Though writing was an early passion, I always joked that, “I will write when I’m old!” because I fell in love, first and forever, with dance. After sweating, starving, moving to New York City and dancing professionally for seven years, I turned to theater where I spent a few more years auditioning, performing in unpaid showcases, and working temporary jobs in corporate offices. Often bored to death but trying to look busy, I started typing letters to friends. Really long, paper-and-envelope letters. When I ran out of friends I hadn’t written to in a while, I started writing poems and short stories. One story just kept getting longer and longer until I realized I was writing a novel.
The Thrall’s Tale, my debut novel, told the tale of three women in the first Viking Age settlement in 10th century Greenland. Published rather appropriately by Viking, it was a critical success with praise from Pulitzer Prize winners Geraldine Brooks and Robert Olen Butler.
After Thrall, I ventured even farther back into history—or beyond it, into the realm of archaeology. Pasture of Heaven was inspired by several discoveries in Central Asia, including the Ice Maiden on the Ukok Plateau, called the “Pasture of Heaven” by the people of the Altai Mountains of southern Siberia, and the “Gold Man” of Issyk, a warrior burial that researchers believe might actually be a woman. These elaborate burials fascinated me. But the idea for the book came from watching my then-toddler son pretending to battle invisible enemies in our backyard. As I wrestled with his seemingly innate violence (He’s a perfectly charming young gentleman, now that he’s grown.), I questioned what I would fight and die for. I didn’t have to look farther than the boy who’d just fallen off of his stick-horse into the grass. From this recognition grew Akmaral, my nomad woman warrior who would sacrifice all to defend her people.
I’ve published essays, reviews, short fiction and poetry in publications ranging from Archaeology Magazine to Tiferet to Edible Jersey. I contributed a chapter to Up Here: The North at the Center of the World (University of Washington Press) with my name sandwiched impressively between Karl Ove Knausgärd and Barry Lopez. I am also a photographer, with several exhibitions in New York City and a handful of other galleries, though these days my images mostly end up on my Instagram feed. I contributed to the Smithsonian Institution’s exhibition Vikings: The Norse Atlantic Saga and was an expert commentator on the History Channel’s documentary series “MANKIND: The Story of All of Us.” (That continues to be fun, especially when one of my young students comes up to me and says, “I saw you on TV in my Social Studies class!”)
Speaking of students, I started teaching creative writing after my first novel came out, enjoying a brief weekly escape from my beloved family. In January 2010, I officially founded The Writers Circle, a creative writing center located in New Jersey. I never expected The Writers Circle to be anything more than a sideline, but over the years it has expanded to become a vital community for writers of all ages in New Jersey and around the globe.
These days, I teach a ton, write nearly every day, and am the proud mother of two intelligent, talented young men. I live with my husband of over 30 years in suburban New Jersey where the New York City skyline is a visual stone’s throw from the forest where I walk, think and talk to myself—in character—most mornings.
Judith Lindbergh can be found at: https://judithlindbergh.com/