Posts Tagged ‘the writing process’

It’s hard to keep up!

Monday, November 28th, 2022

Charlie and Sydney at Stanford Commencement, June 16, 1957

Sometimes (maybe oftener and oftener) I am totally confused by what I read.  The source doesn’t seem to matter.  This morning  it was a sentence in the New York Times.  It went like this:
Nine-year-olds lost the equivalent of two decades of progress in math and reading, according to an authoritative national test. Fourth and eighth graders also recorded sweeping declines, particularly in math, with eighth-grade scores falling in 49 of 50 states…

Amazing!  Imagine nine-year-olds losing 20 years of math and reading learning!  It boggles my mind!  And just how are they testing kids on their achievement in basic subjects these days, anyway?  I’d like to see the test that could determine what an individual knew more than a decade previous to their conception!  Huh???  Say what???

So… giving the reporter the  benefit of the  doubt, I’ve tried to parse out the meaning.  The sentence I quoted was in an article by Sarah Mervosh and began: Remote learning erased students’ progress in math and reading.  Perhaps Ms. Mervosh meant that the test scores had slipped when compared to test scores of two decades ago.  That would make a little more sense.  Maybe.  But that’s not what was written.

NYT Newsroom In “The Olden Days”

It all led me on a fanciful flight of journalistic wonder — as in how many decades has the NYT lost in the communication skills of their writers due to the effects of remote investigating and reporting.  Perhaps more than we can imagine.

But then, I tend to be tough on writing standards — my old 1957 BA in Journalism from Stanford still shakes a finger now and then at what I read.  And that criteria DOES go back few decades to be sure!


Is it that post-

Coming Soon! May 2nd, to be exact!

Thursday, April 14th, 2022

This is “almost-but-not-quite” the final version of the cover. (What do you think has changed?)

According to the Arcadia Publishing website, my newest book with them makes its debut on May 2nd, two weeks from this coming Monday.  WOOT! WOOT!  Look for it beginning that day on the shelves at your local book stores!

The book is called The Ghostly Tales of the Long Beach Peninsula and is part of Arcadia’s new “Spooky America” series for middle-school readers.   These particular tales were adapted from stories in my 2014 book in Arcadia’s Haunted America series — a bit less explanatory background and history, perhaps, and just a tad bit scarier than the originals.  “That’s what middle-schoolers want,” the editor told me.

I had no doubt that such was the case, but just to be sure, I checked with Gabi and Dani Wachsmuth, two of Tucker and Carol’s grandchildren.  “Yes!  Spookier!  Creepier!” they concurred.  Being the stickler that I am for telling stories the way I heard them and without gratuitous embellishment, made the writing a bit of a challenge.  I’m sure my young consultants will let me know how I did!

There once was a Pacific House in Oysterville (shown here in 1870) but, as far as is known, there was never an “Oysterville House.”

Meanwhile, I see on the Arcadia Publishing website that this is what they are saying about the book:  Ghost stories from the Long Beach Peninsula have never been so creepy, fun, and full of mystery! The haunted history of Pacific County comes to life—even when the main players are dead. Visit the Oysterville House to catch a glimpse of the wandering spirits who still call it home. Or step foot into Sprague’s Hole, but be careful or you’ll end up trapped for eternity, too. Dive into this spooky chapter book for suspenseful tales of bumps in the night, paranormal investigations, and the unexplained; just be sure to keep the light on.

I wrote the editor and asked if they might tone down that “come-on” a bit.  Just what is the “Oysterville House” that readers are being invited to visit??  (I surely hope it’s not mine or anyone else’s here in our little village.)  And suggesting that they “step foot” into Sprague’s Hole (which fortunately doesn’t exist anymore) seems a bit beyond responsible.  The editor’s response was that the blurb has actually been “out there” for quite a while and, besides, readers are being “invited” into the story — not into the actual places in the book.  Yes, I get that.  But will the readers??  SIGH!

O is for Over the Moon in Oz & O’ville

Sunday, April 3rd, 2022

Nyel by Deidre Purcell, 2015

The word is just in — Nyel comes home tomorrow!

Meanwhile — ‘O’ has been for Overload here.  The editor literally pulled my Spooky Stories book off the press and has given me 48 hours (beginning yesterday morning) to review the PDF, note the errors, supply substitute images (I think there are 22 photos plus 10-or-so drawings that need replacement.)  All I can say is… it’s a work in progress…

But… first and foremost — Bill and Sue are picking me up tomorrow a.m. and we are going to Oz to fetch Nyel!!!  Yay!!  (Did I say that my 6’2″ husband, who a few years ago weighed about 170, is now at 147 pounds and the wizards are hoping for still more fluid loss.  And when the doctors asked when he last weighed 150, he thought a minute and then answered, “Probably when I was 12.”)

Cast Members – “A Bag Full of Miracles”

Little Red Hen was still hanging in last night — had hunkered down on the floor below the nest boxes; apparently without energy enough to fly up to the roost.  Though it was late — about 10:30 I think — Slutvana (who was on the roost) was wakeful, keeping an anxious eye on her friend.

And one final FABUOUS part to report — The BEST NEIGHBORS EVER Tucker and Carol treated me last night to dinner and the theater — a great meal at the Compadre and an absolutely hilarious time seeing so many friends in “A Bagful of Miracles!”  I loved it all!  And I’m absolutely sure that one of the miracles that Rita has been toting around in that bag of hers had Nyel’s name on it!  How else do you explain an early morning call today with the joyful news!  Bill and Sue say they’ll be picking me up at seven ayem for the ride to Oz!  I am definitely over the moon!

Oz, O’ville, & bad juju you betcha-Day 23

Sunday, April 3rd, 2022


Tom Crellin House, 1869

From Oz — All Good News!  Nyel is responding well to oral meds and, if the gods continue smiling he will be coming home this week.

From Oysterville __ LRH came clear  out into the yard this morning, moving slowly (but aren’t we all?) and not too interested in food, but definitely on the mend if this trend continues.

From Arcadia Press in South Carolina — Finally! a PDF of my Spooky Stories book which, I am told has already gone to press.  This is the first I have seen of the book since I handed in my ten stories adapted from Ghost Stories of the Long Beach Peninsula last January.  Despite my requests for a proof, this  is  the first glimpse I have seen of the book which appears to be a “done deal.”  Of all the 30+ books I’ve had published over the past 40 years with at least six publishers, this is indeed a first.  I have asked that they literally stop the presses and kill the publication.  I’m not sure they will.

What upsets me the most are the illustrations, none of which I had input into.  Since the  stories are about real places and real people here on the Peninsula — some historic and some contemporary — and since I have photographs to go with almost all of them, it seems unconscionable that they are using “all images from Shutterstock” as they claim they do on the copyright page of the book.

My discussion with the editor was unproductive.  She said she’d never worked with an author who wanted to see a proof before it went to press… I seem to be one of a kind — but not in a good way.  The conversation was left unresolved.  I’m not sure she is going to stop the presses — or even try.  She’s probably not sure I’m going to seek legal counsel — or even try

Meanwhile I spent my afternoon reading through the entire 112 pages.  Here is my rough tally:61 pages (mostly all words, no drawings or photos) “OK”
41 pages – mostly photos; some drawings — totally unacceptable (as in why would the Solano, a four-masted American schooner, for which  photos exist, be shown as a three-masted-something-or-other in one picture and a non-sailing freighter in another????)
10 pages that I simply do not understand.

As usual — stay tuned on all counts!  At least it’s never dull around here…

Fewer than the proverbial “six degrees”…

Thursday, February 24th, 2022

“The Infiltrators” – on Amazon Prime

If you have been associated with our Peninsula for very long, you (or someone close to you) has probably been involved with something or someone amazing!  I don’t know the reason.  Perhaps it’s just that there are few enough of us that everyone knows someone who knows someone who was involved with something….

To all of you who have found that to be true, and especially if you have been involved, concerned, aware — in ANY way — of our immigrant/ICE crisis here, I commend to you Cristina Ibarra and Alex Rivera’s film, “The Instigators” that won two big awards at Sundance in 2019.  Also, as a direct result of the film, Alex became involved with a group of Dreamer Activists who were working with the ACLU to get a very specific group of deported immigrants back into the United States.  (They had a three-month window of opportunity; they managed to get 10,000 deportees returned to their families here.)

Gilberto Ortiz – “Mundo”

Alex had read Mac Funk’s NYT magazine article, contacted him, and through Mac’s information was able to get a number of deportees back to the U.S. including a cast member from “The Infiltrators” for whom he felt responsible.  Among the others was Gladys, the subject of “A Family Fractured – Children in Flux,” the third in my Stories from the Heart series published in the Chinook Observer in 2019.  It had been as a result of that series that Mac featured some of the Peninsula’s undocumented immigrants in his article.   And… because of all of that, Mac Funk and Alex Rivera were sitting in my living room last Sunday!

Chelsea Renden – “Viridiana”

Let’s see… does that make all six degrees of separation?  I did leave out a couple of “minor” steps.  As a result of his “outstanding talent and exceptional creativity as a filmmaker and digital media artist whose work explores themes of globalization, migration, and technology” Alex was  awarded a 2021 MacArthur Fellowship — colloquially known as the MacArthur “Genius Grant.”  It includes a stipend of $625,000 for the pursuit of a Fellow’s creative, intellectual, and professional work.  Alex, who lives in L.A.,  said that he was using a part of that award to meet the people he had helped get back to their families here in the United States — people he had “known” only by long-distance.  Four of them (including Gladys) live on the Peninsula!  And then he came to Oysterville to meet me!!!  Unbelievable.

Manuel Uriza — “Claudio”

Last night Nyel and I watched “The Infiltrators” — available on Amazon Prime.  Besides all the six degrees of separation and besides the fact that we found Alex the low-key, knowledgeable kind of guy you’d like for a friend or next door neighbor — we found the film riveting —  informative and, despite all, full of hope.   If you know a Dreamer or an immigrant — documented or not — watch it!  You are probably only a few degrees away from this film, yourself!

Wow! A Drinking Day to Remember!

Sunday, February 20th, 2022

A Plate for Nyel

The drinking began at two this afternoon at our neighbors’ house — tea at the Wachsmuths’!  Granddaughters Gabi and Danielle, their parents Charlie and Amy and, of course, Oma and Opa were there.  Petit fours and Marion’s walnut cake plus tea or coffee, decaf or regular, and all on Carol’s grandmother’s Haviland China!  What a spectacular treat!  And did I take a picture?  Of course not.  I was much too busy eating, drinking, talking, listening.  So much fun!  I love tea parties.

Mac Funk

Carol sent a plate of goodies home for Nyel but he had scarcely time to look at it before Mac Funk and Alex Rivera arrived — just in time for the cocktail hour.  Mac, like Nyel, had ice water; Alec and  I had Bloody Marys.  Mac is the reporter who was alerted to our area by my 2019 “Stories From The Heart” series in the Chinook Observer and whose subsequent story about our local immigrant population and their problems made it to the New York Times Magazine.  Alex is a filmmaker whose work on documentaries about ICE and immigration problems was instrumental in getting Gladys reunited with Rosas here on the Peninsula. (Check them both out on Google.)

Alex Rivera

We talked and laughed and worried and wondered nonstop for two hours and then they were off to a dinner engagement in Long Beach.  I felt so honored that they came by to visit.  These are men who work hard and long and who, ultimately, make a huge difference in the lives of so many people.  I am full of admiration for both of them and  humbled by the immensity of the differences they make.  And even more humbled that they came clear to Oysterville for a visit!




Thursday, February 17th, 2022

Willard and Louise c. 1980

Now why I ask you
Do won and won make too
And why I ask some more
Do too and too make for
And why I further state
Do for and for make ate?
Won too for ate they go
But why I do not know.
–Willard Espy

Downsizing in this household is endlessly fun!  Today it was an envelope of “ditties” sent by Willard’s wife Louise when she, in her turn, was downsizing!

Every little once in a while…

Thursday, November 18th, 2021

I’m sure it happens to other people, but maybe not in quite the same way as it happens to writers.  Every once in a while, I run across something that I wish I had said or, more to the point, written.  Not often, and usually nothing of great moment.  In fact, frequently it’s something a bit off-beat or humorous.  Take today, for instance…

I was sorting through boxes (and boxes!) of newspaper clippings, getting rid of duplicates and trying to categorize them by broad subject matter — a mind-numbing sort of task that in no way lends itself to more than cursory skimming.  But when I ran across something about oysters that my uncle had saved from the University Week, a University of Washington publication, I took a better look.  The article, “Oh those oysters!” by Sandra Hines was a review of a book called Heaven On The Half Shell by David G. Gordon, Nancy Blanton, and Terry Y. Nosho.  Both article and book were written in 2001.  As I skimmed, this bulleted paragraph jumped out at me:

The Sorting Game

Oyster biology:  By some standards, an oyster leads a dream life.  It doesn’t have to hunt for food, but simply waits for the tide to bring the next serving.  Breakfast in bed never ends.  Snug in a subtidal channel or secure on a soggy mudflat, an oyster can feed at its leisure, filtering up eight gallons of food-rich salt water per hour.”

“Breakfast in bed never ends.”  I LOVE that!  I immediately flashed on my own book, O is for Oysters written in 1998 and had a momentary flash of writer’s envy.  The entire paragraph, but most especially that one sentence, would have fit right in with the bits of humor I used to intersperse the sometimes rather dry (go figure!) oyster facts.

And if I couldn’t have come up with such a gem on my own, I’d have given full credit as I did with several of the following:

Said one oyster to another
In tones of pure delight,
“I will meet you in the kitchen,
And we’ll both get stewed tonight.”
C.J. Espy (Uncle Cecil)

Q.  What do you get when you X-ray an oyster?
A.  Basic black and pearls.

Oh me, Oh my, What shall I do”
Asked the oyster of its mother.
Yesterday I was just a girl but
Since I slept, I am her brother.

There’s no sense in your complaining
I haven’t the time to bother;
You’re not the only changeling here
Since I have just become your father.
Florence M. Pratt

And my all-time favorite:
I do not roister with an oyster
I like my bed dry.
An oyster moister.
Willard R. Espy (Wede)




One of the most gratifying things…

Thursday, October 7th, 2021

Medora, 1914

On May 17, 1914, my fifteen-year-old aunt Medora Espy wrote to her parents in Oysterville from her boarding school in Portland, Oregon: Thursday the girls and I went to see “Tess  O’ the Storm Country” at the Peoples.  It was very good – a five reel film with Mary Pickford starring.  She is adorable.  I wept through the whole performance but it can’t be helped. 

The letter, along with many others to family and friends, as well as her diary entries until the very eve of her death on Tuesday, January 18, 1916, were the basis for my book, Dear Medora, Child of Oysterville’s Forgotten Years, published in 2007 by WSU Press.  Yesterday, more than one hundred years after her short life ended, I received an email from an Assistant Professor in Film & Media History at the School of Film, Media and Theater at Georgia State University — a woman with the intriguing name, Doana Anselmo Sequeira.  She is embarked on a most interesting project —  a book on moviegoing girls in the 1910s.

Washington State University Press, 2007

She is interested in Medora — especially in Medora’s interest in films.   The original materials upon which I based the book . are located in Tacoma at the Washington State Historical Society’s Research Facility.  Ms. Sequeira writes that she has been perusing those documents and says:  [I] would like to include a photo of Medora in my forthcoming book and another article, both using her diaries and correspondence to illustrate how girls growing up in the US at that time engaged with the pictures. Would you allow me to include one Medora’s photos you’ve published in your website? 

Yes!  Of course!  I can’t say how pleased I am that someone “out there” has found Medora and values the implications her experiences and thoughts might have for the here and now!  Once again, I’m so glad my grandmother was a saver and that the family encouraged me in writing the book! Perhaps the years Medora lived in Oysterville will not be completely forgotten after all.

Having the last word… an overrated luxury?

Friday, September 10th, 2021
I sometimes think of these first and last words when I, myself, write about something I know to be true and my words are called into question.  Mostly that happens in the Letters to the Editor section of the Chinook Observer with reference to something I’ve written in my monthly column, Elementary My Dear.  On the one hand, I’m always gratified to know that I have followers.  On the other hand, there is the temptation to justify or explain what I have said — maybe say it another way so the offended reader will better understand me.

Charles Nelson, Sr. House – Oysterville, 1994

And then I think… “in the beginning” and “amen” in relationship to the words I wrote and blow off the nay-sayer’s comments.  Especially do I bear in mind those other wise words that I grew up hearing when my feelings were hurt… “consider the source.”  And sometimes I wonder if it would be better to draw my column rather than write it — you know, with the thought that a picture is worth a thousand words.  I wonder if political cartoonists, for instance, get less flack than do the writers of political editorials.

And I also wonder why folks with strong opinions often save them up to take potshots at others.  Why don’t they find their own  way to celebrate their memories and ideas rather than by being critical of others? As my mother used to say about such imponderables… “Why’s a hen?”