German American Club of Louisville

On Sunday, February 20 at 2:00 p.m., I’ll be at the German American Club of Louisville to talk about researching my latest novel and discuss the process of transforming historical fact into historically accurate fiction. In Our Midst draws upon a long-suppressed episode in American history, when thousands of German immigrants were rounded up and forced into internment camps during WWII.

Louisville author Sena Jeter Naslund calls the novel “A thoroughly researched work of truth-telling, [which] shines the light of liberty and justice on our own history.” Author and researcher Arthur D. Jacobs, who at age twelve was interned with his family at Ellis Island and Crystal City, says In Our Midst “exposes the shocking extent of German American Internment during the Second War. The story is reported as if the author lived through the immeasurable tragedy.”

A Q&A will follow the talk, and copies of In Our Midst will be available for purchase.

Everyone is welcome.  No reservations are required, though, as you would expect, masks are.  Comfortable seating at tables will allow for social distancing between groups. A cash bar will be available, and you’re welcome to bring snacks to share with your group.

When: Sunday, February 20, 2022 at 2:00 pm

Where: German American Club of Louisville, 1840 Lincoln Avenue, Louisville, Kentucky.

More Information: Nancy Woods,

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Bertie’s Black Walnut Fudge

It has become something of an annual December tradition for me to re-post this recipe, suggested by The Sisters.  It’s easily adaptable: any unsweetened cocoa will do, or 3 ounces of unsweetened baking chocolate in place of the cocoa and the first 3 tablespoons of butter.  Instead of black walnuts, you can use any nuts you like, or leave the nuts out entirely.  The black walnuts lend a distinctive flavor, but without them, you’ll still have a luscious dark chocolate fudge.

I do recommend you use a candy thermometer, though Bertie herself would not have.  If you’re an expert at cold-water or cold-plate testing the soft ball stage, you already know what to do.  As with nearly everything these days, I’m sure there must be a YouTube video to demonstrate!

You’ll need to occupy yourself while the fudge cools before beating, so here’s the first chapter my latest new novel, In Our Midst.

Here’s the recipe!

Bertie’s Black Walnut Fudge

A Recipe by Nancy Jensen

(in honor of Chapter Seven of The Sisters)

3 T. butter (6 T total for recipe)

10 T. Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa

–Melt butter in 3 qt heavy saucepan over low heat.  Add ½ of the cocoa and stir into the melted butter.

¼ cup heavy cream

¾ cup whole milk

–Measure the cream and milk into a single cup.  Add ¼ to the butter and cocoa mixture, stir in, then add the remaining cocoa, stir, and then the remaining milk and cream.

–Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until the milk is scalded and the cocoa is well mixed in.

3 cups sugar

3 T. light corn syrup

1/8 t. salt

–Stir in the sugar, corn syrup, and salt.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugar is fully dissolved.

–Cook without stirring until mixture reaches the soft ball stage (236 to 238 degrees on a candy thermometer.)

–Pour into a clean 2 qt saucepan that has a handle.  Do not scrape the cooking pan.  Set the fudge to cool on a rack and immediately add:

3 T. butter

Do not stir.  Cool until lukewarm—until you can hold your hand on the bottom of the pan for several seconds without discomfort.

While the fudge cools, line a 9 x 9 pan with buttered parchment paper.  Leave long edges so you can lift the cooled fudge out of the pan.

When the fudge is lukewarm, add:

1 ½ t. vanilla

Beat with a wooden spoon until the candy begins to thicken and lose its gloss.  Stir in:

½ cup of chopped black walnuts.

Pour into the prepared pan, smoothing to the edges with the wooden spoon if it needs nudging.  Mark into pieces with a sharp knife while still warm.  When the fudge is cool, using the parchment paper, lift the block out onto a cutting board and slice through the marks with a thin, sharp knife.

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The Gift of Black Beauty

I originally wrote this several years ago as a guest blog.  Time for a re-post, not just because it’s nearly Christmas, but because I realize, in rereading it, how much influence my childhood reading of Black Beauty had on shaping the perspective of life and art that made my new novel In Our Midst possible and, for me, necessary.

The Gift of Black Beauty

I was seven, my hands and stomach trembling together as they always did on Christmas mornings—especially when the package my mother laid in my lap was a crisply wrapped rectangle, heavy for its size and thickness, obviously a book.  Other packages I tore into like a savage, but books I unwrapped slowly, sliding my fingers under the seam of the wrapping paper, caressing the surface of the still-hidden book as if I could read Braille.

At last I pulled away the paper and saw a magnificent black horse rearing up into the golden light that bathed his vast, unfenced pasture.  His coat, so sleek it looked wet, the prominent white star at the center of his forehead, his mane and tail whipped by a wind that touched nothing else—all these details combined to express who this Black Beauty was: a proud, triumphant creature taking joy in his freedom.

It was the perfect gift for little me, for I loved books and I loved horses, but I didn’t have any way of knowing how my love for Black Beauty would shape my life.  All books before this, I realize now, had been storybooks—simply plotted happenings, sometimes in clever rhymes, but nothing that made me feel anything stronger than amusement.  Reading Black Beauty, I cried real tears, many times, and when I finished, I read it again and again, finding I craved the feeling of being pulled by words through delight, heartbreak, and all the emotions in between, ultimately to a deep contentment I could carry with me, reflecting on what Black Beauty had learned: that terrible things happen sometimes, beyond our control—like a stumble in a rut—and change the course of our lives; that no matter how hard we try to hold our heads up, to be good and noble and kind, we don’t always get the treatment we deserve or deserve the treatment we get; that genuine triumph comes only after trial, and that nothing matters so much as knowing and holding onto our true selves.

Though I’m sure at seven I had never heard the word literature, I know now that reading Black Beauty burst open the seed of who I am—the lover of literature and the writer—all of it the gift of a horse who never lived, but who lives always.

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Back in the Book Clubs Again

What a delight it was to be once again sitting and talking with members of a local reading group who had selected In Our Midst for their May discussion. I knew I’d missed chatting in person with readers, but I hadn’t quite realized how much. All members of the group had been fully-vaccinated, as had I, and because we were meeting inside in the host’s lovely garden room, we wore masks, too, but even so, it was a thrill to meet and mingle with so many witty, accomplished women who also happen to be book lovers.

If your reading group will be discussing In Our Midst and you’d like for me to join you for all or part of your meeting, please get in touch, and we’ll see what we can work out. With proper precautions, I’m comfortable coming in person for groups in central Kentucky. I may also be able to join in person if you’re in the Louisville area, if I can coordinate a combined trip to see friends and family. As was the case in pre-COVID times, I’m also available to join your group via Zoom or Skype.

Click here for the reading group guide for In Our Midst.

Here’s the guide for my first novel The Sisters.

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Who Am I Anyway? Am I My Resume?

You know you’re in the company of a great conversationalist when you find yourself sharing things about yourself only your best friends (and maybe your siblings) know–such as my penchant for musical theatre and the likelihood that I might break into song at any moment. These are only a couple of the things that tumbled out of my mouth as I spoke with Julie Frey, of the Women’s National Book Association, who followed these revelations by deftly leading me into telling, among other things, how I came to be a reader, how I came to be a writer, and how I came to write The Sisters and In Our Midst. If you stick around for the last ten minutes or so, you’ll see me scurry through my dark and pokey hallway to get to a power cord before my computer battery dies, and you’ll be treated to a cameo appearance by my cat Joey.

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