essays were a way to retain those moments.
She incorporated the often humorous comments from her husband who was apt to use a word that wasn’t exactly what he meant. Like the time he pointed out the flowers and noted there were wild concubines in the yard. Make that columbines.
Two years after contributing to Lake Country Journal, Schwen was named editor-in-chief in 1999.
Schwen’s affinity for the written word began early. Her frugal mother kept scraps of paper of all sizes in a box. Schwen loved the pieces from school, the wide writing guidelines for young children with the dotted line in between to help them judge where to print the letters.
The paper was always there waiting for the creative process to transform the blank page.
“I call myself a back-burner writer,” Schwen said. She likes to let ideas simmer and boil down before she begins her writing.
Growing up by what is now East Gull Lake City Hall, Schwen had a lot of open space. Reading also fueled her imagination. She read everything she could from autobiographies to fiction. On June 1, Schwen’s book “Northern Comfort: The Musings of Jacqueline Pine Savage” was published by North Star Press of St. Cloud.
“I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet,” Schwen said of being a book author. “I always thought these stories would get out there someday.”
Minnesota author of “Old Turtle” Douglas Wood penned a note for Schwen’s book saying: “Northern Comfort is a lively little volume of Minnesota Lake Country wit and wisdom, from a feminine point of view. From panty-hose, rock-salt, ice-dam breakers; to sweater-vest-wearing leeches in the back of the fridge - if you’re from Minnesota you’ll find something here to make you smile or chuckle or laugh out loud. And if you’re not from Minnesota, you’ll wish you were.”
Schwen thought the essays would work well as a book.
She sent the idea out to a couple of places, even had an agent at one point.
But as life happens, the idea sat on the shelf and Schwen, by then no longer only a contributor but Lake Country Journal editor, had a number of things on her plate. She went back to school, got her master’s degree in communication with a thesis including an original drama written from the narratives of breast cancer survivors. Schwen writes, performs and directs dramas. She also added adjunct professor to her many roles.
While writers invariably dream of book publications at least once as they pound away at keyboards, Schwen’s book came with something that made the experience even better for her.
Her son David, now an accomplished graphic artist with his own company in Minneapolis, designed the book cover using strips of paper to create the flannel backdrop and give the image depth, texture.
“That’s why it was so fun for me and dear to his heart to design the cover,” Schwen said. When she saw the final version, Schwen loved it.
“This is how the book is supposed to go out in the world,” she said. A combination of the talents of mother and son.
It’s not the first time they collaborated. When Schwen was driving with boys in the backseat, she’d think of essay ideas. David wrote quick notes for her to jog her memory later. Then when she was on deadline and needed a column, she’d pull out the scraps of paper for inspiration. Snippets. Collections. Observations.
David, 31, has childhood memories of watching his mother write and send off submissions in self-addressed stamped envelopes.
“It seemed like she always had the typewriter going,” David said. He said after all her writing and submitting to publishers, it was nice to see her have this book success. “It was even more special to do the cover.”
David is an award-winning graphic designer with his own Minneapolis firm called DSchwen. His impact in the world of graphic design can be measured in his more than 84,500 Instagram followers.
His illustrations have recently been published in Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, Time magazine, Fortune, Wired, and his mother said his Pantone food/art pairings have become a cultural icon.
“And you know the giant neon Target dog at Target Center? Yeah, he did that, too,” his mom said. “He has a book cover coming out soon with Penguin Books, but his first-ever book cover is for his mom.
“His art roots began at Pequot Lakes High School where he was an avid art student under Dave Guenther and the first piece of artwork he ever sold was purchased by Evelyn Matthies at his first show in high school.”
When designing the book cover, David, who does editorial illustrations by using cut paper for designs then photographing them, applied the same technique. The cut paper created the flannel background and the new take on the typical “hello my name is sticker” added a touch of humor.
David said his goal was to create a book cover with a northern Minnesota theme that was humorous, artful and sophisticated all that the same time.
“Which is how I feel my mom is,” he said.
Reading the stories in the manuscript as he worked on the design was like taking a time machine back to his childhood.
“It’s a very special moment to be able to do this,” David said of designing his mother’s book cover. With his own work finding so many outlets and recognizable clients, David said he wouldn’t have had this success and career growth without many supporters.
“I don’t feel I would have gotten as far without people like my mom,” he said. “I have a lot to thank her for.”
Jacqueline, Schwen stated, “especially enjoys using stories from personal experience and daily life to encourage others to spark their own creativity. She believes, everyone has a story.”
And now Schwen has a book and its cover to prove it.
■ Meet the author
• Book Launch and book signing with hotdish, coffee and a “nice pan of bars” is planned from 4:30- 6:30 p.m. June 12 At the Q Gallery, Franklin Art Center, 1001 Kingwood St. Room 222.
• The public is invited to meet author Jodi Schwen at the June Author Talk, 6:30-7:30 p.m. June 19 at the Hallett Memorial Library, 101 First St. SE, Crosby.
• The event is sponsored by the Jessie F. Hallett Memorial Library Friends Foundation. Books will be available for purchase and signing. Refreshments will be provided.
• For more information, contact the Library at 218- 546-8005, or visit www.hallettlibrary.org for more information.