In The Writer's World

The State of the State

Our 4-day trip to Mitchell covered a lot of ground even though temperatures got over 100 degrees. First full day included a trip to the Painted Hills. Then Patrick and Janet showed us pictographs left by local tribes 200-300 years ago, plus a swim in the John Day River at a place called Priest’s Hole. It was HOT down there, but the water was fine.

Priest’s Hole on the John Day River.

The next day we drove to John Day, Oregon to visit the Kam Wah Chung Chinese Museum. This very special time capsule was where “Doc” Ing Hay practiced Chinese herbal medicine for more than 50 years. (View this OPB program on Oregon Experience to learn more.) There is a visitor center which offers guided tours. This little spot was center to Chinese culture during Doc Hay’s tenure there. His business partner, Lung On, was the entrepreneur of the two, and also ran a small general store out of what is now the museum. But Doc Hay treated folks for miles around, including local ranchers, loggers, and miners.

On the way, we took a quick hike through the John Day Fossil Beds, Sheep Rock Unit, which is a canyon filled with bluish limestone. Thousands of fossils document a different age and climate for this area. Like many less-traveled parts of Oregon, it is a place of incredible beauty. We grabbed burgers at the Dayville Café and saw more pictographs. I’ve lived my entire life in the Pacific Northwest, and still there is more to be seen than one can imagine!

Wynne, Patrick, and Janet at the John Day Fossil Beds.



The State of the Novel

Happily, everything is humming along. Despite breaks for writing play reviews and newsletters, work, and gardening, progress has been steady. A big shout-out to my Amazing First Readers for their excellent feedback. I feel very positive about the course of the novel.

I am still doing touch-up on the book’s conclusion. Unlike with past novel projects, it doesn’t worry me this time around. I know that in the fulness of time the book will end as it should. It is sometimes (often) necessary to step away for a couple days and do something else–for example, work on earlier parts of the novel, or send out a batch of pages–and then return to the problem area and look at it with “new eyes”. And then, then the magic happens. Things fall into place.

Much of fiction writing is magic to me. I am looking now at nearly three hundred pages, nearly two years of work that has been at times sporadic, but always moving in the forward direction. And I am a little amazed. Nobody’s paying me to do this. It is just me telling a story based on a central idea, a beginning, and an ending. Some of the in-between is dreamed up while soaking in the bathtub or taking a walk. Some of the sticky problems are resolved when I writing in my journal every morning. The wonder continues.

More good news: My Amazing Web Site Guru Aaron Yeagle is updating the website, so stay tuned.

Other matters

On our drive to and from Mitchell, Wynne and I listened to Stephen King’s It. I went through a huge Stephen King phase in the 1980s and early ’90s. He has written some amazing stories, and It is no exception. In one chapter there is an epic rock fight between the “Loser’s Club” and the town bullies that rivals The Battle of Gettysburg! King knows his characters–every baseball game they’ve ever played, every victory, every hurt, nuance. They are so real and so alive that the reader is right there with them. They matter big time. I learned a great deal about writing just listening to the rock fight. King was meant to be read aloud! It’s not just horror. King is a master of the craft.

Pictograph near the John Day River.

On the radar for our August book group, My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie knocked it out of the park. These women do exhaustive research, and the reward for all of their readers are novels rich and layered in the customs of the times, the language, and the events. Certainly, conversations can be fictionalized. But so much can be told accurately of the because people corresponded. Educated people wrote all the time. Eliza and her friends and relatives wrote. Hamilton, Washington, Jefferson, Adams and the rest wrote volumes.

The picture this story paints is so much more than the white-washed crap we read in our high school history books. That was boring. There were feuds–endless feuds–among the founding fathers that we never knew about. The Federalists hated the Republicans and vice-versa. (That has a familiar ring.) Women had a very rough time of it no matter where one looked. People got shot. Even more people died of icky diseases or in childbirth.  And politics were nasty–as nasty as they are now–which makes for un-put-downable reading!

And so my friends, carry on. There are stories….

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  • Jennifer says:

    As always, I love your newsletters and look forward to them! So glad we shared the wonderful book group experience of My Dear Hamilton.

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