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Book talk is a homecoming for author and traveler extraordinaire

Author Julie Jo Larson thinks through what she wants to say next as she presents at the New Ulm Library Friday. Her book, “100 Things to Do in Minnesota Before You Die”, features attractions from the New Ulm area. Attendees were invited to tell her about places in the area she has not been to.

NEW ULM — New Ulm native Julie Jo Larson visited the New Ulm Public Library Friday to talk about her life and writing her most recent book, “100 Things to Do in Minnesota Before You Die”.

Larson, who graduated from New Ulm High School in the early ’80s, said she was a very shy person when she was growing up. The tall, shy, quirky kid who kept her head in books. How did she become an author with a love for travel? She said it began when she met her husband.

“I met my husband here in New Ulm. He introduced me to travel. I left [New Ulm] in 84 and moved to Mankato because [I met him]. His family was up in Brainerd. We went all the way across the state, up and down highways in little tiny places. When we had kids, instead of doing video games, we went on trips. We traveled to Canada and DC and Florida and just about every place. We wanted them to know the country is huge.”

By 2020, Larson was moved to working from home as the assistant director of TRIO Student Support Services at Central Lakes College. Two weeks in, she got the call that would make her an author.

“I received an email from a friend and she’s like, ‘Hey, Julie Jo, do you want to write a book?'” Larson said. “She’s a literary publicist. I was like, ‘Sure, why not? Tell me more.’ She put me in contact with a company called Reedy Press in St. Louis, Missouri. They do local interest books. I was living in Brainerd and they said, ‘Brainerd is kind of small, that’s not going to work.’ I said ‘Okay, let’s do the Minnesota Northwoods. Cut the state in half at St. Cloud.'”

Julie Jo Larson autographs her book for attendee Jessica Mohan. Larson made sure there was time for questions and autographs at the end of her presentation.

And by April 2021, the book was complete. The book was a success, leading Reedy Press to ask for a second book focusing on the entire state. After two years, “100 Things to Do in Minnesota Before You Die” was published in March of 2023.

New Ulm is featured a few times in her most recent version. Morgan Creek Vineyards was featured, as their NOVA wine is one of Larson’s favorites. As part of her presentation, she read an excerpt describing the Brown County Historical Society’s 1914 Popcorn Wagon.

“Children these days can experience the thrill of ordering popcorn and other snacks from the same popcorn wagon serving the New Ulm Area for over 100 years,” Larson said. “The Brown County Historical Society purchased the wagon in 2002. At the time, it needed a lot of tender loving care. With the effort of members of the Historical Society, local businesses, and community members, the wagon was returned to its glory. I used to live on 2nd Street South and I could smell popcorn when we were kids in the summer. My grandma and grandpa would give me a quarter; we’d walk down and get what felt like a huge bag of popcorn and eat it on my way back to the house. It was amazing.”

This excerpt comes from the first section of the book, food and drink. Other chapters cover music and entertainment, sports and recreation, culture and history, and shopping and fashion. She confessed she had not been to all of the places in her books, as she couldn’t do some things like ziplining and loud concerts. But she wanted to make sure all types of activities were included, not only those she can do.”

At the end of the presentation, she opened the floor to anyone who wanted to ask questions. She also wanted to hear about what made the New Ulm area unique. Larson is a lifelong traveler, and she is always looking to find more experiences to potentially put in future versions of the book.

Attendees look through copies of Julie Jo Larson’s books after her talk at the New Ulm Library Friday. Larson has published two books in the 100 things format, one on northern Minnesota in 2021 and one on Minnesota as a whole in 2023.

New Ulm resident Amy Zents told her about the Moo-seum in Bernadotte, a collection of more than 16,000 cow items cultivated by Ruth Klossner. Zents said she appreciated Larson’s interest in the New Ulm area.

“It’s wonderful to promote New Ulm and let people know we are growing,” she said. “There’s going to be all kinds of new businesses. Either they’ve been established recently or they’re coming up. I feel proud to support and let people know about New Ulm.

Larson said her next book will be a departure from her first two. It’s a children’s novel called “No Way, Ellie Mae.” The book is based on the experiences of her husband and kids. Before ending her presentation, Larson gave the audience a sneak peek of the book’s theme.

“My husband was born without arms,” Larson said. “That creates some interesting discussions when you’re talking with kids. My daughter Morgan was in second grade in Moose Lake and she had a friend named Brad. He was awesome. But Brad kept saying no way to Morgan. Every time she said ‘My dad went fishing with me,’ he said ‘No way. Morgan, your dad can’t fish with his feet.’ ‘Dad and I did this.’ ‘No way Morgan, your dad can’t do that.’ It was constant for an entire year.”

For more information, visit https://juliejolarson.com/

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