After so much traveling this year, I am home and don’t have to fly anywhere for the next three months. Hurrah! I’ve met so many wonderful people on my trips and this past month is no exception. In San Antonio, a reader who wasn’t attending the Women Writing the West conference (where I received this lovely award) watched my website schedule and came in for the signing of the WILLA Literary Award Winners. What a treat that was!
Earlier, I celebrated 100 years of the Shumia Book group and got to meet other authors and spend time with a favorite of mine, Molly Gloss (whose Hearts of Horses is a finalist for the Oregon Book Awards. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for her this Sunday night.) The Shumia Book group introduced me to new readers and the restful stay with new friends, the Cavanaugh’s of Prineville, among others. A couple of those book group members also found me in Houston last week at the International Quilt Show! I couldn’t believe that someone was calling my name and that they really meant me! I met people from Dubai, Germany, Sweden, and every state in the Union I’m sure at that quilt show! What a grand experience. I also signed books next to Sandra Dallas, an author I truly admire and I’m pleased to call my friend. Her latest, Tall Grass is a book as exceptional as To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s about a family living near a Japanese relocation camp in the 1940s, a book you won’t want to put down until it’s finished.
On the opening day of deer season, I hunted then rushed down Highway 97 to a baby shower of a woman I’d worked with at Warm Springs. She and her husband are expecting their first and it was great to see old friends from my work on the reservation and to enjoy the stories and laughter.
A group of women from Brownsville, OR dressed in period costumes as they attended a fundraiser for the Newell House on Oregon’s French Prairie and if all works well I hope to post some of the photographs of those women who I gave character names to for the day. I’m humbled and gratified by the way these stories touch people and always encouraged by the inventiveness of readers finding ways to keep the stories relevant and alive inside their lives. It’s makes the effort of travel well worthwhile.
It rained here a bit last night, clearing the sky of dust and making the air pungent with scents of sage and wet rocks (yes, rocks do have a scent especially when they’ve been pulled up from the river or been kissed by rain.) Rather than walk on my treadmill or do my Ten Minute Trainer, I decided to take Bo for a walk. When I do, I always wonder why I don’t walk every day with him. By the end of our trek I remember: my foot. The one residual from the airplane crash all those years ago is that my right foot lacking an arch is stressed by uneven ground and the ache afterwards reminds me of that day 22 years ago when we cluttered up the streets of Wasco with our plane.
On the other hand, when I endure the foot stress, there are lovely gifts given on this election day of 2008. Bo stayed with me pretty much. We’ve been working on that. He loves to race through the bunch grass and sniff at every spot where a deer once napped or where a pheasant might be huddling. Pheasant season is open now but the time to hunt on our property has passed because we’re in a special game refuge area. He came every time I called him which is also a big plus and he’s been really good about sitting and waiting with longing eyes when I say “stay.” He lets me walk past him or wait to say “OK” before he races out the door or to the next ridge. And as I walked I could keep people I’m praying for in my heart bringing their needs along with me as I balanced the rocks, felt the cool wind on my face and watched the dog being a dog.
I also signed up for another of artist/writer maryanne rachmacher’s on-line classes. I told her she was cheaper than therapy. Her focus for us is about making the upcoming holidays into experiences we want to cherish rather than events we race through, are overwhelmed by or wish we could avoid. Writing helps me clarify those things and maryanne’s courses are just the ticket. (She designed my business cards and my special greeting cards and yes, she spells her name with lowercase letters.) Today she pointed out that “stressed” spelled backwards is “desserts.” Now that’s a wonderful insight, isn’t it? My foot is just one example of how yes, it was stressed as I walked but it also gave me wonderful desserts.
Another stress today I hope to turn into a dessert is finishing up a manuscript review of A Flickering Light and getting it sent back for final copyediting. Researching this book about my grandmother’s life as a photographer has yielded a whole range of emotions and family connections that I’ll treasure always. My 86 year old aunt last week sent me a photograph my grandmother used as a sample for her studio. It was as though I’d stepped back in time and imagined what the day she took that photograph was like. Who was this woman? What did my grandmother see out her window; what did she hear and smell as she walked to work in Winona, Minnesota? Such thoughts also take me to my brother and his family who live in that state. I’ll be calling them later. We always connect on election day.
I’m preparing for Wordstock http://www.wordstockfestival.com/ this Sunday. Come by and see me at 11:00 AM or take my class at 3:15 PM about the “Seven Stories that Hold us Back and How we can Transform them” at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland. The plan now is that I’ll spend a little time with our friend Sandy while Jerry makes his way further east to try to fill his black powder elk tag. So while he’s tromping through the trees, my friend and I will be making literary connections and watching movies, something I rarely get to do! (Actually, it was maryanne’s course that spurred on my plan to not just drive to Portland, meet my obligations and drive home, but to take a little extra time to play. It’s a way to turn the stress of holiday planning into “sweet desserts.”
My friend Bob Welch and I are also preparing for our Beachside Writer’s Workshop scheduled for next February. I know times are tight but a weekend for writing and laughter on the Oregon Coast in the depths of a winter weekend could be a grand Christmas present to give yourself or an aspiring writer in your life. firstname.lastname@example.org will get you details.
I also contracted to have book trailers made…it’s the latest thing they tell me, popping up pictures on U-Tube and Amazon that tell a brief story of the book and hopefully peek a reader’s interest. Someone else will be producing it because frankly, I took pictures with my cell phone camera and don’t know how to get them out! There’s an albino deer near my brother’s farm in Minnesota that’s stuck in there for eternity! (or until I can track down my granddaughter to help release him!)
Harvest House Publishers also notified me this morning that A Simple Gift of Comfort, newly revised, is a featured book on their website. Please visit. There’s also an interview with me posted there. http://www.harvesthousepublishers.com/giftbooks.cfm. If you haven’t seen the new edition, the watercolors are exquisite! Harvest House is also publishing B.J. Hoff’s newest novels with an Amish setting. I love B.J.’s writing! I know it’ll be a series I’ll adore.
And soon the quilt book will arrive with all those gorgeous photographs Jerry and our friend Nancy Lloyd took in Aurora. December 16th, in time for Christmas! You can also still sign up to win the replica of Emma Giesy’s quilt by going to http://www.waterbrookpress.com/ and click on “contests”. Nothing terrible will happen to you if you leave your email address: no one will call and try to sell you anything! You’ll just be entered into the drawing and you don’t have to purchase a thing. Pendleton Woolen Mills donated the wool for this fabulous quilt.
You might mark your calendar for February 14th too as Oregon celebrates its 150th birthday that day and we celebrate the official publication of Aurora: An American Experience in Quilt, Community and Craft at the Museum in Aurora. I’ve never written more than three books about a place before: this is number four. But somehow the stories and artifacts of Aurora warranted more and I’m pleased to have yet another reason to spend time with those keeping the Aurora story alive. You’re all welcome!
I also have another announcement to make that has a level of stress attached: I’m going to write a contemporary book, a humorous one I hope. Some of you have heard me talk at times with tongue in cheek about how Oprah doesn’t know my name (and that it isn’t my job to get her to, either. It’s my job as a writer to show up, to assume the position of a writer and to tell the stories I’ve been given the best way I know how and to trust that I’m not alone in the telling). I said I was always going to write a book about an author trying to get Oprah to accept her book for Oprah’s book group and the trials and tribulations as she went from seeking fame to fulfillment. Well, a former editor who had moved to Zondervan remembered my chattering about that book (and remembered that I’d actually written it and it had been rejected by a publisher). He’d read it and liked it so…sometime in 2010 I hope you’ll be reading and laughing through Oprah Doesn’t Know My Name. But deciding to do this was stressful. Could I make the needed revisions so it was a publishable book? Should I? I don’t want to abandon stories of ordinary historical women (and I won’t: I have contracts for five more books). Those women give me spiritual insights and allow me to explore the place of faith in everyday life. But I’m also hoping that the stress of doing something new, of stepping out beyond my own comfort zone as we did nearly 25 years ago when we came here to Starvation Lane, will turn into desserts. Anxiety can be a good thing. It’s what our gatepost sign reminds me: to live at the edge of possibility.
I don’t know what you might be “stressed” about this month: finances, family, health and wealth; or what desserts await you. But I know we are not alone and I know your presence in my life brings precious joy in this season of gratitude. What better time to live the Aurora Colony’s Diamond Rule: To each day make another’s life better than you own. I wish you than best November ever and I thank you for all you do as readers to make my life better than I ever could have imagined.