Archive for the ‘The Writing Process’ Category

A new perspective on history?

Tuesday, January 19th, 2021

How many facts?

“Ah well, I reflect as I brew the coffee, I might as well try to enjoy my errors since I make so many of them…”  Sylvia Ashton Warner again.  I wish it was one her bits of wisdom that I had absorbed long ago.  I’m hoping it’s one of those never-too-late things.

Probably, like everyone else, there are some mistakes that don’t bother me, no matter if it’s I or someone else who is making them.  But I have an especially hard time with factual errors involving history.  I hate it when I write something and am found to be wrong about a date or a name or a circumstance.  Once it’s “out there” it’s hard to take it back, hard to correct. no matter who was mistaken or when the error first appeared.

I’ve spent many an angst-filled hour, for instance, trying to correct the historic record regarding my great-grandfather Espy’s role in the founding of Oysterville.  I have his own words in a diary to corroborate his claim that an Indian named Old Klickeas told him where to find “more oysters than the Bruce Boys ever thought of.”   Not Nahcotti as so many have claimed.  It was Old Klickeas, not Nahcotti,  who met Espy and his friend Clark here on the bayshore.  Espy said so, himself, and even his grandson, my venerable Uncle Willard,  got it wrong.

How many errors?

But, try as I might, I cannot correct the record — I cannot expunge all of the references to Nahcotti being “the one.”  Once written, once published, once copied, once on the internet — multiplied a gazillion times, the error persists forever.  I hate that.  And yet, as new information is uncovered, the errors multiply.  It’s just the way it is.  Lost documents are found and clarify a date or a name or a place.  A first hand account — a diary or a letter, perhaps, can update or even change one’s perspective on history.  But changing the historic record is another matter. It is the most frustrating part of trying to write (or tell) about the past.  It’s why it’s probably best to claim to be a storyteller — not a historian.

However… “try to enjoy my errors?”  That’s probably an impossibly quantum leap for me.  Maybe I could just be more forgiving of myself.  And of others… especially of others.



Jumping Up & Down & Clapping & Cheering!

Tuesday, October 13th, 2020

Maggie, 1962

The very best thing EVER (besides good news for yourself) is good news for someone you care about and who deserves it more than you can possibly say.  And that would be what has just happened to our friend Maggie Stuckey!

First of all, you need to know that Maggie “has paid her dues.”  She left North Carolina in 1962  with a degree in English and has never looked back.  She headed for New York where she had a secretarial job waiting for her with a big publishing house.  Soon she was working as a copy editor, first for one publisher, then another.

“I lived in New York City (Upper West Side) for ten years; best time of my life,” she says.  “The economy was very strong; if you got tired of your job, you could quit and walk across the street and get another one the same day.”

In 1970, she moved to Los Angeles, “for what turned out be three very insignificant years,” she says.  “Then, in 1973 I fell in love and moved to Portland; today the boyfriend is gone, but I’m still here.”

About that time, she began writing — for other people as a ghost writer and for herself.  She’s written books about gardening and books about food.  Like us, you may even have her Soup Night on your kitchen shelf.

Last Spring, as we were all getting used to The Sheltering Times, Maggie came up with a new book idea.  She pitched it to her agent; her agent, Heather, contacted a few publishers and on October 3rd she wrote:  “This past week, things started popping. Two, then three, then four of the editors who received the proposal from my agent asked for a phone visit with me.  Four!  Wow…”

The upshot:  all were interested and so Maggie’s agent planned an auction for the publishing rights.  Maggie:  “Those calls happened last Tuesday and the day before, and that is undoubtedly the last of them. Because now we move on to the next phase.  Which is that Heather plans to check in with each of those four on Monday, to try to tease out just how serious is their interest. She has already made it clear that she intends to “close out” everything by the first of the week because she is planning an auction for Thursday or Friday.  An auction!  Holy s**t! I’ve never been in that position before…  Keep your fingers crossed for me.”

Smiling Maggie!

We did.  And yesterday she wrote:  “My new book is going to be published by a unit of Harper Collins. The financial terms are astonishing (the advance is almost three times more than the highest advance I ever received), and I really really like the publisher (the human being, not the company; well, I like the company too).  Pub date set for March 2022, delivery date March 2021 – both approximate.  In the final analysis, the 4-way auction dropped down to only two serious bidders, both Harper imprints. What an extraordinary experience for an author. I can’t stop smiling.”

Neither can we!



After nearly 40 years… vindication (of sorts)

Sunday, October 11th, 2020

On Territory Road Across from The ORF Meadow

Probably most everyone has had the experience of “knowing” an important truth but being unable to prove it.  But it’s not everyone who knows (but can’t prove) that they are right about something and who actually sees that “truth” become public knowledge.  Certainly not after almost 40 years!  And, certainly not about two separate situations in the same week.  But, that’s exactly what has happened to me.

First was the undeniable identity of the “Oysterville sign stealer” who was the one and only suspect by the Espy Company in a sign issue in the mid-eighties .  A large wooden “Property For Sale” sign in the Espy Meadow (now the ORF Meadow) kept being trashed — as in the four-by-four posts supporting it were sawed off in the night and the sign was gone.  It happened twice or maybe three times.  I have forgotten.

My folks were then living in this house and as members of the Espy family (and of the Espy Company) were “caretakers” of the family property that was gradually being sold.  They felt they knew who was responsible for the vandalism.  So did most people in Oysterville.  But you can’t prove gut feelings.  I so wish the folks were still alive to see the photos of the present-day sign thief — the very same person they suspected.

On the 1980 Publication of the Peninsula Primer

The second “vindication” came yesterday via the Chinook Observer’s FaceBook site.  In a series of photographs from past issues, up popped a December 1980 picture and article about Nancy Lloyd and me.  It concerned the publication of the Peninsula Primer which I wrote and Nancy illustrated all those years ago.

If I had remembered that article back in 2006 when I found that Nancy had listed the Primer as one of her earlier publications without mention of me and without mention that she was the illustrator (intimating that she had also written the book),.. I’d have saved myself a lot of angst.  And money.  Nancy, of course, did not remember that she only illustrated but hadn’t participated in writing the book. The copyright attorney I consulted said I might have a  “case” but only if Nancy and I had signed an agreement or a contract ahead of publication.

I don’t know if the clear description of our roles in that endeavor reported by the Observer in this little article would have sufficed.  But it surely would have gone a long way toward vindication — especially among some of our mutual friends who looked at me with decided skepticism when I mistakenly appealed to them for memories and support.  I soon dropped the subject.  But I never forgot.


A Footnote to Our Local History

Saturday, September 19th, 2020

Sealand-Nahcotta 1890s

Perhaps you read my article about Sealand in the July 23rd Chinook Observer.  If not, you should be able to read it by cutting and pasting this link:

It was the fifth story in my series, “Once Upon A Time in Early Pacific County” and it’s one I thoroughly enjoyed writing — perhaps because I had a bit of first-hand knowledge about Sealand “the town across the tracks.”  Although I was a generation too young to have known it personally, I grew up hearing my grandparents refer to it — always.  When it came to the town four miles south of Oysterville, they never spoke of Nahcotta.  Only of Sealand.

Dorothy at Graduation fron IHS, 1948

So, I can hardly express to you the pleasure I felt when I received a note the other day from my friend, Dorothy Trondsen Williams.  Dorothy grew up here on the Peninsula — in Ocean Park — and was the granddaughter of J.A.  Morehead who figured prominently in my Sealand article.  Some years ago, I had written about Dorothy’s growing up years in my series “North Beach Girls of the Teens and Twenties.”  I drew from some of her reminiscences for the recent Sealand story.

In her note to me she said:  I especially enjoyed the Sealand Morehead articles in the Observer recently and thought you might be interested in the fact that I recently obtained J.A. Morehead’s desk.  Daughter Barbara plans to laminate the stories and they will be stored in the desk in a cubby hole for future generations to enjoy.

I couldn’t be more pleased!



In retrospect…

Friday, September 4th, 2020

So, who to believe?  I’ve just finished reading The White Rose by Jan Westcott and am beginning The White Boar by Marian Palmer.  The first is the story of Edward IV of England and the second is about his successor, Richard III.  Both books were written in 1968 and are works of historical fiction.  Each presents opposing views of the kings and of the tumultous times which put them in power.  And, already, I feel biased.

My knowledge of that period of English history — the War of the Roses (1455-1485) — is a bit sketchy, at best, and comes mainly from Shakespeare’s four plays: Henry VI, Parts I, II, and III and Richard the III.  He wrote them in the early 1590s, about one hundred years after the actual events depicted.  My own impression has always been that Richard was the bad guy.  Reading The White Rose certainly did not disabuse me of that attitude.

Richard III

But now I find myself immersed in The White Boar which puts Richard III in a wholly different light.  Although I’ve just begun the book, I find him a sympathetic character, at least as a young man.  But, as I read further, I think it’s going to be difficult for me to fully become engaged in author Palmer’s viewpoint concerning Richard.

It occurs to me that it won’t be many years before the John Kennedy assassination will have happened 100 years in the past.  I wonder how playwrites and historical novelists will view that occurrence with all its conspiracy theories and conflicting  viewpoints.  Presumably, the contemporary documentation will be more available to writers than was such material about King Richard accessible to Shakespeare.

Trump Statue in Seattle, August 2016

And one hundred years from now, what will be written about our current president?  There should be no dearth of information — even plenty in his own words.  Unless, of course, we continue to purge our history as we seem to be doing in recent years.  Maybe all we’ll have left will be a few TV serials and twitter messages.  The mind boggles…


Attention All Ghosts: Good News!

Friday, August 21st, 2020

The wait for my forthcoming ghost book will be longer than usual — a reality that I’ve known since before I signed the contract in February.  “Congratulations! I am very excited to have your book underway as part of our 2021 publishing program,” wrote the editor.   Yikes!  2021!  I was hoping for October 2020 — in time for Halloween.  THIS Halloween.  But as things stand with the pandemic, it probably makes little difference.  I can’t quite imagine a big book launch and signing party taking place anywhere right now.

There is no final “release date” yet so I can’t figure out the exact number of gestation days that are in store — but probably at least as many as are required for the birth of a baby hippo (225-250).  That would put the date somewhere between April 14th and May 9th.  Maybe someone should run a pool — first person to guess the closest date without going over gets a free book. lol

Yesterday was the first big milestone to be made since everything (text, photos, captions, cover materials, kitchen sink) were finally submitted.  We have agreed upon a title!  Drumroll… …  Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula.  I’m still a little sorry that it doesn’t connect more closely with the title of my first ghost book but I do think it’s an accurate reflection of this new book’s content.  And finally settling on the title is good news, indeed!

Next steps — checking the copyedits and then reviewing and marking the page proofs.  Once I sign the “passed for press” approval form, it will be on its way to the printer and then… only a matter of time.  Or so they say.

Today might be the day!

Tuesday, August 11th, 2020

Now Available in Hardcover

I’ve checked and double-checked and I think my manuscript is ready to send off to the publisher.  I’m about three weeks ahead of my deadline, thanks to sheltering (sort of.)  All the images — 60 of them were sent off in Drop Box about a month ago.  As always, some adjustments had to be made — file size, etc. and I had to make one substitution which was, actually, an improvement.  So now, only the text material remains — all 39,312 words of it!

I still marvel at the helpful nature of computers.   The word count, for instance, (about which the publishers are rather picky) is done for me — automatically and without even depressing a key.  I remember the old days when we approximated — 250 words to a double-spaced, typewritten page.  Or, if it was crucial, hand counting word by word.  Another ‘plus’ is spellcheck.  It’s not perfect, of course, but it saves a lot of time during the early draft stages.

Sydney Works Against Deadline, 1970

So… one more double-check and I think it’s good to go.  Woot!  Woot!  But, there will be no breath-holding until publication on this one.  I had sent my proposal last January, thinking there was plenty of time for this 2nd ghost story book to come out by Halloween of October 2020.  That’s how it worked with the first ghost book but… not this one!  This “sequel” will not come out until Spring 2021.  Peculiar timing for ghost stories by my reckoning, so I hope fans of the first book are patient.

There is no name for the book yet.  I wanted it to be “More Ghost Stories from the Long Beach Peninsula” as in KISS (keep it simple…).  But the publisher wants ‘eerie’ or ‘hanted’ or ‘weird’ or something similar in the title.  They say we will compromise.  Hmmm.  I guess more stories by any other name are still more.  Stay tuned!

Getting to the Bottom of Things

Thursday, March 5th, 2020

From K is for Kidnapping the County Seat by Sydney Stevens

Research is not my long suit.  I’m not an expert in that department like my friends Michael Lemeshko and Ellen Wallace and Cuzzin Ralph Jeffords.  I am constantly amazed at their tenacity in sussing out information and mentally putting it in the right spot, historically speaking, to be of use in their quests.

Thanks to the big surge of interest in, almost everyone has some degree of research skill, at least with regard to people and, in particular, family members.  But getting a handle on the history of places and properties or, perhaps, on artifacts and keepsakes can be a bit harder.

Oregon Historical Society, Portland

This time around (and for the first time), Community Historians have been “assigned” research projects — all to do with the “Grand Hotels of the North Beach Peninsula” at the turn of the last century.  I attend their Wednesday morning sessions at the Columbia Heritage Museum and try to be useful in pointing  the researchers in the right direction.  (Or, maybe I should say in a different direction.  The “right” part will depend on whether their questions can be answered or not.)

Yesterday, several of the researchers were lamenting their lack of progress about something-or-other, even though they had gone to all the right Pacific County and Washington State sources.  “Have you tried the Oregon Historical Society?” I asked.

Portland Hotel, Long Beach c.1900

I was met with a bit of a blank look so I plunged ahead with a reminder that Pacific County was a part of Oregon Territory before Washington Territory was created.  Plus, in the early days, our connections were  more likely to be with Portland (or even San Francisco) — they were easier by far to get to than were Olympia and Puget Sound.

I hope they pursue that suggestion and I hope it’s helpful.  Meanwhile, I’m pursuing a quest of my own — an easier one than theirs.  However, the difficult part for me is not in finding the sources for information but in recognizing what might be important down the line and then — hardest of all! — remembering it for later.  But that’s another issue entirely!  Lawyers have paralegals as research helpers and some writers (the best-selling ones who can afford it) have research assistants.  I have helpful, generous friends and relatives.  Thank goodness!

A Pause That Refreshes? I can but hope.

Saturday, February 15th, 2020

Now Available in Hardcover from Amazon

A three-day weekend!  When you are retired it shouldn’t make all that much difference, but this time around… I am at least hopeful that I’ll find my way forward along what has proved to be a difficult path.

History Press and I are still deep in contract negotiations.  I think.  Late in their North Carolina workday yesterday, they emailed me a contract by PDF attachment.  Also an addendum that must be agreed to by me along with the contract. That addendum requires that I buy 500 copies of my book (for resale by me), to be paid for in full plus shipping by the publication date — probably Spring 2021.  I am not a happy camper.

Never, for any of my seven books published by Arcadia Publishers or their imprint History Press, has author purchase of books been a part of the deal.  I write the book, pitch it to them, am offered a standard contract, and Bob’s your uncle.  Not this time.  A whole new ballgame, even though of all my books with them, I believe Ghost Stories of the Long Beach Peninsula has done the best.  You’d think they’d be eager for the sequel.

I’m using this three day weekend to research the price of self-publishing — a process I tried (and hated) years ago, but I think self-publishing has come a long way.  On the other hand, all book sales and distribution would be my responsibility…  forever.  So maybe taking History Press’s deal for a finite 500 would be better.  But the shipping costs are the sticking point.  My pencil just doesn’t sharpen to a fine enough point.

Now Available in Hardcover

Plus I sure would like to know if this is standard operating procedure for them all of a sudden.  Do all contract offers now come with an addendum requiring the author to buy 500 books?  Or have I, somehow, come under special scrutiny and attention?

If you know of anyone who has recently been published by History Press, I’d be interested in hearing from them…   And BTW, Happy President’s Weekend!

I think Mrs. C. is at it again…

Saturday, February 1st, 2020

There is nothing quite so frustrating, annoying, or maddening as having computer problems when you are working against a deadline.  Granted, it’s sort of a self-imposed deadline, as in I told the publisher’s acquisitions editor that I’d fill out the Publication Proposal and send it right off to her.

That was yesterday.  It’s a 13-page proposal and runs the gamut from personal questions (education, employment history, published works, affiliations with community organizations etc. etc.) to detailed descriptions of the proposed book.  Not only the overall concept, proposed chapter titles, and sample photographs, but the word count for the entire manuscript, the number of photos, the target audience, possible competing books, etc. etc. some more.

And that’s only the first seven pages.  The next part is titled “Sales and Marketing” and begins with the explanatory statement, We require authors to be active partners in helping us promote and sell their books locally…  There follow four categories concerning possible sales venues to fill out in detail:  independent bookstores, gift shops and pharmacies, hardware stores, community organizations (historical societies, chambers of commerce, local history museums,etc),and  other unique sales opportunities.  The business name, contact person, address, phone number and local insight/personal connection must be included for each listing in those four categories.  Not impossible to do, but time consuming to look up specific contact information etc.  (Besides which, I have agreed to buy 500 books to sell myself.  I am struggling to be totally transparent concerning this category which is for their sales/marketing people.)

Next came the media information — local newspapers, radio stations, websites and blogs, magazines, and newsletters (church, synagogue, community organization) etc. etc.  Again, not onerous.  Just time-consuming.

It took me six hours to complete the form.  I printed it out to have my Number One Copy Reader (that would be Nyel) take a look.  Then I saved the document, and took a break for lunch.  When I returned to my task… the document was gone.  G-O-N-E.  As in nowhere to be found.  Honestly!  As in don’t even bother to make suggestions — been there, done that.

Tomorrow is another day.  Fortunately I have a printed copy that I can work from.  Of course, the scary part is… what if it happens again?  Before I can return it to History Press.   Aaauurrgh!!!

Come on, Mrs. Crouch! Give me a break!