Fort Umpqua Days are Back

Fort Umpqua front gate

Fort Umpqua Days will be back this year after two years off, and that seems worth a celebration.

It all begins on Saturday morning, September 3 at 10 o’clock at the Elkton Community Education Center, 15850 OR-38 W, Elkton, Oregon, west of town.

That’s by the popular Butterfly Pavilion. The fort lies just down the hill. It’s a two-day event from 10 to 4 on both Saturday and Sunday, plus evening performances of the annual “Echoes of The Umpqua Pageant.”

Monarch butterfly – Robin Loznak photo

This Labor Day celebration has become a tradition in small-town Elkton, Oregon, home of the reconstructed Fort Umpqua, the southernmost outpost of the British Hudson’s Bay Company in the 1800s. It will be good to return to that tradition.

Locals and visitors gather on the weekend to enjoy a parade through downtown, a pie auction, BBQ, live music, tours of the wonderful Butterfly Pavilion, and more. I’ll be among the vendors up near the pavilion, where I’ll be selling my books, stories about Oregon’s dramatic history of those days–A Place of Her Own and The Shifting Winds.

From “The First Mountain Man” by Andy Thomas – with permission of the artist

Kids will find plenty of fun, including a voyageur expedition, to see what these fur traders did in the heyday of this fort.

My second book, The Shifting Winds, delves into this era with fictional mountain man Jake Johnston as a good friend of historical mountain man Joe Meek. Both came west to Oregon in the early 1840s after the beaver played out in the Rockies. Once in Oregon they wanted to help their fellow Americans claim the rich Oregon Territory, which was then jointly occupied by the US and Britain.

Folks who reconstructed Fort Umpqua worked diligently to maintain an authentic representation of the original, and people will be on site during the Labor Day event to answer questions.

Reenactors and blacksmiths often attend, showing their work to add more color, and they’re happy to offer information as well.

You might even find a mountain man or two.

Inside Hudson’s Bay Company Store, Fort Umpqua

Remember Karen “Many Voices” Haas who was there for Fort Umpqua Days last time? I was so glad she showed me how she uses a drop spindle. It’s a device that was used for many centuries, millennia even. I have a character in my upcoming historical series spinning thread with a drop spindle some 3,500 years ago. After watching Karen I was better able to describe the process.

Karen using a drop spindle to spin thread, shown here at the fort with her husband Patrick, both in period dress.
Outside Hudson’s Bay Company store, Fort Umpqua
Back gate of Fort Umpqua from the hill above

Gala Readers

Readers for the Mid-Valley Willamette Writers Author’s Celebration annual gala relax a little after reading from their new published works last night at Tsunami Books in Eugene. From left to right, the 2016 group: Julie Dawn, Bill Cameron, Sarina Dorie, Valerie Brooks, and me, Janet Fisher.

WW gala readers (2)Bill opened the evening with an intense reading from his young adult mystery, Property of the State, which is so new he had only one copy available last night. The book will be released next week by The Poisoned Pencil. Next up was Julie Dawn, writer of “a different kind of horror,” reading from her new novel, Yosemite Rising. I read a couple of excerpts then from The Shifting Winds, part of the opening scene, followed by one of Joe Meek’s stories, a tale he actually told. I did my best to give it the Joe Meek flavor with his Kentucky drawl and mountain man jargon.

Valerie Brooks read next from her TravelNoirStories set in the intrigue of Paris, one of her favorite places. Her book is so new she didn’t have copies yet, but it’s coming out soon. Sarina Dorie closed the evening on a light note with a reading from her book Fairies, Robots and Unicorns–Oh My! A Collection of Funny Short Stories. From the collection she read “Eels for Heels,” a humorous urban fantasy romance previously published in Roar magazine.

It was a delightful evening. Despite the usual jitters that come from sharing our own work, all the readers seemed to have a good time, encouraged by a very receptive audience. After the readings we enjoyed chatting, selling a few books, and sampling wine and snacks.

The gala event serves to showcase published authors from the Mid-Valley Willamette Writers group with the readers chosen from entries submitted. This was the third annual gala.


Prose at Poetry Night

The Axe & Fiddle, a pub in historic downtown Cottage Grove, offers a change of pace this coming Tuesday night, May 17, when the entertainment turns to words. Poetry Night happens just once a month at this restaurant and public house known for its live music and craft brews, full bar, and locally sourced food, and I’m delighted to be their featured guest. But I won’t be reading poetry–or singing it.

1008.Axe&Fid - closeInstead they have asked me to read from my new historical novel about Oregon’s early days, The Shifting Winds. So in keeping with the night’s theme, I’ll select a couple of short excerpts that present a bit of what might be called poetic prose.

1007.Axe&Fid - longYou’ll find the Axe & Fiddle on Cottage Grove’s historic Main Street on the corner of 7th and Main, next door to Kalapuya Books, the bookstore that presents Poetry Night. The building is shown at right.

The show starts at 7:30 pm and is expected to run until 9:30. They open at 4 pm, so there’s plenty of time to stop in beforehand for dinner or a drink, or both, and the doors are open Tuesdays until midnight.

So what’s poetic prose? To me, it seems to show up in description that paints a scene with a touch of velvet in the words. I’ll read one of those at the event. Then it may be a stretch of the word poetic, but I’d also like to read a segment I’ve never tried for any of my other readings.

1005.Axe&Fid - sideIn this book, although my lead characters are fictional, I also have some real people meandering through the pages. It’s a story with a lot of real history and those people sometimes play their factual parts in the historic scenes.

One of my more colorful real characters is mountain man Joe Meek, and the book includes half a dozen or so stories that Joe actually told to 19th century author Frances Fuller Victor for her 1870 book River of the West about Joe’s life as a fur trapper in the Rockies and his life in western Oregon as a settler. Joe’s speech is a mix of Kentucky, the vernacular of a mountain man, and traces that come from a boy who preferred to play with his father’s slaves rather than go to school. Poetic? Well, he was an inveterate storyteller whose words carry a certain ring.

I’m looking forward to a fun evening at the Axe & Fiddle, a very different venue than I’ve tried before. I’ll have books there for sale, copies of The Shifting Winds and also my previous book, A Place of Her Own. A big thanks to Betsy at Kalapuya Books for the invite.