02 Dec 2013

Carol Bodensteiner: “Growing Up Country”

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“Growing Up Country: Memoirs of an Iowa Farm Girl” by Carol Bodensteiner is a truly wonderful memoir, a selection of short stories about her time at a chicken and cow farm in Iowa in the 1950s. The way Bodensteiner tells the story we often experience the world with her eyes as a child, which lends the book a charming as well as a nostalgic touch. This type of blending reflective adult perspective with the reminiscing of how the author felt as a girl, made the read particularly palatable to me.

I was also transported back to my own childhood in Germany with these tales – her father was of German origin and some of the traditions of Bodensteiner’s family were still the same in the 1970s in Germany.
But even without a personal connection to farm life and the sentiment of the changing times, the book is of historical value as it recounts in great detail farm life of those times, farming habits and traditions, house chores, animal rearing, fairs and other aspects of rural life, the understanding and experience of which is lost with the way society and farming culture has moved on. Bodensteiner did a great job at preserving this knowledge and creating a further record of the experience. She also reflects on her memoir beautifully in that regard in the epilogue, demonstrating further that this is not just a write up of her diaries as a girl but a thought-through collection of digested memories that allow us a peak into her life and the past but with a balanced dose of nostalgia that so often is overdone in memoirs


Interview with Carol Bodensteiner


Tell us a little about yourself as writer and a person.

I am curious about everything and can be intensely interested in anything for short periods of time. So my career in the public relations business was a perfect fit, matching my personality and giving me endless reasons to write. I’m also highly attuned to sensory details, another trait that comes in handy for writing.

What made you become a writer? Have you always written?

I’ve written throughout my career. The first 30 years as a business writer during my career in marketing. I took up creative writing about 15 years ago. The transition has invigorated me. Business writing places a premium on getting to the point as efficiently as possible. Creative writing can meander around a single point for pages. Yet both styles benefit from writing clearly and with purpose.

When did you decide to write these stories?

The stories in my memoir were an unplanned outcome of my desire to write stories about my parents’ lives. The more I wrote about them, the more I remembered my own stories. The feedback I got from workshop leaders nudged me toward writing about myself and including my family as part of those stories.

Tell us a little about the history of the book. How long did it take you to write and publish?

It all started because my mother wanted me to write our family stories. She was so persistent I finally gave in. I was back and forth between projects for about 10 years getting it all together. Once the stories were written, the decision to publish independently brought the project to completion within six months.

Would you say there is a message in the book beyond the historical interest? Do you find it is well received and picked up by the reviewers?

The main message is that our everyday stories matter. They’re the fabric of our lives and our society. I didn’t realize this before the book got into readers’ hands. But, reviewers and average readers tell me that reading my stories is like reading their own life stories. Reading my everyday stories makes them value their own lives more.

How did you decide what to include in the book and what to keep private?

Since my childhood was a happy one, there wasn’t a lot to hide. I tried to include stories that give a well rounded look at life on a family farm in the 1950s.

Who would play the characters in a film?

I’m not much of a movie person, so I’ll have to leave that to central casting!

What is your life like? What do you do for pleasure and work when you are not writing?

I live on a small acreage where I particularly enjoy introducing children to the prairie I planted. Their sense of wonder and adventure in the prairie is so joyful. I also enjoy traveling. Seeing new places, meeting new people, inspires me.

Who are your literary influences? What are your favourite books/ films/ albums?

I grew up on the adventures of Nancy Drew, then found a whole new level of adventure with Jack London. I experienced the power of words to make me feel heat and depression when I read Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. Haven Kimmel inspired my memoir with her stories in A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana. Current authors I love: Sue Monk Kidd, Jim Fergus, Charles Frazier, Amy Tan, Barbara Kingsolver, Diana Gabaldon, and Phillipa Gregory.

What are your views on independent publishing?

Indie publishing offers tremendous opportunities for writers if they’re willing to make the effort to produce a professional product and do the work of marketing. Indie publishing requires a lot more from the author, but the trade offs of control and income make it worthwhile for me.

Can you recommend any indie books/ authors?

Since indie publishing my memoir, I’ve read across a wide range of genres and met a host of fascinating indie authors, so I could go on a long time. Among my favorites: A.D. Trosper (fantasy); Mary Gottschalk and Susan Weidener (memoir). In the historical fiction arena, Paulette Mahurin, M.K. Tod, David Lawlor, Lee Fullbright, and now you, Christoph. I’m meeting new favorites every day!

What would your friends tell us if we asked for your best and your oddest qualities?

I had no idea, so I asked. Here’s what they said.

Best: She’s a good listener with a zest for learning/sharing.

Oddest: She has the ability to make odd actions seem normal, e.g. making pumpkin pie out of squash and rereading each book chosen for book club twice.

What are your favourite animal/ colour/ outdoor activity?

Finally, an easy question! Animal: Siamese cats. Colour: spring green. Outdoor activity: walking in the woods.

What would you take to a remote island?

An umbrella. Protection from the wind, rain, and sun. And a little privacy for whatever I may feel the need of privacy for. 😉

Who would you like to invite for dinner and why?

Bill & Hillary Clinton. They are so smart, have had so many interesting experiences, and are so human. I’m sure we’d have fun.

What are you writing at the moment and where would we find out about your next projects?

My first novel – WWI-era historical fiction – will be published in 2014. After writing my memoir set in the 1950s, it’s been fun to take another step back in time. Here’s a little peek into the novel:

Go Away Home

is the story of a young woman’s quest for independence and the right to decide her own future during the early 20th Century, a time of social change and the Great War.  

I’m active on several social media sites. Come visit and “Like,” “Follow,” or just chat.

Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl

is available in paperback and ebook forms from

Amazon &

Barnes & Noble  

Website/blog http://www.carolbodensteiner.com

Tweet @CABodensteiner

LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=14449814&trk=tab_pro

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/CarolBodensteinerAuthor

What else would you like us to know about you and your books?

I appreciate every person who reads my stories, and I really like to hear from readers. I respond to every single person who writes.

I’ve had essays included in anthologies –


Tending Your Inner Garden 

series of seasonal books and the

My Gutsy Story Anthology

Writing those shorter pieces fed my need to see projects completed during the much longer process of writing the WW1-era novel – Go Away Home – I expect to publish in 2014.

Carol Bodensteiner – Bio

Carol Bodensteiner is the author of Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl. She finds inspiration in the places, people, culture and history of the Midwest. She blogs about writing, her prairie, gardening, and whatever in life interests her at the moment. Her essays have been published in several anthologies. Her debut novel, historical fiction set during World War I, will be published in 2014.





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