RIVER FALLS – A River Falls resident recently published her first book after being bitten by the writing bug. After taking a community education class for creative writing, she found a hobby that …
RIVER FALLS – A River Falls resident recently published her first book after being bitten by the writing bug. After taking a community education class for creative writing, she found a hobby that turned an idea into a reality.
Callie (Anderson) Trautmiller grew up in River Falls and still lives in the city with her husband and three children. Trautmiller and her husband have worked in financial services for 20 years and it never crossed her mind that she would someday be a published writer.
“I didn’t have a background in writing,” Trautmiller said. “I’ve always loved to read and I’ve read a ton of books and about seven years ago I got involved with a community ed writing class and that is what triggered this project. I had felt like I needed something in addition to what I was doing.”
After taking the community education class with a former UW-River Falls professor, she began to write more and more and it eventually turned into her debut book. The process started with a few words that she eventually turned into her book, “Becoming American.”
“We started with a writing prompt and it eventually turned into this book,” Trautmiller said. “It started as a poem and we had to write that poem based off of five words and then we eventually turned the poem into a short story and then one step further to a longer story.”
The book is a historical fiction young adult novel about the era after Pearl Harbor was attacked during World War II. It follows the journey of a family of Japanese Americans.
The book’s summary description reads, “Allu Noguchi is a young Japanese American girl who finds her family the target of Executive Order 9066. When her father is taken away on suspicions of aiding the enemy, Allu is sent to live in the harsh conditions of Camp Manzanar with nothing more than a seed-bag of belongings.”
Trautmiller has always been interested in learning new historical stories and her research led her to the narrative featured in this book.
“I love researching and I love learning new things and when writing this short story from my prompt in the community ed class, I started researching more about the internment camps during World War II,” she said.
While doing research for the book, she realized that not many people in the Midwest knew much about what had happened to many Japanese American families around that time.
“I asked around and nobody knew much about it in the Midwest, just because we were somewhat removed, and even to this day when I talk to people in the Midwest, it just is not as prevalent like it is if you go to Hawaii or California where it is part of their curriculum in schools,” she said.
After furthering her research, she stumbled across a connection to Wisconsin.
“There was this 100th battalion that was part of the Hawaiian territorial guard and after the internment camps were opened, the military didn't know what to do with this group of men and they were part of the U.S. military so they couldn’t be sent to internment camps and many of them grew up on the island,” Trautmiller explained. “They were told to pack their belongings and they boarded ships and they eventually ended up in Wisconsin and secretly trained at Fort McCoy.”
This connection was just what Trautmiller was looking for in her story.
“In the end, they ended up becoming the most trained unit in military history and when they were finally allowed to fight again, they went on to fight the Nazis and become the most decorated unit during World War II,” she said. “When I learned all of this, I was fascinated with the Wisconsin connection that people don’t know much about.”
History has always been fascinating to her and it was what allowed her to actually put the book together. She explained the process as finding the timeline and the historically accurate event and then adding the storyline with the fictional characters.
“The book follows a couple different characters as they are sent to internment camps and within the 100th battalion, and it is just fictional characters within a historically accurate timeline,” she said.
After spending the last three years writing this book and working on the editing and publishing, she’s decided this is something she hopes to continue. Her next book is set to be released this summer.
“My next book is going through editing now and that one is called ‘Under the Dirt Sky’ and that is a young adult historical fiction about a teenage boy who is caught up in the Chicago mob during the 1920s and as he is trying to exit the mob, he ends up in the Plains during the Dust Bowl,” she said.
In the future she wants to branch out from historical fiction; her favorite books to indulge in have always been thrillers and her goal is to someday step outside her comfort zone and try to write her own thriller novel.
“I love thrillers and I really want to challenge myself and write a thriller someday, but right now that is just so far out of my comfort zone. I have tried twice but I would love to tackle that at some point in the future,” she said.
After accomplishing this first milestone, she is proud of how far she has come from the beginning of the process.
“I love writing and this is a passion of mine and I wanted it to stay something I am passionate about and not feel like a job, so I would put it aside when life got in the way and then I would come back to it months later and that is how the process went,” she said.
She says it is never too late to accomplish something new and is thankful for her support system and mentors who helped her to achieve becoming a published author. She offered advice for those who are trying to step out of their comfort zone and try something new.
“You have to keep your ‘why’ in front of you. Why are you doing this and why is this your goal, because sometimes the critics can be louder than all of your supporters put together and you have to keep your goals in front of you and keep telling yourself why you want to accomplish this really big goal until this goal is bigger than your fear of what other people think,” she said.
The book “Becoming American” is available to purchase on Amazon, at Barnes and Noble and online at callietrautmiller.com or writtendreams.com
Author and River Falls resident Callie Trautmiller with her debut novel, “Becoming American.” Photo by Melissa Thorud