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Bonnie’s Blog

Lost Near Atlanta

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This story won third place Idaho Magazine‘s 2016 writing contest. I spent many summers exploring the old mining town of Atlanta, Idaho. I hope you enjoy this tale.

 

Lost Near Atlanta

“It’s great here,” Pam said as she stoked the campfire.

Surrounded by the Boise National Forest, we settled in for the night after a productive research day in Boise and Idaho City. As soon as the Old Idaho Penitentiary out on Old Penitentiary Road opened, Pam and I were there ready to take pictures and notes. I was particularly interested in some of the women incarcerated in the women’s prison and Pam, being a criminal reporter at her day job, was more intrigued with the gallows. We could have stayed there all day, imagining the people who walked behind those bars, and talking to the tour guides, but we were on a tight schedule. We had only three days to see the State Pen and the mining ghost towns of Idaho City, Rocky Bar, and Atlanta.

As usual we had underestimated how much time we would need to see everything. Discussing our trip over the phone, it seemed doable. We would meet in Mountain home. Pam knew the manager of AJs Restaurant and Lounge who said I could leave my car in his parking lot. That way we wouldn’t have to take two cars. Better yet, it would be safe there and we wouldn’t have to worry. Now, there we were, at the end of our first day, pitching a tent in the forest, anxious to see Atlanta and Rocky Bar the next day. We had heard the legend of Peg Leg Annie and we were eager to check it out.

Pam and I are writers and we both have a passion for Idaho history, which isn’t surprising given the fact that we met at an Idaho history conference in Boise five years ago. Pam is writing a murder mystery set in Idaho City and I’m working on a novel. We were hoping this trip would give us all the details we needed to finish our projects.

Since neither one of us are mountain women, I borrowed a popup tent from my brother. “It’s easy,” he said as he showed me how to assemble the tent. And it had looked easy enough when we played with the tent in his driveway. But there, in the forest, I had no idea how to put the thing together. “Maybe we should have stayed in that rustic hotel in Idaho City,” I said to Pam. “A shower would be nice.”

“Yeah,” she said. “But that would defeat the purpose. The character in my novel escapes into the forest. I won’t learn about cooking over a campfire sitting on a bed staring at a TV.”

“That’s true,” I said. “And it’s nice here, being outdoors and away from city traffic.” The campground was deserted. Even the camp host had left for the season.

We were nearing the end of a beautiful October day. The sun-warmed forest was fragrant with pine and sage. I inhaled deeply, enjoying the outdoor smells. It took us a while to set up camp, but once we did, we were glad we’d made the effort.

Sitting around the campfire sipping wine, we discussed all we had learned that day. Pam was particularly intrigued with the story about Lyda Southard, Idaho’s notorious female serial killer, also known as Lady Bluebeard.

“Flypaper,” Pam said. “She boiled flypaper to make her poison.”

I nodded and tried to listen. But I was more interested in the story one of the guards told us about Peg Leg Annie. A rumored prostitute who worked in the mining camps, Annie spent her days living in Atlanta and Rocky Bar. One day in May she and her friend Dutch Em tried to walk from Atlanta to Rocky bar. A freak snowstorm cost Em her life and Annie her legs. My brain was spinning with all the stories I could tell. What was it like to be a prostitute in a mining camp? Better yet, what was it like to be a woman in a mining camp? The possibilities were endless.

As the fire crackled we plotted. “What if I have the murderer hide in the basement of that old church in Idaho City?” Pam said.

“What if Annie had a daughter who hated living in the mining camps and all she wanted to do was escape?”

Pam and I watched the fire and talked until our eyes could no longer focus. “Night,” Pam yawned. “I’m going to bed.”

“Be there soon.” I stared into the fire, wanting to sit there all night and dream. But tomorrow was another busy day, so I needed to get some sleep. Afraid the wind would fan the fire during the night, I snuffed it out and crawled into my sleeping bag. When I turned off the flashlight, Pam was already snoring.

I woke to the sound of wind howling through the forest. Good thing I put out that fire, I thought as I snuggled deeper into my sleeping bag. Good thing I have a brother who likes to hunt in subzero temperatures.

“Wake up.” Pam was shaking me. It was still early, barely morning. “You’re not going to believe this.”

I poked my head outside the tent. “Whoa. What happened?”

We were smack in the middle of a snowdrift. The howling wind I heard during the night had filled our campsite with at least ten inches of snow.

“Holy cow,” Pam said. “We’re snowed in.”

Shivering, I pulled on my jeans and sweater and went outside to start a fire. Like that was going to happen. All the wood was covered with snow and what wasn’t buried in a snow bank was too wet to burn. No fire for coffee, no fire to warm our bodies. To make matters worse, everything looked flat like a white sheet. We couldn’t see the road.

“Guess that takes care of Atlanta and Rocky Bar,” Pam said.

“Guess that takes care of a lot of things,” I said. “I think we have bigger problems than research in old mining camps. Her beige Honda was good on roads, but now it was buried in snow. Gloveless, we didn’t have a shovel so we had to use our hands to move the snow away from the car. It was pointless. The more we shoveled, the more snow fell from the cottony sky.

“I’ll call for help.” Pam tired her cell. “No service,” she said looking at the snow still falling.

Exhausted, we stood beside the car in our wet clothes. “What are we going to do?”

“Well,” I said. “It would be stupid to try and walk out.”

“We can’t stay here.”

We broke into a nervous laugh. We’d been looking for an adventure. We sure got one.

“Maybe it’ll stop soon.” My teeth chattered.

“I’m going to sit in the car and run the heater until I get warm,” Pam said. Lucky for us we’d filled the car with gas in Idaho City. Just to be safe. Who knew where the nearest gas station was. I’d heard there wasn’t one in Atlanta. But that didn’t seem to matter now. We’d be lucky to get back to Idaho City, let alone Atlanta. Our research trip had morphed into a trip of survival.

We sat in the car until we could feel our fingers and toes again. By then the snow had stopped, and it was almost noon.

“I think we should walk out,” Pam said.

“Don’t be ridiculous. Do you want to end up like Peg Leg Annie?”

“No.” Pam stared out into the forest. “But I don’t want to die here either.”

We weren’t dressed for winter weather. We had no heavy coats, no snowshoes, no boots or gloves. What we had was a sense of panic as we started out, hoping we were walking in the right direction.

“I can’t even see the road,” I mumbled as I plowed through the snow, breaking a trail. Keen on adventure, I’d gotten myself into some pretty fine pickles, but this was the worst. I looked up at the sky afraid it would snow again. How did this happen? Beam me up Scotty and get me out of here.

We walked for an hour or more. “Look,” Pam said. “Here’s the road that goes back to Idaho City. If we follow it someone will find us.”

What little food we brought was all but gone. We had to keep going. We trudged through the snow until Pam slid off the road and tumbled down the embankment toward the river. “Help,” she cried.

I rushed forward and planted my feet the best I could on the slippery ground. “Give me your hand. I’ll pull you out.”

I yanked and almost fell in myself, but I didn’t let go. When she was safe, we sat on the side of the road our sides heaving. “I think I hurt my leg,” Pam said. “That was fun.”

“Barrels,” I said. “Now what do we do?” The sun was setting. We were wet. It wouldn’t be long before our clothes froze to our bodies.

“We need to keep moving,” I said, afraid if we stopped we’d never move again.

Pam winced. “I don’t think I can walk that far. Our only chance is if you go for help. I can wait here.”

“No you can’t.” I yanked on her arm until she was standing. “We’re in this disaster together.”

We both smelled it before we heard it. “Oh, no,” Pam said. “Is that a bear?”

“They don’t have bears out here, and even if they did, bears hibernate in winter.”

“Well,” Pam said. “It isn’t winter yet. He probably was surprised by the storm just like we were.”

“Run,” I said. “Here he comes!”

We turned to flee but running in the fluffy snow proved impossible. And Pam could only hobble on her bum leg.

“Roll up in a ball and play dead,” Pam instructed.

We both hit the ground and grabbed our knees tight.

Yelp. Yelp. Yelp.

I turned my head to peek. Hallelujah. It wasn’t a bear but a scraggly dog the size of a pony, barking and running toward us.

“Holy cow,” Pam said. “Never saw a dog that big.”

The dog ran to our side, pushing us with his nose. We had no other choice but to follow. “Maybe he lives around here,” Pam said.

“Yeah,” I said. “Maybe somewhere warm.”

He led us to a small mound, a shelter covered with snow. He wouldn’t leave us alone until he had nudged us inside. Once we were settled, he lay down and went to sleep.

“Thanks, buddy.” I snuggled beside him. He was so warm, so comfortable, even if he smelled like a wet dog. Exhausted and spent, we fell asleep next to the giant dog. When we woke it was morning and the dog was gone. The sun was shining. The snow was starting to melt. Looked like our luck was changing.

“What now?” Pam said.

“I guess we keep walking. How’s the leg?”

“Not bad. I think I can make it.” Pam limped.

“Good because I’m not leaving you behind.”

It helped to walk, each step warming our muscles. “Listen,” Pam said. “I hear something.”

“Doesn’t sound like a snowmobile,” I said, which had been my secret hope. That someone eager for winter would break out their sled to play in the snow. This was better. A snowplow clearing the road.

“Hey, you!” We jumped up and down calling, “Here! Here!”

“Wow,” the driver of the yellow machine said. “Where’d you come from?”

We pointed behind us. “We were camped back there when the storm hit. My car is buried in snow,” Pam said.

“Hop in,” he said. “Let’s see if we can get you out.”

“Thanks.” We scrambled into the cab of the plow, glad to be out of the cold.

Back at camp, the driver used a rope to pull Pam’s car out of the drift. When he was finished, we quickly packed up the tent and our chairs, and loaded the car. He waited to make sure we could get out.

“Thanks so much for your help,” I said. “I don’t think we could have stood another night in this weather.”

“Consider yourself lucky,” he said. “I don’t know how you survived this one.”

“There was a big dog,” Pam said. “A Newfoundland, I think. He kept us warm. When we woke, he was gone.” She looked into the forest. “You didn’t see him did you?”

The driver chuckled. “Oh, yeah, I’ve seen him around once or twice.”

“Does he live nearby?” I asked.

“No. He roams the forest between here and Rocky Bar. That’s Annie Morrow’s dog.”

I looked at Pam. Was he kidding? If Peg Leg Annie had a dog, he’d be long gone, just like her.

“Seriously,” I said. “Where did he go? We tried to find him, but he didn’t leave any tracks.”

“Seriously,” he smiled. “That’s the dog Annie and Dutch Em had with them when they tried to walk from Atlanta to Rocky Bar that wicked day in May.”

“In that freak snowstorm,” I said.

“Right,” he said. “That dog stayed with Annie and kept her warm.”

“No way,” Pam said.

“That was over a hundred years ago,” I said. “That dog would be dead now.”

The man winked at me. “He may be a ghost, but I’m not going to tell him. Not with the job I have. He’s saved my butt a time or two.” He hopped into his snowplow, waved, and drove off toward Atlanta.

We didn’t go into Atlanta that day, or Rocky Bar either, but we did return home with some great stories to tell. And a promise that we’d make the trip again sometime. But never in October and never in May.

Forty years ago today

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It was a day like no other, one she would remember for the rest of her life. Maxine Foster clicked off the television, her eyes blurry with tears and loaded every single Elvis Presley album she owned on the Zenith record player and pushed the lever.

“Well, it’s one for the money,
Two for the show,
Three to get ready,
Now go, cat, go.”

Holding her sides, she crumbled to the floor and cried inconsolably. It couldn’t be true. No, he couldn’t be dead.

 

Find out more about Maxine in Waiting available here.

 

15 things you may not know about Renee Macalino Rutledge

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If you’re looking for a good summer read, you’ll want to pick up a copy of Renee Macalino Rutledge’s debut novel, The Hour of Daydreams. This book is a reimagined Filipino folktale where myth and realism inhabit the same house. I enjoyed it so much I wanted to know more about the author. Maybe you will, too.

Renee was born in Manila, Philippines, and raised in California from the age of four.  She received her bachelor of arts in English from UC Berkeley and master of fine arts in English and Creative Writing from Mills College. Her articles on arts and culture, parenting, and lifestyle have appeared in ColorLines, Haute Living Magazine, Oakland and Alameda Magazine, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, The East Bay Monthly, The Children’s Advocate, Parents’ Press, Red Tricycle, and others. Her reporting on minority issues facing Filipinos was nominated for a New American Media Award and New California Media Award by the editors of Filipinas Magazine. Her fiction and creative nonfiction can be found in Red Earth Review, 580 Split, Mutha Magazine, Women Writers, Women’s Books, The Ford City Anthology, and Literary Hub.

 

1) Why did you become a Writer? How did you get started?

Like many writers, I’ve enjoyed reading and writing since I was a child. “How will you use your writing?” was always a question I was asked. When I decided to become an English major in college, the assumption was that I’d be a teacher. The truth is, good writing is an asset in many fields, from business to journalism to nonprofit work. I’d written for all of those industries before (and while) buckling down to write The Hour of Daydreams, my first book.

 2) What is your writing routine? How do you discipline yourself to keep at it?

Last week, I wrote for an average of 20 minutes a day. The week before that, I wrote once, for a single block of about 2 hours at a very late hour. My writing routine feels rather skimpy and pathetic at the moment. But I try to be forgiving to myself, because I’ve spent a lot of my designated writing time doing things like completing this interview. I’m still invested in my first book, and helping it to succeed and find readers. But those rather skimpy writing sessions are starting to pay off—I’m thinking about my new book more and more.

 3) How many drafts before you feel the book is finished?

I wrote four drafts of The Hour of Daydreams.

4) What was the best thing that happened with regard to your writing career? The worst?

It’s more like an accumulation of best things, and of bad, rather than a single thing from either category standing out above the rest. Of course, signing with Forest Avenue Press was a high, but working closely with publisher Laura Stanfill has been too, as has feeling the support from my community, hearing from readers, seeing the book in the bookstore, overcoming my fear of public speaking to do readings and interviews. There are also many darker turns, from worrying about sales/exposure to wishing I had more time to write to getting radio silence after a personal pitch to insecurity about how good I am. But I try not to spend much time in the darker moments. There’s too much to be appreciative of. My trick to “detoxing mentally” is to spend a day in nature. If you don’t have time for that, take a walk around your neighborhood, feel the beat of your footsteps against the pavement, your heartbeat, your breath. If you are a parent, humor is your best friend. Kids are so darn funny and endearing—not to mention that they are creativity in motion.

5) What part of your job do you love the most? Hate or dislike the most?

I’m a nonfiction book editor and I love reading books for a living. I hate that I can’t write my own books for a living.

6) What do you like to read? Do you read while working on a novel? Favorite authors?

Love to read at all times. Many favorite authors, including Toni Morrison, Marguerite Duras, Italo Calvino, Haruki Murakami, Lysley Tenorio, Mario Vargas Llosa, Rene Denfeld, and Vanessa Hua.

7) What was the best advice you received as a writer? The worst?

“Write the story you believe,” from Yiyun Li and referring specifically to The Hour of Daydreams in its infancy stage. Any advice that claims there’s something specific you have to do religiously is the worst, and really it’s up to each of us to find our own rhythm, pace, and discipline.

8) Who has influenced you the most in terms of developing your personal writing style?

Time, reading, and practice have been my most faithful mentors.

9) Do you have a good luck charm or superstition?

I once invoked the ghost of Gabriel Garcia Marquez to help me stay motivated, keep the fire, write like a beast. I like to think he heard me.

10) If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

A scientist or naturalist. Maybe an accountant or psychologist. Or an archaeologist or historian. Or perhaps a social worker or career counselor or zoologist. Or a realtor or librarian or ESL teacher. I’d still like to be all of these things plus many more.

11) What quote or personal saying do you live by?

“The creative adult is the child who has survived.” -Ursula LeGuin

12) What’s next up for you, writing-wise?

I’m working on a parenting essay on creativity, and a short story about a Filipino American child’s relationship with her grandmother and an older neighbor in the California suburbs, and novel research. The next novel is getting clearer in my mind the more I research. I’m learning so much about the world and the time. I’m really excited to start writing when the moment is right.

13) If you could do anything over again, would you and what would it be?

Go to college again—relearn everything. Get my MFA again—make the most of that writing time. Life is a never-ending learning process.

14) What advice would you give beginning writers?

Write like only you can.

15) Something we don’t know about you?

I’ve have strange pregnancy experiences while abroad. Got bitten by a monkey in the face in Costa Rica during my first pregnancy; was in the Gracia neighborhood of Spain when I was surprised by the knowledge of my second pregnancy. No more babies for me. But I’ve been dreaming of my grandchildren since I was in my twenties.

And, what would you like us to know about your latest release?

The Hour of Daydreams is now available online and in bookstores. Thanks for reading!

BONNIE DODGE VISITS THE BOOK DINER TO DISCUSS THE WEIRD BLESSING OF BEING A WRITER

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Today I’m talking writing with Sharon Zink at The Book Diner. Check it out.

This week’s Book Diner interviewee is the wonderful Bonnie Dodge. Bonnie is a veteran writer, with a stack of books under her belt. I first became aware of her work since I am friends with her author son, Trevor Dodge, who I interviewed recently. Literary talent clearly is part of the Dodge family gene and Bonnie has such amazing insights from her long experience as an author that I found myself pretty much agreeing with everything she said! Her books also sound right up my alley, so I can’t wait to start reading them all! Enjoy!

http://sharonzink.com/the-book-diner-interviews/bonnie-dodge-visits-the-book-diner-to-discuss-the-weird-blessing-of-being-a-writer/

 

 

My Oregon Love Song

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My fingers are puckered, my feet are webbed, and like most of my neighbors, I’d love to see the sun. But the weatherman just confirmed another week of rain. Oh, yay.

Coming from a town lucky enough to see ten inches of rain a year, here in Newport we’ve already endured forty-three inches of rain, and it isn’t even May. It’s hard to get and stay motivated when the days are gray, misty, and wet. Walks along the beach are anything but romantic and puttering in the yard only creates bigger messes. Maybe that’s why there is always so much going on indoors.

For instance, in the last thirty days I got to hang out with some pretty amazing writers. In March, Susan DeFreitas talked about environmental degradation and her debut novel Hot Season. Her landscape descriptions blew me away. I can still smell the river and feel the breeze on my skin. A couple weeks later Karen Karbo, author of a best-selling “kick-ass women’s series”, talked about writing personal essays and I learned how to put passion back into my work. And just last week Garth Stein came to town to discuss writing his novel The Art of Racing in the Rain. The room was packed and for two hours we didn’t care that it was pouring outside, Stein was filling the room with enlightenment and inspiration.

The place I used to call home was so isolated I’d have to drive hundreds of miles to attend book signings and writing workshops. Now all I have to do is go to the library or the Performing Arts Center, just a few miles down the road.

Newport brims with talented people I would have never met if I had stayed in my Idaho cocoon. So thank you Oregon for giving me a stimulating and verdant place to live. Thank you for welcoming me home.

(Sorry the pictures are so blurry. My phone doesn’t play nice sometimes.)

 

SELF-SABOTAGE, MY WORD FOR 2017

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Words of encouragement are flooding social media this month. Words like hope, peace, love, respect, patience, and even no. As a writer, I’d like to offer another. Self-sabotage. That thing many writers do to avoid moving forward.

I’m not the queen of sabotage, but I know how to procrastinate. Take this book I’ve been working on for almost twenty years. Ten years ago I shopped this book around thinking it was finished. But clearly it wasn’t or I’d be collecting royalties instead of avoiding revisions.

Why isn’t it finished? It isn’t because I don’t know how to write or deliver a product. It isn’t that I don’t love the idea of this book, I do. The only reason I can offer is that I’ve gotten in the habit of avoiding this project. Every time I set out to finish this book something gets in the way. Here are some of the ways I’ve sabotaged the completion of this book.

1) I can’t work on this book until I finish xxx. Insert clean the house, take the dogs for a walk, or do the laundry.

Life is messy and has a way of getting in the way of writing. There will always be something else that needs attention. Pretending I can’t write until the dishwasher is loaded only prolongs the project. Instead of waiting until everything is done, I need to make working on this project a priority. First thing in the morning I need to sit down and revise a chapter. Before anything else. Waiting until I have a big chunk of time to work isn’t the answer and is just a lazy excuse.

2) I need to do more research.

After twenty years I should have more than enough information to finish this book. And if I don’t I can make it up. After all, it’s fiction, not non-fiction.

3) I don’t have the skills to write this story.

Recently I listened to Alice Hoffman discuss writing. She said a writer needs to write every day. Only by writing every day do you become a better writer. So stop waiting until you have the skill level you seek. Start writing and it will come.

4) It’s not perfect, so why bother.

Good writing is revisions, lots of them. Anne Lamott says write a messy first draft. Get the story down and then do the work of revisions. That’s where skill and magic happen, in the honing of words.

5) I need feedback on this chapter before I continue.

Maybe, but probably not. Even if you are lucky enough to have friends and family who offer to read your work and comment, this can be a big way to sabotage your writing. Reading is subjective and you will get good comments and bad comments. The time for constructive feedback is after the book is done. When you know the ending of your story, you’re better equipped to identify weak plot points and motivation. Too much advice while you’re being creative and writing can stop your story dead. Rely on your gut and trust the process.

6) I’m not smart enough to write this story.

If that is true, than put it away and work on something else. Just because you don’t feel adequate to complete this story doesn’t mean you can’t produce a sexier, better story. Learn to let go. Not everything you write is golden.

7) I need to turn off the internal editor.

Often the fear of failing, or even the fear of succeeding, can prevent me from finishing a project. Yes, criticism is scary. But it’s part of the process. Don’t let fear prevent you from achieving your goal. Writing can be scary, learn to work through the fear.

8) I can’t write until I get in the mood.

The longer you work as a writer the more it becomes a job and there are days you won’t want to go to work. Waiting for the mood to strike could mean days without writing, a sure way to shoot yourself in the foot. Many times I sit down to write, in a bad mood because I don’t want to write that day, and like magic my muse shows up and I produce some pretty amazing stuff. If you want to be a good writer, write even when you don’t want to. You’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish.

9) Illness gets in the way.

My goal for 2017 is to finish this book. I had a good start, with four chapters revised before I ended up in the hospital with a nasty gallbladder. See, I told my son, this book doesn’t want to be finished. And, yes, sometimes I feel like that. But the book isn’t the writer, I am the writer, and no one else is going to finish this book but me.

Self-sabotage diminishes passion and energy. It’s just an excuse to keep you from moving forward. If you’re in the habit of self-sabotaging yourself, try to identify why. Then work toward reaching your goal. You’re in control. Only you can do it.

454 Days Later

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I’ve been quiet and you probably think I fell into the ocean or got blown away by coastal storms. But no, I’m still here, learning all I can about my new home.

The reason I’ve been silent is that I’ve been busy. For a tiny dot on the map between Yachats and Lincoln City, Newport’s population is about the same as the town I left in Idaho. If you want a Costco or a Lowe’s you have to drive several miles, just like I did in Idaho. But unlike the town I left behind, there is so much more to do here I barely have time to read, let alone write.

Check out the latest issue of Oregon Coast Today and you will see there is always something going on. Add to that everything happening in The Valley between here and Portland and there is no time to be bored. Ever.

Take for instance last weekend. Since I don’t like to drive Portland traffic my son quietly obliged, taking me to Portland’s annual book festival Wordstock. I was so revitalized I’m still vibrating. My favorite author, Alice Hoffman, was in town and spoke about her new book Faithful. She even signed my copy and thanked me for stopping by. So many other talented writers attended, not to mention many Oregon presses including Ooligan Press, Tin House, and my favorite, Laura Stanfill from Forest Avenue Press. If that wasn’t great enough, admission to the event included admittance to the Portland Art Museum and the Andy Warhol exhibit. Now my son was vibrating, snapping pictures and studying one-of-a-kind art. Yes, it was raining. But in spite of the rain, it was a positive, energizing day.

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That evening my family took in The Drowsy Chaperone, a musical put on by my grandson Dante’s high school class. The students were top notch, high energy, and amazing. The day ended with dinner at The Ram and a glass of wine. Perfect.

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Many people told me I was crazy to move to Oregon. Several said I’d get depressed and miss the sun. And even though I miss my friends in Idaho, and sometimes I do miss the sun, mostly I love it here. Even when it’s raining.

Back Roading Beaver Creek to Toledo

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We’ve always been explorers, enjoying the back roads of Idaho and now Oregon. We’re not cityites who like to stare at window displays or order lattes. We like to travel back roads, sip home-brewed coffee, and enjoy the scenery.

Knowing we liked quiet places for our dogs to run, a neighbor told us to check out the road from Beaver Creek to Toledo. “It’s mostly gravel,” he said, “and it’s easy to get lost. There isn’t much traffic. Nice drive, though.”

Enjoying a challenge, we filled our coffee mugs, gathered our dogs, headed south on 101, and turned east toward Beaver Creek. We turned left where the road teed and stopped at the Beaver Creek Welcome Center, hoping they’d have a map of the area.

No maps, just a volunteer. “Follow that road,” he said. “Stay left.” He pondered a moment. “Turns to gravel. Think it’s twenty or thirty miles. Been a while since I drove it. If you get lost, you can always turn around and come back.”

We looked at each other. Turning back was rarely an option. Not when we wanted to see something new.

After considerable conversation, we waved a cheerful goodbye and followed the road. Within minutes we stopped at a small park with a picnic table and a large area for the dogs to run. While the dogs sniffed bushes, we picked blackberries and chomped on half-ripe apples from a nearby tree.

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“Yuk.” I spit out the bitter fruit.

“Just right,” my husband said happily.

We rounded up the dogs, got back in the truck, and continued on.

No cars tried to pass us. No trucks met us head-on. The only vehicle on the road, we traveled slowly enjoying the drive, heavy with vegetation on both sides of the road.

“Reminds me of the road to Fall Creek,” I said, commenting on the dense undergrowth. But instead of seeing obelisks of mullein and ponderosa pine, the shoulders of these roads were thick with evening primrose, foxglove, and purple loosestrife. I gawked out the window trying to identify the plants: Queen Anne’s Lace, mountain ash, ocean spray, and wild rose. Many more varieties than I would see traveling the gravel road from Fall Creek to Featherville, which held mostly fern and pine.

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“Look,” my husband said as two velveted buck dashed in front of us. He hit the brakes and we watched them dart into the trees. We knew they were watching us, waiting for us to leave. But try as we might, we couldn’t spy an eye or an antler.

Moving on, it wasn’t long before we hit gravel. The vegetation grew thicker, canopying the narrow road. Blackberry vines reached toward the truck, each branch heavy with green berries. We were driving into a jungle, secluded and uninhabited, with no signs to guide us.

“Wonder if we should turn around?” my husband said, recalling the words of the Beaver Creek volunteer. Unwilling to give up, we moved forward, deeper into the forest.

“Must be on the right road,” my husband said when we finally spotted a mile marker that looked lost on the gravel road.

“How many miles did he say?” I asked.

“Twenty or thirty.”

We’d been driving almost an hour, but I couldn’t judge mileage. We were moving slow, sometimes five miles an hour, up, then down, wind around a corner. Wind around another corner so dark with shade we couldn’t see the sun.

Climbing again, we broke out onto a sunny hilltop. The panorama of the valley was jaw-dropping, worth the worry of getting lost.

“I know where we are now,” my husband said. “Toledo is right over there.”

Leaving the forest behind, we headed down. Minutes later we were on familiar asphalt again.

“Not even twenty miles,” my husband said.

“Not bad at all,” I said. “Perfect way to spend an afternoon.”

And the very best part of the drive was that we didn’t once have to turn around.

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Goodbye, Nye Beach Writers Series. It was good to know you.

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For more than thirty years my vacation destination was the Oregon Coast. Leaving behind stressful jobs and busy schedules, my husband and I drove to the coast, almost every year, usually in late September or early October. We’d rent a vacation home overlooking the ocean and do nothing. Well, not really nothing. He’d golf and I’d either write or read. We’d take long walks on the beach, or just sit back and watch the sun set. We loved the quiet easy-going pace we found here and a chance to unwind and recharge before heading back to the real world in Idaho.

If you know anything about the Oregon Coast, you know there is always something happening here, either in Lincoln City or all the way down the coast to Florence. Even after all those trips, we never had time to do everything we wanted to do. Often we would leave saying next time I’m going to ….

One of the things I always wanted to do was attend one of the writer’s events back when they were still held in Yachats. But I could never fit it into our schedule.

When we moved to Oregon, one of the first things I did was attend a Writers on the Edge event at Nye Beach. It wasn’t long before I joined the board and became more involved in the organization.

A strong writing community is one of the reasons I moved to Newport. After thirty years, I still feel like I’m seeing the ocean for the first time. And every day I spend here, I learn to love Oregon more.

For our final event, Writers on the Edge will host Johnny Bargain on June 18 at 7 p.m. at the Visual Arts Center on Nye Beach. If you’re in the area, please stop by and help us celebrate a wonderful organization. And just in case you are interested, here are some things you may not know about our next author, Johnny Bargain.

11 things you may not know about JOHNNY BARGAIN

1) Why did you become a Writer? How did you get started?

The stories from my past were circling in my head. I’d wanted to write a letter to my friend’s 18-year-old son who had been gunned down in the 1960s by the police as he rode his Harley Sportster in Rosebank, Staten Island. Three bullet holes punctured the boy’s back, for no good reason at all. I wanted Stitch to know he had not been forgotten even though 50 years have gone by. The memories weighed heavily and I couldn’t shake them.

Over time, I mentioned some of the incidents to Carla Perry, publisher at Dancing Moon Press and she suggested that I record them on a tape recorder since I didn’t have the patience, eyesight, or ability to write them out on paper and I don’t have a computer. She said the stories were tragic, appalling, poignant, eye opening, and funny, and that they provided a glimpse into the world of motorcycle clubs and gangs that was unlike anything she’d encountered before.

So I headed down to California for a three-day biker party and by day ten, I’d managed to record several stories. Carla transcribed the recordings when I returned, but she said more stories were needed to flesh out a full book. When I said I couldn’t remember more, she suggested I create a map of my Rosebank neighborhood — the bars, Dapper Dan’s motorcycle shop, the houses where I lived, the police station, the location of the murders, the location of infamous parties, the cemetery where Stitch was buried, and the various motorcycle club headquarters. Each time I drew a building or marked an X on the map, stories flooded out, clear as the day they’d happened. So, I headed south again for another biker party and came home with plenty of material.

2) What is your writing routine? How do you discipline yourself to keep at it?

I clear the space in my head by inhaling sweet weed, think of an incident from my past, turn on the tape recorder, and start talking.

3) How many drafts before you feel the book is finished?

Carla Perry prepared three drafts for me. The first was to make sure the information was correctly transcribed and that I was okay with the short story titles. The second was to put the stories in order and correct name spellings. The third was the final draft. The cover designer, Sarah Gayle, also drew cartoonish maps to illustrate the locations where the stories took place, so those are interspersed throughout the book.

4) What was the best thing that happened with regard to your writing career? The worst?

The best thing was getting the stories out of my head so I don’t have to remember them anymore. I feel a sense of freedom knowing I’ve done what I hoped to do – reconnect with Stitch by writing this book dedicated to him. The worst thing is there are still more stories I’d like to get down on paper. Maybe there will be a volume 2.

5) What part of your job do you love the most? Hate or dislike the most?

I can’t write longhand anymore because my eyesight is not so good and I will never use a computer, so talking into the tape recorder worked great for me. Telling stories from my past is not a job. It’s something I’m compelled to do to make peace with my early life.

6) What was the best advice you received as a writer? The worst?

The best advice was when Carla Perry suggested I draw a map of my neighborhood. That was amazing. Every street corner, every bar and tavern, the cafes, the movie theater, the houses my friends lived in, every building, park, church, and school contained vivid stories from my life in Rosebank, Staten Island. It was like taping into full-color movies of what went on in the 1960s. I could remember conversations, the sounds, the smells. It was all there, hidden away in my memory.

7) Who has influenced you the most in terms of developing your personal writing style?

I just speak it out so my writing style is just the same way I talk. Except it’s a little more cleaned up through the editing process.

8) If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

I’m a retired building engineer. I’m an artist of three-dimensional representations that hang from the ceilings and walls. I’m already 80 years old. I never planned to become a published author.

9) What quote or personal saying do you live by?

“If I don’t see you real soon, I’ll see you down the road someday.” (lyrics from “Car Outside” © Jimmy LaFave.)
“I’m surprised you’re alive.” – Fred, a member of Johnny’s Yoga class.

10) What’s next up for you, writing-wise?

Maybe more stories. Volume 2 of “A Collection of Bummer Summers.”

11) What would you like us to know about your latest release?

The absolutely true stories of my life are in that book.

Robert Hill is a New Englander by birth, a west coaster by choice, and an Oregonian by osmosis. As a writer, he has worked in advertising, entertainment, educational software and not-for-profit fundraising. He is a recipient of an Oregon Literary Arts Walt Morey Fellowship and a Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Fellowship.

Here are some things you may not know abut Robert.

1) Why did you become a Writer? How did you get started?

I initially became a writer because it was a way to connect with my mother who was a writer. Later, I became a writer because it was a profound way to connect with myself.

Early on I wrote great 2-page murder and mayhem stories for class assignments in which all my classmates (and myself) met with horrific ends on school field trips to haunted houses. I think I learned how to captivate an audience doing those. Later, I wrote clever (if I say so myself) verse in the vein of Ogden Nash and Dorothy Parker (yeah, dream on, Robert), some of which got printed in small, off-beat literary magazines that have since become bird cage liners. Professionally, I wrote advertising copy for over 20 years, first for general merchandise, then for movies (trailers, posters, home video package copy), plus a few “edutainment” software learning games, and then moved on to writing grants for non-profits. I didn’t sit down to write my first novel until I was 42, and that was the first fiction I’d written in more than 20 years. (Unless you count grant writing, which is 90% fiction. Ahem.)

2) What is your writing routine? How do you discipline yourself to keep at it?

My writing routine is to avoid writing as much as possible until I burst like a boil and have to get it out and onto the page. Once I sit down to it, I have to stick with whatever the arc is that I’m working on, be it a sentence or paragraph or chapter, and I cannot get up from it until I feel I’ve landed it. This can take a long time. I write out loud, often speaking the words as my fingers type them, but always reading everything back out loud many times, because I need to hear where the voice carries a word or clause, how two particular words rub up against one another, and especially, I have to hear the whole thing move towards the landing. It’s a kind of OCD, but until I hear these things the way my brain dictates they have to sound, I can’t get up from the keyboard.

3) How many drafts before you feel the book is finished?

I’m constantly editing as I’m writing, so I don’t think in terms of drafts so much. Sometimes the editing is about shifting blocks of things around, moving moments from early on to later, things like that. More often than not I kill a few darlings (always a painful thing to do) in the revision process when I see that they do not serve the whole piece. After that, editing is more or less on the micro level – a word here, a clause there.

4) What was the best thing that happened with regard to your writing career? The worst?

The best thing was discovering that I had a particular voice, which I did not realize I had. In fact, I don’t think I ever really knew to have a voice until I was in Tom Spanbauer’s Dangerous Writers workshop and the emphasis was totally on voice. Tom and the other writers in the room saw what I could do, encouraged me to push it, and helped me realize something surprising in myself. I don’t think I’ve had a “worst” moment in my writing career. It’s writing. It’s putting words on a page, hopefully with emotion, that readers will enjoy. Neither my life nor anyone else’s is on the line, though. If no one wants to publish it, it’s not the end of the world. It’s not like going hungry, or having a terminal illness. There’s always another blank page and new words to start over with.

5) What part of your job do you love the most? Hate or dislike the most?

I love when something surprising comes out of me that I did not know was in me. I hate when something totally banal comes out; but then love comes back when I toss out the banal and start over and something wonderful takes its place.

6) What do you like to read? Do you read while working on a novel? Favorite authors?

I read mostly literary fiction. I belong to a book group that’s been meeting for close to 15 years. About half the group are writers; all are serious literature lovers. So we read as much for content as style and try to expand our horizons with international writers as often as possible. I say that, but give me an American novel about the dark side of the American Dream and I couldn’t be happier. I’m always reading. I read more than I write. Some favorite authors, in no particular order: John Cheever, Willa Cather, Elena Ferranti, Nelson Algren, Philip Roth, Dawn Powell, J. M. Coetzee, James Salter, Christopher Isherwood, George Saunders, Edith Wharton…

7) What was the best advice you received as a writer? The worst?

Best: shut up and write.

Worst: you should read x book which tells you how to write a best-selling novel.

8) Who has influenced you the most in terms of developing your personal writing style?

Probably John Cheever. He wrote poetry disguised as prose and I admire that.

9) Do you have a good luck charm or superstition?

No, none. No, none. No, none. (Unless having to say or do things three times could be considered a superstition.)

10) If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

I used to want to be an architect, and maybe somewhere deep in me I still do. Although, to be honest, I no longer think in those terms of “if I could do it over again, I’d do X or Y…” If I really wanted to do X or Y, I’d do X or Y. But I enjoy writing. I’m good at it. It’s brought lovely things to my life – people, experiences. I have no desire to fold back time and erase what I’ve come to love.

11) What quote or personal saying do you live by?

“I’ll have a tall dark roast, no room, please.”

12) What’s next up for you, writing-wise?

I’m working on a novel about a middle aged man who discovers that the mother he thought had been executed for murder when he was a small child has been in jail all this time, and is now being paroled into his custody. The novel follows how they develop a relationship at such a late stage in life, how it affects the relationships he has with the aunt and grandfather who raised him, and about who he is as a man. It’s very much an exploration of self-identity. The working title is Unfinished.

13) If you could do anything over again, would you and what would it be?

I’m tempted to say I would have started writing fiction sooner, but honestly, I wasn’t mature enough to write about relationships, death, complicated emotions when I was in my 20s, nor yet in my 30s. I guess I was a late bloomer. So it’s not really something I could change.

14) What advice would you give beginning writers?

Write what you want to write because you love the craft of writing, not because you have dreams of fame and riches. You spend an awful lot of time alone in your head to create, so you better enjoy the process. Thinking about having to sell your work will only get in the way of creating your work, so stop it! Also, because it’s just you at that keyboard, you can say anything you want to say. No one has to ever read it if you don’t want it read. Push yourself to be honest, if that’s what you’re striving for. Don’t grind axes, nor sugar coat anything. And if you’re sitting down to write the story of your childhood/marriage/break-up/whatever, because you’ve told yourself the story so many times there will be no surprise in it for you if you write it as you’ve always thought it in your head. So do this instead: write it from another person’s point of view. Write the story you don’t know and you’ll discover something profound in the process.

15) Something we don’t know about you?

I am on dialysis, and awaiting a kidney transplant. Any 0-positive donors out there…?

And: what would you like us to know about your latest release?

The Remnants is about people in a small town who’ve spent their lives trying to connect in whatever way they can, all the while knowing that theirs is the last generation and after they are gone, their town, their history, the memories of them, will be gone forever. It’s sad and funny, hopeful, spiritual, and full of my favorite kind of writing: the run-on sentence. To me, the story of mankind, as it is manifest in the novel, is one long run-on sentence, with the past, present and future alive in a single moment.

The Remnants (Forest Avenue, 2016) follows When All Is Said and Done (Graywolf, 2006)Robert’s debut novel, which was shortlisted for the Oregon Book Awards’ Ken Kesey Award for Fiction.

 

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Getting to Know You

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Plants have always been my passion. You’re more likely to find me outside playing in the dirt instead of indoors sitting in front of the TV or holding a book. For as long as I can remember I’ve been interested in plants. What is it? Does it have medicinal purposes? Can you eat it? Moving to the Oregon Coast, then, has been this gardener’s dream. Here, if you want something to grow, just toss it on the ground, forget about it and a week later it will be an established plant. In southern Idaho if you tossed a plant on the ground, it was destined to die.

As an Idaho Master Gardener I know a lot about plants. But here in Oregon I feel like I’ve dropped down the rabbit hole. My head bobs at every step as I try to identify plants I’ve never seen before. Like the large bush that attracts birds and borders my yard on the north. The plant is prolific; I see it everywhere. But it took a trip to the county extension office to learn that the plant is a wax myrtle. I didn’t know that the pretty yellow plant along the side of the road is scotch broom and that it’s invasive. I was familiar with perennial geraniums but didn’t know that Herb Robert was not the same as cranesbill geranium even though they look alike. Is it an azalea or a rhododendron? What makes them different?

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My yard is a wonderland of new discoveries. I knew I had a lot of blackberries bordering my lawn, but I didn’t know that I also had salmonberry, thimbleberry and evergreen huckleberries, not to mention the salal that grows like trees.

A walk through my neighborhood is truly a walk in the forest. Trilliums. Yellow skunk cabbage. English daisies and woodland strawberries that cover the ground instead of grass. Western buttercups and lewisia. Each forward step offers a mystery to be solved.

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Moving to Oregon has been a grand adventure and I’ve enjoyed getting to know all about the plants that grow in my yard and neighborhood. With the ocean just down the road, I’m eager to start learning the names of the interesting treasures I find on the beach.

 

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15 Things You May Not Know About Paula Marie Coomer

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Paula Marie Coomer began life in Louisville, Kentucky, and lived most of her childhood in the industrial Ohio River town of New Albany, Indiana. The daughter of over 200 years of south-central Kentuckians, she is a predictable mix of Cherokee, African, Scot, and a dash of English Puritan. Her fiction, poetry, and non-fiction have appeared in many journals, anthologies, and publications, including Spilt Infinitive, Perceptions, Gargoyle, and Knock, to name only a few.

Coomer has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize, was writer-in-residence for Fishtrap, Oregon’s much-loved advocacy program for literature in the West, and has been a visiting scholar for the Idaho Commission for Libraries since 2002. She is a former long-time instructor of English for Washington State University, and was commissioned as an officer of the U.S Public Health Service, achieving the rank of lieutenant commander before she resigned her commission in 1995, ostensibly to be a writer.

I’ve known Paula for several years and am excited to host her here today. She’s a great friend, an awesome teacher, and is always eager to talk about writing. Here are fifteen things you may not know about Paula Marie Coomer.

1) Why did you become a Writer? How did you get started?

My first memories have to do with my awareness of myself as an observer. I wrote my first book at the age of four. No one else could understand what I had written, but I could. I even sewed a sort of binding with needle and thread—which I got in trouble for.

2) What is your writing routine? How do you discipline yourself to keep at it?

    1. If I’m doing research or composing a new draft, I’m usually in an isolated situation. Usually I go to the Inn in the Idaho mountains where I am in writer-in-residence (which is how I got to BE writer-in-residence). I hole myself up for as long as I can—usually at least 4 days. I’m fully focused. I do nothing besides eating (and very sparsely, at that) or getting up and moving occasionally.
    2. If I’m revising, I usually work in my studio at home half a day, beginning almost as soon as I get up. Then half a day on the other things I have to do—the paying job, author gigs, etc. At times during this phase I hire a housekeeper and an assistant to free up my time for the writing hours.
    3. If I’m doing edits, I spend mornings at a local coffee shop working. For some reason at the level of line edits, it helps to have background noise.

3) How many drafts before you feel the book is finished?

That varies completely. My novel Dove Creek took 15 drafts. The 16th draft sold. Blue Moon Vegetarian took 3 drafts. Jagged Edge of the Sky took four. Single poems can take 10-20 drafts. Short stories can take a dozen drafts. I tend to write in layers, rather obviously.

4) What was the best thing that happened with regard to your writing career? The worst?

It broke my heart a little bit when I realized I was never going to be a New York writer, living in Greenwich Village, part of the U.S. “g-literati.” But that turned out to be the best possible thing, because I have a great independent publishing house at my back. They give me infinite freedom as an artist, and they like me enough to give me a job that allows me the time I need to keep writing. I have a decent following, and people love what I write. I’m so busy I can’t even imagine being any busier in my writing career. I really couldn’t ask for anything better.

5) What part of your job do you love the most? Hate or dislike the most?

I love the serendipity. The way, when I’m working on a story or a book, the pieces just come to me, show up in my life in the most random of ways. What I dislike the most is the effect it’s had on my body. Luckily now I have a standing desk, so I rotate between sitting and standing, but writing is really, really hard on the body. We were not designed to sit for long periods of time.

6) What do you like to read? Do you read while working on a novel? Favorite authors?

I mostly read according to whatever I’m researching for the next book. Right now my stack of reading material looks like the course requirements for an herbalism class or a course on mountaineering. I’m preparing to write a follow-up for the Blue Moon food book series focused on the healing nature of plants. This is also research for my next novel, which features a mountain woman who is a healer. Otherwise, I have a few living favorites—Lidia Yuknavitch and Lance Olsen are my literary heroes. I also do presentations at regional libraries so often I have a novel I’m reading for that. Otherwise, I try to read a few poetry books now and again. I don’t read any mainstream books or authors. Most of the books I read are written by women. I prefer the voices of women writers.

7) What was the best advice you received as a writer? The worst?

      1. Best: Don’t give up. If you keep writing, someone will publish you.
      2. Worst: Teaching gives you control of your time. It will give you time to write. The truth is that teaching sucks your life force and your creativity and gives you very little in return; however, to donate yourself to the world in this way is very noble and to some extent a necessary part of mastering your craft.

8) Who has influenced you the most in terms of developing your personal writing style?

Lance Olsen, Ray Federmann, Lidia Yuknavitch.

9) Do you have a good luck charm or superstition?

I have lots. First, I have feathers and rocks everywhere. A feather in your path is a blessing. The always present themselves to me at difficult times. Rocks possess certain energies. If I’m drawn to the energy of a certain rock, I always pick it up. I have certain types of gems and semi-precious stones that are meant to absorb bad energy. Occasionally I soak them in water and sea salt to cleanse them. I regularly smudge the house with sweetgrass, sage, or cedar.

10) If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

A visual artist.

11) What quote or personal saying do you live by?

From the I-Ching: Perseverance furthers.

12) What’s next up for you, writing-wise?

I have a new novel finished. It’s very, very experimental, and I have no idea if anyone will want to publish it. I have a collection of essays and one of short stories that both need final revision. Then I have the 2 final books in the Blue Moon series, Blue Moon Medicine Woman and Blue Moon Folkways in the Kitchen. What is that 5? Five books in process, a book of poems I’m slowly working on, and research for the next novel.

13) If you could do anything over again, would you and what would it be?

I don’t really know. I don’t have much in the way of regrets.

14) What advice would you give beginning writers?

Let writing change your life.

15) Something we don’t know about you?

I spent two summers of my life picking fruit in California and Oregon, living out of the back of a pickup. It was the most horrible work but the people I worked with made it worthwhile. Stories I still haven’t told.

And: What would you like us to know about your latest release?

Jagged Edge of the Sky is the story of two women, one Australian and one American, who both go outside their marriages almost on the same day and with the same handsome, mixed-blood aboriginal man. The situation tears the Australian family apart; the American family keeps it secret. At once a women’s story, an immigrant story, and a family saga, the most important message the book delivers is about the despicable state of mental health services in our country.

 

 

Emily McIntyre writes about her dreams . . .

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Sawtooth City in the late 1800s. Photo courtesy Community Library Regional History Department

Since April is national poetry month, Emily McIntyre wants to share a poem with you. Emily grew up in the gritty mining camps of Saw Tooth City and Rocky Bar, Idaho Territory, in the 1870s. She lived in a log cabin and carried water from nearby Beaver Creek. She was a great companion to Lizzie and George Harmon until the nefarious Kerry Chapman Troupe came to entertain the miners in the spring of 1882.

Back East there is a better life,
No digging in the dirt,
Or staring in a miner’s pan
Until your eyelids hurt.
A place where parasols are made
Of Paris silk so fine,
A place where steamboats paddle by,
A place that I’d call mine.
Back East is where I wish to go—
I’d like to run away
From all these mountains, trees, and chores.
Back East is where I’d stay.
Somewhere there is another sky
That’s just this shade of blue,
Somewhere back East, away from here,
Where all your dreams come true.
Emily Ann McIntyre
Saw Tooth City
April 29, 1882

 

You can read all about Emily’s journey in Goldie’s Daughter.

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PERFECTLY IMPERFECT

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I’m happy to announce that Waiting will be part of an ebook boxed set with two other great books, Goddess of Suburbia, by Stephanie Kepke and The Paris Effect, by K.S.R Burns. Thank you to our wonderful publisher Booktrope for this opportunity, and to Michelle Fairbanks for the fantastic cover.

Here’s the scoop on this exciting new project:

The Perfectly Imperfect boxed book set consists of three novels about strong women in transition.

Suburbia meets scandal in Stephanie Kepke’s Goddess of Suburbia, a hopeful and honest portrayal of that moment in every woman’s life when it’s time to make a change, even if that means risking losing it all. When pillar of the community and PTA mom, Max, finds herself embroiled in an Internet scandal, she must learn to stop living her life on auto-pilot or forever remain a suburban lemming running toward the cliff of old age. This story is a must-read for women looking to reconnect with their passions and live authentically.

In Bonnie Dodge’s Waiting, three generations of Foster women, senior citizen Maxine, attention-seeker Grace, and aspiring artist Abbie, think they are nothing alike. But they all share a secret. They wait. For love, for attention, for life, for death. In their journeys between despair and happiness, they learn there are worse things than being alone. Like waiting for the wrong person’s love. With sensitivity and humor, Waiting carries readers into the hearts of three women who learn that happiness comes from within.

In K. S. R. Burns’s highly praised debut novel, The Paris Effect, a food-obsessed young woman sneaks away to Paris without telling anyone. Not even her husband. Once there, she’s robbed, stalked, arrested, and kidnapped (almost). Worse, she finds that her numerous issues have come right along with her. Grab a croissant and settle in for a decidedly non-touristy trip to the City of Light.

An amazing deal for three terrific stories in one ebook. For updates on our release date, launch parties, and more, like the Perfectly Imperfect Facebook page. Be sure to check the page often.

13 Things You May Not Know About Evan Morgan Williams

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Today I’m talking with EVAN MORGAN WILLIAMS, who will read Saturday, March 19, 2016, at 7 p.m. at the Nye Beach Writers Series in the Nye Beach Visual Arts Center, Newport, Oregon.

Williams’ stories are works of realistic fiction, set mainly in the Pacific Northwest, often on the Pacific shore. His stories deal with people making difficult choices, choices that invariably mean tugging or loosening the ties that bind. An award-wining author, Williams has published over forty stories in such magazines as Witness, Antioch Review, Kenyon Review, and ZYZZYVA. He has an MFA from the University of Montana, and has taught in a public school for over twenty years. Most recently, he has held a Writers in the Schools residency, an AWP Writer to Writer mentorship, and gave the inaugural reading in Eastern Oregon University’s revived Ars Poetica Visiting Writer Series.

Hi Evan, tell us some more about you.

1) Why did you become a Writer? How did you get started?

I have always felt that writing was a calling. In college, when I read the short story collections of Barry Lopez, this was made particularly clear to me. I got started by writing stories that probably sounded like cheap knock-offs, though earnestly done at the time. That was a very long time ago.

2) What is your writing routine? How do you discipline yourself to keep at it?

My writing routine is to write in the early hours of a weekend morning and for a little while after work during the week. Sometimes, I’ll go out on a Saturday night to a quiet venue to write. My discipline is highly variable; I’m not as disciplined as I should be. I work better when I’m facing a deadline or working with others, as in a writing group. Like everyone, I’m challenged by distractions online. I recently deleted my Facebook, and that has been very helpful.

3) How many drafts before you feel the book is finished?

My book is a collection of stories, and I revise exhaustively. Most of my stories have been drafted and revised over the course of many years. Sometimes, rarely, a story will come to me fully formed, so to speak, and in this case the revision process goes pretty quickly.

4) What was the best thing that happened with regard to your writing career? The worst?

The best thing that happened with my writing career was the discovery, after many important and formative experiences such as an MFA program and working with a mentor in Portland, that I could write a story that resonated with my internal vision all by myself, and that others would like it too. A few of my most well-received stories never went through any workshop or critique, ever. Of course, I’m not opposed to those processes; they have been extremely helpful, too.

The worst thing that happened was my own fault, spending about 8 years doing almost no writing after I graduated from my MFA program. I was teaching middle school and throwing myself into it, but I was getting a diminishing return. By the time I went back to writing, I was extremely rusty, starting from scratch.

5) What part of your job do you love the most? Hate or dislike the most?

The part I love the most is when a story acquires a sense of compelling reality that feels more real than the reality that surrounds me. I have heard athletes talk about “flow” or “being in the zone,” and I think this must be something akin to that.

The part I dislike the most is structuring narrative out of raw notes. Plotting a story remains the part I resist the most. It is hard labor, a battle between commitment and skepticism. I have a few tricks to make it go better, but it’s still extremely difficult.

6) What do you like to read? Do you read while working on a novel? Favorite authors?

Reading is a necessary component of writing new work. It is a reciprocal process. You get ideas from what you’re reading, and you read differently when you’re writing. My all-time favorite authors are Hemingway, Barry Lopez, and Garcia-Marquez. This year, I’m trying to read the entire catalog of Propellor Press, a small press in Portland, Oregon.

7) What was the best advice you received as a writer? The worst?

The best advice was from a retired editor at Esquire, who was teaching a class at the University of Montana. He had four pieces of essential advice, of which I only remember two, but I go back to them all the time: 1) Know your own secret and 2) Seize form. I like the advice because it is suitably vague that I can bend it to my purposes. But it is also rigorous; one has to maintain certain disciplines.

The worst advice was probably something that someone said during a badly run writing workshop.

8) Who has influenced you the most in terms of developing your personal writing style?

I wouldn’t say that my writing sounds like Hemingway, not even close, but reading Hemingway’s stories taught me how the flow of language on the page doesn’t just relate a story in a neutral way, but rather becomes the story.

9) Do you have a good luck charm or superstition?

I have a “special pen” that I found in a load of used office supplies that the BLM donated to my school. It’s somebody’s retirement pen, with a tortoise shell finish and gold accents. The lettering on the side said something about the “Interagency Fire Team,” but it has worn off.

10) What’s next up for you, writing-wise?

I am working on a neo-noir novel, set in 1980s Los Angeles, about a young Japanese interpreter who gets caught up in someone else’s scheme. I am still early in the process, but I enjoy the convenience of noir: everyone is corrupt, compromised, complicated. Every character is capable of contradicting their type.

11) If you could do anything over again, would you and what would it be?

If I could turn back time, I would buy that beautiful Craftsman house at 23d and Sherman for 67k in 1994.

12) What advice would you give beginning writers?

Write a lot. Read a lot. Immerse yourself in a supportive community of writers, and give as much as you get. Develop a thick skin because there will be a lot of rejection, but also develop a strong internal editor because a lot of that rejection will be deserved. Be very clear on how ambitious you want to be; the writers who get published have worked really hard to make it happen.

13) Something we don’t know about you?

I believe that cake is tawdry and that pie is sacrament.

And: what’d you like us to know about your latest release:

My book of stories, Thorn, is realistic fiction, set mainly in the Pacific Northwest. It features an ethnically diverse cast of characters: men, women, rich folks and poor, each having to make difficult choices. Five of the stories are set on the coast. The book won the Chandra Prize at BkMk Press (University of Missouri-Kansas City)

Rain or Showers; That is the Question

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When we were contemplating a move to Oregon, we were warned about wind and rain. “Stay away if you don’t like the rain,” we were told. “It rains there every day.”

Well, not really. It doesn’t rain every day, but yes, it does rain a lot. In southern Idaho rain is scarce. We were lucky to see ten inches of rain a year. In Oregon we see that much rain in one month. Idaho weathermen talk about wind and drought. Oregon weathermen talk about rain and showers.

“What is it?” my husband asked me the other day. “Rain or showers?”

Thus began the debate. Was it raining, or was this a shower? We asked our resident son. “It’s raining,” he said.

“No,” his wife said. “It’s a shower.”

Which sent me to the Internet and dictionary. What should be easy to differentiate appears to be tricky. Even though “showers” are indeed rain, there’s a subtle difference as far as weather forecasts go.

This is what I learned.

“Rain” as in “a rainy day” or “occasional rain” is more widespread. Most, if not all, of the area will see rain and it will last for a while. Unlike rain “showers” the duration of rain is steady and prolonged. Rain tends to be light to moderate in intensity and generally comes from stratus clouds. Rain usually lasts longer than showers.

“Showers,” on the other hand, are more scattered. It could be raining in Lincoln City, but dry in South Beach. Showers tend to be shorter in duration, while rain could last all day. “Showers,” also known as “rain showers,” tend to be quick and come in bursts. Showers come from puffy clouds or cumuliform clouds like cumulus or cumulonimbus. Compared to rain, showers cover a smaller area but can be more intense. Conversely, showers are more dispersed than rain. Isolated showers are those that are divided during a certain time frame. Local showers is rain that happens in a much smaller area of coverage. There are also patchy showers, which happen irregularly within a specific area. Showers often start and end more abruptly compared to rains.

Yesterday we drove to Lincoln City and it started to rain. “So,” I said. “Is this rain or showers?”

My husband turned on the windshield wipers. “Showers,” he said. “Anything over three clicks on the wiper switch is showers, not rain.”

So there you have it, if you ever get caught in a debate about rain or showers. Either way you’ll need an umbrella.

Diabetes and Me

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I just returned from the doctor. There is good news and there is bad. The good news is that the new doctor was personable, asked lots of questions, talked to me instead of a computer, and gave me a good sense of well being. The bad news is that my A1C reading was 9.1.

I have an autoimmune disorder that acts like Lupus without the rash. Most days I feel like crap. On the outside I look great and full on energy, but on the inside I fight to function. I’ve had this disease for many years and I don’t run to the doctor every time I feel sick. But a few years ago I was scheduled to fly to Portland to see my grandchildren and I felt awful. Too sick to get on a plane. So I called my doctor and made an appointment. Eight hours later I had a diagnosis. Diabetes Type II. Yeah, happy birthday to me.

That was four years ago and it’s been a daily battle. The first two years I was able to keep my A1C numbers in the 6.1 range with diet, exercise, and oral medications. Then the numbers started climbing and no matter what I did I couldn’t bring them down to a healthy level. So I wasn’t surprised when my new doctor told me my A1C was high. What surprised me was that it had jumped two whole points in six months in spite of a low carb diet and exercise.

People with diabetes have bodies that don’t use insulin properly. Over time their pancreases can’t make enough insulin to keep their blood glucose at normal levels. Their pancreases may even stop working.

According to a recent report, there are about 27 million people in the U.S. with Type II diabetes. Another 86 million have prediabetes, which means their blood glucose is not normal, but not high enough to be diabetes yet.

So why am I telling you this? To bore you? To make you sad? To scare you?

To warn you. To encourage you to pay more attention to your health so you won’t end up like me, pricking your finger twice a day, counting carbs, and wishing you didn’t have to watch every thing you put in your mouth.

Signs Symptoms Type 2 Diabetes that Commonly Happen

I was naïve. I knew lots of people with diabetes. I knew so many I began to believe diabetes was innocuous. People didn’t die from diabetes. Well, yes, they DO die from organ failure and heart disease, all a result of diabetes. Television commercials lead you to believe living with diabetes is no big deal. You can go to picnics. You can eat hot dogs and corn on the cob. You can smile and dance and have fun.

The reality is living with diabetes is HUGE. It’s hard work. Even with diet and exercise most days it feels like I’m are playing Russian roulette. I’m afraid to test my blood sugar because I don’t want to see the high numbers. It scares me and makes me depressed.

Be smarter than me. Any type of diabetes is a big thing. If your doctor says you are prediabetic, pay attention. Stop eating flour, sugar, and high carb foods immediately. Begin an exercise program and stick to it. Keep your blood glucose numbers between 80 and 100. That way you can truly be happy and healthy and smile and dance and have fun.

 

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15 THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT BRITTNEY CORRIGAN

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There is always something artsy or literary happening on the Oregon Coast. That’s one of the reasons I picked Newport, Oregon, to retire. This weekend the Nye Beach Writers is hosting Brittney Corrigan, poet and writer from Portland, Oregon. (Jan. 16, 2016 at 2.p.m. at the Nye Beach Visual Arts Center. General admission is $8; students are admitted free. Open mic to follow).

Brittney is the author of the poetry collection Navigation (The Habit of Rainy Nights Press, 2012) and the chapbook 40 Weeks (Finishing Line Press, 2012). Her poems have appeared widely in journals and anthologies, and she is the poetry editor for the online journal Hyperlexia: poetry and prose about the autism spectrum (http://hyperlexiajournal.com/). Brittney lives in Portland, Oregon, where she is both an alumna and employee of Reed College. You can find all this information in her bio, but here is something you may not know.

1) Why did you become a writer? How did you get started?

A writer was not something I became – it’s something I always was. I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I started with short stories and poetry, and over the years my focus turned to poetry almost entirely. But it was my high school English teacher who most encouraged me and made me believe that it was who I really was at my core.

2) What is your writing routine? How do you discipline yourself to keep at it?

I don’t have a specific routine. I have two children and a full time job, so I write in bits and pieces whenever I can make the time. I carry poems around in my head for a long time before they make it to the page. Being part of a writing group that meets regularly also helps to keep me motivated and generating new work.

3) How many drafts before you feel a poem is finished?

Since my poems gestate in my head for quite some time, they usually only go through 1-2 drafts.

4) What was the best thing that happened with regard to your writing career? The worst?

The best thing was seeing the publication of my first book and first chapbook both in the same year. I wouldn’t say that I have a worst thing, but the most challenging part is finding large stretches of time to focus on writing, especially now that I’m working on a new manuscript.

 

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5) What part of writing do you love the most? Hate or dislike the most?

I love the excitement that comes when a new poem is pouring out of me onto the page after turning it over and over in my mind for so long. If I have to pick a dislike, it would be how difficult it is for new poets to get books published and find an audience.

6) What do you like to read? Do you read while working on poetry? Favorite authors?

I read plenty of poetry (which is very inspirational for my own work), but I also love fiction, particularly novels written in the magical realism style. My favorite poets are Sharon Olds, Joy Harjo, Naomi Shihab Nye, Natalie Diaz, and Deborah Digges. My favorite novelists are Tom Spanbauer, Barbara Kingsolver, Erin Morgenstern, and Ann Patchett.

7) What was the best advice you received as a writer? The worst?

The best advice I’ve had over the years is to just keep at it when it comes to both writing and publishing. The world of a poet is stacked high with rejection letters, but it’s important to keep sending the work out there into the world. I don’t have any specific memories of bad advice.

 

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8) Who has influenced you the most in terms of developing your personal writing style?

I would say the poet Maxine Scates, who I have worked with off and on since college in classes, workshops, and on my senior thesis at Reed College. She is a gifted poet and teacher, and her guidance has been invaluable to my own writing process.

9) Do you have a good luck charm or superstition?

Not specifically, but I’m riddled with OCD tendencies, so superstition runs strong in my veins!

10) If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

Well, my day job is an event planner at Reed College, where I work with faculty members on the public lecture series on campus. And I absolutely love it.

11) What quote or personal saying do you live by?

From Henry James, “Try to be one of the people on whom nothing is lost!”

12) What’s next up for you, writing-wise?

I’m working on a new manuscript titled Daughters, a series of persona poems that reimagine characters from mythology, folklore, fairy tales, and pop culture from the perspective of their daughters—characters such as Bigfoot, the Mad Hatter, Medusa, and Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. Taking on such topics as aging, rebellion, loss, abuse, and judgment, the voices of Daughters aim to turn the reader’s conceptions of the characters on their ends and throw light upon what it means for a girl to come out from under her parents as a woman of her own making.

13) If you could do anything over again, would you and what would it be?

I would travel before having children. I would love to see Ireland in particular.

14) What advice would you give beginning writers?

Find a writing group or partner, develop your writing discipline, and read, read, read!

15) Something we don’t know about you?

I have a soft spot for rescuing feral cats.

 And, what would you like us to know about your latest release?

Both of my books were released in 2012. Info on those is at http://brittneycorrigan.com/. A sample poem from Daughters can be found at http://brittneycorrigan.com/poetry/daughter-poems/. Published poems available online and forthcoming can be found at http://brittneycorrigan.com/about/publications/.

For more information about Brittney visit http://brittneycorrigan.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/Brittney-Corrigan-Writer-293186861938/?fref=ts

 

 

Do You Blog?

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The first thing an agent, editor, or publisher asks a writer is, “Do you have a blog?”

Blog, you say. What is a blog? Why do I need a blog?

Social Media and WordPress Consultant Barb Drozdowich wants to tell you. She just released her book The Essential Marketing Tool for Authors: Book Blog Tour, a helpful guide in making sense of all the shoulds, woulds, and coulds.

Barb has taught in colleges, universities, and in the banking industry. More recently, she brings her 15+ years of teaching experience and a deep love of books to help authors develop the social media platform needed to succeed in today’s fast evolving publishing world. She owns Bakerview Consulting and manages the popular blog, Sugarbeat’s Books, where she talks about Romance – mostly Regency.

She is the author of six books and over twenty YouTube videos all focused on helping authors and bloggers. Barb lives in the mountains of British Columbia with her family.

I am so happy to have Barb Drozdowich here today. Please ask her lots of questions about blogging, and just in case you already know Barb, here are some things you may not know.

Fifteen things you may not know about Barb Drozdowich

Why did you become a Writer? How did you get started?

I’ve always been required to write quite a bit in my various jobs. After doing a survey of book bloggers in 2013, I decided I needed to publicize the results – to create a bit of a summary to accompany the results and make it available to anyone who was interested. The best way to do that was by creating something to publish on Amazon. As I created a summary of the results, I decided to make the book so much more. There was and is a lack of understanding of the role book bloggers can play in the promotion of books and I decided to use the book to be a comprehensive guide rather than just survey results. This first book, The Author’s Guide to Working with Book Bloggers started what would become a series of 6 books all aimed at helping authors and bloggers with various technical subjects.

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What is your writing routine? How do you discipline yourself to keep at it?

I have a house with young children, so my writing fits into whatever spare time I can find. And sadly, I’m not very disciplined but I respond really well to deadlines. 🙂 I can produce an amazing amount of material just in the nick of time. I think that will be my reality, until the kids are grown.

 How many drafts before you feel the book is finished?

I create a rough draft that is hopefully pretty complete in terms of content and fire it off to some wonderful beta readers. I get them to tell me if the content is complete, and whether or not it is understandable. Usually they have some changes that they feel need to be made. Once I make the changes that my beta readers suggest, I fine-tune the language and grammar and I then send the book to my outstanding editor. She typically does two rounds of editing followed by proofreading and we are good to publish.

What was the best thing that happened with regard to your writing career? The worst?

The best thing that has happened to me because of my writing is getting notes from authors thanking me – helping them to understand the subjects I cover. I haven’t had a worst yet. Even the critical reviews that I’ve gotten have been well balanced and constructive – no trolls yet!

What part of your job do you love the most? Hate or dislike the most?

I LOVE working with authors. My background is as a technical trainer and I can easily break down technical subjects and explain them in a way that non-technical people can understand.

I’m a voracious reader and anything I can do to help authors sell more books, write more books, I’m happy to do! Often authors spend writing time trying to figure out the various technical tasks that they need to do as part of their job. If I can help them understand various tasks or help them do things more efficiently, they have more time to write books – it’s a win-win for us both.

What do you like to read? Do you read while working on a book? Favorite authors?

 I always have a book or two on the go. My genre of preference is Historical Romance and I have many favorite authors! I read a lot of technical information to help me stay on top of my regular work so the escapism of romance helps me shut my brain down at the end of a busy day.

What was the best advice you received as a writer? The worst?

The best advice is to keep writing. I haven’t really gotten any bad advice. I’m often the one that is explaining why advice is bad that authors get from other sources. 🙂

Who has influenced you the most in terms of developing your personal writing style?

My biggest influence is my mom, hands down. She’s now a retired English teacher with a wicked red pen – literally – she’s old school with pen and paper and is militant about proper grammar and sentence structure. She was the first person who saw a lot of my writing and there was a sea of red ink at the beginning. I’m learning. 🙂 Now she has to hunt to find something for her red pen.

Do you have a good luck charm or superstition?

No. I’m not really a superstitious person.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

I think I would still be a technical trainer and a voracious reader!

What quote or personal saying do you live by?

I really like two sayings: “Do onto others as you would have them do unto you” and “It is what it is…”

What’s next up for you, writing-wise?

I currently have a box set (combination of the Book Blog Tour book and my Author Platform book) in proofreading and my Book Blogger Platform book is in formatting and should be available any day now. I have a re-write of my Goodreads for Authors book in the hands of some beta readers and I am currently polishing my new book “Blogging for Authors,” in preparation of submitting it to my editor. There should be quite a bit published in the first half of this year.

If you could do anything over again, would you and what would it be?

I don’t think I would do anything over again. I feel that things happen for a reason and whether it is a good experience or a bad experience, I have learned from everything. The sum of my experiences has made me the person I am today.

 What advice would you give beginning writers?

Everyone else will tell them to keep writing – which is very true. From my point of view, I would encourage them to create a platform – create a community of friends and supporters that will help with the marketing side of writing a book!

Something we don’t know about you?

My favorite job of all time was working at Toronto’s Metro Zoo driving the trains.

And: What would you like us to know about your latest release?

My latest release is me explaining Book Blog Tours from the point of view of an author as well as the point of view of a book blogger. There is a lot of misunderstanding out there about Tours, and I have written this book to cover all aspects of tours and clear up all the misconceptions. This is a second edition book. In this edition, I have added quite a bit on DIY tours as many authors prefer to set up their own tours.

to learn more about Barb go to :

Author Website: http://barbdrozdowich.com

Business Blog: http://bakerviewconsulting.com

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/BarbDrozdowichAuthor

Twitter: http://twitter.com/sugarbeatbc

Google+: https://plus.google.com/110824499539694941768/posts

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/sugarbeatsbooks/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7234554.Barb_Drozdowich

YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSgVt36XlVAHWj5dkSd0Zyw

Tech Hints Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/DfCRj

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Barb-Drozdowich/e/B00EN3CIDM/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2?qid=1437240887&sr=1-2

 

Barb, thanks for joining us today, and thanks for all you to do help writers!

Transitioning – Welcome to Winter

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When I moved from Idaho to Oregon my biggest fear was how well I would adapt to the wet climate. I’m a sunshine girl. I’ve spent most of my life living on a high desert plain. I know about wind. I know about dry air. But I knew nothing about wet and gray. That nagging voice in my head kept harping, You’re not going to like it. You’re not going to like it.

But this week as I watch the temperatures in Jerome, Idaho, drop to below zero, I’m not so sure. Here in South Beach it’s a misty 52°. Last night temperatures dipped to 45, not 18. This week I didn’t have to wake to -1°. And yesterday I was able to get outdoors and take a walk between raindrops without snow boots and gloves. The air was fresh; the roads were wet, but not icy. And this is December.

Idaho Decembers can be treacherous, especially the first snowfall and freeze. Cars run off the freeway, pileups happen, summoning a parade of tow trucks until people slow down. December in Oregon is also dangerous. There may not be snow on the road, but there is plenty of freezing rain. You can drive along at normal speed and then bam! you round a corner and hit ice. I’ve had my share of driving winter roads. I know how to maneuver. But between you and me, I prefer snow-covered to ice. Ice is impossible, even with chains.

So though some thing’s change, some things stay the same. It’s winter, and time to take it easy. Maybe it’s nature’s way of telling us to slow down and enjoy the season.

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My life in seven years.

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#14. Your life in 7 years.

What’s that you ask? My life in seven years? Hmm. What will my life look like or what will have transpired between 2015 and 2022?

The first thing that comes to mind. Will I still be walking Earth when I turn seventy-two? What’s that you say? I have a fifty-fifty chance? Hmm.

My mother passed at age 63 of causes unknown but suspected relating to high blood pressure and hypertension. She died sometime in the night and from the drugs found on the kitchen counter, the coroner suspects she may have had some pain that sent her in search of her meds. A heart attack, maybe. No autopsy, so we’ll never know. The last year of her life wasn’t so great, being married to an alcoholic who broke her arm the day before Thanksgiving. Still, she loved him in that way women do when they settle. I suppose she was as happy in her relationship as she allowed herself to be. I suppose she was content to spend hours on the sofa crocheting while she watched TV.

My father died at age 78 from complications related to kidney failure. The last week of his life was filled with excruciating pain and I remember him popping pain killers like M & Ms. They didn’t help and there’s no doubt that his passing gave him nothing but relief.

Which brings me back to the question and me sitting here talking with you. Where will I be, what will I be doing the next seven years?

Turning sixty-five was no big deal for me emotionally. In my head I’m still forty. But in the United States sixty-five means Medicare and at my age that’s a milestone because, unlike some of my friends who have aged well, I have struggled with an autoimmune disease and Ménière’s for more than twenty years. I know the meaning of a good day; I don’t have them often. With any chronic illness there are days when you would just rather stay in bed buried deep under the blankets because sleep provides the only comfort, until it doesn’t. What’s that you ask? What’s all this mopey talk about death, pain, and dying? Let me explain.

Time has always been a huge issue with me. Never enough time to read, to work on projects, to take that special vacation, to enjoy my surroundings. Three years ago one of my writing buddies succumbed to cancer. She was writing her memoir and excited about sharing it with the world. By exploring her past she was changing. Acknowledging the wrongs she endured opened her up. She was happier, more friendly, more excited about facing tomorrow. When she passed, still hoping to finish that memoir that explained what it felt like to be the younger sister to a mentally ‘retarded’ brother—her word, not mine—it broke my heart, and I will always remember her as someone who left this earth too soon with work undone. But I suppose that applies to most of us.

What’s that you say? I’m rambling and avoiding the question? Hmm. Perhaps, but I don’t think so. A college professor once posed the question, “Would you like to know when you are going to die?” I was taking a literature in the Bible class. He was staunch Catholic. A few students said, yes, they wanted to know so they could prepare. Others like me had no desire to know.

Here’s the thing. I just made a major life-changing move. Nothing about it was easy even though in my heart I had already left my current home with visions of how wonderful my new home and surroundings would be. Major life-altering realities tornadoed around me, not the least of which were leaving behind specialists who had cared for my husband and me most of our adult lives.

But life is fluid. It ebbs and flows, and when it doesn’t you begin to die. Like my mother. Like my father. Like my writing buddy who was just learning to love herself. Life is not stagnate. You keep moving or you start to decay.

So, you say. Get to the point.

My life in seven years. Yes, I can give you a bucket list.

  1. See New York, Times Square, and the Statue of Liberty.
  2. Publish three more novels.
  3. Take a European vacation with my husband, my son and his wife.

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I know how to make lists. I used to do it all the time. In five years I want to be retired. In ten years I want to visit Spain. But I don’t really expect my life to look like that. With any luck it will look like my life today. Ticking away too fast. Reminding me to declutter. Reminding me to let go of things that don’t really matter. Pushing me to follow a new path and challenging me to enjoy the journey.

But here’s the truth. At this moment, with my dogs cuddled at my side and a pen in my hand, I can think of nothing else I need or want. I can think of nowhere else I’d rather be, not even seven years from now.

 

Transitioning — I ♥ Newport

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Yesterday I received an email from my brother. So, it said, do you still like it there?

Let me think.

I’m headed into the third month in my new house. The boxes are unpacked. Everything has been put away or donated to Goodwill. Most of the pictures are on the wall, with the remaining three in a dining room chair waiting for me to find the perfect place. Finally there is time to take a walk through the wooded neighborhood or sit in front of the window and sip coffee. Finally there is time to take in some community events, which are many.

In spite of the loud clothes my husband sports, we are quiet people. We don’t like a lot of hustle and bustle or big crowds. Newport is anything but quiet during the summer months, but come September vacationers return to their homes and things settle down here. But not too much. In fact, not at all. We’ve discovered there is always something to do on the Oregon Coast. From Lincoln City to Florence, there is always something going on: farmer’s markets, mushroom walks, kite festivals, writing workshops, woodworking classes. This is not a community of old people. This town is very active.

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Newport isn’t as big as Jerome, Idaho, which boasts approximately eleven thousand people. Newport has a population of about ten thousand after tourist season. Newport has a great medical facility and the library is awesome for such a small town. Just this week the Newport Public Library Foundation sponsored author Marja Mills, who spent her day talking to Newport students and then, that night, read from her book and shared with the community what it was like to live next door to Alice and Harper Lee in Monroeville, Alabama. The evening was interesting, and it was free.

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Today the sun is shining. Outdoors it’s a balmy 50 degrees. There is no wind. There is no snow. There is no freeway traffic.

So, to answer my brother. Yes, I still like it here. No, wait, that’s wrong. I not only like it here, I think I’m in love.

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