janet fisher~writer

Following strong women through history

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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Sounds and Scents of History

Photo by Robin Loznak

Big booms ricocheted across the smoky air this weekend as Elkton, Oregon, celebrated the annual Fort Umpqua Days event near the reconstructed Hudson’s Bay Company fort along the Umpqua River, and Robin caught one of the cannon blasts with his camera. Historians tell us the Native Americans used to keep the brush down with fires every fall, so maybe that smoky air is historic too.

Folks enjoyed another successful event despite some heat and smoke. Locals and visitors gathered over the Labor Day weekend to explore the area’s historic past and have a good time, while vendors offered food and wine, crafts and books and more for sale. In the evening Cathy Byle directed the pageant of historic vignettes–a little longer on fun than fact.

A Hudson’s Bay Company man by the name of Mark stopped by my booth Sunday where I was selling my books that focus on this period of history. He bought a copy of The Shifting Winds, which has scenes set at Fort Vancouver, the HBC headquarters north of the Columbia River–where Vancouver, Washington, stands today.

Fort Umpqua was the southernmost outpost of the HBC in those days. Both forts have been reconstructed with great attention to accuracy of detail. So you can visit and get a real sense of the history, stepping right back in time.

Folks like Mark enjoy dressing the part, and it’s not unusual to see a few mountain men wandering through.

Smoke from surrounding fires clouded the skies the first day and actually kept us a little cooler than expected. But Sunday afternoon a much thicker haze moved in, along with a sweltering heat. By the time I got home it was in the upper 90s and I couldn’t even see the higher mountains across the river.

The smoky fall days may be historic, but I’ll be glad when a good rain comes to clear the air.

I snapped the above photo off my back deck when I got home Sunday. The photo at right shows the missing mountains on a clear day–just so you know they’re there.

 

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Busy Fort Umpqua Days

Photo by Robin Loznak

Here I am in my Fort Umpqua Days booth this Labor Day weekend to sell my books, A Place of Her Own and Nancy Pearl Book Award Finalist The Shifting Winds.

Despite warnings of record heat during the annual Elkton, Oregon, celebration this year, the morning started out cool and comfortable. The crowds came after a slow start. Maybe folks noticed the overcast skies and dared venture forth. It soon looked like a normal gathering for this event. Many people stopped by to talk about books and history, and sales were brisk.

This is the weekend we celebrate local history with our own Hudson’s Bay Company fort that’s been reconstructed with attention to historic accuracy. There’s food and pie raffles and reenactments and a bass tournament–and vendors like me, but mostly crafts.

I’m not sure whether the skies today were a bit cloudy or just smoky, but the sun didn’t break through, holding back the heat. Not until well into the afternoon did we experience some mugginess. Smoke got worse–enough to feel it in the eyes and throat. No doubt the air was moving up from the south where several fires rage south of Roseburg.

Forecasts for Sunday appear to be lower than before. As for the smoke, I guess that depends on which way the wind blows.

The celebration continues Sunday, so if you’re in the neighborhood you might want to check it out. It’s at the ECEC (the butterfly place) just west of Elkton.

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Fair Week Continues

Fair week in Douglas County, Oregon, brings out the people and critters and crafts every August. Today we head into the third of four days, expecting a cooler time than the stifling first two.

Here author friend Dianne Kaye Carter and I take up our post to sell and sign our books at the Author Table in the foyer of the air-conditioned Conference Hall/Community Hall, first building on your left as you come in the main gate. We’ll be there again this afternoon and tomorrow afternoon, Friday and Saturday, August 11 and 12 from 3 to 7 pm. Dianne is presenting her suspense noel, Misled, and I’m presenting my Oregon Trail stories, A Place of Her Own and 2017 Nancy Pearl Book Award Finalist The Shifting Winds.

Our local AAW writers group will be at the Author Table earlier on these days from morning until 3 o’clock.

Meanwhile, outside, the fair goes on with the usual prize animals that have been a part of county and state fairs for generations.

Oblivious to the history these sleepy pigs snooze on an unusually warm evening for Oregon, dreaming of home or juicy corn or whatever else pigs might dream about.

Then there are the bunnies. These incredibly soft, furry critters must wear their warm coats despite the heat, so they need plenty of water.

This fuzzy one glances up from its drink when he sees me with my camera. It gives me that look. “What is that thing in front of your face and why are you staring at me? I don’t know why I must be here. Do you? Can you imagine wearing a suit like mine on a hot August day? Yet I must stay here and be cute and spectacular just so I can maybe win a ribbon. Is that it?”

Of course we know bunnies don’t talk out loud. I remember as a kid when my mother got tired of our noise and we all had to do bunny talk, which meant wiggling our mouths and noses without making a sound. We got very good at it.

This guy is very good at it too.

And more bunnies a few cages down.

These are more silky than fluffy. Fingers just want to touch them, but resist.

Whatever farm animals you like, you’ll probably find them, from chickens to horses to cows to sheep and goats and more you may not have imagined.

In addition to the animals entered for prizes in the fair, there are the beautiful crafts.

I especially like the quilts. Below are a few fine examples.A closeup at right shows the intricate stitching of this prize winner by Shirley Pyle of Roseburg.

Of course the fair would not be a fair without the rides. Ah, the rides at day’s end when the lights turn bright against the dark night sky. And so we end a busy day with a walk on the runway and the traditional ferris wheel dominating this world of wonder.

Two more days. If you live anywhere close by, come on down. The forecast calls for much pleasanter weather today and tomorrow with temperatures dropping into the 80s with a mix of sun and clouds, then balmy evenings.

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Seattle Conference Highlights

I’m just back from a great Seattle writers conference. This annual conference of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association brings together writers and agents and editors to forward the hopes and dreams of writers throughout the country.

I found my agent Rita Rosenkranz at the PNWA conference in 2012. And here we are at this year’s event at the Friday night Autograph Party where authors sold and signed our books. Rita stood by me during the party, which was great. She’s a wonderful agent–she was there from New York–and I feel very fortunate to have her represent me.

Thanks to author Evelyn Hornbarger of Nebraska for taking the photo.

Please note the little black and gold ribbon on my nametag (see enlarged thumbnail), which reads “Nancy Pearl Book Award FINALIST.” This recognition brought me to the conference, which I hadn’t planned to attend this year. But when PNWA President Pam Binder called to tell me I was a finalist for the award, I decided to take the long drive north so I could traipse around the conference wearing this delightful ribbon.

Both of my books were nicely displayed in a prominent location, with the main focus on the finalist, The Shifting Winds, my historical novel, story of a reluctant young pioneer woman who’s torn between two men, one British, one American, who vie for her as their nations vie for the rich land of Oregon.

Something different at the Autograph Party this year: Instead of sitting behind a table to sell and sign books, we stood and mingled while we were entertained by singer, songwriter, actress (and now author) Donn T. She’s a cool performer.

The conference culminated in the Saturday night awards banquet where the finalists all received kudos and award certificates. Nancy Pearl finalists received beautiful certificates like the one below.

PNWA has a contest for unpublished work in many categories. I’ve been a finalist in that contest a couple of times and have learned that this looks great on a query and is well respected in the industry even if you don’t win or place.

The Nancy Pearl Book Award is for published books and received the highest recognition at the conference. The 2017 award is for books published in 2016. A winner is selected in each of two categories, with only three finalists in one category this year and four in the other. So I knew I was a winner already, just being a finalist.

I was told several times how much the judges loved my book, The Shifting Winds. While I did not win the award, a highlight of the entire conference for me was when all seven Nancy Pearl award finalists were asked to stand and told what a monumental achievement this was and I looked out at the many faces in the huge room and saw my agent waving at me. Standing a little bit taller, I  smiled and waved back.

A moment to remember.

Several finalists joined the celebration at my table. From left to right: Evalina Mason, Nancy Pearl finalist for her book The Seekers; me of course; Janet Oakley, literary contest third place winner in the historical fiction category for Thatch’s War; and Debu Majumdar, Nancy Pearl finalist for Sacred River. Winners all!

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Panel at 2017 Historical Novel Society Conference Portland, Oregon

Four authors of historical fiction with Pacific Northwest settings got together to offer a panel at the 2017 Historical Novel Society Conference held this year in Portland, Oregon. From left to right: me, Kirby Larson, Libbie Hawker, and Janet Oakley. We called it “Historical Fiction through a Pacific Northwest Lens,” which seemed appropriate since the UK-based Historical Novel Society was coming to Portland. They meet in the UK every other year with North American sites in the opposite years.

The idea for our panel started with Janet Oakley and her writer friend in Washington State Carole Dagg. I had met Janet at a couple of PNWA conferences in Seattle, and she invited me to be part of a panel. The three of us put together a proposal which was accepted. We cheered our good fortune. Then Carole learned she’d be unable to attend so Janet found not one replacement but two. And Kirby Larson and Libbie Hawker joined us Janets.

For our session we had a lively discussion about what led us to write about this region and some of the challenges, like writing realistic history without offending 21st-century readers. We also discussed the pleasures of researching and the thrill of discovering actual documents from the times of our stories, about finding the untold stories, about the people who populated this land before the Europeans, and about other facets of history on America’s far northwestern frontier.

As we said in our proposal, “The region holds a unique position as the continent’s last frontier. When nearly every coastline in the world had been mapped, America’s northwest remained a mystery to explorers, a blank wilderness. That untamed edge resonates in the land’s character.”

Libbie served as moderator, and she kept us on our toes with some unexpected questions among the ones planned. We had a good Q & A afterward with an enthusiastic audience. A fun time.

Thanks to Stephanie West Allen for taking the picture.

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NEWS!! Shifting Winds a Finalist in PNWA Nancy Pearl Book Awards

Yay! My historical novel The Shifting Winds has just been named as a finalist in the 2017 Nancy Pearl Book Awards, sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Writers Association.

This award is offered by PNWA for books published in the last year.

Winners will be announced at the July conference in Seattle. Finalists will enjoy excellent visibility throughout that conference.

I’m thrilled to receive such recognition for my book in this highly contested award.

Oregon’s turbulent past comes alive in the story through the eyes of protagonist Jennie Haviland and two men, one British, one American, who vie for Jennie as their nations vie for the rich disputed land of the Oregon country.

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Poster for Eugene Library Gig

The Eugene Public Library provided a poster for my upcoming book talk and slide show there this Sunday, June 10, at 2 pm as part of their summer reading program.

Looking forward to this event at the beautiful library facility at 100 West 10th Avenue in downtown Eugene, Oregon. For more information you can check out my June 2nd post here.

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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 above right of one of Martha’s daughters, who I imagine looks like Martha. And photos like the one at left 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 The Shifting Winds include the one at right 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 right 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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Talking Genealogy

I’m happy to be giving a talk about my books this Wednesday, May 10, at the Cottage Grove Genealogical Society meeting at the Cottage Grove Community Center, which shares the Library building at 700 E. Gibbs Avenue. The program starts at 11:30 a.m. in the Shepherd Room with a salad bar lunch, and is open to the public.

This is the same room where I had a speaking engagement with the library in January.

My talk will focus on the search for my great-great-grandmother Martha, the subject of my first book, A Place of Her Own: The Legacy of Oregon Pioneer Martha Poindexter Maupin. The book offers a creative nonfiction account of Martha’s life. Interwoven in this portrayal are four Interludes, which describe my search for her story.

Like many people who begin looking for their ancestors, I knew very little about Martha at the start. As a historical novelist I’m used to the need for research to learn about the settings of my stories, but the research into a real person’s life added another dimension. I want my fictional people to be realistic, but I can create the situations that drive them. With a real person I needed to ferret out the actual events.

I had the advantage of discovering cousins who’d done much of the genealogical work ahead of me, particularly a third cousin on the Maupin side, Linda Maupin Noel. Linda generously copied me on all the information she had gleaned. Then I did some digging on my own.

Wednesday I’ll share some of these efforts, the frustrations and the triumphs.

Along with Martha’s story, I’ll talk a little about my other book, The Shifting Winds, a historical novel set in the same time period, which was written before Martha’s and published after. The research for that one provided a good background for understanding the world in which Martha lived.

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