Aug 10, 2017

by Diane Dettmann

While paging through our family photo album where my mother meticulously recorded the daily events of our lives, I came across a black and white picture of my birthday on July 7, 1952. The snapshot quickly drew me back to the yearly childhood celebrations of my brother Tom and me getting older. I remember how every year as a child I looked forward to my birthday. The minute I woke up on party day I was giddy with excitement 

Money was tight when I was a child, but my mother always found a way to plan a party with homemade layer cake, candles and games. The cake was always delicious, a special treat normally reserved for Sundays and holidays. Colorful balloons dangled from the dining room light fixture while cousins and neighborhood friends gathered around the round oak table covered with a white linen cloth. As soon as the last few crumbs of chocolate cake disappeared off our plates, my mother and aunt set up the games. My favorite was Drop the Clothespin in the Bottle. Each child had a chance to kneel on a dining room chair and drop clothespins in the glass milk bottle. The child who got the most clothespins in received a small prize. After my mother gave directions for the next game we all scrambled around the house searching for hidden peanuts behind doors, under furniture and in bookcases. With peanuts stuffed in our pockets, we lined up to play Pin the Tale on the Donkey. Before the last guest left at the end of the party, I was already looking forward to my next birthday!

 As the years passed those annual celebrations took on a new shape and meaning for me. I still looked forward to the special day, but each birthday reminded me of how many years had already passed. In 1977 believe it or not I dreaded the thought of turning thirty! It seemed so old to me back then. Luckily my angst was softened with a delicious dinner at Charlies Restaurant Exceptional in downtown Minneapolis with my husband John. Dining out became our birthday tradition and sharing time together our gift to each other.

In June 2000, when my loving husband John died a week before my fifty-third birthday, I didn’t care if I ever had a birthday again. But when my sister arrived on the morning of July 7th with a cake and gift, I blew out the single candle on top surrounded by pink frosting and tried my best to enjoy the day. During the years that followed I spent some birthdays alone and others going out to lunch or dinner with friends and family.

This year, as the seasons passed by wrinkles on my face and neck seemed to appear out of nowhere. Every time I hit the selfie icon on my phone and saw my face in the camera I thought, Yikes! Is that me? Where did that youthful Diane go? This year on my 70th birthday, I thought about my brother, parents and grandmother who never made it to that milestone. I miss them deeply. Now when I look in the mirror, I’m grateful for those wrinkles and look forward to each new day I’m given. Celebrating birthdays is a gift!

Diane is the author of two memoirs: Twenty-Eight Snow Angels: A Widow's Story of Love, Loss and Renewal and Miriam Daughter of Finnish Immigrants. She has also written two award-winning historical novels: Courageous Footsteps: A WWII Novel and Yasu's Quest: A Tale of Triumph. The two books engage readers in the history of the Japanese internment camps and life in post WWII America. On Liberty's Wings, the third book in the series coming Fall 2017. More information at

May 13, 2017

"The characters in my WWII historical novels face loss and grief. With perseverance and support from others they find joy and meaning in life again."  Author, Diane Dettmann

The Fiction Shelf Book Review
James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Midwest Book Review

Yasu's Quest: A Tale of Triumph by Diane Dettmann
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134

 Synopsis: With a keen sense for detail, author Diane Dettmann skillfully draws readers into an engaging story about an unexpected friendship that develops between Yasu Sakamoto and Martha Annala, a university professor. When they first meet on a train headed to Minneapolis, Yasu is afraid to trust Martha with any information about her past and lies about her identity to protect herself and her family. Alone and with no place to go, Yasu eventually tells Martha about leaving her home in Glenville and the three years she spent imprisoned in the internment camp. Martha feels Yasu's pain and opens her heart and home to her.

As the war intensifies anti-Japanese attitudes escalate in America and the hostility runs rampant. Martha's decision to befriend Yasu ultimately creates hardships and challenges in her own life. Relationships with university colleagues become strained, but Martha remains committed to her friendship with Yasu. Negative looks and anti-Japanese comments surround Yasu everywhere she goes. She deeply misses her parents, her brother, Haro, and Kenta, her loving German shepherd, but knows she must push forward.

Critique: One of those gifted writers with a genuine flair for originality and engaging storytelling, "Yasu's Quest: A Tale of Triumph" by Diane Dettmann is a skillfully woven coming-of-age story of Yasu Sakamoto as she continues her journey that began in Diane Dettmann's award-winning "Courageous Footsteps: A WWII Novel".

"Yasu's Quest: A Tale of Triumph" carries Dettmann's readers into the next phase of Yasu Sakamoto's life so smoothly that this novel can be read independently or as a sequel. While unreservedly recommended, especially for community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Yasu's Quest: A Tale of Triumph" is also available in a Kindle format ($3.99). Information about all Diane's books at

About the Author: DIANE DETTMANN is the author of Courageous Footsteps: A WWII Novel, Yasu’s Quest: A Tale of Triumph and Twenty-Eight Snow Angels: A Widow’s Story of Love, Loss and Renewal. She is also the co-author of Miriam Daughter of Finnish Immigrants and a contributing author for the national Women’s Voices for Change organization in New York City. She has presented her books at women’s organizations, book clubs, grief groups, libraries, history centers and international conferences in Turku, Finland and Thunder Bay, Canada. Diane lives in Afton, Minnesota where she continues to follow her writing dream.

Feb 9, 2017

Spread Your Wings And Fly

by Diane Dettmann

After the death of my husband in 2000, I struggled with a variety issues related to loss. Anxiety was one of them. In spite of all the air travel I did with my husband, John, and for work, I often found myself in a state of panic when faced with flying alone. I worried about everything.
What if I miss the flight?
What if my luggage gets lost?
And the worst…What if the plane crashes!

When information for attending the “Southern California Writers’ Conference” appeared in my mailbox, my travel anxiety roared its ugly head. I really wanted to attend the conference even if it was just to prove to myself I could overcome my fear of flying alone.

After rereading the email, I thought maybe my friend who lives in the San Diego area would be interested in going. Inspired by her reply, “yes!” I forged ahead. After charging the conference registration fee and hotel room on my Visa, all I had left to do was book my flight.

I knew I could cancel my room and get my money back from the conference, but once I paid for my airfare there was no turning back. 

A few days later, late one night, I signed on to Delta’s site and booked the flight.

Packing my suitcase the day before departure, the “what ifs” tumbled through my head and hung with me all the way to the airport. With my suitcase rolling along behind me, I stopped in front of the “check in” computers, slid my Visa card in and to my surprise navigated the process like a pro.

With my boarding pass in hand I hurried toward the “luggage drop” line. An agent greeted me with a smile. Watching my suitcase wobble along the conveyor belt, I prayed it would end up in San Diego. After a smooth trip through security and a cup of coffee in hand, I made my way to Gate 19.

When they called “zone 3” I double-checked my boarding pass and inched my way down the narrow aisle. Everything was going great as I settled into seat 20B.

Suddenly, the pilot announced, “Sorry folks, we have a slight delay in our departure. Should take about thirty minutes to change the flat tire and deice the plane. Flat tire! I leaned my head back, closed my eyes and said a prayer to calm me down.

In spite of the delay, it was a smooth flight. When we finally landed in San Diego, I gathered my luggage, slid into the back seat of a cab and soaked up the warm sunshine flowing through the window. After checking into the hotel, I hailed another cab and went to visit an old neighbor who lived across the street from my family in Minneapolis in the 1950s. When I rang the doorbell, my Japanese friend, Art, greeted me with a huge smile and a hug. A month shy of ninety-eight, he still had a sharp mind and a great sense of humor. We shared stories about life in the 1950s, his memories of the war years and the friendship between our two families.

The next day as the conference started, I looked for Cherie, but she hadn’t arrived yet. I worried that she might have canceled at the last minute due to health problems that had plagued her for the past several years. I hoped she was okay.

I attended the first session alone. When it was over, I spied Cherie, healthy and vibrant, standing by the registration table. As soon as our eyes met, smiles spread across our faces and we wrapped our arms around each other in long hug.

Over the next three days, we studied our schedules deciding which sessions to do together. Every so often we’d sit down and revise our plan, laughing as we crossed out one session and drew arrows to our new choices. Five minutes later, we stared at our scribbled notes and laughed as we tried to remember where we were headed and what we had decided. 

The next morning, Cherie missed a couple of sessions so she could rest. Her health is better, but she still gets fatigued if she pushes herself too hard. On Sunday, I attended the morning session alone. The speaker, Bhava Ram (Brad Willis), a former NBC war correspondent, shared his amazing story of facing death and returning to a healthy life through the use of Yoga and other natural, self-healing approaches. He ended the session with a breathing exercise— just what I needed before heading home.

After a tearful “goodbye” to Cherie, I left San Diego recharged and energized. As the plane lifted off, a calm flowed over me. I wasn’t worried about lost luggage or much of anything else—well, except crashing. My successful solo flight had proved, I could spread my wings and fly! 

Read more about my grief journey challenges in my memoir, Twenty-Eight Snow Angels: A Widow's Story of Love, Loss and Renewal at Available in ebook and paperback.

Dec 22, 2016

by Diane Dettmann

With the holidays just days ahead and many people coping with the loss of a loved one, I thought I'd share an excerpt from my memoir, Twenty-Eight Snow Angels: A Widow's Story of Love, Loss and Renewal. On June 30, 2000, my loving husband died. Alone and broken, I struggled to make sense of my life. When December rolled around, the holidays hit me hard. With the support of my sister and her family, I made it through that first Christmas. Often family and friends don't know what to do to support you in those dark days of grief, sometimes all it takes is for them to be there for you. 

On Christmas Eve day, I stuffed my sweats into an overnight bag, along with John’s picture, and headed to my sister’s. Christmas songs whirled through the car as I drove north along County Road 18. As I passed through Stillwater, couples holding hands and a few last- minute shoppers shuffled along the sidewalks, gazing into store windows. The holiday music and lonely drive threw me into a panic. I gripped the steering wheel and searched for a place on the scenic road to turn around. I didn’t want to worry my sister, so I kept driving. To calm myself, I shut off the radio and pushed an Indian flute music tape into the cassette player. Giant pine trees and snow drifts flashed by the windows. I forced myself to focus on the gray road ahead while the gentle flute music calmed me.
Standing in the entryway, I set my shopping bag of gifts on the floor and stomped the snow off my boots. Mary sprinted up the steps and hugged me. She squashed my coat into the hall closet. When I walked down the steps into the living room more hugs and Merry Christmases greeted me. My friend Paula jumped up from the couch, wrapped her arms around me and whispered, “Glad you came.”
After dinner, laughter and holiday music filled the room. With amber logs glowing in the fireplace, we toasted family and friends. Like a bandage over a fresh wound, the festive mood hid my pain while we sat around the tree, sipped our drinks and took turns opening gifts. My brother-in-law snapped photos of Paula, Mary and me sitting on the hearth. Wearing a black sweater and the silver seagull necklace John bought me at our favorite art gallery on the North Shore of Lake Superior, I stared at the camera and tried to smile. When the flash went off my brother-in-law joked, “Ah, come on girls, give me a smile.”
 With the fire crackling behind us, I pushed a fake smile across my face as the flash went off. After everyone left we picked up the scraps of wrapping paper, the empty beverage glasses and said goodnight. Standing alone in my niece’s bedroom I realized I had forgotten to take my antidepressant pill. After brushing my teeth, I washed the pill down with a glass of water, clicked the bedroom door closed, and pulled John’s photo out of my travel bag. Dressed in my sweats I lay on the bed, brushing his cheek with my finger . . .  

Christmas morning arrived with partly cloudy skies and a glimmer of sunshine. In our pajamas, we sipped coffee and opened more presents. Halfway through the morning, I crashed. I wanted to go home. The smell of ham roasting in the oven nauseated me. Mary insisted I stay for dinner. To calm the grief rumbling inside me, I walked upstairs to the master bedroom and curled up on the bed. I took deep breaths, determined to make the pain go away. Nothing helped. Mary appeared at the door with an afghan in her arms. She smoothed the handmade throw over me and asked if I was hungry. I shook my head. She rubbed my arm and closed the door behind her.
Read more about the ups and downs of my widow journey in Twenty-Eight Snow Angels: A Widow's Story of Love, Loss and Renewal in ebook and paperback.. Information at