July 2009

http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2009/06/16/kirkpatrick - click to hear Jane's Minnesota Public Radio interview about A Flickering Light...
Summer reading. What could be better? For me, it's one of the nice things about travel where I have several hours of uninterrupted reading time sitting in airports, on planes, waiting. I watch a lot too during travel. I've gotten some great descriptions of characters while standing in line at Hudson's or Powell's or Borders Books at the airport (where I'm always checking to see if they have my books, of course and turning any of mine face out. It's a requirement of an author to do that you understand and loyal fans do it too!)

This past month I finished People of the Book by a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. Great read. Then a friend sent me The Uncommon Reader, a novella, that made me wish I could write short, lovely witty pieces like that. I read two of Laurie R. King's earlier Kate Martinelli books. They're mysteries with a female cop (Kate) and well done. I've read all of the author's Mary Stewart series books about the wife of Sherlock Holmes. I adore those books and got to hear Laurie R. King speak at the Festival of Faith and Writing in Grand Rapids a few years back. (That, by the way, is a worthy way for an author to spend money, attending that conference that acts as a feast for writers. I gorged myself listening to great authors including Joyce Carol Oates and Frederick Buechner who were both there. Oh, and Katherine Patterson too!) I also read Bibi Gaston's book The Loveliest Woman in America a memoir about her grandmother who was an early stage and film star, part of a dynasty related to the Pinchots (who developed the Forest Service) and the role of landscape in the stories of our lives. A must read. And she lives in The Dalles now, imagine that (not the grandmother, but the author!). The paper back just came out so I hope you'll look for it. She'll be on AM Northwest on July 2 if you're in the Pacific Northwest.

Coming home, I picked up The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Oh, it is a splendid read. I cried, smiled, laughed but mostly relished the story of how a people endured, no triumphed, during the occupation of the German army during WW II. The author became ill toward the final revisions and her niece, also a writer, stepped into finish the book. The author died shortly before or right at publication and that too made me cry and I hoped she might somehow know that her words have touched hundreds of thousands and will continue to do so I have no doubt.

I've also done a bit of endorsement reading this summer. One of the titles is by my good friend Mary Anne Radmacher who is an artist and calligrapher and poet and writer. She's penned a lovely book with a co-author Jonathan Lockwood Huie called Simply an Inspired Life. It's not the usual self-help book in that when you finish it, you feel that you truly can make changes in your life and it doesn't feel so daunting. Mary Anne also teaches an on-line writing course and I've taken more than one from her. (http://www.maryanneradmacher.net/) The last one during the month of May helped break a block not of writing but of enjoying what I was writing. I ended up having the Story tell me why it was being so difficult to write down and I got an ear full! That was a good thing. I found myself laughing after that which is also a good thing since the book, Oprah Doesn't Know My Name is meant to be funny. We'll see how it appears come sometime next year.

Linda Clare, a creative writing instructor in Eugene, also has a new book coming out called The Fence my Father Built set in Central Oregon. It's her first novel and she's done a fine job. I learned there are corn snakes in Central Oregon. I always love learning some new tidbit in a book, don't you?

My book tours also take me into bookstores of course where I often had the time to peruse the shelves not always being swamped by fans (though we did run out of all my titles at Barnes and Noble)! I found Sandra Dallas' latest Prayers for Sale and Susan Meissner's The Shape of Mercy in Barnes and Noble in Minnesota; lots of Christian fiction titles at the Northwestern Book store in Burnsville, MN, and in Red Wing's Best of Times Bookstore, I bought my brother Creating Minnesota, a book I'd bought for myself for research as it's such a lovely rendering of Minnesota stories told through her people. It won a Spur Award a couple of years back. I'm always amazed at the number of books by authors I've never heard of before! It makes me hopeful for a time when I might not be writing but will at last get to all those shelves of books I've been hoarding to read during a slow time in my life. Should that time ever come. Jerry suggests that on these book tours I'm buying more books than I'm selling but he exaggerates. Still, the idea of being on a plane without a book to read...well, that seems like such wasted time and it is helping the economy,I'm certain of that.

I lie awake some mornings, early, when I'm on the road. Maybe it's the different bed, food, activity level; maybe that I'm not writing when I'm traveling, maybe that throws me off. I miss Bo (don't forget to visit Bo's blog http://www.bodaciousbothedog.blogspot.com/. So I picked up a new book light at the Time Enough Bookstore in Ilwaco last month so I can read without disturbing Jerry. It's like a miner's light and fits around my head. Good coverage on the page. But for some reason I often don't pick up a book when the sky is graying into morning light. I pray, I think, I work out plot issues, I imagine what I might have said to the interviewer who suggested my latest novel was "steamy" when it isn't, I wonder if I'll fall back asleep.

But I also think it's guilt that keeps me from picking up that book and reading it, as though reading is a sinful thing. It's so far from that! Reading unveils mysteries and there are many still locked inside of me, questions unanswered that I might find the answers to when I read. It's the same reason why it's so hard for me to schedule vacations, to not just plunge my tour time full of interviews, visits, even research rather than just being. Or reading. I always have a deadline ( I'm on one now!) but still, reading a good book can only enhance the writing so long as I can keep the harpies silent.

To my credit, on Father's Day, I did relax. We were with my brother and his family, his two boys who are such fine young men. We went to church together and then watched the US open. It poured rain in Minnesota so it was a good thing to be doing, watching golf. And my brother was patient in explaining things so that I could cheer at the right moment and even groaned at a missed putt, a bogey and so sad, a double bogey. I remember a book about golf I read one by George Will called A Good Walk Spoiled but it was my sister-in-law and brother's explanations that gave me the real understanding of golf that day. It's a way to intensely relax. I took golf lessons once and my instructor said if I ever made it to the green, I'd be pretty good. I'd forgotten that until I watched the"chipping" going on in the rain.

I think reading allows me to intensely relax.

So what is my word of encouragement this month? It's to find ways to relax, to read, to give ourselves the pleasure of being transported to new places - Guernsey Island, Connecticut (where the loveliest woman in America hailed from), England - The Uncommon Reader - San Francisco (where the mysteries I mentioned are set). You know. You have those books stacked beside your bed. Read them!

All that said, I'll be on the road again to Wisconsin beginning July 11th. We have events in Eau Claire on the 15th;Lodi that evening, Mt Horeb on Saturday July 18 1:00-3:00 in the Prairie Bookstore and then several events back home in the Northwest. I hope you'll check my schedule. I especially hope you'll call in to OPB's Think Out Loud program when I'm the guest author, July 2 from 9 to10:00 Am. here is a link to the TOL site where listeners can comment:



The show is live from 9 -10 AM. It repeats the same day in the evening, 9 - 10 PM.

Right after that, we head to Bend and Jerry's final (we hope) cancer follow-up. From then on, it's only once a year and that'll be grand!

On the Fifth of July, we'll be in Aurora. I can't get away from that place and I don't want to! This time it's a Sunday afternoon program with the archivist from the U of O library, a quilt historian and Jim Kopp, the foremost authority on communal societies in Oregon. His latest book Eden within Eden which I also read this summer captures the history of the many communal societies through the years that chose Oregon. Fascinating reading. Anyway,he'll moderate and it's from 1 to 3 at the Aurora Museum.

Like you, I'll be busy, but there is a time and place for everything, remember Ecclesiastes? I'm sure it was written that there was a time to rest...and that means, a time to read. Find that good book and don't neglect the Good Book either. There is nurture inside all those words.

Warmly, Jane