Lake Superior Day is Sunday, and one of the area’s newest authors, Kathy Groth, is going to spend part of it in Duluth.
Groth will be signing copies of her new book, “Sunken: Shipwrecks of Lake Superior,” from 1-3 p.m. outside the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center. Magazine-size and priced at $17.95, it's a softcover book that's image-laden and features a first-person narrator. The book has its origins in Groth’s earliest days as a mother with two daughters.
“When my kids were 5 and 6, we did the circle tour of Lake Superior with our camper, and they got so intrigued by the shipwrecks,” Groth, 62, recalled to the News Tribune last week, roughly one month after the book had hit regional shelves to widespread appeal and steady sales.
At the time of her daughters' piqued interest, Groth recalled querying local bookstores and gift shops about the existence of a young adult book about local shipwrecks, and finding nothing.
“All of the books were adult and technical,” she said. “I was constantly on the lookout.”
In the end, she was determined to write the book herself, doing all of the research on scores of Lake Superior wrecks (350 on the lake floor, says her book). But she got busy raising kids, she said, and shelved the project until she found it again in retirement.
A reading specialist and elementary teacher in Hayward, Wisconsin, Groth gets a thrill out of reaching kids through reading.
“I loved teaching, but I got to where I had a passion for this story,” Groth said of her book, which is narrated throughout by a young girl named Chase, who starts out by traveling around the Great Lakes with her dad.
“I didn’t want to go to bed some nights writing the book,” Groth continued. “I’d wake up in the middle of the night and go back to the computer. I just loved it.”
The character's journey features an encounter with a new friend, Bri, whose knowledge of shipwrecks is encyclopedic. Together, they rhapsodize and unravel the mysteries of the lake.
“The stories were always kind of spooky but cool legends, where these shipwrecks almost were like reading a mystery story,” Groth said.
At 64 pages, the book is a welcome breeze — one made for returning to over and over again.
“My real goal is to get my book into schools,” Groth said. “I wrote a teacher’s guide I’m pretty proud of. It’s got art, music, phy-ed — all the special subjects. It’s well done, and I’m anxious to get it into the world.”
Siiri Branstrom is the marketing director at Duluth-based Lake Superior Publishing, which published "Sunken" on June 7.
The book is doing really well, Branstrom said, requiring weekly replenishments at some of its sellers, including the Vista Fleet Gift Shop, Bookstore at Fitgers, Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center, Zenith Bookstore, Grandma’s Gift Shop, Art Dock and independent gift stores along the North Shore.
“This is something that’s been needed for a really long time,” Branstrom said. “Kids get interested in all of the well-known shipwrecks, but all of the books are pretty technical and deep.”
Groth made up her mind in retirement to finish the project for her five grandkids. Her own daughters are in their 30s now. Still, Groth's timing and imagination to fill a long-standing void in the market has left her to become something she never thought she’d be: an established author.
“For kids reading this book, I want it to be about empowerment; this story is about a strong girl,” Groth said of Chase in "Sunken." “I have a lot of granddaughters, and I was really speaking to them. I never thought I could be an author. But you can do anything if you have enough drive and enough tenacity to push to finish something.”
In the story, Chase tries to imagine the 35-foot waves that descended upon the Edmund Fitzgerald: “‘That would be like seven of my dad all stacked up!’ I try to imagine such massive waves, like in my nightmares … about falling off a ship in a storm and sinking into deep water.”
Death was important to treat with the right touch, Groth said, describing how she kept the gore out of it, while addressing somber and spooky realities.
Groth specializes in personalizing her book signatures, but she may read passages from her book and answer questions if things break right Sunday.
“I love Duluth and Lake Superior,” Groth said. “I love the North Shore. I love the Upper Peninsula. There’s a mystique about it all. You get out on those beaches and see those waves blasting, especially up by Split Rock — how hard they come in and the respect for water you have. I love searching for agates. The water is so cold and so deep. It just is a unique lake, different from any of the others.”