Archive for the ‘Books and Reading’ Category

Once Again… The Last To Know!

Saturday, January 4th, 2020

Now Available in Hardcover

Rodney Dangerfield’s “I don’t get no respect” came to mind yesterday, but in somewhat altered form.  The voice in my head said, “Why am I always the last to know?” Last or not, though, the news absolutely delighted me.  Five of my six books published through Arcadia Publishing are now available through Amazon in hardcover!!  Who’d a thunk it!

Now Available in Hardcover

I learned this is a most convoluted fashion.  I’d been out yesterday morning and when I returned home Nyel said that Jim Pells had dropped off a book that he’d like to have me sign — a hardcover edition of my Ghost Stories of the Long Beach Peninsula.  “Hardcover!” (Did I raise my voice?)  “How did that happen?  Where did he get it?  Why is the author the last to know?” (Was I shouting?)  Apparently, the book was a late Christmas present to Jim sent by his daughter.

Now Available in Hardcover

It probably doesn’t seem like a big deal to anyone else, but every author knows that a hardcover edition is infinitely preferable to a paperback, for longevity alone.  But most authors, unless their books are expected to do very well, have to accept the inevitability of paper covers.  Especially books about a local area as small as ours with a limited selling potential.

Now Available in Hardcover

I called Arcadia and talked with a representative in their Customer Service Department.  “No, we don’t ever publish in hardcover,” I was told.  “But sometimes Amazon or Ingram (a wholesale book distributor) do.”  So I went online and looked up my books on Amazon…  Sure enough!  Five of my six Arcadia titles (all except Legendary Locals of the Long Beach Peninsula) are now being offered in hardcover versions.  More expensive, to be sure, but worth every extra penny in my mind.

Now Available in Hardcover

I have no idea what their criteria for going hardcover might be.  I’d like to think that it’s because those particular books are selling well, but if that’s the case, my six-month royalty checks (still in the single or low double digits) aren’t reflecting any huge stampede by the reading public.  I am thrilled nonetheless and so grateful to Jim for asking for my autograph.  Otherwise, I’m sure I’d still not know.

And, oh yes… I immediately ordered the five that are in hardback!!  They’ll be here next week!

Apples and Oranges?

Saturday, December 7th, 2019

A friend (who also happens to be a librarian) recommended a book to me based on my saying that Where The Crawdads Sing is one of the best books I’ve read —  maybe ever.  “Then you should read Educated: A Memoir,” she said.  “We have it as an audio book if you’d like.”  Perfect!  It was the day before we were going up to Seattle and a talking book might help while away the travel time.

I should have grabbed a clue, though, when she told me that she’d heard SO many great things about Where The Crawdads Sing but, try as she might, “I just can’t get into it.  One or two pages and that’s all I can do…”

Nyel and I are about halfway through Educated: A Memoir.  Though it, too, concerns a dysfunctional family and though, in each book, the story is told by the youngest daughter in the family, there the similarity ends.  Crawdads focuses on the beauty of the environment and on the ingenuity of the young narrator. Educated focuses on the cruelty and paranoia of various members of a survivalist family.  Apples and oranges!

I don’t know if we’ll finish Educated, even though we have another trip to Seattle coming up next week.  I keep hoping for some sort of redemption but I have a feeling we’ll have to slog through a lot more horrors before we get there.   These are not people I want to know.  Not in person.  Not in a book.

Call me a weenie, but I really don’t like to invest my limited ‘leisure’ hours reading or hearing about the seamy side of our world.  There’s enough of that in the news and, frankly, I think the more we dwell on it the more we perpetuate it.  I don’t want to give it any more energy that I absolutely have to.  I’m back to that old Johnny Mercer song of my childhood — You’ve got to accentuate the positive/Eliminate the negative/And latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between.  Yes, I think I’d much rather be a Pollyanna than a Scrooge — or whatever Pollyanna’s opposite might be.


The Book That Came In The Mail

Friday, November 22nd, 2019

Where The Crawdads Sing

Last week a package came in the traditional “plain brown wrapper.”  It was from Cohasset, Massachusettes — from my friend Barbara Canney.  I couldn’t imagine what it could be.

A book!   Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.  A volume well-read by Barbara and by the friends to whom she has loaned it.  She sent the book with these few words:  “Read and pass it on.”   I opened it and found, on the end paper, names — signatures, really — of people I didn’t know, whose very fingers must have turned these pages.  Curious, I began reading the prologue…

A Girl of the Limberlost

It’s been a long time since I literally could not put a book down.  Finally, I did, but only because Nyel needed help with something.  I was halfway finished before I even had the grace to email Barb and tell her “thank you.”

In a strange way, it reminds me of a book I found in the children’s corner of the library in this very house.  A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter.  I must have been eleven or twelve and it put into words the things I had begun to discover for myself out in the woods and on the tideflats here on the Peninsula.  Things about myself, really, and how I fit in to the greater world.

Years later when I wanted to re-read it, the Hayward librarian said it was no longer in their system.  “It’s been banned, you know,” she whispered.  When I finally got a copy and re-read it, I realized that some might call it “racist” — a part of the book that had gone right by me all those years before.  And it passed me by again.  It wasn’t the part of the book that spoke to me — the Limberlost part.  (And, I’m delighted to say I haven’t been able to find any reference to that banning online.  Was it only at the Hayward library that it had been taken off the shelves?)

A Sand County Almanac

Too, the book Barbara sent reminds me a bit of A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold.  In fact,  Leopold’s book is actually mentioned in Where The Crawdads Sing!  Wow!  Leopold’s book, like the others, came at a time in my life when I needed to be reminded of the world beyond my own narrow scope — the natural world that I loved and bumped up against but where, only once in a while, did I feel my place within it instead of the other way around.

Thank you, my dear friend Barbara, for knowing what would send my soul singing once again!




Already, I am torn…

Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

Welcome to Oysterville! (The real-life one.)

Last night, I began reading Susan Wiggs’ hot-off-the-press novel, The Oysterville Sewing Circle, and though I’ve read only 14 of its 362 pages, I am already finding it hard to keep focused.  It’s not that the book is poorly written.  Not at all.  Wiggs is an accomplished wordsmith and, in fact, is almost overly adverbed and adjectived for my taste.  I’m sure her plot development is strong and the romantic content intriguing.  (In fact, the blurbs on the back of the dust jacket say so.)

My Great Grandfather R.H. Espy (The H is for Hamilton)

No.  It’s not the technical aspects of the novel that are a turn-off to me.  It’s the content.  I’m really not one for “romances” or “women’s fiction stories” as Wiggs’ books are often described.  I’ve never read any of her books, though she’s written well over thirty.  Yet, the very title of this book compels my attention.  After all,  there really was an Oysterville sewing circle.  My grandmother, my mother, various aunts and cousins — to say nothing of my great-grandfather’s third wife, Aunt Kate — all belonged to it.

“So,” thought I when the book arrived, “I’ll give it a try.”  By page two my very strong can’t-continue gene was kicking in.    And then on page three my own family’s name popped out at me.  Mr. Espy, the owner of the shop, used to claim he was part vampire, manning the register every night for decades.  Every hackle I possess was suddenly on full alert.  It’s not that Espy is a particularly unusual name.  It’s just that Espy and Oysterville in real life — at least for the last 165 years — have been practically synonymous.  And here was my family name in a story involving a town with the same name as the one my Great-Grandfather Espy co-founded!

The Espy Plot – Oysterville Cemetery

In the very front of the book there is the usual disclaimer:  This is a work of fiction.  Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real.  Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

I don’t think the names “Oysterville,” “Oysterville Sewing Circle.” and “Espy” used in the same novel are exactly “products of the author’s imagination” or are “entirely coincidental.” Though I’m tempted to put aside the book as another one of life’s wastes of money, I can’t help but wonder if I’ll meet a Sydney Stevens if I continue on.  Perhaps I’ll just wait and let one of my friends tell me ‘the rest of the story’ — someone who enjoys Susan Wiggs and her romance novels.  Meanwhile, I’m heading to the Oysterville Cemetery to see if there is any grave-spinning going on in the Espy plot.

The Oysterville Sewing Circle – The Reality

Saturday, August 17th, 2019

The Oysterville Sewing Bee, 1907

My phone messages and Facebook messages — even my email messages — have been full of the news of a brand new book by Susan Wiggs called “The Oysterville Sewing Circle – A Novel.”  People want to know what I know about it (nothing), if I’ve read it (not yet), and if it’s based on our Oysterville (not that I know of.)

However, what I THINK I know is that there is no longer another Oysterville — at least not in the United States.  There is an Osterville ( ‘y’) in Massachusetts (on Cape Cod) and there used to be an Oysterville, Oregon until it fell in.  Now there’s just us, at least as far as I know.

As for the “Sewing Circle” part of the title — we did, indeed, have a sewing circle here.   The women of Oysterville, calling themselves “The Sewing Circle,” or sometimes “The Sewing Bee,” met on an irregular basis in one another’s homes to work on the mending, darning, or other needs of the hosting household.  Female visitors in the village were included at the get-togethers.  Each session concluded with refreshments provided by the hostess.

Oysterville Women’s Club, 1932

In the mid- 1920s, they organized themselves more formally, founding the Oysterville Women’s Club and electing Mrs. Stoner as the first president.  They continued to meet weekly or bi-weekly and, while they spent some of each meeting on sewing projects, their endeavors by then included fund-raising for school equipment and acting as guardians of community needs.  During both world wars they worked on many projects for the Red Cross including knitting socks for soldiers and gathering sphagnum moss for bandages.  Sometime in the 1940s, they regrouped, included the men of the village, and called themselves the Oysterville Improvement Club.  The present-day Oysterville Community Club which meets in the schoolhouse is the present-day configuration.

“The Oysterville Sewing Circle – A Novel”

Two photographs of the Oysterville Sewing Circle are displayed at the schoolhouse — one taken in 1907 and one in 1932.  My grandmother is in each of them along with several other relatives as well as neighbors I remember from my childhood.  I wonder what they would think of the new book called “The Oysterville Sewing Circle — A Novel.”

And, as for that — the blurb on says, “Stitched together with love, this is a story just waiting for your favorite reading chair. With her signature style and skill, Susan Wiggs delivers an intricate patchwork of old wounds and new beginnings, romance and the healing power of friendship, wrapped in a lovely little community that’s hiding a few secrets of its own.”

Could it be our Oysterville?  I guess we’ll have to read the book to find out.





It was “Happy Birthday to Nyel!”

Monday, August 5th, 2019

Oysterville Regatta 2017 – Photo by Mark Petersen

One way or another, we salvaged most of Nyel’s birthday weekend.  We made it home from Portland in time for the second and third heats (races?) of the Regatta.  Afterwards, we got Nyel into his wheelchair and wheeled him down the middle of Territory Road with half of Oysterville and the Regatta Dinner guests walking along behind us.  “The only way to travel!” Nyel said.  In my mind  seventy six trombones led the big parade.  Only appropriate for his 76th birthday!

At Lena’s, we were greeted by Tucker and Carole’s son, Charlie, who managed to wheel Nyel over gravel and lawn and rough spots to seat him at the head of the nearest table.  Soon, the table filled with friends who filled us in on the first race and proceeded to treat us both like visiting royalty! People brought us food and beverages and there was even a surprise chocolate cake (a four-layer CostCo special, I think) and the whole crowd sang Happy Birthday to Nyel.

Regatta Pinata Grandkids 2018

A dinner highlight was Tucker singing three (count ’em! Three!) Regatta songs this year.  My favorite and the one I think should become THE official regatta song — was to the tune of “Where have all the flowers gone?”  Here is the truncated version which you can probably figure out:  Where have all the lasers gone… gone to summers every one; where summers… gone to memories;  where memories… gone to stories; where stories, gone to grandkids; where grandkids… gone to lasers every one.

On Sunday our long-time friend “Tricky” came down from Bainbridge and the three of us hooked up with Noel at the Bridgewater in Astoria for Nyel’s birthday dinner.  Lotsa sharing of “geriatric war stories” and even more reminiscing about the “olden days” of forty or fifty years ago.  It was lovely to catch up with one another  though we missed Noel’s wife, Patty, who was back east at a school reunion.

At home, there were presents — all food related, including a new slow cooker (his old one died) from son Charlie plus a hefty book called  Crock Pot – The Original Slow Cooker Recipe Collection.  Nyel’s comment:
“A great birthday and a real improvement over spending the day in the hospital.”  Amen to that!


Good! Better! Best!

Wednesday, May 29th, 2019

Day 33 — The day started out like gangbusters (for a hospital day).  The Occupational Therapist came in before Nyel had even begun his breakfast.  “What do you want to do today?” she asked.   “”I like to try standing up,” he said.

Not a new goal, to be sure, but given his weakened condition and loss of muscle mass — to say nothing of being able to reach the ground with only one leg — a most worthy desire.  His body seemed to say, “Your wish is my command!” and, with a great deal of physical effort and will power, he did it.  He stood up!  For more than a minute!!  He even was able to bend his right knee enough so that he could put his left foot flat on the floor for a few seconds.  OMG!  When I said to him, “You’ll be able to walk with the walker before you know it!” he responded:  “What do you mean?  I’ll be walking with a cane before you know it!”   (I tried not to let him see my tears… but then: “Cut it out or you’ll make me cry, too.)

The Shoe Fitting

Not very long later, here came the orthotics team to measure him for a built up shoe.  We showed them Nyel’s new pair from Freddie’s as well as his old (preferred) loafers and since they said the loafers would work just as well… guess who gets to return a pair of shoes on her next trip to the beach?  But Nyel is very pleased and, truthfully, so am I.  New Balance shoes just aren’t Nyel…

It looks like they will be adding about three inches to that left shoe — not quite enough to compensate for the loss of length as they want to leave enough room so he can swing the foot forward with each step and not have it catch on the ground and trip him up.  They expect to have the shoe ready this afternoon so that he can try it on and they can make further adjustments, if necessary, before he is discharged.

Nyel’s “new” shoes arrived at 4:30 — just five hours after his fitting!

Those discharge plans are still in a bit of flux.  It’s looking more like Saturday rather than Friday right now IF Seaside’s swing bed facility takes people in on the weekend.  (If not, it could be Monday.)  The only thing we know definitely is that he will not be going to the Ocean Beach swing bed facility.  Although they were approached again, Nyel is still “too complicated” for our little hospital in Ilwaco.  Dang!  We were told last week that Seaside has accepted him facility-wise; they are just waiting to see if his discharge coordinates with a free bed in a private room (which apparently is a requirement set by the team here.)

A Gift From Elizabeth

And, as if all that were not enough excitement for one day, here came one of the aides with a package addressed to Nyel, c/o St. Vincent’s Hospital via USPS Media Mail from The Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona.  “Who do we know in Scottsdale?” we both asked in unison.  The package contained C.J. Box’s latest book, “The Wolf Pack” and the only clue to the sender’s identity is a bookmark with a two bright red words in felt tipped marker:  “From Elizabeth.”    That narrows it down some…

Oh.  And one other thing.  As of today, Nyel is now back on all the oral meds he was on BTF (Before The Fall.)   Yay!!!  Home gets closer and closer.


When Past, Present, and Future Collide

Tuesday, April 16th, 2019

Notre Dame Burns

What happened to me today could probably be called an epiphany of sorts.  But I think it was something much less grand.  Something like getting a dose of reality.  Or putting things in proper perspective.  Or just plain being bummed out.

It actually began yesterday afternoon with a picture of Notre Dame on fire.  Eight hundred years of art and culture going up in flames!  I might well have been in the path of the smoke right here in Oysterville.  My eyes burned and the tears coursed down my cheeks.  But it wasn’t just the objects, themselves – it was that tangible grasp of history that the cathedral had provided to all of us – all thirteen million of us – who paid homage to our past each year by visiting Our Lady of Paris.

I first went in 1958 and then many, many more times.  I’ve taken guided tours, climbed the 422 steps or, sometimes, have gone to simply sit and look.  I’ve been there with loved ones who are no longer with us; I’ve been there on my own on a snowy winter night long ago.  Notre Dame is part of my history, too.

Published 4/16/2019

Today, I listened to environmentalist Bill McKibben talk on the radio about his new (just out today) book, Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?  He pulls no punches when he talks about where we are here and now in the matter of climate change.  The book begins: “I think we’re uniquely ill prepared to cope with the emerging challenges. So far, we’re not coping with them. Still, there is one sense in which I am less grim than in my younger days. This book ends with the conviction that resistance to these dangers is at least possible.”

And I began to think – to seriously think – about living at sea level as the polar ice caps melt at ever increasing rates.  If, as I heard a “reliable source” say not long ago, the seas rise 30 feet in the next 80 years, that’s fewer years than I am old.  It is happening now!  In the present!

So… what of the future?  Perhaps my dream of making this place of ours into a small house museum so that future visitors might get a glimpse into our past… perhaps that is an unrealistic notion.  Perhaps we should sell while we still can and take the money for a whirlwind trip to see all the world’s historic landmarks while there is yet time?  But… to what end?  Change is inevitable and even memories fade…

Say what? Oysterville, Connecticut?

Wednesday, February 27th, 2019

First Cousin Craig Little

My cousin Craig called last night from his home in upstate New York. Craig Little, PhD; recently retired sociology/anthropology professor from SUNY (State University of New York) Cortland; the eldest of my father’s two nephews and, in one of those genetic anomalies, dad’s (almost) spitting image! I hadn’t heard his voice for ten or more years and haven’t seen him since our 2004 Oysterville Sesquicentennial.

He and his wife Elaine have been spending time in Hartford, Connecticut, settling the estate of Elaine’s mother.  It’s a long process, apparently, and has given them a chance to get to know the town.  Among other discoveries are a number of recently restored murals done under the auspices of FDR’s WPA projects.  But, the real reason Craig called is that, somewhere along the way, they ran across a small book called Oysterville: Poems edited by Laurel Peterson.

Oysterville: Poems

“Really?  Oysterville not Osterville?” I asked.  Osterville on New York’s Long Island has been known to be confused with ours.  But, no.  This was Oysterville: Poems and Craig was pretty sure there had never been an Oysterville, Connecticut.  (There is an Oysterville Vodka, however, distilled in Florida and distributed throughout the eastern U.S. Who knew?)    Craig had searched “Oysterville” on his computer and what came up was “Oysterville Daybook” by me.  And my most recent entry (yesterday’s!) had included mention of the WPA.  Wow!  That might be only one or two degrees of separation…

I’m eager to communicate with Laurel Peterson, an English Professor at Norwalk Community College.  I have a few questions for her.  But first I want to read the poems.  The book should be here tomorrow.

Another Missing Bit of Childhood

Friday, February 15th, 2019

On this very date, February 15th, in 1903, the first Teddy bear went on sale.  Little did toy store owner and inventor Morris Michtom realize that he was creating a childhood institution.  He had asked and received permission from President Theodore Roosevelt to use his nickname, Teddy, and had then sewn up a couple of stuffed bears and placed them in his store window.  The rest, as they say, is history.

I don’t believe I ever had a toy bear and I’m not at all sure that my son Charlie did, either.  Certainly, there was never a bear that had a place in our lives like Christopher Robin’s Pooh Bear.  I think that “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” was about the extent of my early bear connection.

I do remember shopping for a little Steiff bear for Charlie when we were in Germany in 1958.  He was two and, somehow, I thought he needed a stuffed bear.  But, even then, they were way too expensive for our meager budget.  The stuffed animal that became his favorite was a dog that we got in Italy.

We had gone into a big department store in Rome, specifically to look for a cuddly stuffed animal.  The salesclerk showed us a big, floppy dog, larger than Charlie.  I kept saying (and motioning with my hands) “smaller” and by inches we were shown smaller and smaller versions of the same stuffed dog.  Each dog was accompanied by the word “piccolo” and by gestures which we soon understood to mean “small.”  And, so it was that Charlie acquired Piccolo Doggie who was, as Goldilocks would have said, “just right” size-wise, and was Charlie’s boon companion for years.

During those years, Charlie and I were also introduced to Winnie-the-Pooh in a book given to Charlie by his Great-Grandmother Little, as I recall.  Later, I enjoyed my own second childhood over and over again by reading those Milne books to my first graders.  Wise old Pooh helped many-a-child of my acquaintance over a rough spot – but he wasn’t technically a Teddy bear and he didn’t come along in time for me to enjoy him during my own childhood.

If I were to examine my character critically, I’d probably come up with a flaw or two that I could credit to the lack of childhood Teddy Bear bonding.  Right up there with that electric train I never got!  Oh well…