Bio

barbara-bio-picI’m a writer of memoir, mysteries, fiction, and travel books, and an editor of anthologies and nonfiction. My travel articles and other essays have appeared in Smithsonian, Slate, and American Scholar, as well as many other publications. I’ve written under the names Barbara Wilson (my father’s adoptive name) and, since 2000, Barbara Sjoholm (which means sea island). I answer to both. I grew up in a Christian Scientist family in California and wrote about it in my memoir Blue Windows and the novel If You Had a Family. I now live in the Pacific Northwest.

As Barbara Wilson I’ve also written two series of mysteries with lesbian sleuths, Pam Nilsen, a printer in Seattle, and the globe-trotting translator Cassandra Reilly. Gaudi Afternoon, with Cassandra, and set in Barcelona, was awarded a Lambda and a British Crime Writers Award and made into a film with Judy Davis and Marcia Gay Harden. Both series are available as e-books through Open Road Media.

I’m also a traveler, and a translator from Norwegian and Danish. From 2001 to 2004 I spent three winters in northern Scandinavia, writing journalism and the book The Palace of the Snow Queen: Winter Travels in Lapland. In the process I became fascinated by the landscape and culture of the Sami people and in the life of Emilie Demant Hatt, a Danish ethnographer and artist who lived among the Swedish Sami in the first decades of the twentieth-century. I’ve since gone on to spend over ten years researching her life in Denmark and Sweden, in the process translating her marvelous narrative, With the Lapps in the High Mountains: A Woman among the Sami 1907-8. I’m currently finishing a full-length book about her and her relationship to Johan Turi, the Sami hunter and writer whose book she translated and published in 1910. Demant Hatt and her youthful romance with the composer Carl Nielsen is also the subject of a pair of historical novels I’ve just published: Fossil Island and its sequel The Former World. There’s more about Emilie Demant Hatt, including links to her paintings at the Nordiska Museet in Stockholm here.

I co-founded Seal Press and was a publisher and editor there for many years. I went on to found the non-profit publishing house, Women in Translation. In 2004 I started a project called the Author-Editor Clinic, to mentor editors working with writers on fiction and creative non-fiction. I teach classes for editors online and have published a small book on the subject, An Editor’s Guide to Working with Authors. I also consult with writers on their manuscripts and take on editing projects. Most recently I edited So Much to be Done, the writings of Barbara Brenner, breast cancer activist, to be published by the University of Minnesota Press in April, 2016.