UV Magazine Spread

UV Magazine, Lifestyle Magazine of the Umpqua Valley, did a story for their Fall 2018 edition on the local Roseburg writers group I belong to, An Association of Writers, and I was delighted to be featured with my books. UPDATE: The online version is up now.

UV Magazine Two-page Spread with Cover Overlay. Story and Cover Photos by Robin Loznak

The magazine is a beautifully produced publication that highlights people and activities in the Umpqua River region. A few days after Contributing Writer Sarah Smith asked to interview me and said they would send out a photographer, I learned that my favorite photographer, my son-in-law Robin Loznak, does freelance work for them. I mentioned that to Sarah, who passed the word to Account Executive Nicole Stratton, and the photo assignment went to Robin. A handy gig, since he and my daughter live on the family farm, just down the hill from me.

It just happened that the issue’s cover also features an autumn photo by Robin.

For the photo shoot on the article Robin and I went up to the top of the property and looked down over the big field above my house toward the setting sun. I used this sweeping view in one of the scenes in A Place of Her Own, the story of my great-great-grandmother Martha Maupin, who founded this Sesquicentennial Farm 150 years ago. I haven’t done the paperwork yet to receive that designation officially, but the farm qualifies. It has been a Century Farm since April 1968, the Martha A. Maupin Century Farm, one of the few in Oregon named for a woman.

Besides the fine overlook from the farm’s upper ridge, there was this perfect weathered stump for displaying my two published books.

The UV story talks about the importance of writers groups to authors who otherwise work in isolation. The mutual support helps keep an author going and the feedback helps in polishing the work. Sarah, who wrote the article, relayed my story of how eight people from my Roseburg writers group surprised me by coming to the launch party for my second book, The Shifting Winds. They had quite a drive up the Umpqua River to the little town of Elkton where I held the party. What a pleasure it was to see them walk in that day! The photo below shows them filling a table along with my friend from Elkton High School Bill Isaac.

From left to right: Arvilla and Don Newsom, Kari Clark, Heather Villa, Bill Isaac (longtime friend who’s not in the writers group but just happened to sit at this distinguished table), me standing, Wilma Mican, Emily Blakely, Dianne Carter, and Marlene Daley.

That’s friendly support! So glad UV Magazine chose to do the article about this fine group and so glad I joined them. Thanks to UV for the focus.

The magazine can be found at businesses in the Umpqua Valley, hotels, restaurants, doctor’s offices, hospital and elsewhere. And you can find them online. This brand-new edition should be up soon.

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Next Stop Newport

For my next book event I’ll be heading up the north coast again to speak to the Coast Chapter of Willamette Writers in Newport, Oregon. It’s always nice to visit one of the most beautiful areas in the world.

Photo by Robin Loznak

The above photo was taken a little bit south of Newport as the lowering sun sheens the water below one of Oregon’s historic lighthouses.

My speaking engagement with the Coast Chapter was originally scheduled for last February. In fact, I packed up and headed out that Sunday morning, excited about the trip. I hadn’t gotten far when a spit of snow began to spatter my windshield. I wasn’t too concerned. We don’t get much snow in February and the coast is even less likely to have snow.

That day proved to be an exception. It kept snowing harder. I told myself it wasn’t sticking and I’d get into the temperate coastal zone soon. But it got worse the farther west I drove. Snow did begin sticking. It was not getting better toward the west. I wasn’t set up for snow and finally decided I’d better turn around while I still had hopes of returning home safely.

Happily, we rescheduled. I’ll be there for their September meeting this coming Sunday, the 17th, from 2 to 4 pm at the Newport Public Library, 35 NW Nye Street. And we don’t expect snow.

I’m going to talk about my long road to publication of my two Oregon Trail stories, 2017 Nancy Pearl Book Award Finalist The Shifting Winds, and the one that started it all, A Place of Her Own, with a few words on what’s waiting in the wings. A slideshow will offer a backdrop of photos related to the two books. After some Q&A I’ll have books available to sell and sign. Because I’ll be talking to fellow writers I hope I can offer some ideas and encouragement that might help others on their writing journeys.

I’m also a member of Willamette Writers, which has branches throughout Oregon. When I lived in Portland I met with the Portland chapter and now meet with the Mid-Valley chapter in Eugene.

Thanks to Robin, I have one more photo to share, another of those glorious sunsets on the Oregon coast. Looking forward to my upcoming visit. If you’re in the area, please think about stopping by the Newport library for some book talk in a beautiful place.

Photo by Robin Loznak

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My Talk at Eugene Library Coming Up June 10th

I’m delighted to be speaking about my books at the Eugene Public Library Saturday, June 10, at 2 pm. For folks in the neighborhood I hope you’ll jot it on your calendar and stop by.

It’s a beautiful facility, as shown above, located at 100 West 10th Avenue in downtown Eugene.

During my talk I’ll present a slide show with photos related to my books, illustrating events and scenes to help bring the stories to life. I’ll delve into some of my personal history that led to publication of my first book, A Place of Her Own, and the door that milestone opened to a second book, The Shifting Winds. Both are Oregon Trail stories. A Place of Her Own is the true story of my great-great-grandmother Martha who came west over the trail and dared purchase a farm on her own after she lost her husband.

Not an easy matter for a woman in those days. I grew up on that farm, the Martha A. Maupin Century Farm, and have now returned, so her story touches me on a deep personal level. The book reads like a novel, with interludes describing my search for her, and I’ll talk a little about that search.

The slide show will include old photos like the one of Martha’s daughter who I imagine looks like Martha.

And photos like the one of my book reading in Missouri when my daughter and granddaughter and I backtracked Martha’s footsteps over the Oregon Trail and received a surprising Missouri welcome at the other end.

Publication of Martha’s story led to The Shifting Winds, which I wrote some years before about the same era, a novel with fictional characters who walk through a lot of true history of those early American settlers in the Oregon country.

I’ll discuss how the research for that book helped inform Martha’s story and how research has changed dramatically with the advent of the internet–and how it hasn’t.

Photos related to Shifting Winds include one taken on the reconstructed site of the British Hudson’s Bay Company Fort Vancouver, where a number of scenes take place. During my reading and signing event at the fort, photographer Robin Loznak looks down the barrel of an HBC big gun in front of the commander’s house, while I stand by in the white hat listening to our tour guide, Dr. Robert Cromwell, Chief Ranger and Archeologist.

Not to worry. The guns were spiked, like the originals.

I’ll do some short readings from both books to provide a bit of flavor. After my presentation the session will be open to Q & A so people can ask what they really want to know about the stories or about the writing process or whatever else comes to mind. I always love the interaction of Q & A so really look forward to that. Afterward books will be available to sell and sign.

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Portraits of a Century Farm ~ Into a Magic Wood

Yesterday my photographer son-in-law, Robin Loznak, walked into the wood on the ridge across from my house to take pictures with his big camera and I went along. I came away inspired to write another “Portrait of a Century Farm,” the series of posts I began after my first book came out, A Place of Her Own, the story of my great-great-grandmother Martha, the founder of our family’s Oregon Century Farm. The series combine’s Robin’s exquisite photography with some poetic words from me. My work is prose, not poetry, but scenes sometimes verge on poetic prose. Robin caught me in one shot. I’m in the distance in a lavender coat and white hat. This wood shows up in one of the Interludes in Martha’s story. See more photos of the day.

Photo by Robin Loznak

Into a Magic Wood

A walk in a magic wood
Infuses the senses
With spring’s promise,
Life emergent.

Firs and oaks whisper
Above the steady murmur
Of the creek tumbling over rocks
Between precipitous hillsides,
Spilling across a mysterious cavern,
Threads of water veiling the portal,
Effervescing.

Down on all fours I climb the slope,
Heeding the carpet of tender green,
Grasping logs and tree trunks,
Fleecy moss caressing fingertips,
A heady bouquet in each breath
Of waxing growth out of waning decay,
Wisps of ambrosia on the tongue.

The destination appears,
The spectacle
Of white trilliums
Massed across the incline,
Each a delicate wonder,
The whole a coalescence
Of glory.

Rain seeps through the canopy,
Drips in melodic rhythms
On leaves, on stones, on water,
Sheens the air,
Turns trails slippery,
And gilds a rare purple trillium
With a clear gloss.

A walk in a magic wood
Infuses the senses
With spring’s promise,
Life emergent.

Photo by Robin Loznak

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Preserving Martha’s Farm

kellogg-fire-robin-photoRobin Loznak Photo

A fierce hot August led to brittle dry hills where my great-great-grandmother Martha Maupin bought her own farm almost 150 years ago. On a neighboring hill an unknown spark lit the tinder yesterday, and flames soon swept across 60 acres less than a mile from the edge of the property–about a mile and a half from my house on this family farm.

My kids and I happened to be in Eugene, Oregon, where my grandson Alex Loznak is one of 21 plaintiffs who are suing the government to demand effective action to combat climate change. In his speech on the federal courthouse steps after the hearing Alex said, in part:

Today my great-great-great-great grandmother’s legacy is threatened by the changing climate, by droughts and fires and heatwaves that threaten to undo all of the work my family has put into our land. So I’m standing here to demand that our federal government act with the same courage and vision that my ancestor Martha employed, and preserve our planet just as my family has preserved our farm. [My bold]

alex-at-sept-hearing-robinRobin Loznak Photo

Later in the afternoon we were sitting outside a restaurant near the courthouse with other supporters of this case when my son-in-law Robin, who took these pictures, noticed a story on his cell that there was a fire on Highway 138 close to the family farm. He and my daughter Carisa had to take Alex to the airport to go back to New York where he’s a student at Columbia University, and I headed for home, not knowing what I would find.

On the long drive from Eugene I easily imagined many scenarios and contemplated what I would retrieve from my house if I was able to reach it. What was important? My computer which has all my work on it. My daughter’s films and puppets. Not much else. Our work.

As many of you know, Martha’s story was the subject of my book A Place of Her Own. This is the ancestor Alex is talking about, and it’s her farm, now mine, that stands so close to the reported wildfire. She purchased this in 1868 after her husband was killed and she needed a way to care for her family. It’s the Martha A. Maupin Century Farm, one of the few Century Farms in Oregon named for a woman. If I can hang on another year and a half it will be a Sesquicentennial Farm. But what if flames ravaged its resources?

kellogg-fire-robin-2Robin Loznak Photo

As I approached the roadblock at the Kellogg bridge, my breath nearly stopped. Lines of flame rose on the peaks straight ahead and far to my left. I learned firefighters had put out the fire on my side of the highway, and it had spread westerly. They let me head for home. I watched the scene from my kids’ house and then my own as the sky grew dark. A stunning view. Helicopters poured water from the Umpqua River and air tankers dumped fire retardant. Late that night the billowing flames had been reduced to twinkling embers, like golden stars dropped from the sky. I went to bed and slept.

Thanks to the fine work of the brave firefighters of the Douglas Forest Protective Association and other local responders the fire has been contained. I woke to quiet. Thin smoke drifted above a darker swath on the hillside.

My grandson’s words echoed. “Droughts and fires and heatwaves . . .”

Now, in the afternoon, a helicopter flies by on its way to the site. Smoke still rises. The throb of helicopters continues. I remain watchful.

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Fort Umpqua Days Fun!

Two beautiful days brought good crowds to the Fort Umpqua Days annual celebration in Elkton, Oregon, on Labor Day weekend. People from as far away as Kansas City came by my booth to buy books. I was surprised to learn that my first customers Sunday were from Overland Park, Kansas, a Kansas City suburb about a 10-15-minute drive from my daughter’s home in Fairway.

Pioneers and mountain men roamed the grounds of ECEC, the Elkton Community Education Center where the event took place, and the occasional harrumph of black powder rifles down at the fort ripped through the air, giving us a start.

Fort-Umpqua-Days1At the evening pageant the deputized sheriff caught the suspects in the stagecoach gold robbery, and photographer Robin Loznak caught them on camera as the sheriff led them away. Justice done in the “Mystery on the Elkton Stage,” the 13th annual Echoes of the Umpqua pageant, ably directed by Cathy Byle.

As many as 100 community members work to put on these somewhat historic dramas. I have fun serving on the writing team, but did only a small part this year due to the distractions with my new book coming out. Cathy and Linda Warncke did most of the writing and the actors, kids and adults, brought it to life with their own interpretations, all good for plenty of laughs.

Fort-Umpqua-Days-2It wouldn’t be ECEC without the butterflies, this being the well-known “butterfly place,” and Robin’s gift with wildlife photography led him to the Butterfly Pavilion to capture this shot of a Monarch having a sip.

From the opening parade to the BBQ lunches and music and fishing contest and local craft booths (where I spent the days) to the pageant and activities down at the fort, folks seemed to have a great time.

I was delighted that my writer friend Lynn Ash shared my book-selling booth on Saturday. I sold and signed copies of my Shifting Winds and A Place of Her Own, and Lynn sold and signed her Route from Cultus Lake and Vagabonda. We both had good sales and many wonderful conversations.

434.fort umpqua interiorFt.Ump.Inside 76So another successful Fort Umpqua Days has come and gone. The fort turns quiet for a little while. The Hudson’s Bay Company flag still flies, but business in the storehouse waits for another day.

Memories dream on after a glimpse into the past, some truer than others.

Ft.Ump.Inside 68COMMENT

Outtakes #11 – A Place of Her Own

This post comes from an opening for another of my personal chapters for A Place of Her Own, a segment describing Wildcat Canyon, a remarkable cleft on the mountain. The chapter title was “The Death of Dreams.” The scene leads into a discussion of divorce, some of which was retained in an Interlude. But most of this was cut. Clip…..

Wet-Oregon-06On our walk through Wildcat Canyon, my son-in-law, Robin Loznak, captured a stunning image of this exquisite mushroom goblet, as it drank up the rain.

~~~

The canyon, November 2010. A canyon could close in on you, give you a sense of entrapment. It could be a place of danger, haunted by cougars and rattlesnakes and unnamed fears. As I walked through Wildcat Canyon, the deepest cleft on the property, I felt a mix of unease and adventure. I was here. I accepted the challenge. A bristling sensation crossed my flesh, as if alerting me to every element around me.

Drips of rain filtered through the canopy of trees, the thick evergreen boughs offering some cover against the shower that surprised us. Lured out on this November morning by a feeble sun after days of rain, my son-in-law and I had decided to take this walk today. A light drizzle started before we even reached the Tree Farm Road up to the west hills pasture, and by the time we approached the mouth of the canyon, rain had begun to fall in earnest. We were glad for the tree cover and hoped the shower would soon pass.

Our two dogs hurried ahead, oblivious to the weather. I had asked Robin to go with me into the canyon, believing it one place Martha would surely want to explore. Her sons would, as Robin and my grandson Alex did when they learned of the place soon after they moved here. With recent cougar sightings in the area, I wasn’t comfortable going alone. The dogs would help scare off big predators, but another person would help too. Robin was happy to come along. He brought his big camera, ready to get some good nature photos.

We tramped uphill along the old logging road that cut through the canyon, not much more than a trail now, overgrown with grass and brambles, fungi scattered over the spongy ground. Unusual mushrooms, like orange goblets, lifted their heads as if to gather nectar pouring from branches above.

Towering Douglas firs helped dim the scattered light reaching this narrow gash in the earth. A high rock wall loomed on our left, just beyond the deepest cut below the road. I tipped my head back to see the top of the wall, up to the twisted trees lining the upper edge. The yawning mouth of a small cave opened deep in the rock near the top. Jagged ledges and holes marked the entire cliff face. Places for predators to hide? Ferns draped from the rock wall and covered the canyon floor, where moss carpeted rocks, tree trunks, stumps.

We scrambled down to the base, nearer the cliff. Should we? We found game trails. Cougar? Or just deer, the cougar’s favorite food? Would we surprise something we wouldn’t want to stir? No cougar would be unaware of our presence as we stomped through brush, snapping twigs, the dogs dashing from one curiosity to the next.

The overhead boughs could no longer hold back the rain that began to pour steadily, drenching us and everything around us. I pressed through the waist-high ferns, clinging to their giant wet fronds to keep from falling on the steep slope strewn with fallen branches, logs and rocks. A thick mulch covered the earth, the debris of ages. I couldn’t see a game trail anymore. As I plowed forward, I tried to imagine traipsing through this in long skirts.

Brambles tripped me. How like life. I could feel Martha’s sense of entrapment, her desperation, as she plunged through her own canyon of challenge. Divorce. It had seemed a foreign word to me. Something other people did. Yet how much worse for Martha in her day. Although not unknown in 1860, especially in the West, divorce was still rare. How could she do it? But how could she not?

I had asked myself the same questions. Shaking my head, I walked on, thinking about her. Why did she stay with him as long as she did?

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Outtakes #10 – A Place of Her Own

This Outtake comes from one of my personal chapters in A Place of Her Own, a segment leading to a Tribute to My Father that I’ve already used for a post. The scene describes a day my daughter Carisa and I walked up my father’s mountain and found ourselves in bear country. Most of my scenes were cut to focus on Martha’s story, including this and the tribute, but maybe you’ll enjoy this, and if you haven’t seen the tribute, you can visit that here. Clip…..

Bear-TrailcamRobin Loznak caught one of our bears with his trail-cam one night in October last year, a nice black bear posing for its portrait on the mountain. I prefer to see them this way.

~~~

The west hills, September 2010. The golden grass stood so high the dogs couldn’t see their way. One a yellow lab, the other a black lab mix, they weren’t small dogs, but the grass came well over their heads. Heavy rains last spring had produced rich forage for the cows this year, and they hadn’t been on this pasture lately, making our walk difficult, except for a few beaten trails. Deer probably. Maybe elk. Or bear.

The scent of rain filled the air now, and a soft sprinkle started again after scattered morning showers. My daughter Carisa and I tromped through the thick, damp growth behind the dogs. I wanted to check out the most recent timber planting to see how it was doing, and I wanted to check out this part of the farm, wondering if Martha had done the same in her first year here.

When I was a kid we called this pasture Horse Heaven Hills. I didn’t know why the name. Maybe because the grass grew so sweet here, the animals experienced the place as their own heaven? It always seemed a bit sublime to me. For a long time I planned to build my house over here, but when my dad cut the timber that would have circled behind the house, I began to look elsewhere.

Turning, I could see how the pasture meandered up the hill in steps and ridges, down to the bluff on one side, up to Wildcat Canyon above–a deep slice into the forested ridgetop. The land was more rugged on this side of the property than the softer ridge where my house sat. A middle ridge ran between this and my house, beyond our view now.

While I found hills and hollows in the parts of Missouri and Illinois where Martha lived and traveled, there was nothing you could call a mountain, nothing to prepare her for the terrible mountains of the West she had to cross, nothing to prepare her even for the hills of her own farm. This wasn’t anything like the rugged crests of the Rockies or Cascades. I doubted it was technically a mountain, though I hadn’t found a clear definition of the term. This rose about eight hundred fifty feet from the valley floor to the top. But to my dad this hill on our farm was always the mountain. His mountain. Maybe that was because Martha saw it as a mountain and the designation continued with the family. Hills to her would be like the gentle rises in Missouri and Illinois. The farm’s elevated land of sharp slopes and sweeping ridges was in her eyes a mountain. Before my dad, Martha’s mountain.

Dipping under a hot wire to reach our newest timber planting, Carisa and I found new firs growing well despite competition. We approached a mound of blackberry vines crouched on the land like a huge thorny web, and took advantage of its better part. Something had cleared the way into the bush. We had a little snack of the delicious berries. Then I saw a pile of scat full of berry seeds. Big scat. “What’s this?” I asked. We peered closer. Goose bumps rose on my skin. “It doesn’t look fresh.”

We stood taller and looked around. A bear had been here, a large one, but not recently. With all our noise and our two dogs, it probably wouldn’t come back now. We shrugged and happily continued our snack.

Photo by Robin Loznak And of course there’s this all-time favorite Robin Loznak photo of other wildlife on the family farm, one of several photos included in A Place of Her Own. The Roosevelt elk herd ranges across the mountain, and on rare occasions even slips down to the river bottom.

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Outtakes #9 – A Place of Her Own

This Outtake reveals another short bit taken from the end of an Oregon Trail scene at the top of p. 124 in A Place of Her Own. The Maupins have survived the precipitous drop down Laurel Hill and have just come into the rich prairies west of the Cascade foothills. The cut is just 176 words, but words are words. And I desperately needed to take more out. At least it gave me more in one fell swoop than the single filler words I snipped throughout the manuscript. Clip…..


The photo above, by Robin Loznak, appears in A Place of Her Own, illustrating Douglas Firs on the family farm. Similar trees of this species would have been growing in the area depicted in this scene, though no doubt larger than these. Pioneers trekking into what is now the State of Oregon found Doug firs some 300 feet tall. Two or three men could lie head-to-foot across the diameter of a stump from one of these giants that might have been as much as 800 years old.

~~~

Near evening a cabin appeared, nestled against a grove of firs at the edge of a broad meadow. The scent of a hearth fire reached Martha’s nose, and she took a long, satisfying breath of it. People began spilling out the cabin door, running toward the wayworn travelers. A man reached them first. He lifted his hat and rubbed a hand across his thin, curly hair. “Welcome to Oregon.”

A united but somewhat ragged thank you answered him back.

He introduced himself and his wife, who came up behind him, and Garrett introduced the family. The woman went straight to Martha and gripped both her hands. “My dear, what a journey for you. When are you due?”

“December.”

The woman smiled and nodded. “Oh, you’ll be settled by then. Come sit a spell and have some supper with us.”

“That’s so nice of you,” Martha said. “You must see a lot of travelers, living here.”

The woman laughed. “We do, and we love it. We all took that trip, God bless us, and we all understand.”

468.diorama mother & childThis photo taken at the Interpretive Center in Baker, Oregon, shows a part of the continuing diorama depicting a wagon train on the Oregon Trail. The woman makes me think of Martha and her little Nora, oldest of her two at the time. My heart tightens as I imagine the strain of traveling that perilous trail with such a precious, vulnerable child. Another even tinier. A third on the way. What a thrill to know in this short Outtake that they have almost made it through. Of course, Martha would have been full in her pregnancy by then.

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Portraits of a Century Farm ~ Where Wild Meets Tamed

A herd of Roosevelt elk ranges across the Century Farm my great-great-grandmother Martha bought in 1868. We usually see them in the wilder places of this family farm, on the hill closer to the backcountry timberland where they can duck and hide. But yesterday they visited the orchard along the river, and my son-in-law Robin Loznak had his big camera in hand. With one of his shots I’ve added this post for our series, “Portraits of a Century Farm,” which combines Robin’s exquisite photography with some poetic words from me. Through these portraits we honor Martha’s legacy, with a nod to my book A Place of Her Own that tells her story. See more of Robin’s photos from this encounter on his blog.

web-elk-4(2)Where Wild Meets Tamed

We tame the land, a legacy
From ancestors trekking mighty miles
To stake their hopes in places wild,
Where soils lay rich
Beside washing rivers
Far from home.

And here we stand
In the old orchard,
Tamed in careful rows,
Timeworn trees whispering memories
Of sweet harvests.

Yet in this place
The wild
Walks in,
Stands,
Claims its home,
Our home now too.

Where wild meets tamed,
We live together,
While sentinels
Of wild’s past
Endure.

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