Posts Tagged ‘the writing process’

Snow, Rain, Sun Flurries — it’s March!

Saturday, March 25th, 2023

Well, if the 24th of this month means we’re heading out of it, I hardly think it’s very lamb-like.  I guess with all this climate change biz, you poets had better get busy creating new words to live by.  The old standbys aren’t working any more.

Like many proverbs for the month of March, ” In like a lion, Out like a lamb” can be traced back to Thomas Fuller’s 1732 compendium, Gnomologia; Adagies and Proverbs; Wise Sentences and Witty Sayings, Ancient and Modern, Foreign and British.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) was a British physician, preacher and intellectual.  In addition to his compilation of proverbs, he published two medical books and famously said, “Be you never so high, the law is above you.”

I do believe we’ve lost sight of more than the lamb and the lion, Dr. Fuller!  I wonder how you would improve your Gnomologia if you could have a stab at it today?



On Being Politically Correct… Or Not

Thursday, March 23rd, 2023

Gathering Oysters In “The Olden Days”

I guess it’s a given these days that historical research is automatically on a collision course with political correctness.  As I see it, though, you can’t have it both ways.  If you are trying for historical accuracy, I don’t see any way to be PC in “reporting” what you find out.  Even though my present project is mostly focussed on re-telling some of the wonderful stories about our past, I’m pretty sure I’ll run up against a sticky wicket or two.


And then I wonder if I will get any blowback from those who would sooner erase our history than face up to the facts of how we were — of what we said or of how we behaved.  I don’t really expect that all my readers will enjoy my stories with historical perspective in mind or will rejoice that change is gradually taking place.

I thought about that a lot today as I was writing about “Old Cripple Johnson” — a beloved Oysterville character of my mother’s childhood.  His given name was George and he was crippled and there were extenuating circumstances.  Will modern readers “get” that he was beloved by the entire community and the feeling was reciprocal?

Clamming In The Days When Commercial Diggers Averaged 500 lbs. per tide

Perhaps it will help that I’m telling stories often through the eyes of people who witnessed the experience.  In my mind, using their words (no matter how non-PC they have become) gives us in the here-and-now an opportunity to understand a different point of view — one developed within a context almost completely unexperienced by most of us.

Still… I think about all that as I look for 150-year-old “facts”  to corroborate the stories I am telling or re-telling.  There is no doubt that sensibilities were different in the 1800s than they are today.  Can I honor the past without offending the present?  I hope so.

I love the old stories just as I love these old photographs.  I do so hope my readers will love them, too.  And I hope they’ll give me some feedback along the way.  (You’ll see a story each week in the Observer. So far there have been three.)






What a great title, Jim Tweedie!

Thursday, March 2nd, 2023

You know, there are some things about this aging process that don’t bear thinking about.  Like the wonky ways of one’s memory.

Some years ago, Jim Tweedie asked me if I’d be willing to read a draft of his first book and, perhaps, write a foreword for it.  I remember both the reading and the writing very well — that I did those things, I mean.  But, when I ran across a pile of “new” books the other day with Jim’s (apparently) unopened book among them — Long Beach Short Stories: Possibly Untrue Tales from the Pacific Northwest — I had no memory of ever having read it.  None.

The cover looked vaguely familiar and I had a glimmer that Jim had handed it to me at a Vespers service a year or more before Covid shut us down.  Tucked between the first few pages was a note — also seemingly pristine and unread.  It was dated January 20, 2017 and began, “It suddenly occurred to me that I had not sent you a copy of my book — so here it is.”  The date made me wonder if my Vespers memory was right…

And there, right after the Table of Contents was a Foreword by Sydney Stevens dated “Oysterville, 2016.”  So… part of my memory is correct and I began to relax a little.  But as I started reading… not so much.  So far, I’ve read nine of the fourteen stories and, though it’s scary to admit, I don’t recognize a single one of them.  Not a plot.  Not a character.  Nada.

I took a break and re-read my Foreword.  In it, among other things I wrote, “I found his stories to be beguiling, enchanting, and challenging in ways I did not expect.”  That’s still absolutely true.  But where did the memory of them go after I read them?  And how did the Foreword disappear the same way?

James “Jim” A. Tweedie

I can’t decide if I owe Jim an apology for waiting so long to read his finished book and for completely forgetting its contents over the past seven years.   Or do I owe him a thank-you for writing a book that has obviously delighted me at least twice?

I’m going with the latter.  Thank you, Jim!  (And did I tell you, I love the title?)


In my eyes as the beholder? Fun! Fun! Fun!

Friday, January 13th, 2023

Yesterday, at last, I dove into my new book — or at least I’m hoping that it will come together in book form eventually, as planned.  The subject?  People! Working title:  “Saints or Sinners?”

Some of my subjects I’ve known (and some of those all too well) and many I’ve become acquainted with only through reputation.  Some were (or are) movers and shakers in their day; some might have been the opposite.  All were personalities of the first order and their stories should make for entertaining reading.  They definitely make for engrossing writing!

And those are about the only hints I’m willing to give just yet.  Because, like so many grand schemes and ideas, this one could easily go bust.  I will say this, though:  I’m not confining my subjects to the denizens of Oysterville or even to the Peninsula — not yet.    Never mind if they’ve been written about before — gathering bits and pieces of information, putting stories in  new contexts, adding tales that were never told in print form — that’s the challenge.  And, if you have a favorite local character — historic or otherwise — that you think would make a good subject, send me an email and let’s “talk.”

Bottom line, of course, is how successful I am at researching the facts, corroborating the stories and, if possible, finding appropriate pictures.  Oh, yes!  And then writing something at once compelling and entertaining.  We’ll see…

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!