During her freshman year of college, Rachel wanted to write a novel as an escape from her studies and college life. As her subject, she chose a true story that she had discovered online while a student at Westminster. She thought of it as a short-term project that she could finish in a semester and a summer – not something that would consume years of her life!
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The story, set in the 1960s, is one of a young Norwegian seamstress who fell in love with her country’s Crown Prince, a man who would spend years battling to be allowed to marry her. “I had always thought it was a story that needed to be told,” says Rachel. “So when I sat down to begin writing my novel in March 2008, it was an obvious choice for my subject. It’s a beautiful, historical story about a love that lasted and a Christian couple who was willing to persevere and fight for that love. I think young women today need better role models, and I’m excited about the potential for the influence of the book’s heroine Sonja Haraldsen,” she says. “Also, the book is set in a gorgeous country with the romantic backdrop of royal Europe, and it’s full of grand palaces, princesses, and beautiful dresses. That all made it wonderfully fun to write!”
Rachel, 24, currently works in communications in the Office of Alumni & Development at Washington University in St. Louis, her alma mater. She writes speeches for university officials, fundraising and acknowledgement letters, and articles for a variety of alumni publications, and she serves as the editor of the alumni newsletter @Washington. “I feel so blessed to be able to do something I love for a living,” says Rachel. In addition to her job at the university, Rachel does freelance work for Eagle Forum, where she writes several of Phyllis Schlafly’s radio commentaries each month.
Rachel says that during her time at Westminster, she received an exceptional, academically rigorous education that prepared her for her future. “I left for college with a solid understanding of all the subjects I’d taken,” says Rachel. “But what was most exceptional was how I was taught to see the hand of God in all of those subject areas. Christianity simply permeated the entire curriculum,” she says. “In Mr. [Tim] Hall’s physics class, we examined the fingerprints of God on the universe; in math classes, we discussed how the perfection of mathematics exemplifies God’s creation of a logical, orderly world; in history classes, we studied God’s hand and direction in historical events; and in English classes, we regarded literature as a reflection of God’s creativity.”
Not surprisingly, English classes were always Rachel’s favorite. “Westminster was where I first learned to analyze literature, and there was a strong focus on writing in all my English courses,” she says. “I learned skills that I would take with me to college and into my current career and also use as I wrote my novel.”
Rachel’s junior-year American Literature class with L.B. Graham was particularly helpful with the latter, she says. “In Mr. Graham’s class, we not only learned to analyze books for their literary value but also examined the authors’ writing styles,” she says. Rachel has kept in close touch with a number of her Westminster teachers. Pam Bye, Larry Hughes, and Florence Lewis even helped edit the manuscript of her novel.
Rachel lives in Florissant, Missouri, and attends Parkway Baptist Church. She has a number of upcoming book signings, including one at Pastries of Denmark in Creve Coeur, Missouri, on Saturday, May 10 from 2-4 p.m. and one at Barnes & Noble at Mid Rivers Mall in St. Peters, Missouri, on Saturday, May 31 from 1-3 p.m. In June, Rachel will be on a small book tour in eastern Wisconsin, and in July, she will speak at the Vesterheim Museum in Decorah, Iowa, during the town’s annual Nordic Fest.
When she is not marketing her book, Rachel is involved in the Norwegian Society of St. Louis, a club she joined several years ago during her research for the book. Now president of the club, Rachel says the culture, food, and most importantly the people are a great deal of fun. She says, “The irony is, unlike the rest of the club members, I don’t have a drop of Norwegian blood in me. I just love Norway!”