PNBA Tradeshow

645.pnba tradeshowHad a delightful time at the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Tradeshow in Tacoma this weekend. Here I’m having fun signing and passing out books to enthusiastic bookstore owners and librarians, who come to these shows looking for good books to promote in their stores or libraries.

I had the honor of being one of the authors featured at several events throughout the weekend. My event was the new Sweet & Greet Party on Saturday evening, where authors stood at tables scribbling their names, greeting the many who came by, and offering signed book copies–also grabbing a quick moment for a taste of one of the sufficiently decadent desserts served at this party. Mm-m. Yum!

The tradeshow program billed our party as “a low-key dessert and coffee affair to introduce booksellers to the new books from about twenty of the more interesting authors at this year’s fall show. The Sweet & Greet is designed as a relaxing way to finish a busy day, offering a wide variety of authors and styles, and a wealth of interesting new books to tantalize your dessert palate.”

I was thrilled at the interest expressed for my book. Many came by looking for it, having read my personal blurb in the program. Others asked me to tell them about the book. I found that the moment I mentioned “Oregon Trail,” eyes lit up. Also, men and women both loved hearing it was about a woman, my own ancestor, and that I own the farm she purchased herself almost 150 years ago.

Such great opportunities for networking and making new friends, many I hope to see again! My thanks to Laura Stanfill for taking the above picture of me. Laura is a novelist, editor, and founder and publisher of Forest Avenue Press in Portland, Oregon. I thoroughly enjoyed getting acquainted with Laura and sharing breakfast a couple of times during the weekend.

The Hotel Murano offered a lovely venue for the show. My room on the 16th Floor looked out toward Mount Rainier, the dome, and the marina. domeThe mountain finally revealed its head on Saturday (above), skimming over the clouds like an island in the sky. A couple of days earlier, the base of this lofty mountain showed itself, while clouds hid the top. I should have taken a picture then and put the two together.

The dome stands out on the Tacoma skyline (right), Rainier just beginning to peek above the clouds to the left of the dome in this shot, still looking more like part of the cloud bank than the magnificent mountain it is.

640.tacoma marinaSwinging the camera just left of the other two photos taken from my room, I looked down on the marina, which was particularly beautiful with the lights after dark. I’d have enjoyed the short walk to the water, but the tradeshow pretty well filled my time. All in all, a fantastic weekend.

A special thanks to my wonderful publisher, Globe Pequot Press, for promoting me as a featured author in this show, especially Shana Capozza, who arranged for my participation, and my publicist Laurie Kenney. And thanks to Thom Chambliss, Executive Director of PNBA, for his encouragement and for patiently explaining the details of this event beforehand. And thanks to my Ashland writer friend Stephanie Bartlett who told me about the tradeshow in the first place. 🙂

I was especially happy to meet my sales rep, Bob Harrison, and the man who will be my sales rep after the first of the year, David Diehl. Both are longtime friends of a local friend of mine who I’ve known for many years, Joyce Ruff Abdill. Joyce was in that business for a long time. She helped me get my first two agents years ago and mentored and encouraged me from the early days of my writing. Small world indeed.


Backtracking the Oregon Trail #3

Day Two ~ The High Desert

468.diorama mother & childThe tattered wagon covers didn’t look white anymore. Gray dust coated every surface, working its way down into every nook. . . . Animals and people alike looked thin. So little grass. Even when they heard about grass ahead, they’d find much of it eaten off already by the companies that came through before. . . . She was five months pregnant.
—A Place of Her Own: The Legacy of Oregon Pioneer Martha Poindexter Maupin, Janet Fisher. (Guilford, CT, Helena, MT: TwoDot/Globe Pequot Press, 2014), pp. 119-120.

Most women who traveled the trail were mothers or soon to be mothers. It was the mothers who, more than anyone, looked both forward and back, remembering home and how it was made. It was the mothers who tried to stretch the protective fabric of home across the 2,000 miles to a new place.
—Women’s Voices from the Oregon Trail, Susan G. Butruille. (Boise, ID: Tamarack Books, 1993), p. 89.

13 Saturday Travel 5 miles this morning, then stopt to water at a spring; it is near night we are still traveling on, through dust and sand, and over rocks, until we find water, had none since this morning.
14th Sunday morn, Campt last night after dark after traveling 15 miles in a large bottom, near some puddles of very poor water found out this morning that it needed straining Afternoon, after traveling 10 miles we have campt on the bank of Powder river about 1 oclock another ox sick, we will rest here untill morning—
—The diary of Amelia Knight, in Covered Wagon Women: Diaries and Letters from the Western Trails, 1840-1890. Vol. 6, 1853-1854, Kenneth L. Holmes, ed. (Glendale, CA: The Arthur H. Clark Co., 1986), p. 65.

460.high desertOnce out of the mountains we came into high desert country with scattered sagebrush on rounded hills. The emigrants coming the other way were just beginning to see the occasional tree and a few touches of green after endless dusty expanses that could scarcely support life. Did they know what awaited them in the blue ridges on the horizon? Many carried guidebooks that described the various landmarks along the way. But those guidebooks often glossed over the looming difficulties.

First stop for us on this second day of travel was the remarkable National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center at Baker City, Oregon, in that high desert country—definitely a worthwhile stop for any Oregon Trail history buffs, or anyone with an interest in this era of the nation’s history.

The day was heating up fast, and no shade to park in. Fortunately someone had built shaded areas with tables where we ate lunch. We carried lunch supplies with us. Here, windbreaks gave some protection against the battering winds, but breezes still whipped our hair and grabbed at packages. Then I took my granddaughter Calliope inside to tour the place while my daughter Christiane stayed by the sheltered table with the dog.

The interpretive center offers many life-sized dioramas of typical Oregon Trail scenes that put you right into that world, as well as artifacts and informative presentations. Several of the photos on this post and the previous one show these realistic dioramas, while my first post in the series, “Backtracking the Oregon Trail #1,” includes photos of the interpretive center’s outdoor display of actual covered wagons. The photo of the high desert on this post was taken from our shaded table there.

Inside, as I remained watchful of Calliope, I looked upon the diorama of the mother and child (above), and my heart went out to the mothers on that trail. Martha had two little girls to watch out for along that trek. Nora was almost four and Louisa going on two. Little ones can be a handful when you’re stationary, let alone on a trail into the wilderness with all the potential for danger. A child climbing in or out of a moving wagon could get run over and either injured or killed. Many died of cholera, a dread for emigrants of all ages. And Martha had the added burden of being pregnant during the whole trip.

466.diorama horseThe animals in the dioramas are real, the handiwork of an expert taxidermist. But, my granddaughter was assured by one of the staff members, the people are not. Even so, these human statues are created with exquisite detail so you can even see the veins in their hands. Wonderful realism.

And you hear the sounds. The creak of wheels on the rocky track. The clip-clop of hooves. The cry of voices. Free your imagination and you’re there on the trail, experiencing, feeling.

I had a pleasant visit with a woman in the office who I’d spoken to earlier by phone and left a copy of my book for them to consider for their gift shop.

Driving southeast from Baker City, we watched the temperature. It crept up to 101 in the shade and virtually no shade. Yet as the day wore on we appreciated the raw beauty as the sun lowered, casting a smoky glow to paint pinks, golds, and oranges on every ridge.

Bugs splatted the windshield like scattered rain. They must have pestered the weary oxen and the people that trudged through here. And the heat kept bearing down—until evening, when the nights cooled—unlike nights Martha would have remembered back home in Missouri or Illinois.

Pocatello, Idaho, our destination for the night, seemed far away. We’d be coming in after dark once again.

NEXT: A stopover at the Fort Hall replica at Pocatello


Backtracking the Oregon Trail #2

Day Two ~ The Blue Mountains

469.diorama oxen & wagon[The roads] were harder than before. Steeper. Rockier. Dustier. Rivers wilder. There was an occasional tree now, sometimes wooded areas even, with tall conifers and cottonwoods. . . . The trail here was littered with the bones of oxen and fresher dead beasts—along with discarded trunks and furniture—and another human grave. A chill raked Martha despite the heat. The smell of death assaulted her nose.
—A Place of Her Own: The Legacy of Oregon Pioneer Martha Poindexter Maupin, Janet Fisher. (Guilford, CT, Helena, MT: TwoDot/Globe Pequot Press, 2014), p. 119.

Sep 3d We came, I think, eleven miles; over the mountains; the scenery was delightful all day but the road was extremely hilly and rough . . .
September 4th We came, I think, fourteen miles this day over the principal range of the Blue mountains, traveling all day through a densely timbered region . . .
—The diary of Abigail Jane Scott, in Covered Wagon Women: Diaries and Letters from the Western Trails, 1840-1890. Vol. 5, 1852, The Oregon Trail, Kenneth L. Holmes and David C. Duniway, eds. (Glendale, CA: The Arthur H. Clark Co., 1986), pp. 121-122.

3d Sunday . . . Traveled along the west side of the valley at foot of mount about 3 miles when we came to a small stream and then commenced ascending the mountain, very steep in many places and continues to ascend for about 6 miles. very hard drive but at the top found the grass burnt off and there was no water, so had to go on till we came to Grand Ronde [River], ten miles, worst hill to go down that we have found yet. long, steep and rocky. . . .
5th Tuesday . . . Hard times. many cattle are failing and all are very poor and a good many get lost among the thick timber. . . . Traveled on about 7 miles on a mountain ridge sometimes on one side sometimes on the other. pretty sidling in places . . . begin to hope we are getting out of the mounts.
—The diary of Cecelia Adams & Parthenia Blank, Covered Wagon Women: Diaries and Letters from the Western Trails, 1840-1890. Vol. 5, 1852, The Oregon Trail, Kenneth L. Holmes and David C. Duniway, eds. (Glendale, CA: The Arthur H. Clark Co., 1986), pp. 302-303.

Tues Sept 21 Traveled 20 miles. . . . Here we commence climbing the Blue Mountains. . . . Had to camp without water. Found hard hills to day and very stony. Saw 5 graves and 5 dead cattle.
—The diary of Martha S. Read, Covered Wagon Women: Diaries and Letters from the Western Trails, 1840-1890. Vol. 5, 1852, The Oregon Trail, Kenneth L. Holmes and David C. Duniway, eds. (Glendale, CA: The Arthur H. Clark Co., 1986), p. 245.

455.road uphill  blue mtsA formidable barrier loomed in front of us as we drove southeast from Pendleton, following the Oregon Trail pretty closely. Rising suddenly from a wide, flat landscape, the ridge looked barren except for a few tree clumps in the hollows. The highway took a wide sweep to zigzag up the hill. You could feel it on the heavily loaded car. Ears popped. My breath caught, imagining wagons rolling down this grade from the other direction.

We soon climbed into rugged timbered mountains. Mostly pines. And worked our way across, with lots of ups and down. Ridge after ridge. These were the Blue Mountains, the worst mountains the emigrants had crossed so far on their entire journey.

You don’t give much thought to those rising and falling grades while driving a car on a smooth highway—although we saw a few cars stopped with raised hoods. But when you let your thoughts drift back to a time when every rise meant a long, hard pull for weary oxen and every drop meant the danger of a wagon rolling out of control—forward or sideways. And every stone on a gravelly track meant the risk of losing a wheel or even overturning the whole vessel. Then the ups and downs become a whole lot more serious. mts long view (crop)And think of where they were on that incredible journey. They were nearing the end. They’ve been trudging across a seemingly endless track for almost 2,000 miles. How daunting for them to reach the roughest part now. The oxen are so weary, many are just giving it up. Not enough food. Sore feet. Loads feeling heavier by the day. Now this. They drop and die. And sometimes people do too. Still, in their weariness, some diarists remarked on the splendid beauty of it. The fine timber.

After a long haul across this range we came alongside a gravelly creek which tumbled into a large flat expanse surrounded by a ring of mountains. Out ahead we could see where we would have to climb another ridge. This was the Grande Ronde Valley, admired by many travelers. The name comes from the French grande ronde, meaning “fine large valley” or “big round valley,” so named by the early French-Canadian trappers. A respite before the next rise. The Grande Ronde River mentioned in the above diary flows out of the Blue Mountains.

Our next climb brought us into sparse pine woods, which offered scattered shade amid jutting rock bluffs and scanty tufts of dry grass. This ridge wasn’t nearly as rugged or deep as the last. Reverse the direction of travel and you realize this was only a hint of worse to come for those westbound pioneers. Could they even imagine what was awaiting them in the ridge ahead?

[The photo at the top was taken in the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center near Baker City, Oregon]

NEXT: A stopover at the interpretive center just outside Baker City, a highlight on our journey



Festival Time in Cottage Grove

635.kalapuya bksI’ll be visiting another bookstore on another Main Street in America Saturday–this one in Cottage Grove, Oregon. The small town of Cottage Grove boasts three bookstores on its historic Main Street. My next book signing and reading will be held at Kalapuya Books this time, located at 637 E Main, September 20 from 2 to 4 in the afternoon.

It’s Oregon Covered Bridge Festival time, so when the Kalapuya event is done, I’ll trek on over to Bohemia Park on the other side of the railroad tracks for a Meet & Greet the Author from 5 to 6 at the Cottage Grove Souvenir Booth. They’ll have copies of my book A Place of Her Own for sale as well, which I’ll be happy to sign.

It should be a fun day with lots to do. And familiar territory for me, since I lived in Cottage Grove for several years before moving to the family farm featured in my book. If you live nearby I hope you’ll stop by and join us.


Enjoying Ashland Charm

627.ashland outside bloomsburyMy cousin Carolyn Compton rode down to Ashland with me yesterday for my reading and signing at Bloomsbury Books, right on Ashland’s charming Main Street. Carolyn taught school in Ashland for many years and welcomed the chance to revisit old haunts. I lived there for a short time in the late 90’s.

Now Carolyn lives just across the river from me on Pleasant Plain on the farm where our fathers grew up. As first cousins Carolyn and I share the same relationship with Martha, and she has been a staunch supporter of my work in writing and marketing the book about our brave ancestress.

We arrived in Ashland early enough in the afternoon to wander Main Street for a while, although the 90 plus temperature encouraged us to dip into a cool restaurant before too long. We enjoyed Italian food and ambled back to the bookstore in time for the event.

630.reading ashland bloomsburyA lovely group of people came, a small but enthusiastic gathering. I read a couple of short segments from A Place of Her Own, then sensing those had gone fairly quickly I asked folks if they would like to hear another short segment or chat a bit. A question from the audience sparked a lively chat, and then they asked for more reading. I added an excerpt from the “Oregon Trail” chapter describing the harrowing descent down Laurel Hill on the west side of the Cascade Mountains and received a hearty round of applause–always a pleasure for an author to hear.

Carolyn and I were delighted to see friends from our days in Ashland, Stephanie Bartlett and Mel Ginsberg. Stephanie had helped me with my books when I lived there. I remember a workshop she gave, which provided clues to better writing that I still think about today. And she offered me some particular advice on my book set in Minoan Crete that has seen many reincarnations over time, a book I hope is about ready for print under the current working title, Beyond the Waning Moon. So great to see Stephanie after some sixteen years or so.

An enjoyable day. Thank you, Carolyn, for navigating our way on streets I’d forgotten, for taking the reading picture, for helping carry stuff and setting up a table and pouring wine, but most of all for your good company.


Backtracking the Oregon Trail #1


I recently returned from a road trip with my daughter Christiane and granddaughter Calliope. Christiane got a new job as Assistant Professor at Kansas City Art Institute and was moving back to the Kansas City area. I decided to join her on the drive east to help with my granddaughter, who’s nine years old, then help set up their new house before flying home. On our eastbound route we chose to backtrack Martha’s journey over the Oregon Trail as roads and time allowed.

It took us five days to cross what took five months for my great-great-grandparents Martha and Garrett Maupin. And for my flight home I was in the air about five hours.

I’m adding this new category to my blog to describe our trip, offering related quotes from my book about Martha, A Place of Her Own: The Legacy of Oregon Pioneer Martha Poindexter Maupin, as well as quotes from the diaries of other pioneer women who made that journey. The diaries are taken from a series called Covered Wagon Women, edited by Kenneth L. Holmes. Like Holmes I present these diaries as written, using the spellings and punctuations of the original writers. A few additional sources add information. This is the first of ten posts in our story. lg wagonDay One ~ The Dalles

[T]he heat of the day radiated with scorching fury. . . . Now Martha worried about their own food supply. Her food bags had gone flabby for lack of contents. They’d traded with some Indians–shirts for fish–large dried salmon to add to the meat supply. But they were nearly out of flour. How long until they reached The Dalles, where they might buy more?
—A Place of Her Own: The Legacy of Oregon Pioneer Martha Poindexter Maupin, Janet Fisher. (Guilford, CT, Helena, MT: TwoDot/Globe Pequot Press, 2014), pp. 119-120.

Here the Doct. met us on his way back from the Dalls. . . . He brought some flour, pork, Salt, and saleratus. Prices are coming down at the dalls. flour can be had at 15 cts. Pork at 37½, Salt at 25, Salertus 25, Sugar 25 to 30 . . . Have long been convinced that we are too late to cross the Cascade Mountains with safety so we concluded to leave our cattle and wagon at the Dalls and proceed down by water. . . . Traveled to the Dalls, 5 miles, and found a boat ready for sail
—The diary of Cecelia Adams & Parthenia Blank, in Covered Wagon Women: Diaries and Letters from the Western Trails, 1840-1890. Vol. 5, 1852, The Oregon Trail, Kenneth L. Holmes and David C. Duniway, eds. (Glendale, CA: The Arthur H. Clark Co., 1986), pp. 308, 310.

We this morning sent two of the wagons by the way of the Dalles to be sent to Oregon City by water
—The diary of Abigail Jane Scott, in Covered Wagon Women: Diaries and Letters from the Western Trails, 1840-1890. Vol. 5, 1852, The Oregon Trail, Kenneth L. Holmes and David C. Duniway, eds. (Glendale, CA: The Arthur H. Clark Co., 1986), pp. 129-130. wagonsWe crammed everything into the car that we possibly could, to add to what Christiane had sent by U-Haul pod. Martha and Garrett crammed everything into the wagon they possibly could, and left behind anything that wouldn’t fit or that would be too heavy for the oxen to pull.

Starting out on the main roads, we planned to meet up with Martha and Garrett’s route at The Dalles, Oregon. The Dalles was one of those mileposts for the American emigrants, a place to replenish depleted supplies and to stop and rest before the most harrowing part of the journey. While the Rocky Mountains offered a gentle pass across their summit, the Cascade Mountains did not. The first several wagon trains in the early 1840s stopped well before this rugged range. Wagons were dismantled, broken down, left behind—either at The Dalles or before—and people took boats down the treacherous Columbia River or followed long, perilous trails on horseback over the mountains.

But wagons carried a lot of stuff they wanted. And getting those treasures to the west side without the wagons proved a problem. Some ferried the loaded wagon boxes down the river, or reloaded the goods onto boats. But many wanted to take the wagons west with them. Men decided to cut a road over the Cascades south of Mount Hood. They called it Barlow Road. Not much of a road, but hardy folks like the Maupins took their wagons across the Cascades over it, all the way to their destination in Oregon’s lush Willamette Valley. I had previously visited part of that route just prior to writing Martha’s story, so we bypassed that and went straight toward The Dalles.

We had talked about eating dinner at The Dalles, but were getting hungry before we got there. I couldn’t help being reminded of Martha’s concerns about their food supply before reaching The Dalles. We decided to stop for dinner at Hood River instead. The car has a temperature gauge, and had been warning us, but we were comfortable with the air conditioner blowing. The numbers had hit 98 in Portland, unusually high for that city, and reached 100 by Troutdale on the city’s eastern perimeter. At Hood River it had climbed to 102.

We stepped out of the car. Heat pressed down like a living force. We had Christiane and Calliope’s dog Penny with us. We couldn’t leave the dog in the car, even in the shade. Looking for a place where we could eat outside and tie her next to us, we finally found a possibility. The restaurant had tables on a covered patio and the waitress set a place for us—in the sun! No way could I sit in the sun to eat when it was 102 in the shade. Nor could they promise food in less than 30 to 40 minutes. I figured we’d be cooked ourselves in that amount of time.

Our thoughts of a nice dinner evaporated like water on a sizzling sidewalk. We pushed on to The Dalles. It was drive-through time. Eat in the car with an occasional blast of cool air from the AC.

464.two wagonsAgain I thought of Martha and the relentless heat bearing down on her, often without shade except for a little alongside the wagon. No blast of cool air from anywhere. How desperate she must have been for a tree, a stream of water, anything to provide relief. At least, here on the east side of the Cascades it was a dry heat. But when it’s over 100 it still takes your breath away.

Anyway, a quick dinner got us back on the road faster and we drove on toward our first night’s destination in Pendleton, Oregon. It had taken us longer than expected to load up that morning, and the estimated travel times we got online appeared to be a little optimistic. We wouldn’t reach Pendleton before dark. A sense of urgency compelled us. But with the long summer days, we saw most of our route, dark settling just before Pendleton so when we approached it, the town appeared like a jewel of lights nestled in dark velvet.

[The photos for this post were taken outside the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Baker City, Oregon, which we would visit on Day Two. All photos in the series are by the author.]

NEXT: First thing the following morning, we reach the Blue Mountains, the most difficult road the emigrants have seen on their entire journey.


South to Ashland

My cousin Carolyn Compton will head south with me tomorrow for my book signing and reading at Bloomsbury Books in Ashland. Carolyn taught school in Ashland for many years, and I lived there for a while in the late 90’s. We’re looking forward to a fun day checking out old haunts and enjoying the event at the lovely Bloomsbury store from 7 to 8 pm.


Look for the Wagon ~ Soon lg wagonThe first post in my new category, “Backtracking the Oregon Trail,” should be ready within the next 2 or 3 days. I’ve collected some quotes from diaries of women who traveled over that trail in the mid-1800s. Putting those together with quotes from Martha’s story, I hope to offer a few brushstrokes of color to show moments of their journeys as I describe highlights of our own trip retracing their footsteps. I hope you’ll join us.


Book Club Invite

626.judy's book clubI had my first Book Club invitation and happily joined this wonderful group to discuss my book A Place of Her Own: The Legacy of Oregon Pioneer Martha Poindexter Maupin. This Book Club for Chapter CU of the P.E.O. Sisterhood met at the lovely Roseburg home of Shug and Julie Wathen, where the group meets regularly. Julie is behind the counter, second from the right, and Shug kindly took the picture for us. My friend Judy Emmett (behind the counter on the right) arranged for me to visit the club for this meeting. My thanks to Judy. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Because Book Club meetings are private, I don’t advertise them on my events calendar, and won’t generally write followups. But everyone in this group agreed that they would be happy to have me report on our gathering today and post the picture.

We had a lively discussion. Lots of good questions. I felt quite gratified by the depth of their appreciation of the book and its nuances.

I look forward to meeting with other book clubs.


Portraits of a Century Farm ~ Making Scents

Many beings large and small live on our farm Martha Maupin bought years ago. I couldn’t resist adding this to “Portraits of a Century Farm,” the new series combining Robin Loznak’s photos with my words. This busy family surprised Robin one day when he was out taking pictures on the hill road. He held very still when they ambled near. I wondered how he had the presence of mind to get such clear focus of his subject, but he said he just let the camera focus. The little fellows never expressed alarm. Only curiosity. One even left nose prints on the camera lens.

Making Scents

Web-SkunksPhoto by Robin Loznak

Dust lingers on the air like a memory of rich, loamy soil,
While crackling leaves recall lush spring days
And the sweet bouquet of their youth.
But what is this?
Something smells different.

“Something big, Mamma. And it’s looking at me. What is it?”

Whiffs of blackberry and wild mint ride past on a quiet breeze,
And grasses, thirst long unquenched, add a pinch of must.
I know those smells, but not this one.

Put my nose on it. Sniff it.
M-m-m. Smooth. Very smooth. And cool.

“What is it, Mamma? I can’t make any sense of it. But I won’t be afraid. Not today.”