Posts Tagged ‘the writing process’

Catching Up With Reality

Monday, February 22nd, 2021

July 26, 2017

Last evening a friend called — a friend who lives not all that far away, but whom I’ve not seen or visited with since The Sheltering began.  It was good to talk with her.  But hard.  Lots of changes in her life that I wish I’d koown about, though there was nothing I could have done.

Among other things, we spoke about a couple of families who were deported by ICE a few years back — families I wrote about in my “Stories from the Heart” series for the Observer.  My friend has kept up with those families through occasional phone calls and she brought me up to date.  Especially she told me about “Maria” (as I called her in my story) and her three young children.

When I met them in the summer of 2017, Maria was working out on Willapa Bay, trying to save enough money to move with her three children.  Erin Glenn and I went calling — to see how we could help:
“…Dos años he said in answer to Erin’s ¿Cuántos años tienes?  Two years.  And he solemnly held up five fingers to prove his point.  Oscar is the middle child.  Curly-haired Alexa is ten months, and Joel, who was off playing with a friend, is ten and on summer vacation from Ocean Park School.  Their father, Miguel, has been gone for three months – deported to Mexico.”

From The Daily Astorian, December 10, 2018

“How are they doing?” I asked my friend.  “They’re having a very hard time,” came the answer.  “Miguel has planted pineapples but it takes a year for the crop to mature.  Meanwhile, he does odd jobs for a friend.  Maria and her sister-in-law cook during the week and sell their food at a roadside stand on the weekends.  Joel has a job, too, — digging graves.  He is 13 now.”

Digging graves.  At thirteen.  OMG.  I flashed on the regulation-sized volleyball court Miguel had built in their back yard here and how there was often a game going among adults and kids, as well.  I thought of how Joel had chosen to leave with his family rather than stay here with a friend, though the offer had been made.  I thought of Oscar, now truly as old as his fingers had told me…

Sometimes “catching up” isn’t all that great.  Sometimes “reality” sucks.

Reading Between The Lines

Thursday, February 18th, 2021

I’ve never thought about the possibility that I am a literal thinker.  In fact, I take a bit of pride in being able to connect the dots.  To read between the lines, so to speak.  But sometimes, as in the case of When Captain Flint Was Still A Good Man, the dots are just too far apart.  Or the lines are too close together.

The book, by Nick Dybek, was suggested to me by my friend Aaron Rabin.  So I should have known.  Aaron, like my former brother-in-law, the late Jim Howell,  often thinks and talks on a plane that I only fully understand when we are face-to-face.  It’s as if we float along a wave length that doesn’t need literal translation.  But the wave length disappears when we part company.

Jim, now well known for his minimalist artworks,  once hired me to write some biographical material about him and his newly developing understanding of art.  I took copious notes in our many interviews and we communicated perfectly — or so we both believed. But once I got to writing, I found my notes undecipherable.  I simply could not put into words (or even thoughts) what we had discussed so thoroughly only the day before.  I had to tell him I couldn’t follow through.

Aaron Rabin

With Aaron, it’s more a matter of the books he likes and recommends.  Actually, the first was one I told him about — To Know What Dream by Millie Sherwood, my friend Ann “Memi” Anderson’s mother.  Aaron went to great lengths to borrow the last known extant copy from Memi, herself.  Aaron loved the book — even had it rebound for her in gratitude. I appreciate the book because of Millie and Memi — but I never could “get” it.

And now: When Captain Flint Was Still A Good Man.  “…it’s a fantastic PNW novel – and I couldn’t help thinking of you!” Aaron wrote.  So I borrowed the book from the library.  I’m reading it now.  I love the descriptions, the imagery.  But… so far we are not as one.  It makes me wonder…  literally.

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.



Really??? Is there no oversight by Amazon?

Monday, December 21st, 2020


Fifteen or sixteen years ago, I offered to act as “Guest Editor” for an issue of the Pacific County Historical Society’s magazine, the Sou’wester .  I wanted to gather  stories by “kids” (like then 80-year-old Bud Goulter) who had grown up in Oysterville in the 1939s, ’40s, and ’50s.  PCHS liked my idea and “Growing Up In Oysterville” was published in 2006.  It’s one of several Sou’westers I have written or edited over the years, and  it’s one of my favorites.  All of them are a labor of love — no remuneration involved.

Sou’westers are one of the perks of PCHS membership.  For the modest sum of $25 a year you, too, can become a member and receive two copies of the magazine each year along with periodic newsletters and other bonuses. Extra copies of the magazines, including back-issues, are for sale in the Society’s Museum Gift Store in South Bend as well as at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum in Ilwaco.  I’m not sure of the price for individual copies.  It used to be nine or ten dollars — certainly not in the triple-almost-quadruple digits!

ScreenShot Close-up

So, imagine my surprise when I came across an page offering a copy of that very Sou’wester for $955.67!  Not only that, but according to the “seller” (who is based in Texas and is apparently approved by four or five happy purchasers have written positive “endorsements” about the magazine.

That’s some markup for a 52-page magazine, even considering that it was a double issue!  I have a gazillion questions, of course, the first being where did the Texas outfit get their copies?  Wouldn’t it be nice to think that the bulk of their profits were going back to South Bend, WA as a donation to PCHS?  I know… I know.  I have a rich fantasy life.  But even so, I could never in a gazillion years dreamed up this bizarre scenario.  It certainly has moved right up to the top of my “Buyer Beware” list!


Not the Bay, Ira… the River.

Thursday, October 22nd, 2020

The Parsonage c. 1900 — where Mrs. Crouch lived

As far as I know (though these days, I am sometimes a bit forgetful), I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Ira Wesley Kitmacher.  He lives in nearby Ocean Park, according to his biographical material in the October 22nd “Our Coast Weekend” which is the weekly insert in the Chinook Observer and in The Daily Astorian.

It was only after Nyel questioned me about Mr. Kitmacher’s  “Haunted History Series Part II” — as in, “Did this guy ever talk to you?” — that I read his article and was quite interested in some of the familiar ghost information printed therein.  (And how did I happen to miss Part I, anyway?) The answer to Nyel’s question is “no” but I’m going to assume from some of what he has written that he has read either my book,  Ghost Stories of the Long Beach Peninsula, or some of the other articles or blogs I’ve written — especially about Mrs. Crouch, the ghost that roams our house.  As far as I know, no one else has written about her and yet he talks of her in very familiar terms.

Several other mentions hopped out at me that were also covered in my 2014 ghost book.  Both were “first time” ghost stories, at least in written form.  One was as a result of extensive interviews I did with the niece of Aunt Frances Sargant (but perhaps Ira also interviewed her?) and the other was about the boys who drowned at Sprague’s Hole — which was not in Oysterville, Mr. Kitmacher.  It was in Ocean Park.  And only one (not all three) of the boys is hanging around in ghostly form.  Both “The Ghost of Aunt Frances” and “The Tragedy at Sprague’s Hole” were based on primary research and interviews done by me.  As far as I know, like the Mrs. Crouch stories, neither Aunt Frances nor Phillip Brooks had ever been written about previously.

Sargant House, 1918 — where “Aunt Frances” grew up

I should point out here, AGAIN, that while I do not really believe in ghosts, I do find stories of them a wonderful vehicle for documenting the history of this area.  It’s the history of the buildings, the people who lived in them, their occupations, and the factual information about their lives that I am interested in.  When there is a ghost story associated with any of that history — so much the better.  I go to great lengths to research and document the historical information surrounding the ghost stories I write about.

So… it’s one thing to assume that a ghost story (or three or ten) are “out there” in the community and that there is no necessity of giving credit where credit is due.  But it is quite another to change historic facts.  Sara Crouch was a real person.  My grandfather and his brothers and sisters all knew her.  No doubt everyone who lived in Oysterville in 1902/1903 knew her.  She was drowned in Willapa River (not in the Bay) and she was buried at Fern Hill Cemetery in Menlo which was the closest burying ground to the site where her body was recovered.  She was not buried in Oysterville.  Sara’s demise was well documented in local contemporary newspapers and court documents.

Frances Sargant was also a real person, the aunt of my childhood friend, Sally Sherwood.  Sally shared her memories with me in many communications by telephone and email in the early 2000s and my impression is that she had not talked of her experiences before.  Ditto my friend Nanci Main.  She shared the story of Phillip Brooks who spent his young boyhood the house where she now lives.  Phillip’s mother, Mrs. Brooks, was a teacher in Oysterville much beloved by our family; Phillip’s brother was a classmate’s of my uncles Willard and Edwin.  The article about the boys who drowned in Sprague’s Hole was published in the April 6, 1912 Ilwaco Tribune — a factual account concerning a real tragedy.

The Brooks House, c 2000 — where Phillip Brooks lived in the early 1900s.

I’d really like to talk to Mr. Kitmacher to learn if my irritation with him is well-founded or if I am being patently unfair.  I looked for him on FaceBook, and in the local phonebook to no avail.  If you know him, please ask him to give me a call.  I’m also curious about his “soon to be published book, A Road-trip Through the Most Haunted Place in America: the Graveyard of the Pacific.  (And how do you take a road trip through the “Graveyard of the Pacific” anyway? As most of us know, the reference is to the area where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean — the area, according to maritime historian James A. Gibbs, in which “the number of vessels which have sustained damage or been lost… would likely exceed two thousand, with more than fifteen hundred lives claimed.) I’d like to know if his upcoming book includes the stories mentioned in the Coast Weekend account.  And if he credits his sources.  Or am I being way too picky?



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.


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.

Will Covid-19 add to children’s literature?

Friday, April 17th, 2020

“Ring Around The Rosie” by Kate Greenaway

Ring around the rosy,
A pocketful of posies,
Ashes, Ashes,
We all fall down.

I’m not sure when I learned that this nursery rhyme is not the innocent childhood song it seems.  I only remember it as being one of the first that I sang and danced to with delight.  It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned about its grim origins — which didn’t slow me down a whit when it came to teaching it to my own children.

The rhyme, of course, refers to the 1665 Great Plague of London.  The “ring around the rosy” presumably refers to the rash associated with the bubonic plague. The “pocketful of posies” describes the handfuls of herbs people would carry to mask the smell of the sickness and death.  “We all fall down” refers to everyone dying, and the “ashes” are the cremated bodies. Pretty dark for a children’s rhyme, but maybe the philosophy was something like my mother’s, “It’s better to laugh than to cry.”

And it wasn’t the only nursery rhyme that, according to today’s sensibilities, seems too horrible for children.  How about “London Bridge is Falling Down”  that might be about a 1014 Viking attack with a bit of child sacrifice thrown in?  Presumably, it concerns the alleged destruction of London Bridge at the hands of Olaf II of Norway some time in the early 1000s. (“Alleged” because some historians don’t believe that attack ever took place.)

“London Bridge Is Falling Down”

The song’s popularity around the world is often cited as further proof that it was the Vikings who created it and brought the tune to the many places they traveled. Oh, and that whole child sacrifice thing? The theory goes that in order to keep London Bridge upright, its builders thought that it must be built on a foundation of human sacrifice, and that those same humans—mostly children—would help to watch over the bridge and maintain its sturdiness. There is no archaeological evidence to support this but I’m glad I didn’t know about the theory when I was singing, “Build it up with silver and gold, silver and gold, silver and gold….”  So much better than “Build it up with children’s bones…” don’t you think?

Which all leads me to wonder what the children of five hundred years hence will be playing and singing about the Covid-19 Pandemic of 2020?  Or will all their games be played virtually in a future well beyond present-day video games?  A pity if that is how it turns out.  I did love those games when I was a child!  Didn’t you?

Just like old times!

Saturday, March 7th, 2020

Lentil Soup

Cynthia and Casey were here for lunch today.  “It’ll be simple,” I wrote them.  “Soup and bread.  And maybe a salad.  You bring dessert.”

“Done!” they wrote back.  Little did I know that yesterday was Casey’s birthday. Fittingly, they brought a cake — chocolate and mousse from the Cottage Bakery!  “Delish!”  But not nearly as good as the conversation, the catching up, the laughter, and the bittersweet feeling you get when you know you have to store it all up until a next time, who knows when.


We spent a while reviewing family members and their progress — not so much from our side or Cynthia’s side, but quite a litany when it came to Killingsworths.  It was the next best thing to seeing then all, but still…

I had written a few days back that Carol Wachsmuth was finishing up the Vespers 2020 schedule and it was coming home to me that the Killingsworth Family had said that last year would be their final one.  After 20+ years!  I really couldn’t take that in.  They wrote back that they would be in Cathlamet later today and could they stop by.  “Yes.  For lunch,” I answered

Casey and Cynthis and Their Spiffy German Fire Engine Camper!

It was perfect!  Nyel made lentil soup and a salad and we had warm, crusty bread to go with it.  We talked about poetry and fiber arts and ghost stories and physical therapy.  And people — so many friends in common!  Some like Tom Taylor, long gone.  And some like David Campiche and Nancy Campiche whose circumstances have changed since Casey and Cynthia moved.  And how Facebook binds us… when we think to go there.


The day went by in a flash.  And then they were off.  A part of our hearts went with them as always.  But also, as always, they left us with much much more than we had before they arrived.  And I’m not talking about the cake!